Great hikes in the Paria area of Utah continues in this post. Check out Great Hikes Besides The Wave: Part 1.
Note: Paria is now a ghost town in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Area in Kane County, Utah. It will show up on Google maps, but there's nothing there. The closest town with amenities is Big Water (post office, convenient store, and gas station). The two largest towns in the area are Kanab, UT and Page, AZ. When I say Paria area in this post and Part 1, I'm referring to this general area where Paria, Paria Contact Station, and the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area are located.
White Pocket is the most surreal place I've ever been to so far. Any disappointment I had about not getting a permit for the Wave vanished when I saw a picture of White Pocket at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center. It looked fake. And when I got there it still looked fake. To me the place was very visceral. Between the colors, shapes, swirls, and curves, the rock formations resemble body organs and blood vessels. You may be thinking that sounds disgusting. But it was fascinating, and I don't even have interest in real internal organs.
You will need 4-wheel drive to get to White Pocket because the last road that leads to the trailhead is very sandy. From Paria Contact Station, White Pocket is about 30 - 45 minutes past Paw Hole Trailhead. The hike from the parking lot to White Pocket is less than a mile long. Once there, it's pick your own adventure style of hiking. If you plan to hike just in White Pocket then there's no need for a GPS or compass. Everything is in one big area, you can't get lost (ok, that's not totally true, I guess if you try hard enough you can get lost). But if you plan to venture beyond this area then you should bring a map and compass (even if you bring your hand-held GPS).
- Stop by either the Paria Contact Station or the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Station for a handout with a map and detailed information on how to get there.
- A permit isn't needed to visit White Pocket. But I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years it will be due to popularity. It currently isn't very well known and selfishly I'd love for it to stay that way.
- While 4-wheel drive isn't required (there's no one hanging out there checking), it's a must to get to the trailhead. If you don't have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you can still visit White Pocket. There are a couple tour companies in the area that offer trips. I don't know anything about them aside from that they exist.
Buckskin Gulch via Buckskin trailhead
Being the longest and deepest slot canyon in southwest U.S. isn't be the only reason to visit Buckskin Gulch. There are two trailheads into Buckskin Gulch in Paria Canyon: Buckskin Trailhead and Wire Pass Trailhead. We hiked in via Buckskin Trailhead because we wanted to check out Edmaier's Secret, which is accessed via off-trail exploration on the way to the slot canyon. While you can reach Buckskin Gulch slot canyon from this trailhead, there's a long walk through a sandy wash before entering it. We opted to enter the slot canyon later, via Wire Pass Trailhead (more about that below).
I need to stress this before going further: the area called Edmaier's Secret is extremely fragile. As you'll see in the photos below, there are fin like rock formations all over the area. It is these formations that make the area so incredibly beautiful and special. The problem is that there's not a laid out trail and the fins are very thin and fragile. Most of the fins are on the ground, which means you have to be insanely careful where you walk. Put any body weight on any of them and they will break - forever gone, ruining these natural features and making you an asshole. There are also some upright fin formations. Use the same caution when approaching those, please don't touch. Dogs and kids are allowed in the area, but keep them close by and under control.
Ok, that's the end of my spiel.
- Bring cash - there is a $6/per hiker and per dog fee at this and Wire Pass Trailhead.
Buckskin Gulch Via Wire Pass Trailhead
The hike from Wire Pass trailhead to the T-intersection with Buckskin Gulch is 1.7 miles one-way and has a few obstacles to get over (only one that's tall enough we had to climb over). There's also one super narrow section. Once you get to the T-intersection you can choose if you want to go up or down Buckskin Gulch slot canyon. We checked out the slot canyon in both directions, but didn't go too far in either. Going down the slot canyon (right turn) towards the Paria River seemed to be more interesting. It's a 5.7 miles one-way hike from Buckskin trailhead to the Wire Pass intersection. I find this to be a great introduction to hiking slot canyons.
Backpacking is allowed in Buckskin Gulch, but as you can imagine, it's extremely dangerous if the weather turns on you. Especially since you're in the longest and deepest slot canyon in the area!
- Be smart about when you hike in slot canyons. Check the weather the day before hiking and right before going on your hike. Don't go if there's any chance of rain.
- Depending on how far you go down Buckskin Gulch, there may be shallow water in the canyon. Be prepared. There were a few puddles when we hiked it (it rained two days beforehand) that were small enough we could jump over or walk around. The closer you get to the Paria river, the wetter it gets.