Paria Canyon is one of the most beautiful and remote hiking spots in the United States. Your Paria Canyon hike will take your breath away with its beauty, but it’s also full of hardships.
The Paria River has carved out a rich canyon full of twists, turns, narrow spaces, and cavernous walls. The rocks that surround you are so brightly orange and so stratified that you might swear they have been painted.
It is most certainly a hiking trek that requires thought, preparation, and careful planning.
9 Things to Know Before Setting Out on Your Paria Canyon Hike
The pay-off is worth all your hard work as you stand beneath canyon walls that tower hundreds of feet above you. You’ll feel the immensity of nature, the vastness of time, and you won’t care at all that your feet are cold and wet.
To make all these things possible though, you need to know what you’re in for. Here are nine things you need to know before your Paria Canyon hike.
1. You Need a Permit
To protect the delicate ecosystem of the Paria Canyon Trail, only 20 hikers are permitted to enter for an overnight hike per day. That means that you must reserve a permit in advance in order to gain entrance.
Day hikers also need a permit, as well as any dogs you’re taking with you. Yes, dogs are permitted, but must remain under control, and you’ll need to remove any waste they leave (as well as your own).
If you’re a day hiker, you need to display your permit on your vehicle windshield. If you’re lucky enough to have an overnight permit, keep it displayed on the outside of your backpack.
2. There is No Trail
Though it’s called the Paria Canyon Trail, there is no actual trail. You simply follow the 38 miles of river from the entrance point at White House Trailhead to the end at Lee’s Ferry.
It also means that the only way out of the canyon is the beginning or the end. There’s no hopping off at a checkpoint should trouble arise.
3. You Will Feel Completely Alone
Remember that small number of people admitted to the canyon on any given day? That means that aside from your hiking companions, you aren’t likely to encounter anyone else.
This kind of seclusion is often what hikers are after. After all, it’s nice to unplug from the world. It’s nice to immerse yourself in the vast empty space of nature without bumping elbows with a bunch of tourists.
You can clear your mind. You can listen to the sounds of the canyon, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife that may run across your path. Of course, if all this alone time doesn’t sound so appealing, consider hiking with a group.
4. Paying Attention to the Weather is Important
Anytime you are planning a trip out in the elements, you want to make sure that you keep an eye on the weather, but in Paria Canyon anticipating the weather is imperative. That’s because the narrow canyon is prone to flash flooding.
Keep an eye on weather reports in the days leading up to your trip, and in general, avoid planning a visit to the canyon from June to September when rains are heaviest.
5. Rain or No Rain, You Will Get Wet
Since there is no trail, and you are merely following the river, there is virtually no point during your trip that your feet will not be wet. So, flash floods aside, you’ll need to prepare by bringing the right gear.
You’ll want to pack plenty of neoprene socks and wear comfortable, waterproof boots. Even with these, you should still anticipate wet feet.
Hiking Paria Canyon is a wet hike – hiking in the river, crossing the river and hiking in the usually wet Buckskin Gulch. How much water you have to tread through depends on the time of year and the amount of precipitation that may have occurred north of the area may have received over the winter months or even days before.
Water levels in the river and gulch can veray by several feet. With no trail, you’ll need to ford the river to cross, too.
You might also want to take along trekking poles in case the ground gets slippery, or even worse, you end up in deep mud.
6. The Desert is Cold
No matter how many times people tell you, it’s still hard to grasp that a desert can be cold. This is especially true in Paria Canyon, as it is with other trail experiences like nearby Bryce Canyon backpacking. This is because the high canyon walls block out the sunlight.
It turns out sunlight does a lot to keep you warm, so without it pack layers.
7. You Can Hire a Guide
A Paria Canyon hike is a good time for an experienced hiker, but it’s also possible to make the trek if you enlist the help of the right people.
In fact, even if you are fairly experienced, it’s not a bad idea to have an expert guide on-hand in the event of an emergency.
8. Getting Clean Water is Difficult
Yes, you are hiking on the path of a river, and yet getting clean water, even with a purifier is hard. That’s because the water is so full of silt that it’s hard for even the best filters to get it out.
So, carrying water on your Paria Canyon hike is essential. Along the canyon walls, fresh water seeps from the rock from springs. You can collect and drink that to supplement your suppiles.
Notably, you’ll find three right across from some of the campsites, which makes them particular handy.
You should also learn how to remove silt from water to supplement your supplies. There are a few fresh springs along the way, but just in case, you can try to filter the river water if necessary.
You can fill a container with river water and give it a few hours to settle to make it easier to filter. Use a bandana to filter your water first, and then run it through a portable water filter device.
9. It’s Hard to Capture the Scope of the Canyon
You will surely try, and your camera is one of the most important items you will bring along. Yet your photos still somehow won’t do the glory of the canyon justice.
They will come close, but its beauty is too powerful, its scope too big, and its spirit too elusive. Don’t worry though, your photos are sure to impress just about anyone who hasn’t seen the real thing first hand.
While hiking, makes sure you keep your eyes out for the ancient rock art. You may see petroglyphs and pictographs left by the Puebloan people who lived in the area prior to Europeans arrived.
The Best Time of Year for a Paria Canyon Hike
While the weather can vary, you want to make sure you go during the best time of the year. Late June through mid-September means the rainy season, and that means those flash floods we discussed early become likely.
The best time for a Paria Canyon hike is early spring, before the rainy season. Late September through November also make a good time to visit. However, because it can often get cold in the late fall, and even in the early spring, make sure you dress in layers to stay warm.
Winter months can be very cold, and the Bureau of Landmanagement doesn’t permit campires there. So December and February are not a great time for a Paria Canyon hike.
Camping on Your Paria Canyon Hike
The Bureau asks that all overnight campers use the established campsites, instead of just setting up wherever they find themselves. Even though these are the most primitive of sites, you should be able to find them easily.
Hike Paria Canyon with Confidence
By now you are practically a Paria Canyon expert. You could hike the whole thing blindfolded with your toes dry. Well, maybe not exactly, but at least you’ll know what to expect, and you can start your quest confident and informed.