One of the best hikes in the world is
Pronounced like "Maria".
Hikes in this area are called:
Note - there are only a few hundred permits for perhaps thousands of people trying to obtain one (for peak season). You need apply on the 1st day of the month, 4-months before you want to hike. Only 20 hikers allowed to start each day 10 in advance, 10 by lottery 24-hrs prior.
AT A GLANCE
- canyon walk in knee-deep water
- some risk of flash floods
- minimum 4 days, 3 nights
- 37.5mi (60.4km) plus sidetrip(s)
- best months Oct & late Apr-May
- worst month is Aug
- medium difficulty hiking in good weather with the odd challenging bit of scrambling
- no public transportation to trailheads
Paria & Buckskin are the longest canyon hikes in the world, so far as we know. Buckskin is dangerous due to flash-flood as is the section of the Paria known as The Narrows.
WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE
Paria Canyon and the Virgin Narrows (in Zion) are considered the two best slot canyon hikes in the USA. Perhaps the world. Of the two, we prefer Paria.
- high, colourful, sculpted red-rock walls
- walking in knee deep water is fun, if you have good shoes
- the sidetrip part way up Buckskin Gulch is essential
- recommended sidetrip to Wrather Arch, 6th largest natural span in the world
- pictographs & historical artifacts
- dogs are allowed
- hiking permit is inexpensive ($5/day)
- visiting a nearby spectacular sandstone formation called The Wave
- day hiking nearby Wire Pass slot canyon
- visiting nearby Zion and Bryce, and other great SW Parks
- possible to hike year round (August is the worst, wettest month)
- studying the 7 major geological layers exposing 85 million years of geologic time
- spotting California condors, reintroduced in 1996
- the beautiful large trees providing a garden of Eden vibe
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- many have drowned in slot canyons
- if it rains, your trip may be cancelled. Paria Information Station issues rain checks from March 15 to November 15th. This won't do you much good if your hiking timeline is tight.
- help is hours or days away. You need manage your own first aid.
- most mobile phones will not work for much of the hike
- you may be responsible for your own rescue costs. Buy insurance.
- finding clear springs as our water supply was the biggest problem we had in October. The Paria is not great, even filtered.
- mosquitoes and biting flies June & July
- if you really look, you may be able to find: black widow spider, centipede, scorpion, rattlesnake, tarantula. We saw none. Beware of rodents getting into your food, however.
- walk 20-40% of the time in the river
- special shoes for walking in water highly recommended
- one hiker suffered minor nerve damage (numbness) in the tip of his big toe from hours spent in the water
- mud & "quicksand" are a problem after it rains
- dry shoes are a good idea for dry sections and around camp (though this author wore only the neopene booties and bare feet)
- there are virtually no signs or marked trails. Water sources are not marked and can be easily missed.
- no campfires
- no burning trash or toilet paper. Pack it out.
- Page, Arizona and the trailhead may be in two different time zones. Check if you are trying to get to the 8:30AM lottery that you are on Utah time.
- you must poop in a bag. (If you've never done it, you are in for an experience. Human/dog waste bags provided free of charge.)
- the mud literally sucks, especially after high water has receded
- spring water is not plentiful in the canyon. Plan your water management strategy before you go. There are no springs in the last 12mi of the hike. Carry enough water containers.
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The biggest hassle with this hike is getting a reservation for a permit. Here's the deal:.
NOON (Mountain Standard Time) on the first day of each month, permits may be obtained up to four months in advance. For example on January 1st (after Noon) and any day in January, all of the April permits will be available. For any day in February (after 12 noon on the 1st), all of the May permits will be available. . . etc.
At noon you should be at a computer making application and phoning at the same time. Double your chances.
If you do not have a permit, you may still be able to get on. Check at the Paria Information Station for last minute availability for the upcoming week. The fewer people in your group, the better your chances.
In Oct. 2006, high season, we got permits for both The Wave and Paria at the Paria Information Station 8:30AM lottery. Some hikers seemed to be scared off by poor weather that week. (Of the two, The Wave is more difficult to get.)
You can day hike into Paria returning to your vehicle same day no permit required if you do not stay overnight.
- we recommend the normal route in the Paria river starting at White House trailhead in Utah off Highway 89
- extreme hikers exit or enter via the far more difficult, dangerous Buckskin Gulch or Wire Pass trailheads both which require canyoneering (canyoning) gear: rope, wetsuit, etc.
- be warned that many hikers planning to get through Buckskin in a day to reach the first reliable spring in Paria, fail. They end up camping in the middle of Buckskin. For that matter, the first water source on the Paria after the confluence is not great or easy to find. Carry enough water for two days if you start in Buckskin.
- on the normal Paria route you should take an upstream sidetrip into narrow Buckskin Gulch and backtrack the same day. No special equipment needed.
