A Hike for the Bucket List: Paria Canyon

Buckskin Gulch in the Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Wilderness – located in both southern Utah and northern Arizona
Buckskin Gulch in the Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Wilderness – located in both southern Utah and northern Arizona Fickr Creative Commons, Bureau of Land Management/Bob Wick, BLM
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The Paria River cuts right through the pristine desert wilderness of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. And it is beautiful. A section of narrows on the south end of the river runs from the White House Campground south to Lee’s Ferry and is known as the Paria Canyon Narrows. Visitors flock to these gorgeous narrows for an enduring backpacking trip or a scenic, yet long, day hike.

Much like the nearby Buckskin Gulch—which Paria Canyon intersects with eventually—cliffs tower high above you and the smoothed Navajo sandstone creates marvelous views around each bend. Solitude and scenic splendor abound on this bucket list hike.

Views of Paria Canyon
Views of Paria Canyon US Department of the Interior

What Makes it Great

Paria Canyon is a bit of an unsung hero in the Southwest. Often outshined by adjoining Buckskin Gulch, this narrows, which cuts deep through 195 million-year-old Navajo Sandstone, is not to be missed. Though the hike in total covers 38 miles to the end point at Lee’s Ferry, an excellent day-hike option is to start the trail at the White House Campground and hike to the Buckskin Gulch confluence.

As you enter the canyon, the Paria River flows wide and shallow. After approximately mile four, the river bends sharply and the walls of the canyon seem to grow rapidly as you continue walking. Here, they become much steeper—nearing 200 feet in height.  You’ll remark at the gorgeous sandstone cliffs and how they’ve been sculpted by uncountable flash floods over time. The hike will require wading through water at times, and how deep that is depends on the season and the precipitation in the days leading up to your hike.

Hike through the deep narrows for approximately three miles, eventually coming to Slide Rock Arch on the left canyon wall just before mile seven. Finally, you reach the Buckskin Gulch confluence. Turn around here after you’ve taken a rest and re-enjoy the narrows. For a 14-mile hike, this one goes by quite quickly.

Buckskin Gulch in the Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Wilderness – located in both southern Utah and northern Arizona
Buckskin Gulch in the Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Wilderness – located in both southern Utah and northern Arizona Fickr Creative Commons, Bureau of Land Management/Bob Wick, BLM

What You’ll Remember

Eye-poppingly photogenic sandstone walls teetering and tottering above you; coffee-colored waters trickling beneath your feet; the enjoyability of a long, cool day hike through one of nature’s most precious places.

Who is Going to Love It

Because there is little to no technical skill needed, this is a great first slot for those new to the experience. That said, it’s so strikingly gorgeous, even the most experienced canyoneer will be blown away by this hike. It’s good for people of all ages, as little elevation is gained or lost, despite the fair amount of distance traversed.

GPS Coordinates, Parking and Regulations

GPS Coordinates for White House Campground Trailhead: 37.079953, -111.889677

Permits are required for day hiking ($6) and overnight backpacking ($5). These can be obtained online or in the Bureau of Land Management office in Kanab. Day hike permits can be obtained at the trailhead. There is a limited number of overnight permits with only 20 available per day, and these can sell out in advance. Dogs are allowed in Paria Canyon, but there is a $5 fee per dog.

This hike is best enjoyed during spring and fall, from April to June or September to October, to avoid harsh temperatures and the chance of flash floods. All slot canyons are inherently dangerous for flash floods, so check the forecast before you hike.

Difficulty: 3 (due to length, if hiked to the confluence with Buckskin Gulch)

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