Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon Trip Report


Debbie, her two son's Erik and Chris, Peter, Hiking Dave, Kathy and I just returned from one of the best backpacks in the country: Buckskin\Paria Canyon. Buckskin Gulch is the longest slot canyon in the world stretching nearly 13 miles. A trip through Buckskin is a must do adventure. Paria Canyon is equally amazing and much longer than Buckskin.

We car camped at Wire Pass trailhead. This avoids the boring walk through the desert if one was to start at Buckskin trailhead. Instead we hiked through Wire Pass, which in itself was pretty amazing. After 1 3/4 miles Wire Pass intersects Buckskin Gulch.

Buckskin can vary dramatically and we caught it when it was full of water. I lost track how many times we waded through water, but twice we had to carry our backpacks; the water was almost chest high and it was very muddy and cold. Around every corner there were surprises. At times the walls were only four feet apart, but they soared 500 feet into the air. Buckskin is like Anniversary Narrows on steroids.

Eventually we came to the only obstacle in the Gulch: a huge boulder jam. Normally this would not be a problem, but with wet and sandy water shoes instead of scrambling shoes, our confidence headed south. I found a chimney that we descended with relative ease. After that we continued past the confluence about a half mile to our first night's campsite. It was an 11 hour day and everyone was glad to shunned their backpacks and relax.

The next morning we backpacked down five miles to Big Springs, one of the best campsites in Paria Canyon. Obviously Big Springs has a spring flowing from the rock. Cold water running hard after drinking warm water for a day and a half is a real luxury. We set up camp and then Kathy and I hiked back up the canyon and explored a small side canyon. That night we slept in our tent and watched millions of stars before closing our eyes.

The plan for the next day was to hike down to Wrather Arch, one of the longest natural arches in the world and the toughest of all the great arches to reach. This is a long day hike coming in at around 17 miles, round trip. As Kathy and I were making our way down the canyon we spotted a potential route to climb out of the canyon. I had been looking for a route that would take me to the rim of the canyon. Another couple of steps and Kathy eyed a trail traveling up the vegetated slope. We looked at each other and off we went to see if we could indeed climb out.

It was a fun class 3 climb with a few surprises and actually was first done in 1939 to try and get water from the canyon to the rim for cattle. Once on the rim we were looking down almost 600 feet into Paria Canyon. The views were amazing as well as the place we had lunch. We walked a few miles along the rim all the time having fantastic views of the canyon below. When water became an issue, we descended the same route and were back to Big Springs in less than two hours.

At Big Springs I knew I could not sit around six hours until falling asleep. So around 6 pm we put on our backpacks and headed to the first campsite we had camped at on Saturday night. This would make the hike out only seven miles on Tuesday. The weather was so nice we did not setup the tent.

We were up early Tuesday morning and made it to White House trailhead by 9:30 am. This was one of my favorite trips to date. Buckskin and Paria can be done as a dayhike, but it would be 20 miles. The difficulty of the route can very dramatically because of the several flash floods that come down the canyon. Buckskin is NOT the place to be when it is raining. Members can look for a complete write up with all the information you need. For information about becoming a member of this web site:
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