Barefoot in the Paria Utah Trip Part I

It is amazing but, you can’t see the colors until you drive down into the canyon!

Today I am going to talk about a magical, lonely place somewhere between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT. As you approach the pull off there is a parking area and a sign highlighting the Grand Escalante Staircase (National Monument). To the right of the parking area is a twelve-mile dirt road leading to the most beautiful place I have ever had the privilege to visit. I strongly suggest that you attempt the last few miles if you have a four wheel drive truck or a high clearance vehicle as most of the road can be washed out at times.

*check the weather: this area is subject to flash flooding and can be very dangerous!

Half way down the road you climb on green, purple, red, blue and white striated ridges that take your breath away for two reasons; for one, you can get up close and personal looking deep into the valley which has been carved out by the Paria river. Secondly, if you walk out far enough the ridges become narrow with significant drops on both sides. Walking on the ridge is not for the faint of heart. My brother, who is terrified of heights refused to walk out on the trail with me. His wife eventually coaxed him onto a shorter ridge.

the canyon
Ridges with severe drops on both sides.

Further down the road is the old Paria town site and film site. Only the foundations exist due to constant flooding and unfortunate arson. Bored teenagers decided to have a bonfire. Too bad. I admit, I have not had a look at the town site because of the rough the roads but, a lonely cemetery below the town site which holds townspeople and some native Paiute people. It is worth a stop to pay tribute to the Paria’s past residents.

At the furthest point the road stops dead at the river bank. Let me make myself clear this is an extremely remote area.  When I visited in December the shallow river was frozen over and you could slide across the center. When we visited last week it was all mud – the mud people pay big money for at a spa- slimy and full of minerals. It was so muddy that we left our boots on the bank of river and continued barefoot; not to worry, we were one of two groups in the whole area – nobody would bother them. The mud was slippery and ankle-deep in some spots but it contributed to an experience of a lifetime. It was strange walking in the open canyon with no one around – surrounded by antelope, deer and bobcat tracks. We only found one other set of human tracks but they were washed away. I felt primitive as my lizard brain instincts took over – taking notes on the smell of sage, the heat of the sun, and the mud beneath my feet. As an interesting note my mom and I both noticed the varying temperatures of the ground in different spots. At one point we noticed that as we crossed a section of shaded, moving water – it was warm like stale bath water. I can’t say this for a fact but I believe it to be a geothermal spot. Which is super exciting!

the four

This is how we hiked.
This is how we hiked.

After a mile and a half of trekking we came across caves and an abandoned mine carved into the sides of the canyon (after later research I concluded it may have been a gold mine).  We paused to take a break in the shade. We would have explored further, but we all became wary of the remoteness and a fear of being eaten by mountain lions as it was reaching sundown. It was strange to be afraid like that so we walked on only a bit further to where the river disappeared behind the next canyon.

Here is the possible gold mine which has been covered.
Here is the possible gold mine which has been covered. *after further exploration at a later date – it’s a climbing aid for rock climbers. You can imagine the disappointment.*

It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go back! The Paria is quickly becoming my most favorite place I ever visited. Please stay tuned for my reports on Zion and Bryce canyon!!

If you look closely the white things up on the ridge are mule deer.
If you look closely the white things up on the ridge are mule deer. Sorry it is blurry – I took this out of a moving vehicle.

Your Cobweb Clearer ~ Kate

Want more Utah? Check out day two: Zion the Goliath Utah Trip Part II and day three: Bryce Canyon and It’s Hoodoos Utah Trip Part III

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6 thoughts on “Barefoot in the Paria Utah Trip Part I

  1. I’ve lived in Utah for almost 9 years and I’ve never heard about the Paria! I think walking around barefoot in mineral-rich mud would be fun and oddly satisfying! That’s a bummer that the gold mine actually turned out to be a hiking aid!


  2. Never been to Utah, but everything I’ve heard convinces me it’s worthwhile. Some great photographs there. Hot day, was it?

    Bobcats. Geez, and they reckon Australia has dangerous animals! Our top predators find rabbits a challenge.


  3. Though it does sound lonely, I think there’s something special about a trip where it’s just you and your travel companions. You truly got to soak in your surroundings and notice the details like the different animal tracks!


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