Friday, May 10, 2013

Buckskin Gulch, Utah

Fryxell and Amy McCarthy, Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch is arguably the world's longest slot canyon. For thirteen fantastic miles the canyon is deeper than it is wide. It's also one of the world’s most spectacular hikes.

For most of its reach, the narrow slot canyon offers pleasant walking. A few knee deep pools and a several boulder chocked sections requiring rock scrambling are the only obstacles. Flash floods are the biggest hazard earning Buckskin Gulch inclusion in Backpacking Magazine's list of America’s Most Dangerous Hikes.

Fryxell's first trip to the desert

This one or two-day adventure is typically done in conjunction with an 8-mile segment of the Paria River. A BLM permit is required. Only 20 people a day are allowed to overnight in the canyon. However, day use is unlimited and dogs are allowed.

"Fryx" and Amy on the Paria River near White House Campground

On May 4, 2013 my wife Amy, our dog Fryxell, and I completed the Buckskin Gulch/Paria River loop in a day and a half. Detesting car shuttles, we did it as a loop by starting and ending our hike at the White House Camp Ground on the Paria River. 

An abandoned ranch house

On the first day we walked two miles up the Paria River past an old homestead to Long Canyon. A scenic five-mile walk along a graded gravel road led up Long Canyon and through a Pinyon-Juniper woodland to the Wilderness boundary and our camp.

Long Canyon

Claret Cup in bloom

The start of our 24-mile hike

Early on our second day we enjoyed an easy descent into Buckskin Gulch and begin the 24-mile journey back to the White House Campground and our car. 

The beginning of 13 miles of Narrows

Petroglyph of a Bighorn Sheep

Rock Art

Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch Confluence

Entering a narrow section through Navajo Sandstone

A Slot Canyon


Pleasant Walking

A beam of sunlight

A natural labyrinth

A natural path between 600-foot walls

Buckskin Gulch is often only several meters wide

A small spring provides running water near the confluence with the Paria.

Buckskin Gulch-Paria River Confluence

Slide Arch

Paria River near White House Campground

Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness - A Lasting Legacy
Video by the BLM

Buckskin Gulch and the lower reaches of the Paria River are located within the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area. Designated by congress in 1984 and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) the 112,500-acre Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area straddles the border of Utah and Arizona. Towering walls streaked with desert varnish, legendary slot canyons, massive red rock amphitheaters, arches, ancient petroglyphs, and lush hanging gardens create an ethereal landscape. offers an accurate and detailed Buckskin Gulch route description and map along with other useful information.


  1. Incredible looking country Forrest!

    Totally different to the canyons in OZ but equally spectacular.

  2. Very nice photo essay!! We were wondering about the flood pulse on the Paria that hit on the 9th and continues today at the 11th. We are permitted to do the Wire Pass to Whitehouse as a 2-day backpack through trip on the 19th, so we are curious as to where the water came from if not down from Whitehouse.

    1. Not sure Miles. When we left the area a week ago the forecast was for rain. It is interesting to note that the Paria has been paddled when flooding -

    2. Thanks for the reply. Your post was dated this last Friday and you made no mention of the trip date so I assumed you were there then when something must have happened. Guess not. Yes, I was aware that some paddle the Paria in flood...a bit crazy as capsizing has terminal consequences, as there is no exit strategy.

    3. We hiked Buckskin Gulch on May 4.

  3. Quick question: do you need some sort of permit to leave a car parked at White House campground for the night spent outside the permit area? I plan on doing this trip, only with a night added in Paria Canyon