Paria River Canyon is colorful, winding corridors of stone, narrow gorges, and a stunning display of seven major geologic formations. The canyon geology includes Moenkopi Formation, Chinle Formation, Moenave Formation, Kayenta Formation, Navajo Sandstone, Temple Cap Sandstone, and Carmel Formation. Paria means, "muddy water" in the Paiute Indian language. The name is appropriate, as hikers have to wade through the muddy waters of the wild and twisting canyon. One hiker counted approximately three hundred river crossings.
Located along the Arizona-Utah border, the BLM Paria Canyon Rangers Station is in Utah, forty-three miles east of Kanab on US 89, near milepost twenty-one.
The Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 established the 112,000-acre Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness. Because Paria Canyon runs along the Arizona-Utah border, it is managed by two federal agencies, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. The BLM manages a variety of uses in the canyon, such as hiking, backpacking, hunting, and livestock grazing. Visitor permits may be restricted at times to protect wilderness resources.
There are a number of hiking options in the canyon, including one route that stretches for thirty-eight miles. There are trailheads near the Utah/Arizona border down to Lees Ferry on the Colorado River.
Tips for visiting:
If you plan to hike, permits may be required to hike or backpack here.
Check online or in person with the BLM for more information.
Make sure you visit the old Paria movie set and ghost town located just north of the wilderness area. You'll see petroglyphs and campsites that relay how Pueblo Indians traveled the Paria River Canyon more than seven hundred years ago.
Please do not touch the petroglyphs.
Take only pictures and memories from these sites.
Buckskin Gulch is a long slot canyon tributary to Paria Canyon. It is managed as wilderness and regarded as one of the world's best hiking destinations. The Buckskin trailhead is two miles south on a dirt road near an old homestead site called White House Ruins.
The Wire Pass trailhead is a few miles further down that same road. There are no developed campsites.
This area is home to a wide variety of wildlife. There are several species of birds of prey in the area including the endangered peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, and Cooper's hawk. During the winter you can spot bald eagles, while golden eagles can be seen year round. There are swallows, wrens, killdeer, flycatchers, and black-throated sparrows nesting on the canyon's sheer walls or in strips of sand. And tiny birds like black-chinned hummingbirds can be spotted in the early morning hours. Look for great blue herons along the river. Watch for bobcats, foxes, mountain lions, porcupines, and beavers. More common are the coyotes, jackrabbits, cottontails, ground squirrels, bats, kangaroo rats, and other rodents. A variety of lizards and rattlesnakes are found within the canyon. The Paria River is home to several types of suckerfish and the speckled dace.
One online reviewer said, "Hiked the Paria River for an overnighter in April 2002. The water was quite low due to drought and so travel was not difficult. We passed the Buckskin to camp 12 miles from Whitehouse Trailhead. We would have camped at ten miles except a couple at that campsite made it very clear we were not welcome. The spring at Big Spring campground gushes from the wall on the other side of the river. It was by far the best spring we had seen. This is an issue since I have talked to others who spent hours getting drips of water from walls. We returned the same way the next day. Beware of blisters as you are hiking in water most of the way. The canyon is quite beautiful, particularly the narrows.''
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