Hayduke Trail Day 27: Paria Canyon in a Day, Don’t Do It This Way

Daily Neat Beat
Day 27
Total Miles: 29.4
Cumulative Miles: 494.3
Map of Day 27 hiking through the Paria Canyon to the Bush Head Route Exit

Paria Canyon in a day, it can be done but don’t do it. We hiked 29.4 miles today because of permitting requirements but it is such a beautiful place that deserves leisure and exploration. Most people hike the length of Paria Canyon from Whitehouse Trailhead to Lee’s Ferry, which is 38 miles, in four to five days. You can get a reservation on-line from BLM  three months in advance and they limit it to 20 people per day for overnight camping in the canyon. The permitting system has kept this area protected from overuse and it is still a sublime experience. I highly recommend it for those of you who overnight camp. And those of you who don’t? Stay in Kanab, Utah and do a day hike down from Whitehouse Trailhead or Wirepass Trailhead (which can get you the Buckskin Gulch). Day hiking in the area is unlimited.

The red canyon walls in Paria Canyon shoot straight up, sometimes 1500 feet. 
Hiking in Paria Canyon

It is just you, the river and these massive raw-hamburger colored walls that squeeze in on you. I sometimes feel protected and sometimes vulnerable in a place like this. And it makes me want to whisper when I speak to Ray.

We start early and it is cold and the water is frigid.
Morning sunlight on a very cold river as we head into the canyon

But hiking Paria requires getting your feet wet constantly. I feel like I have two blocks of ice on the bottom of my legs and they feel really heavy, like I have bowling balls tied to my feet. I am wearing sealskin socks and five ten approach shoes. 

Crossing the muddy Paria River

The sealskin socks keep your feet dry for a while and warmer once they get wet. But, my feet are numb. I keep telling myself to keep going, eventually my feet will get warmer as the day warms up and I get circulation going. Ray also has cold feet. He tends to go faster when he is cold or in pain so I am splashing to keep up with him. He is still tiptoeing to keep the water level below the top of his sealskin socks which come up to his mid-calves.

Ray tiptoeing across the river, trying to keep his feet dry..it didn’t last

Of course that doesn’t last and after a few hours we are both noisily splashing through the creek. By this time we have reached the Paria narrows where Buckskin Gulch comes in.

Looking up Buckskin Gulch from Paria Canyon

Buckskin Gulch is considered to be the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwest. We had considered hiking down Buckskin to Paria Canyon but it currently has chest-deep pools of frigid water and the high temperature for today was only supposed to be in the 50s…so, no go for us. Based on how cold our feet were this morning, I am glad we chose to skip it.

Eventually Paria widens out a little and the Cottonwood trees glow with vibrance, lighting up the dark canyon narrows like the glow of street lamps along a city street. The glow from the trees and the sun warm my feet and the numb feeling is gone. It is so glorious here in the Canyon.
Sublime beauty of trees in Paria Canyon
There are great campsites up on these sandy benches with trees in Paria Canyon

Although Ray and I hiked here any years ago, being here today makes me want to come back another time and just spend some time in the middle section of the canyon exploring the side canyons. In the middle section, there are many springs that feed the Paria and great campsites on the benches. It is such a great experience just to be here.

The Wall Spring which drips with cold, clear water

But go we must as we will hike out the Bush Head Route and across the Paria Plateau the next few days. I am looking forward to being on top of a mesa again. This seems to be a repeating pattern: up as dry mesa and then down into a wet drainage and canyon. Then up a dry mesa again. It makes you appreciate both extremes.

Hiking “in” the Paria River near Wrather Arch Canyon

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