Trail Report: Hiking Paria Canyon to Buckskin Gulch and Beyond

paria canyon hiking adventure and paria windows.
Paria Windows are just one fascinating find on the hike from Paria Canyon to the Buckskin Confluence
Hiking from the White House trailhead near the Paria ranger station all the way to the confluence with Buckskin Gulch is a wonderful adventure.  This is a very easy, level hike.  There is virtually no change in elevation at all.  The challenge to this hike is its length.  From the White House trailhead to buckskin Gulch is 7 miles . . .  one way.  To hike further up Buckskin Gulch adds more time to your hike. I ended up hiking 2.5 miles into Buckskin Gulch making my one-way total mileage of 9.5 miles.  My return trip increased the total up to 19 miles in one day.   I want to describe my experience so that others can benefit from it as they plan to explore this amazing slot canyon.

I started hiking at 5:30 AM.  It was very dark and I used headlamp for about one hour.  I wanted to be deep into the Paria Canyon by sunrise that I could shoot some of these amazing structures without having bright direct sunlight on them.  The first amazing thing that you come across are the Paria Windows.  These are 2 miles into the hike.  I actually photographed these on the way out of the canyon as the sun was setting.  These are the first things and the most accessible of Paria.

after hiking 2 miles, you reach paria windows
Paria Windows are found 2 miles into the hike
I hoped to reach Slide Rock Arch at dawn.  This structure below made me stop for some photos and I was tricked into thinking it might be Slide Rock arch.  I took several photos (probably too many) before hiking on.
paria canyon hiking to buckskin gulch
This interesting rock is about 5 miles in Paria Canyon
Between the above formation and Slide Rock Arch there are several fascinating formations in the canyon.  The most interesting are numerous small windows in the sandstone.  These are on both sides of the canyon anywhere from 2 feet up to 10 feet above the ground.
paria canyon hiking trail
Smaller windows are found just before Slide Rock Arch
The screaming ghost caught my attention.
paria canyon ghostly face in sandstone rock
Screaming Ghost was found in this section.

Only a few feet from the screaming ghost, Slide Rock arch is found.  Slide Rock arch is just under 7 miles from the trailhead.  This is an incredible formation.  The size, weight and the beautiful canyons surrounding it make it a destination for photographers.  I stopped here on my way in and on my way out to take photographs.  The light is different at each time of the day and both times yielded wonderful photographs.
hiking paria canyon to slide rock arch
Slide Rock Arch is nearly 7 miles into the hike
Between the arch and the confluence with buckskin gulch, more water and mud are present.  The farther downstream you go in this wash, the more water accumulates.  This is where I had to walk through quite a bit of mud and water.  It is very easy but a little bit slippery.
Near paria and buckskin confluence hiking
Near the Confluence with Buckskin Gulch, mud and water abound
The confluence with buckskin gulch is interesting but not necessarily photogenic.  I did not stop to take a picture there.  Instead I started hiking up buckskin gulch.  After about half a mile, the narrow canyon opens up to a beautiful red-cliff paradise.  Trees and boulders are everywhere.  Wonderful reflected light enchants anyone who can reach this paradise.
buckskin gulch hiking trail from paria canyon
Great boulder and trees in lower Buckskin gulch
trail to buckskin gulch amazing adventure
Golden Wall and Green Trees in Buckskin Gulch
Traveling further upstream, buckskin gulch becomes very dark, deep and cold.  Light will reflect off the canyon walls differently throughout the day.  There are lots of photo opportunities.  This is also where the mind seems to dry up and curl into small scrolls.  This is a fun place to take pictures of the mud and the canyon walls together.  This area is between 8 and 9 miles from the start of the trip.
deep dark buckskin gulch narrows
Deepest and darkest sections of Buckskin Gulch
Mud rolled up like a scroll in Buckskin Gulch hike
Scrolled up mud and sand are abundant here
hiking buckskin gulch adventure
Pillars with Eyes
rolled up mud like a curled scroll
Mud Macro from Buckskin Gulch
At approximately 9.5 miles from the trailhead, 2.5 miles upstream from the confluence of Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch, you come across an enormous vertical stone impaled into the ground.  When I saw it I immediately thought of a name for it:  Thor's Dagger.  At Thor's dagger I went a little further.  The canyon narrowed and got dark again.  I decided that it was time to turn around.  The time was 2 PM.  I'd been hiking and photographing for 8.5 hours already.  I knew I'd photograph several spots on my way back out as the light had changed.  To have time for that, I needed to turn around.

 Although I started at 5:30 AM in darkness, I did not get back to my car until about 8:30 PM.  It was getting dark again about that time.  This was a very long but extremely rewarding day for hiking, exploring, adventure and photography.
Thor's Dagger in Buckskin Gulch
Thor's Dagger is 2 miles upstream from the Confluence
Be sure to take plenty of water.  I had 3 L of water but I ran out with about 5 miles to hike.  Fortunately I had some fruit and other things with moisture to keep me going.


  1. Great post. Super awesome photos. The blog date says October. Did you hike this in October?


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