Hike through Paria Canyon

Utah Paria Canyon

Added by Brandon Silver

Avoid the crowds: Southern Utah is full of incredible things to do, leaving this particular canyon fairly unknown to the masses. Save a buck: Want the awe-inspiring view of Zion’s Narrows, steep walled wonder of Antelope Canyon, or the curious patterned lines of The Wave, but can’t drop $100 on an hour-long tour? Paria Canyon offers all of the above in one big package, and is completely free. $5/night to camp in the breathtaking (and unpopulated) campsite at the trailhead.

No matter how far you plan on hiking, it is ideal to get an early start so you aren’t hiking too long under the desert sun. There is no shade on this hike except for the shadows offered from the steep walls of the canyon, so make sure you bring sunscreen!

From the very start, you’ll get your feet wet! Enter the river after a mere 50 yards from the trailhead and simply follow it south. There are numerous “trails” that follow the bank alongside the river, or you can opt to simply wade through the river the entire time. Regardless, you'll be in the river a lot as the trails include countless crossings. The majority of the time, the river stays at a comfortable and consistent depth of a foot or two, but there are small sections that can drop suddenly to knee or even waist deep. There is also a number of places along the hike in which you'll be able to experience quicksand. It can be avoided, although it is rather hard to distinguish from normal mud. Look for a more watery complex that also contains a lighter hue. You'll know you're in it when it's noticeably more difficult to pull your leg upward. It is not deadly or dangerous here. You can only sink about 3-4 feet at the maximum, so no panicking necessary!

Follow the river for roughly four miles, enjoying the painted hills and cliffs that slowly close in distance to the river, until suddenly your only proceeding trail is in the river itself. From here, the river winds through an ever-deepening slot canyon. As you hike, watch the walls of Paria Canyon dramatically grow hundreds of feet above you.

At the seventh mile, if you choose to venture that far, you’ll reach the confluence of the Buckskin. Here, Buckskin Wash flows into the Paria, joining forces as they carve their way toward the mighty Colorado River. From this point, you have several options.

  1. You can press on down Paria Canyon toward Lee’s Ferry and the Colorado River, a popular decision for expedition backpackers. This route widens out and contains areas for pitching a tent and often takes 3-5 days of hiking.

  2. Another option is to hang a right and venture upstream through Buckskin Wash. If you follow the Buckskin Wash, it will ultimately lead you 13 more miles to a separate trailhead through a spectacular slot canyon of its own. This hike will exit near The Wave. Ambitious hikers can choose to do this in one day.

  3. Finally, you can opt to turn around and hike back to the trailhead, totaling 14 miles in distance. There is a very nice, 5-spot campground at the trailhead called White House Campground. It costs $5/night and contains fire pits and a pit toilet. The solitude and views of painted rock alone are worth the price.

No matter what you decide to do, Paria Canyon offers spectacular views and a unique experience for hikers of any skill level. Enjoy the solitude, enjoy the view, and get a real taste of Utah’s wild side.

Note: There is Quicksand! Who knew this phenomenon existed in the US? It isn’t dangerous or deadly here, as you won’t sink more than waist deep. Truly a fun and exciting experience. 

Pack List

  • Sturdy Boots you don’t mind getting wet/muddy or sturdy water shoes (Keens Preferable)
  • Walking Stick (to check depths of water, keep balance, and climb out of quicksand
  • Sun hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses
  • Snack food and lunch!
  • Water (The Paria river is not potable, and rather silty with dirt and sand)
  • Camera, and protective bag to keep sand out.
If Backpacking/Camping:
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag/pad
  • Water filter
  • Food adequate for your time in the canyon
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Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

14 Miles

Rating:

Features:

River
Scenic

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How to Get There

7 days ago

A True Wilderness Experience

The BLM only allows 20 people to enter the canyon for overnight trips each day so you will likely be alone for the most of your trip. In November 2016 I spent 3 days/2 nights hiking from the White House Trailhead to Lee's Ferry and only saw one other person, which made for an incredible wilderness experience. If you choose to hike the Paria Canyon through its entirety you will have to use two cars or use a shuttle service. I used Seeking Treasure Adventures and was very pleased with the service Yermo provided! Also, you cannot drink the river water, so if you are doing this hike from start to finish you will need to refill your water at the 3 reliable springs. The first is Big Spring at mile 12, the second is Shower Spring at mile 22, and Last Reliable Spring is at mile 25. The springs can easily be missed if you aren't looking for them so be sure to pay attention to your mileage. And yes, there is quicksand, I actually got stuck in it and while I knew I wasn't in much danger it was a scary experience. If you find yourself stuck in quicksand, immediately take off your pack and throw it to shore. It is much easier to climb out of quicksand without a heavy pack dragging you down. All in all this is one of the most unique hikes I've ever been on and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a multi-day hike that combines beauty and solitude!

7 days ago

5 months ago

A Bucket List Item

38 miles & 3 days of awesome backpacking! While you will engage in over 200 water crossings, I definitely recommend getting 3 mm 18" neoprene socks. Not only will this help keep your feet dry, but also keep you warm and protect your shins from the brush. Around mile 24 is an awesome wall of Petroglyphs that you have to hike up to so don't miss it! This is a once in a lifetime trip!

5 months ago

9 months ago

Great Packing Trip

Started at White House and packed to just beyond where Buckskin Gulch intersects. We camped there 2 nights, and used our day of rest to do some exploring in buckskin gulch. We went in June, when there was enough water past the confluence to drink but we didn't have to wade to hike. Very beautiful and secluded with amazing night skies! PS be ready to pack your poop out in special bags they give you at the ranger station 😹

9 months ago

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