Paria Canyon

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Sierra Club MWROP Backpacking Trip:
Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah & Arizona

May 13 - 21, 2000, Saturday to Sunday

Between Kanab, UT and Page, AZ

Date of last revision:
April 13, 2000

Trip Description:

This week long backpacking trip will go through one of the most spectacular slot canyons in the world. We will spend a week hiking, exploring, and backpacking through a crack in the Earth. We will see ancient Anasazi petroglyphs, beautiful red rock formations, a natural arch, abundant wildflowers, as well as natural springs and seeps. A few years ago I did a weeklong backpack through Escalante Canyon, Utah which was fantastic. Escalante is not far from Paria and is similar in many ways. Everything that I’ve heard and read about Paria says that it’s even better.

May was picked because it is one of the best times of the year to visit Paria. The desert is beautiful in May with flowers blooming, minimal bugs, and normally reasonable temperatures in Paria Canyon. Also the chance of flash floods is significantly reduced in May (but not completely eliminated). A flash flood in May is extremely rare. We will check the weather before we go with both the weather bureau and the park
ranger. Also, each night we will make camp on a terrace above the river bottom.
Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch, being much narrower than Paria Canyon pose a greater danger to flash flood. Parts of Paria are narrow, but much of it is more open. May is the most popular time of year to visit this canyon – we made our permit reservations early. 

I originally wanted to do this as a six-day backpack starting from the Wire Pass trailhead, going through Buckskin Gulch, and continuing on to the Lee’s Ferry trailhead, with one open day at the end of the trip. Both Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch are very narrow, with little sunshine, so at this time of year they will still have deep pools of water in them. Floating, carrying, or swimming a 40 to 60 lb. pack through them will be difficult. I was willing to give it a try but wasn’t sure that I would find nine other people who agreed with me. So I decided to do the first day from Wire Pass partway through Buckskin Gulch, and back, as a day hike. The next day we will begin our five-day backpack from the White House trailhead, past the Buckskin Gulch confluence and down to the Lee’s Ferry trailhead and confluence with the Colorado River. Five days will allow us time to explore, look for petroglyphs, do photography, etc. We will still have one open day at the end of the trip for tourist activities or another dayhike someplace else. I have planned a trip to Canyon de Chelly for the last day. It will require some additional driving but I think it will be worth it.

The first day’s dayhike is rated as strenuous, and the five-day backpack as mostly moderate to possibly strenuous depending on trail conditions. The mileage from White House to Lee’s Ferry is only 38 miles but I would like to do some exploring in side canyons or a side trip up to the Colorado Plateau. Elevation gain through most of the river is negligible with the exception of scrambling over rockfall and climbing up to
the terraces. We will actually be doing a gradual downhill all week with the exception of scrambling over rocks or hiking up to terraces.

Participants must be experienced, physically fit backpackers, with the appropriate gear; or at a minimum, very strong dayhikers who are willing to get and carry the appropriate gear. Dayhikers must have done at least one weekend backpack prior to this trip. Individual pack weight will vary but most people will be carrying from 35 to 60 lbs. Each person is responsible for providing their own gear and meals. If people
want to, they may elect to share tents, meals, stoves, first aid kits, and water purifiers/filters. A roster of trip participants will be posted. I will try to coordinate this common gear somewhat. A maximum of ten people, including the leader, is allowed in a single group by the BLM. 

Because of the narrowness of some parts of the canyons we will pass through, this trip is not suitable for people who are claustrophobic. Also some rock scrambling is required so people should have good eye-hand-foot coordination. Participants will have to fill out an information form regarding their physical condition and conditioning, as well as prior backpacking experience – just like on any national Sierra Club trip. All participants must sign a liability release.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Website for Paria Canyon

This website contains a lot of valuable information, everyone who is considering this trip should visit it and peruse it thoroughly. For some reason this website has not been working lately, they may have been down temporarily. Try typing it manually if the link doesn't work. The URL address is:

Trip Itinerary

Day Date Activity
Saturday May 13 Fly to Phoenix, AZ, pick up rental cars, check into motel, buy fuel for stoves
Sunday May 14 Dayhike from Wire Pass trailhead into Buckskin Gulch and return to Wire Pass
Monday May 15 Begin backpack from White House trailhead
Tuesday May 16 Continue backpack
Wednesday May 17 Continue backpack
Thursday May 18 Continue backpack
Friday May 19 Finish backpack at Lee's Ferry trailhead
Saturday May 20 Daytrip to Canyon de Chelly
Sunday May 21 Fly home


Some Necessary Gear

  • sturdy, broken in hiking boots (lightweight, non-waterproof)
  • tent
  • sleeping bag plus pad
  • rain suit or poncho
  • extra clothes (include long sleeve shirt and long pants as well as shorts and T shirt)
  • sunscreen, sunglasses, wide brimmed hat
  • wool sweater or fleece jacket
  • light but warm knit hat
  • flashlight, extra bulb and batteries
  • compass readable to one or two degrees
  • map
  • toilet paper + trowel
  • matches in waterproof container
  • pocket knife
  • biodegradable soap, wash cloth, small towel
  • properly fitted and adjusted backpack
  • light weight backpacking stove & fuel
  • food for 5 day backpack
  • 2 to 4 quarts or liters of water
  • personal first aid items
  • water purification tablets or a water purifier/filter
  • money for gas, meals, other expenses
  • spare purifier filter
  • typical temperatures for this time of year are 60 to 95 F but could be higher or lower

Common Items

If people want to share: tents, stoves & fuel, water filters, first aid kits, or meals, you can work that out for yourselves from the trip roster. At a minimum we need one stove, filter, and first aid kit for every three people. I will try to coordinate this somewhat.

