Backpacking Buckskin Gulch, Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, AZT Approach Day 7)

Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

After several hours spent trying to fill water bags and talking with a friendly BLM ranger, as well as a farewell encounter with Philip and Raj, I begin backpacking up Buckskin Gulch. After dragging my pack over the boulder jam – a much more difficult undertaking than yesterday without the pack – I start upcanyon (see photos). It’s an incredible journey that photos will tell better than words, heading westbound through the canyon and gazing up at the narrow strips of sky, icing light and rare deeper light penetrations. No quicksand, which can form here at this time of year but has not this year with how dry it has been. There are places where you can reach out and touch both sides of the canyon at once. Yet the logs and debris lodged high up in the canyon continue to tell the story of the harsher side of the water that can flow through here, as opposed to the delicate beauty currently evidenced.

Backpacking Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Hiking Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Hiking Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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It eventually becomes clear that I won’t make it out to Wire Pass today as hoped, so I let my friend Steve know to cache the water and supplies he’s leaving for me at the start of the AZT on his way back from Page and settle in for the night. Looking for an early start to get onto the AZT itself and start heading toward Jacob Lake tomorrow.

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Hiking Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Hiking Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Hiking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Hiking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Hiking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
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Hiking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking through Buckskin Gulch, flooding debris obvious here
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Hiking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Hiking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Backpacking through Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

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To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

When many individuals are first looking at getting into thruhiking, they face one crucial decision after trail selection – to section hike, or thruhike. Each has different advantages and challenges, and may be better suited for one trail than another. Today, we’re going to discuss these. First, we need to define each. For our purposes, … Continue reading To Thruhike or Section Hike, That is the Question

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Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Backpacking the Arizona Trail’s Four Peaks Passage to just south of Pigeon Spring. The terrain is incredibly precipitous – in places the trail seems to occupy the only level ground around. Fire impacts are present throughout as well, a legacy of the 1996 Lone Fire. Magnificent views of Roosevelt Lake, the southern Mazatzal foothills, and the Sierra Ancha across Tonto Basin.

Logistics, trail journal, and magnificent mountain scenery.

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Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Trail SurfaceRustic (the river is the trail)
Length (Mi)45 (Lee’s Ferry to Wire Pass via Buckskin Gulch)
38 (Paria Canyon, Lee’s Ferry to White House)
20 (Wire Pass to White House via Buckskin Gulch)
22, approx. (Buckskin Gulch to White House)
1.8 (Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch)
SeasonFall-Spring. Brutally hot in summer.
Potential Water SourcesSprings. Unless informed otherwise by a BLM ranger, there is likely no water in Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River should be considered undrinkable even when filtered. Know how to recognize desert springs.
TrailheadsParia Canyon North: White House
Paria Canyon South: Lee’s Ferry
Buckskin Gulch Middle Exit
Buckskin Gulch West
Wire Pass
Trailhead AccessVehicular access to all trailheads
WildernessYes
Possible resupply pointsNone
DifficultyStrenuous
Potential campsites (mileages S to N)Best near springs. Some higher-water campsites in north, south of Buckskin Gulch-Paria Canyon confluence.
ThreatsFlash flooding – Extreme hazard here. Know the forecast daily (an inReach or other satellite communicator helps with this). Know how to recognize the signs of a flash flood and how to react. You cannot outrun a flash flood; you must climb above it. This is not possible in Buckskin Gulch – do not enter it if storms threaten.

Heat – wear a cotton shirt so you can soak it. Synthetics aren’t great in the desert.

Hyponatremia – “drunk on water.” To avoid, ensure adequate salt & electrolyte intake and ensure you eat as well as drink water. Symptoms are almost identical to dehydration, but drinking more makes it worse. Prevention is by far the best solution.

Dehydration

Because there is no trail, there are places where boulders must be climbed around or over and at least one spot where your pack must be hauled over a boulder jab. Flash floods change the trail, shifting obstacles around, removing some and adding others. Expect the unexpected.
Permits Required? Yes. 20 people max per night issued on BLM website.
Miscellaneous Leave No Trace is different in the desert. Know desert principles and carry wag bags. One will be provided with your permit.
Cell service?Nonexistent
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