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Wire Pass - Buckskin Gulch - Paria Canyon, UT
mini location map2016-03-18
55 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Wire Pass - Buckskin Gulch - Paria Canyon, UT 
Wire Pass - Buckskin Gulch - Paria Canyon, UT
Backpack avatar Mar 18 2016
Backpack45.00 Miles 500 AEG
Backpack45.00 Miles4 Days         
500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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This trip started for me roughly 2-3 weeks beforehand. Chumley went kayaking with a group and said one of them has extra permits and asked if I wanted to go. I jumped on the chance. All of the logistics were planned and I just needed to show up. These last minute trips are some of my favorites and this turned out to be another winner with a great group!

Chumley and I drove up to Lee’s Ferry on Thursday night and met the group at the campground. We had a few beers and turned in relatively early because we have an early start and a big day planned. The trip will cover 45 miles over four days. It’s going to be a lot!

Day 1 – Friday March 18th
Our shuttle driver named Betty arrived promptly at 6am and we were off to Wire Pass in Utah. The drive took two hours with a quick stop at McDonalds in Page. We arrived at the trailhead to discover a flat tire on the trailer. It was a fiasco getting it changed because Betty couldn’t find the right key for the locked tool box that contained the tire iron. Luckily she eventually found it and the tire was quickly changed. We started hiking a little after 9am and the adventure began!

I hit Wire Pass with Sreekar & Sadhana & we made our way through. It was relatively easy going other than the eight foot drop a little ways in. We took turns and passed the packs down and continued hiking down canyon where we hit the junction with Buckskin Gulch. From here we have roughly 12 miles of slot canyon with a handful of pools that are waist deep. We found the beginning of Buckskin to be dry and rocky. We made good time as we admired this magical place and took a variety of pictures. We continued on and I sped ahead. This slot canyon goes and goes and feels like a cathedral at times. The walls rise hundreds of feet above you and make you feel trapped. This is a lot different from all the other hiking I’ve done in Arizona & Utah.

After an hour or so I stopped and waited for Sreekar & Sadhana to catch up and we then hit the Boulder Jam. It took some scouting to figure out the best route through. It’s not a big deal but we did have to pass packs down at one point. The rest of the group caught up to us at this point as well. We all got down fine and continued on and made good time until we hit the wet section. All I knew going into this is there are 3-5 waist deep pools per the BLM. I wasn’t expecting the 20-30 muddy pools we had to wade/slog through. The going was very slow and it really helped having a stick or hiking poles. I grabbed a stick before Wire Pass and was glad to have it through here. We pushed through and I found the deepest pool at thigh deep. The water was cold and muddy but we got through fine.

Around the midway point the slot canyon opened up and we took a break at the Middle Route. As far as I know this is the only place you can exit Buckskin besides either end. The route out looks sketchy but doable. We enjoyed some sunlight here because sun was nonexistent through the wet section. We didn’t know if more water was up ahead. Luckily we were done with the wet stuff. After break we continued on and I cruised ahead again. The miles ticked off and I found myself at the Rockfall. The BLM told us the rabbit hole is open. In wet times there is a bypass that requires a rope. The worm hole is fairly straightforward and not difficult at all. I spent some time here so the rest of our party could catch up. Once we had everyone together we hiked another half mile or so to the campsite.

We arrived at the camp roughly a half mile above the confluence to find it occupied by two other parties. Luckily there is plenty of room so we grabbed a site and settled in for the evening. All of us were cold, wet and tired and were glad to be done. Clear water was nearby and we had everything we needed. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing at camp surrounded by party lights. The first day was over.

Day 2 – Saturday March 19th
We took our time and started slowly in the morning. Everyone had breakfast and got situated for the hike. The plan for the day was roughly 10-11 miles. We finally started hiking around mid-morning and mad quick time to the confluence with the Paria River. This spot is so magical words can’t do it justice. It feels like you’re indoors as this area is very tight with walls hundreds of feet high. The Paria River was flowing turbid and cold. We dropped packs here and made the half mile hike up canyon to see Slide Rock Arch. This is a huge rock that split the river in two. It is definitely worth the effort. After taking a handful of pics our group returned to the confluence and continued hiking.

