Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos

Pin Me!

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos

I just got home from an amazing backpacking trip through Paria Canyon, which sits on the edge of the Southern Utah / Arizona border. Thirty-eight miles long and flanked by brilliantly colored vertical rock walls, Paria Canyon has been carved by the Paria River which runs the length of the canyon.

A Paria Canyon backpacking trip requires wading downriver, with dozens of crossings – in some ways similar to hiking the Narrows in Zion. Your feet will be wet the entire time. Due to the nature of the trail (or lack of trail), the hiking is slow, but it is nothing short of spectacular and worth every ounce of effort. What made it even better was that over the course of 4 days, we only crossed paths with one other pair of hikers, and they were headed the opposite direction. We had the canyon all to ourselves.

For more information on permits, gear, and planning, check out my Paria Canyon Backpacking Guide

Here are my favorite Paria Canyon backpacking photos from my trip. I shot all of these with a Nikon D810 and a Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 wide angle lens that I rented from LensRentals.com.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos: Day 1

There are several options for accessing Paria Canyon, and we started at the Whitehouse Trailhead right next to the Paria Contact Station where you pick up your permit. Within minutes of being on the trail, we were already in the river with wet feet. The flows here can vary from week to week. Sometimes it will be completely dry, other times knee deep. The canyon walls start out short and wide and slowly narrow as you continue hiking down the river. The first part of the hike can be quite hot as there is little shade. So if you are hiking in the warmer months, make sure to get an early start.

Paria Canyon Backpacking - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking - taking a break to refuel with Munk Pack

Paria Canyon Backpacking - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Around mile 4, you reach the entrance to the Paria Narrows. The towering sandstone walls in this section reach up to 800 feet high and at some points, the walls are a mere 6 feet apart. In this section, it is cool and shady, and some places in the Narrows, the water can get deep following rainfall. During my trip, it was never more than knee deep. However, it is hard for the rangers to predict current water levels, so you should be mentally and physically prepared to wade through waist deep water in the case that water levels are high.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

At mile 6.7, you reach Slide Rock Arch – an enormous boulder that once fell into the canyon and has formed a short tunnel. If you catch it at the right time in the afternoon, the sun beams down creating some great photo opportunities.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Around mile 7, you reach the confluence of Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River. In the photo below, Buckskin is on the left and the Paria Narrows where we came from is on the right. Buckskin is considered to be the longest slot canyon in the world. Buckskin is very narrow with deeper water and has a lot more obstacles than the Paria Narrows, so most people explore Buckskin on day hikes without big backpacks on. Initially our plan was to ditch our packs and head up Buckskin to explore, but it was late in the day and we decided that it was going to have to wait until next time.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

On our first night, we camped at one of the first campsites just south of the confluence, making our total mileage on day 1 about 8 miles. Existing campsites, where you are advised to camp, are on sandy benches just above the river. It ended up being a super clear night, and the stargazing was phenomenal. I was happy I had my MeFoto tripod so I could practice my night time photography.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos: Day 2

I expected the second day to be less exciting than the first for some reason, but I was mistaken. The topography of the Paria Narrows was going to be hard to beat, but the canyon on the second day felt even grander.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Shortly after leaving camp, we reached the first fresh water spring….see the moss below that is growing out of the canyon walls? Water drips right of the seeps, and most people prefer to get their drinking water straight from these springs, rather than filtering from the river. If you choose to get your water from the springs, you have to plan your itinerary a bit more carefully and keep a close eye out for them. Many of the springs are easy to miss.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

As we moved further down the canyon, the walls got wider, but the landscape was equally as impressive as day 1. We decided to take a nice long lunch break and listened to some tunes on my FUGOO waterproof bluetooth speaker. Can’t beat that!

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - taking a break and listening to some tunes on my FUGOO Sport bluetooth speaker

After lunch, the river began to meander, and around mile 15, there are a series of cave-like amphitheaters that rise 650 feet above the riverbed. This was my favorite part of day 2. There are tons of beaches to stop and relax on, so make sure to take your time and enjoy it.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Just as the sun was going down, we reached the junction to Wrather Canyon. After 13 miles that day, we were totally spent and decided to set up camp on the bench across the river. 

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos: Day 3

We once again woke up to clear skies on day 3. We had a slow morning at camp since it was a little bit cooler than the previous day, and we also had fewer miles to cover.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

As soon as we hit the trail, the terrain began to change. The canyon broadened, but the river features were getting more interesting with more rocky obstacles, deep holes, and small cascades. It was really interesting to watch the canyon slowly transform over the course of the trip.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Many people to choose to camp at the last reliable spring at mile 25, but that leaves 13.5 miles for the final day. That didn’t sound too appealing to us, so we filled up at the spring and kept going. I will talk more about water filtration in my follow up post.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - refilling at one of the freshwater springs

Using the map provided by the BLM office, we decided to stop at one of the last good spots on the river, around mile 28 or 29. We found an awesome spot on a bench on the right side of the river with a perfect sunset view. We got there with plenty of time to relax before dinner.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - relaxing before sunset with my FUGOO Sport bluetooth speaker

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

That night, the sky was perfectly clear. I again got to experiment with my fancy rental camera and had a blast hanging out under the stars.
Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos: Day 4

The final day the landscape takes on more of a desert feel. The trail is hotter, drier, and sandier and with the canyon broadening, sun exposure can be intense. That said, the views on the descent to Lee’s Ferry were gorgeous, and the variety in the scenery kept things interesting. April is also prime time in Paria with the blooming cacti and green desert shrubs.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Around mile 31.5, there are a series of boulders on the left side of the river with petroglyphs.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

While the trail does cross the river a few times over the last several miles, most of your time is spent out of the water. The trail also becomes more prominent since you are no longer hiking down the riverbed.

