The United States Congress designated the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (map
) in 1984 and it now has a total of 110,732 acres
It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
This colorful Wilderness snakes through northern Arizona northeast along the gorgeous Vermilion Cliffs and swings northwest along the not-to-be-missed Paria Canyon before eventually leading into Utah, where a much smaller portion of the area is preserved. Paria Canyon is considered one of the best canyon-backpacking destinations in the world. Soaring walls are streaked with desert varnish, and serpentine canyons are so narrow in places that the sky is reduced to a ribbon of faded blue. Vast red-rock amphitheaters, sandstone arches, intricate erosion-carved sculptures, woodland terraces, and hanging gardens of ferns and orchids are found here. The heart of the earth is laid bare in this region, and few places so convincingly compel me to return. Beyond the canyon, the Vermilion Cliffs, massive and multicolored, rise as much as 3,000 feet, an escarpment dominating the rest of the Wilderness with its thick Navajo sandstone face, boulder-bound slopes, and rugged arroyos.
The main canyon is usually entered from the Utah end of the Wilderness at the White House Trailhead, but some backpackers choose the more laborious Buckskin Gulch route. This canyon is about 12 miles long and enters Paria approximately seven miles from White House. At some points, the route narrows to only three feet in width. A 30-foot climb down a rock jam is required before entering Paria Canyon. Flash floods may cause a 20-foot wall of water to pour down Buckskin. To safely travel Buckskin an accurate weather forecast is a necessity.
No campfires are allowed in Paria Canyon or Buckskin Gulch. Group size is limited to 10 but smaller groups are recommended. All garbage and trash, including human waste products, should be carried out.