The rest of the day flew by as we hiked down Paria Canyon. Your feet are wet the entire time as you’re constantly crossing the river or walking right through it. We made steady time with lots of breaks but we were in no rush. All of us were in heaven and just soaked it all in. Along the way there are a variety of springs and no shortages of camping available. It felt like we hit another camp option every 1-2 miles. Our goal was a camp just past Judd Hollow and we arrived there around mid-afternoon. We selected a site under a cluster of Cottonwoods that was elevated above the river and had a spring nearby. This was the perfect site!

We all settled in for another night in the canyon. Everyone filtered water and ate dinner. Several of us were having feet and ankle issues but nothing major. The night time temps were pleasant and got a bit chilly but comfy overall.

Day 3 – Sunday March 20th
Our third day started slowly as well. We wanted to cover another ten miles so there was no rush. We had breakfast and a few people topped out their water. Our plan was to hike roughly ten miles with a stop at Wrather Arch and then camp at the start of the high water route. We need to get water at the last reliable spring roughly a mile or two before our planned camp.

We departed camp around mid-morning and headed down canyon roughly two miles where Wrather Arch branched off. It’s roughly three quarters of a mile to the arch and only a few of us were making the trip without our overnight packs. The rest will continue down canyon. I went for the arch ahead of the others. This side canyon is very lush with clear water flowing down the center. The going was relatively slow as you hike up the creek bed and/or follow the use trails. I finally get to a nice overlook where I can see the arch and I’m surprised by the size. Wrather Arch is huge and looks really far away from my vantage point. I took a few pics and then headed back for the river. I passed the others on their way to the arch and then hit the Paria where I grabbed my backpack and continued down canyon.

I hiked the next hour solo and really enjoyed Paria. The canyon is breathtaking and every turn offers more spectacular views! It never disappoints. I eventually caught up to Sreekar & Sadhana and hiked with them for a few minutes. Sadhana is having some foot issues and is hiking slow. I told them I would continue on and will wait for them down canyon. I continued on and caught up to Rachel about 30 minutes later. We hiked together for a bit and knew we were getting close to the last reliable spring. We decided to stop to wait for the rest of the group so we didn’t accidentally pass it. Most of the group caught up to us & from there we continued down canyon and stopped for water at a spot with clear water. I’m not sure if it was the last reliable spring or not. All of us loaded up on water and then hiked another 2-3 miles selecting a camp near the high water route.

This will be our last night in the canyon. Ryan had a commitment on Monday so he ate dinner and hiked out that evening. The rest of us settled in to a relatively warm and comfortable night. The skies were overcast but no threat of rain. It was a very relaxing & pleasant night.

Day 4 – Monday March 21st
Our final day in Paria Canyon started very early. Everyone was up by 6:30am because we wanted an early start to beat the heat. I tore down camp and skipped breakfast. All of us were hiking by 7:15am. We’re looking at another day of roughly ten miles but we know this should be the easiest stretch. There are only a dozen crossings and most of the hiking is on shelves above the river and are relatively high speed travel.

The group started out together but splintered into two separate groups about a mile into the hike. Sadhana was still having foot issues so Sreekar and LL stayed with her. Chumley, Rachel and myself pushed forward and made a solid pace. The going was relatively easy and we kept our feet dry on the high water route. We eventually dropped back to the Paria River and had to cross it a handful of times. We took a break around the five mile mark to eat some snacks and soak in our final day. From there we made the final push and continued all the way back to the cars at Lee’s Ferry. The three of us drove back to Flagstaff and met Ryan for lunch at NiMarco’s. He had no issues hiking out the night before. The rest of the group were out roughly two hours after us. Unfortunately Chumley and I headed back to Phoenix without a proper goodbye.

Final thoughts
This was a hell of an adventure but was not easy. The terrain is very challenging even though it’s just about all downhill. The slogging through the river really takes its toll on your feet and ankles. I wish I wore Neoprene socks but I got by okay in my pair of Darn Tough socks.

Thanks for LL & Sreekar for organizing and setting up all the logistics including the camp at Lee’s Ferry and our shuttle ride. This was an awesome trip with a great group! Give it a go if you’re looking for a serious adventure to parts of Utah and Arizona fee people get to see.
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