Of the long list of the world’s best hikes, Paria Canyon was close to the top of my personal to-do list.
I finally got there though I needed to rent a car for a week. Public transport is terrible in the SW USA.
Paria is a river walk, normally 37.5mi (60.4km) from White House trailhead near Page, Arizona to Lees Ferry, Arizona. This is the easiest and safest route.
Much is made of the risk of flash flood. But the standard route staying in the Paria is fairly safe. Escape to higher ground is possible almost everywhere. And you cannot get lost as the cliffs are impassable.
I loved hiking through the canyon though footwear is a big issue. I wore neoprene booties in 5-10 Canyoneers, a water walking shoe. And I was much happier than those wading in socks and approach shoes.
There are a surprising number of animals living in the canyon (you know because of the footprints) but they have learned to be elusive. The only critters I saw live were rodents, including one that somehow got into my tent as I was just falling asleep.
I also spotted just once one of the reintroduced California Condors.
Hardcore hikers & mountaineers would prefer connecting Buckskin Gulch. I hiked a couple of miles up Buckskin from the confluence with the Paria. It is much narrower and more dangerous. If a flash flood hits, you are almost certainly swimming.
In Buckskin I ran into a couple of Colorado hikers with full canyoning gear. They were very happy to see me as dayhiking Buckskin had taken far longer than they expected. I was able to fill them in on just how much time it would take them to exit via Paria. They walked out in the dark.
My biggest problem on the hike was … water. Sounds crazy, I know. But filtering the Paria river is not a good idea. It’s not only silty but also very polluted. Cows drown in it on a regular basis.
I filled up in tiny trickle springs coming directly out of the mountain.
These canyons are colourful, tranquil and mysterious. The play of light and dark is amazing.
It was Fall. There is a great variety of trees and bushes in the canyon micro-climate. Many were changing colour.
An important side-trip for me was up a flood devastated side canyon to Wrather Arch, with a span of 246ft (75m) it’s the least accessible of the largest 10 natural arches in the world.
I met 2 local hikers who somehow scrambled down the canyon walls to dayhike Wrather. That route was harsh and exposed they told me. Not recommended.
I did try to climb up as high as I could to get some photos from above.
After 3 nights in Paria canyon, I decided to backtrack to my parked vehicle. That was 18.5mi in one long day. Though the river is flat, I found it difficult to hike quickly. Four days, three nights is minimum for this hike.
If you might want to hike Paria Canyon someday, check our Paria information page – besthike.com
And if you want to see high resolution pics of the canyon, I posted 137 Paria photos on flickr. (click SLIDESHOW and set time to 1sec)
Certainly I recommend Paria as an ideal hike for all levels of ability. Children and dogs will do well on this hike. In fact, it’s my favourite hike in the region and one of my top 10 hikes anywhere.