Arizona Trail Approach Day 2: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

Today was an absolutely exhilarating day. I climbed around countless rapids and waterfalls heading up Paria Canyon further into the wilderness area in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The soil around here can be cryptobiotic – essentially, living – so I stayed in the stream whenever possible to avoid damaging living soil. The canyon has started to narrow from its wide open nature at the bottom in Glen Canyon NRA and the lower section of the wilderness in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. I spotted petroglyphs a mile or two into the hike. It’s still very hot and sunny, so I went through water a bit faster than anticipated. Since it’s not usually advised that one drinks from the Paría (even filtered), I ended up rationing water until I made it to the first reliable spring where the canyon breaks out of the Chinle Formation and into the Navajo Sandstone. The clay and mudstone that make up the Chinle don’t hold water particularly well, so there are no reliable springs for the first 15 miles of the route. I decided to camp at the spring for the night since it gives me a reliable water source and cuts back on how much I may have to carry tomorrow. (Relive video follows photos below.)

Relive video for UT-AZ Day 2
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Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Lower Paría Canyon, upstream view
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Colorful Chinle Formation rocks in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Petroglyphs in Paria Canyon (location undisclosed)
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Petroglyphs in Paria Canyon (location undisclosed)
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Chinle Formation and Navajo Sandstone layering in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Colorful Chinle Formation and Navajo Sandstone in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River in Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing around boulders in Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Sacred datura, a poisonous perennial, flowering
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing around boulders in Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing around boulder pools in Paría Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River flowing around boulder pools in Paría Canyon Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon near sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon at sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paría River rapids
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon at sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon sunset
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Backpacking the Amazing Arizona Trail – Pine Mountain (Passage 21), FR 422 to Pigeon Spring Trailhead

Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Saddle Mountain Passage from near Saddle Mountain to Sycamore Creek at the start of the Pine Mountain passage. More magnificent Arizona mountain views of the central Mazatzal peaks and ridgelines, and a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 51: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23), Part II

Disruptive event today, an F-16 that flew over while I was packing. It flew extremely low and around a mountain – possibly North Peak – and made me think very seriously about why that would be allowed over a designated wilderness area. Still, I manage to knock out a few miles to Chilson Spring before dark, with spectacular views of Deadman’s Canyon, the Verde Valley, and the western Mazatzal foothills along the way. The mountains are jagged and rugged and the trail traces steep slopes nearly the whole way across precipitous terrain.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50, Part II: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23)

It’s here. The Mazatzal Divide represents the heart of the longest stretch of the Arizona Trail within a designated wilderness area. To that end, a reminder on the meaning of wilderness. Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, wilderness is “an area where man is but a visitor and does not remain.” Consequently, motorized access as … Continue reading Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50, Part II: Mazatzal Divide (Passage 23)

Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 50: Red Hills, Part II/II

Second day hiking through the Red Hills toward the Mazatzal Mountains. Earning their name through the red rock colors, the Hills also provide hikers with wildflowers and diverse vegetation, in addition to showing the scars of recent wildfires and spectacular views of the range north toward the Mogollon Rim.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail, Day 49: Whiterock Mesa, Part III

Departing Polk Spring, the trail continues to provide magnificent views of the northern Mazatzal Mountains and the neighboring Red Hills as it descends to the East Verde River. The trail will pass through both mountain ranges – first the Red Hills, then the Mazatzals. The origin of the name “Mazatzal” is unclear, though one possible meaning is a Nahuatl term meaning “place of the deer.” The Mazatzal Wilderness, which the trail will remain within now until just shy of Strawberry in the central Mazatzals, is about 390 square miles in size. It was one of the original Wilderness Areas designated upon the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.

Backpacking the Arizona Trail – FR 194 to Pine Spring (Passage 45, Whiterock Mesa)

I got started around 10, heading down Passage 25 toward the East Verde River.
I hike through a gate and enter the Mazatzal Wilderness. Following cairns, the surface alternates between the basalt and more dirt – like walking through a wash. As the trail skirts the rim briefly, a magnificent view of the Mazatzal Mountains and Red Hills opens up to the hiker, then the trail experiences yet another spectacular sunset as it and the backpacker fall off the Mesa to Polk Spring near the East Verde River.

Pink ribbons spread across the bluish/purple sky at sunset

Fossil Springs Wilderness – FR 708

Take a virtual hike through the Fossil Creek Wilderness! Fossil Creek Wilderness is one of the most spectacular areas in Arizona – so much so that permits are required from April 1-October 1. From the Fossil Creek Bridge trailhead, FR 708 begins to climb the wall of Fossil Canyon. A short distance up, the road is gated. Just on the other side is the trailhead for the Waterfall Trail, one of the most popular spots in the wilderness.

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2 thoughts on “Arizona Trail Approach Day 2: Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument)

    1. Thanks! I think one of my best decisions was adding this segment onto the trek. I had wanted to do it earlier in the year but when I saw that the two legs would line up within a mile of each other, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance. And never regretted that decision from the moment I started out. Such incredible beauty.

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