In addition to the above items there will be some other common gear that we will have to split up. This includes: rope, plastic collapsible bucket, collapsible bladders (2), and possibly other things.

We will probably divide into three teams of two unless others sign up. This gives us one stove, water purifier, and first aid kit per pair. Each person will have to carry a fuel bottle or gas canister. If we have problems with a stove or purifier we will still have two for the group. You will have to estimate how much fuel to carry for your stove. 1 liter per person for five days is probably too much unless you also want a hot breakfast. I normally only cook at dinner time and we will not be cooking at lunch it's too time consuming.

Guidebooks & Maps

Hiking and Exploring the Paria River, Michael R. Kelsey, Kelsey Publishing, 456 E. 100 N, Provo, UT 84606, 801-373-3327.

Hiker's Guide to Paria Canyon, US Dept of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management,

USGS 7.5' Topographic maps:
West Clark Bench, Bridger Point (Utah - Arizona), Water Pockets, Wrather Arch, Ferry Swale, and Lee's Ferry (Arizona), I will be carrying a set of these, it's probably not necessary for others to have a set, they may be of limited utility in the confines of the canyon

Both of these books include useful maps but they are not topographic maps. They can be purchased from:

Arizona Strip Interpretive Association (ASIA)
345 East Riverside Dr.
St. George, UT 84790

REI or the Adventurous Traveler Bookstore may also carry the Kelsey book

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

BLM Office
318 North First East
Kanab, UT 64741



Everyone is responsible for providing their own backpacking food for meals and snacks. This is not a commissary based trip. Bring more food than you would normally eat. As a backpacker, you will appreciate the concept of food as fuel. Bring things that are lightweight, tasty, and nutritious but easy to prepare, cook, and clean up after. Also bring foods that will not spoil in the heat. Plan a menu from Monday lunch to Friday lunch plus snacks for the backpack. I will be buying food for the dayhikes out there. We will have to buy fuel and can also buy some fresh food out there. Don't plan on buying all of your backpacking food out there, it's too time consuming and you might not find what you want.

4 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 4 Dinners, Snacks


In addition to the water that we will be hiking through there are also springs along the trail. We would like to use the springs as much as possible for drinking and cooking. Some people drink the spring water without treating it, but it's probably a good idea to treat it. The Paria River water has to be treated prior to drinking it. It may be very silty so it would be a good idea to carry a lightweight, collapsible plastic bucket (or use a cooking pot) to allow the silt to settle out of the water before it is filtered or treated. I recently bought a bucket for this purpose and will also carry a 2 to 3 gallon bladder. I would like someone else to also carry a large bladder if we have to haul water from a spring to camp, or simply carry some extra water.

Leave No Trace

We will practice "Leave No Trace" backcountry ethics.

Stove Fuel

We will be shipping our empty stoves and empty fuel bottles to our first hotel in AZ. We cannot carry our stoves or fuel bottles with us on the airplane unless they are brand new and have NEVER been used. Once used they will contain fuel residue and cannot be taken onboard the plane. We ship the stoves via Parcel Plus, or Mail Boxes Etc. They are willing to deal with shipping this kind of item. We will have to buy fuel out there before the trip, and ship the stoves and fuel bottles back the same way.


Much of this trip will involve hiking through water that is above your ankles. There will be so many river crossings that it is not feasible to remove your boots and put on something like teva's to cross the water. For much of the hike we will be hiking right through the river. You need to wear boots that will allow the water to drain or "squoosh" out. Light weight hiking boots that are NOT waterproof are ideal. That is what I used when I did the Escalante Canyon trip and they worked very well.

Heavy leather boots will be completely ruined by the constant soaking which allows them to stretch out of shape. Also their Vibram rubber soles, due to a higher durometer rubber, do not grip slick rock as well as the softer rubber soles of lighter boots. I will be using a pair of lightweight, non-waterproof hiking boots and carrying a pair of teva's or sneakers for around camp.



The trip cost includes round trip airfare from the Baltimore – Washington area to Phoenix, AZ,  two or three rental cars for our group, two nights in a motel both before and after our backpack, and the required BLM daily usage fees. Not included: everything else, such as: any motel meals, necessary backpacking food and gear, rental car gas, tips, personal expenses, and any other necessary but excluded expenses.

The cost of the trip is heavily influenced by the airfare, which of course varies with the number of available seats at a certain price. It is to our advantage to book the airline as soon as possible to take advantage of lower priced seats. Because MWROP is not significantly financially underwriting this trip the air fare, and other necessary, upfront deposits, must be paid from trip participant deposits. This is why the deposit is a little high and we need to get deposits as soon as possible. 

Estimated cost: $900.00 per person (actual cost could be higher or lower)

Deposit: $450.00 per person, make check payable to Sierra Club MWROP and mail to me.

Trip Leader:

Ted Fryberger
6259 Deep River Canyon
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: 443-917-2902

Copyright 2000 - 2023 by Ted Fryberger & DeepSoft, LLC, All Rights Reserved