Paria Canyon is 38 miles of sheer beauty. The sculpted sandstone walls tower above you making you feel small and insignificant. As you walk through the murky water trying to avoid quicksand you can’t help but be amazed at the magnitude of this canyon.
I was lucky enough to backpack through Paria Canyon as a volunteer with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This meant that we went upstream from Lee’s Ferry to the White Pocket Camp Ground which is opposite the standard route.
This allowed us to check permits as the regular groups traveled downriver. It also meant that we saw everything from the opposite side. I’ve never done it the regular way, but absolutely loved our route!
If you are looking for detailed information on gear and other hiking tips check out: Must Follow Tips for Paria Canyon Backpacking
We got to Lee’s Ferry early enough on Thursday afternoon, to start hiking into the canyon a little bit early. We spent our first night approximately four miles into the canyon.
It was super windy, so we found an amazing campsite tucked back into the rocks. It was a great windbreak and the sand was nice and soft for sleeping.
We had decided in advance to make Friday a high mileage day. Our goal was to cover 12-14 miles in order to reach Shower Spring.
Since we were on the south end of the route, most of the hiking on our second day was what I would consider in a wide canyon. It was beautiful, but definitely desert hiking with the occasional stream crossing.
We chose to take the high route which bypasses a few miles of canyon water hiking. We ran into a group that had missed the high route coming down and were pretty worn out. They had done the high route in the past and highly recommend that route. Our BLM guide said that same.
That day, we saw a lot of Indian petroglyphs and also ran into a huge snake.
We also ran into multiple hiking groups that day. Including one group who had found some quicksand. One of the women had gotten caught in quicksand for almost 45 minutes. While trying to rescue her, her husband had lost his shoes in the process. He had to hike the rest of the canyon in her extra sandals.
It is easy to forget how dangerous backpacking can be when you are having fun.
After a very long day of hiking, we finally make it to Shower Spring. Shower Spring is really cool, but you have to get wet to get to the good water. We got to the spring around 4 that afternoon and it was getting cold and windy.
We had to stand in thigh high water for 20-30 minutes to filter our water. By the time we were done, we were all freezing cold and ready to change.
We found the most amazing campsite shortly after the spring. It was up nice and high which appeals to my fear of flash flooding. It was also up against the walls and sheltered from the wind which was a very nice bonus.
We set up camp, made dinner and were all in bed and asleep by 8:15.
The next morning, we decided to do another long day in order to camp near Big Spring which was 10-11 miles away. Our BLM guide knew of another great campsite and had reports that the spring was in good condition.
Although we knew we had a lot of mileage to cover, we really wanted to take a side detour to Wrather Arch. One of the pluses to hiking the route in the opposite direction was the fact that we were still fresh and had the energy for some side trips.
If you have the chance, I highly recommend taking the detour to Wrather Arch. It was absolutely amazing. The hike was around 3 miles round trip and the trail was excellent. There was one steep part at the end.
After Wrather Arch, we started booking it to Big Spring.
We ran into a nice little pocket of quicksand and learned first-hand how crazy the stuff is. We were very careful to stay safe but had a blast playing.
We also spend some time that day cleaning up a campsite. For the most part, the canyon was very clean and we rarely found trash. Unfortunately, there are always a few people who feel that they don’t need to follow the rules. It is just so sad when people leave trash in such an amazing area.
We also ran into another group who had lost a shoe to quicksand. Fortunately, they were able to use a sleeping mat and neoprene socks to create a workable shoe for him. I’m not sure how he was doing it, but he was still having a blast.
We got lucky at Big Spring and had the whole area to ourselves. The water was super easy to access and we were able to get everything filtered super quickly.
All together we ended up doing around 14 miles, but three of it was without our packs.
On Sunday, since we had covered so much ground the previous two days, we only had around 4 miles of hiking until we were at the confluence with Buckskin Canyon. Since we were so far ahead of schedule we decided to hike up Buckskin Canyon for a couple of miles.
Buckskin Canyon was unseasonably wet this year, so the water levels were chest high. The groups we ran into were all in pretty miserable shape except one smaller group that had used wetsuits.
If you decide to do Buckskin Canyon I highly recommend checking with the BLM for water conditions before entering the canyon.
Buckskin Canyon is very narrow and has a completely different feel from the rest of Paria Canyon. I’ve done a lot of canyoneering over the years so it felt like coming home to me. I love walking through narrow slot canyons where you can reach out and touch both sides.
The sculpted walls were amazing and the swirls and colors were unmatched.
We hiked around 2-3 miles up Buckskin Canyon and finally turned around when the water started to get deeper and colder. We weren’t equipped for major water and eventually decided to turn back. Someday I want to go back and do the entire Buckskin Canyon route. My little taste just whetted my appetite for more.
That night we camped at the confluence with a bunch of other campers. We were some of the first on site, so we lucked out and got the one single camping spot on canyon right as you head towards Paria Canyon. It was a steep climb to reach the campsite, but worth the privacy.
The next morning, was bittersweet for all of us. We only had around 8 miles of hiking left, so we played around that morning and weren’t in a rush to leave our campsite.
From the confluence, Paria Canyon tightens up for around 3 miles and then opens up for the last couple of miles.
The three miles of canyon was some of my favorite. We hit the tight spots at the perfect time in the morning and the light was breathtaking. We spent a lot of time enjoying the views and taking pictures, particularly around slide rock.
After leaving the narrows section the rest of our trip was pretty uneventful. The last few miles are open canyon. It was still amazingly beautiful, but kind of bittersweet after the beauty we had just experienced.
One of my favorite final landmarks was Slide Rock. Since we had plenty of time, we took our time and took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed our last few hours of the canyon.
We were hiking quicker then I thought because literally without warning we realized we were just over the hill from the White House Camp Grounds.
Backpacking Paria Canyon was a dream come true for me. It was absolutely amazing. I was lucky enough to go with three other girls who love the outdoors as much as I do. When you are surrounded by beauty outside and in the company of amazing people the hard times just melt away.
We did just under 50 miles in 4 ½ days. I thought for sure I was going to be sore, blistered and worn out by the end. Instead, I was completely rejuvenated and ready to face real life again.
If you get a chance to hike the Paria River I highly recommend doing it.
This write up was purely to show pictures and share with my friends. If you want to see the rest of my pictures you can view them here – Paria Canyon Pictures.
If you are planning to hike the Paria and need more detailed information about gear, routes, and hiking please visit this post – Must Follow Tips for Backpacking Paria Canyon
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