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos - a stunning 38 mile canyon on the Utah / Arizona border

Eventually, you come to an old ranch, indicating that you are close to the trail’s end at Lee’s Ferry. We made it back to our car around 4pm and then headed back to Page to grab some grub.

Just like every trip I’ve made to this region over the last year, Paria Canyon blew my mind. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been on a backpacking trip where I saw so few people. That, combined with Paria’s gorgeous scenery, made it one of my favorite backpacking trips to date.

If you are interested in planning a Paria Canyon backpacking trip, my Paria Canyon Backpacking Guide provides everything you need to know about planning your trip here, including permits, trail logistics, water filtration, and speciality gear.

WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO GO BACKPACKING? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS, TWEET ME, OR WRITE ME A POST ON FACEBOOK.

Kristen-Post-signature

 

There are 22 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

22 Comments on “Paria Canyon Backpacking Photos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Love the photos! They are amazing! I’d have to visit this place one day. If you dont mind me asking, what sort of software did you use to edit your photos?

      Hi! Thanks for the compliment on my photos! I use Lightroom to edit. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Thanks! Kristen

    Wow! That’s all I can say about the photos of the canyons. They look so gorgeous. Definitely looks like a great trip.

    Amazing that you only met another pair of hikers when it looks so incredible. You’d think that it be full of people.
    You take beautiful pictures, by the way.

    1. umm…can we get a collective “awesome?!”

    2. once you start pulling a 14mm on landscapes, it is hard to turn back. super fun, and those shots toward the end of the post deliver.

    3. I charged over to BLM website. Why? Your post mentions weather which got me thinking. The canyon is extremely narrow = flash flood risk. BLM says “As a general rule of thumb, water three-feet deep traveling three feet per second can knock a hiker down […].” hahahaha. What is calculus for short people?

    But it says this is not monsoon season. Glad you you made it out and with all this awesomeness to share. 🙂

      Thanks Yok! Yeah, that 14mm was perfect for this trip and really appreciate the compliment. As far as the weather, the risk of flash floods is greatest from July through September. This is also when it is the hottest, so it seems it’s better to plan your trip in the spring or the fall.

    Wow, I absolutely love your photos! (I particularly enjoyed the night photos; they turned out great!) Paria Canyon sounds like a fantastic hike. The rock formations are fascinating, and I imagine they are even more impressive in person!

      Thanks so much Jessica! I’ll be posting the logistical information soon about this trip if it’s something you are interested in.

    Great photos! What a great trip. Thanks for the inspiration. hope to read and see many more great trips from you!

    Yeah, flash floods. Monsoon season or not, good to keep your eyes to the sky. I lived and worked and walked in Escalante for a number of years. At least once a year, paramedics and EMT’s/Wilderness First Responders would have to haul the bodies of at least one person out of the slots after flash floods. Many local guides wouldn’t go in if there was a cloud in sky, anywhere. And it’s not just overhead that matters. Know where your drainages are. Rain sixty miles away and up-canyon (with you under a turquoise blue sky) could be all-over you without warning.

    Gorgeous country (and great photos), but with a bite that can be worse than its bark. Be aware out there 🙂

    Great photos! We are hiking Paria in a couple weeks and are so excited! I was wondering if you had any tips for nighttime photography? I want to get some good shots of the stars if it is a clear night. Thanks!

      Hi! you’re going to love it there. Definitely need a tripod. Shoot at a f4 or lower, 15-30 second exposure and adjust the ISO accordingly. Experiment with some of those settings. Oh and also use the self-timer on the camera so you don’t get shake when you press the shutter button. You’ll have to come back and let me know how it goes.

    Hi Kristen, the last time I backpacked through the Paria Canyon was when I was 16 years old. It is still the most memorable and beautiful trip I have ever made. I am now 53 and would like to take my wife, niece, and nephews this year. However, my wife is terrified of heights. She will not hike the Grand Canyon because of that. She is interested in the Paria because it\’s flat. I cannot remember if there are any areas of height that would cause issue with her, as it has been 37 years! What do you think? Any thoughts and advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

      Paria is all flat…no cliffs that I can remember. I bet it would be perfect for your wife.

    Kristen,
    I will be retiring from teaching after 34 years of service probably in June. I have been around the 4 Corner area many times thru the years, but the 38 mile Paria Canyon Trail is on my things to do. This is a long trip and I have consulted many hiking books on Utah, but they don’t say much about where the spings and water seeps are. Are they especially hard to locate? I plan to do this hike with some other 60+ year olds ( We’re all old boy scout buddies!) so the water availability is our greatest concern. We are all in pretty good shape still, no bellies! Any tips on good maps for this hike and essential things (footwear etc.) to take that one might overlook is much appreciated…

    The photos you took would make anyone want to venture down this canyon.

    I look forward to your response…
    Sincerely,
    Ed Burns

      The water seeps aren’t super obvious. Take a map and make sure to enquire at the Rangers station about the status of the seeps.

    Can I ask what you used for shoes, boots, socks etc. I have such trouble with that and haven’t experienced going through water like that but want to.

      I used regular old tennis shoes with neoprene socks.

A little Instamagic