- exit at Lee Ferry, Arizona where there's a Ranger Station, campground and pay phone ... or,
- backtrack Paria (a good option if you have a vehicle parked there)
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The ultimate challenging 5-6 day itinerary (if you know what you are doing, have the right gear, & perfect weather) is The Wave, to Wire Pass or Buckskin Gulch, through Paria to Lee's Ferry.
If you sign on with a guided trip, logistics will be organized for you. This section is for independent hikers.
- the closest Greyhound bus station is Flagstaff, AZ 143mi (230kms) away
- you will need to find some way to get to Page, AZ
- one option is to rent an inexpensive car for a week in Vegas or Phoenix
- if you are going to Zion National Park first, stop for sure at the Zion Adventure Company: hiking gear for the Narrows
- closest hiking gear shop to Paria is Willow Canyon Outdoor in Kanab, Utah. There is a Wal-Mart in Page.
click to see a larger image - Google maps
- Paria Information Station is 30mi west of Page, Arizona & 44mi east of Kanab, Utah
- it is open Mar 15 to Nov 15, 8:30AM - 4:30PM
- this is the last flush toilet
- fill-up with water
- the White House trailhead is about 2mi (3.2km) further on
- once on the trail
- on the Paria you can camp where you want and take as long as you like to finish
- exit at Lee's Ferry trailhead
- it is a 2hr drive back to the start
- you might hitchhike, but it is worth hiring transport. There is a pay phone at the trailhead so you could ring for a ride, if you must. Paria Information Station will give you an up-to-date phone list of who offers shuttle service.
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Most hike Paria independently. But you can hire a guide if you prefer.
(250) 343-6433 March 1 through November 15, Paria Information Station, or ...
(250) 343-6433 the rest of the year, Kanab Resource Area Office
TRANSPORTATION TO TRAILHEAD
Many hikers park a vehicle at Lee's Ferry, then hire someone to drive them 2hrs to the White House trailhead. For this try Betty or Catalina both of whom live in Lee's Ferry. Cost about $90 for your group one way.
It would be ideal to have 2 vehicles, parking one at each end of the Paria.
BEST HIKING GUIDEBOOKS
Kelsey wrote the dedicated guide. But the maps are poor and distances are metric. You need the BLM Hiker's Guide to Paria Canyon flip-map ($8), as well, available when you pick up your permit at the Paria Information Station. Or from the Arizona Strip Interpretive Association (435) 688-3246.
Because slot canyon hiking is peculiar, get the Kelsey guidebook as early as possible to decide on what special gear you need.
OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS
- Lonely Planet Hiking in the USA - 2002, includes this hike
- Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Aron Ralston, 2005
- Canyoneering Arizona - Tyler Williams, 2005
- Canyoneering: How to Explore the Canyons of the Great Southwest - John Annerin, 1999
- Land of the Canyons - Laurent Martres, 1999
- Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Glen Canyon Region - Ron Adkison , 1998
- Photographing the Southwest: Volume 1 - Southern Utah, Laurent Martres
- Photographing the Southwest: Volume 2 - Arizona & New Mexico, Laurent Martres
- Standing Up Country - Canyon Lands of Utah and Arizona, C. G. Crampton, 2000
- Falcon Utah Wildlife Viewing Guide - Jim Cole, 1990
- Falcon Scats and Tracks of the Desert SW - James Halfpenny, 2000
- Moviemaking - Canyon Country Chronicles , Greer Chesher
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A favourite pastime of experienced canyon hikers in this region is to debate the relative merits (flaws) of canyoning guidebooks by Kelsey, Martres, Williams, Annerino and Allen. There are no shortage of guidebooks. Check out as many as you can.
Some of these are available from the Paria Information Station and other tourist book shops.
You might drown. But you are not likely to get lost. The BLM map is enough.
BEST WEB PAGES
After this page, the best links are:
BEST PHOTOS & TRIP REPORTS
- Passion for Paria! - Rob Jones, 2004
- Paria - ArizonaHikingTrails.com
- Paria - the best canyon walk in the world - Rick McCharles, besthike.com blog trip report
- Hiking Paria Canyon - Rick McCharles, 2006 photos Paria, Buckskin and Wrather
- Paria River annotated photos - Mental Wanderings, 2007
- Paria River annotated photos - Mental Wanderings, 2006
- Buckskin-Paria photos - Harry J. Gensler, 2002
- Paria Canyon photos - Jim Larkey, 2004
- Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon trip report - thebeckoning.com, 2004
- Buckskin Gulch & Paria Canyon Trip Report - Arizona Trailblazers, 1999
- Buckskin Gulch - Trail Description
- Paria photos - OKtrails.com
- bobcat in the canyon photo - Joe Orman, 1988
- The Wave (Paria Canyon) - clarkmow, 2004
- problems hiking "The Wave" - Rick McCharles, 2006 besthike.com blog trip report
- The Wave - Rick McCharles, 2006 photos after rain storm
- Buckskin Gulch to Paria Canyon - Jill Homer, 2001
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MOVIES, VIDEOS, DVDs
You may see pieces of old film sets in the region though vandals set fire to the main Paria movie set in 2006.