Photograph by Lee Cohen
Edward Abbey, who spent his formative years working in the parks of southern Utah, used to suggest that every time you see one of those national forest signs that say “Land of Many Uses,” you change the last word to “Abuses.”
A Vietnam vet turned radical conservationist, George Hayduke is the hero in Abbey’s famed novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which chronicles the adventures of ecowarriors sabotaging extractive and exploitive industries in order to save public lands from destruction. Hayduke is a sort of environmental superhero, evading the law while he defends the land he loves—and inspiring hundreds of Abbey’s readers to, in fact, change the words on those signs.
It’s only fitting that an 800-mile (1,287-kilometer) trail that began as a semisecret underground project be named after Abbey’s folk hero. The Hayduke Trail was founded by hikers Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella, who wanted to go out on a long, Abbey-esque trek that celebrated the land. They set a route that spans the Colorado’s Plateau’s must-see list of postcard landscapes, starting in Arches National Park (where Abbey worked), heading through Canyonlands National Park, down into Capitol Reef National Park, across the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, into Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon, and finally ending up in Zion National Park.
Many Americans hit these sites in an RV, but the Hayduke way requires an incredible amount of resourcefulness, wriggling through slot canyons, route-finding, careful logistics, and luck—in short the way Abbey wanted Americans to experience their public lands. Completing the entire trail can take up to three months. Go ahead. Abuse yourself and enjoy the land.
Need to Know: Find maps and hiking information at www.hayduketrail.org.