The Cairn Project Buckskin – Paria Backpack

October 25-30, 2022

About the Trip

An Invitation-Only Adventure Fundraiser brought to you by The Cairn Project and AWExpeditions (operated by Dreamland Safari Tours).

The Cairn Project is embarking on a groundbreaking expedition to elevate the voices and skills of women outdoors. In partnership with AWExpeditions and operated by Dreamland Safari Tours, eight women will traverse the length of Buckskin Gulch and the Paria Canyon to raise awareness of and funds for programs which get young women and girls outside. The all-female expedition endeavors to raise funds to get more young girls and women outside while simultaneously redefining who can easily find belonging in the outdoors.

This opportunity will celebrate the astounding potential, energy, and capacity of former Ambassadors for The Cairn Project to change the world. Together, this crew will push boundaries both physical and social, celebrate accomplishments small and large, and demonstrate the power of women as individuals and as part of a collective.

About the Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon Backpack

If you know something about slot canyons, you know about Buckskin Gulch. Tucked away deep in the Vermilion Cliffs halfway between Kanab, UT and Page, AZ, and spanning more than a dozen miles in length, Buckskin Gulch is the longest and most continuous slot canyon in North America if not the world. Backpacker Magazine has dubbed it one of America’s 10 most dangerous hikes. Conditions in the slot canyon are dependent on the amount of recent precipitation in the region and vary radically depending on the time of year – what may be dry, easy footing during the spring and fall can be chest-deep swims during the summer monsoon.

There is no better way to experience Buckskin Gulch than by backpacking the full length of it, and then some: Buckskin flows into the Paria Canyon, a pristine red-rock wilderness that is a backpacking bucket-list item in and of itself.

Join us on an unforgettable experience that will take us through the depth of Buckskin Gulch and all along the Paria Canyon as we make our way to Lee’s Ferry, where the Paria flows into the mighty Colorado, right before it plunges into the Grand Canyon. Over the course of four days, we will hike close to 50 miles while experiencing one of the most remote, pristine desert wilderness areas on the Colorado Plateau.

Participants must be in good physical condition. Previous hiking experience is required. Previous backpacking experience is helpful.

October 25 to October 30 2022 – all-women team
The Cairn Project Adventure Fundraiser – By Invitation Only
TCP-subsidized expedition fee: $500 per person + fundraising commitment
Max group size: 8
Guide: Sunny Stroeer & Dreamland Safari Tours
This adventure is produced and operated by Dreamland Safari Tours

Trip Details

All of our expeditions kick off with a welcome dinner on Day 1. Please plan to arrive at your destination by mid-afternoon of Day 1, with plenty of time to check into your hotel prior to meeting your teammates for the welcome dinner, which typically starts around 7pm local time.

This is your itinerary for The Cairn Project Buckskin & Paria Backpack:

  • Day 1 Arrive Kanab, meet team
  • Day 2 Gear check, trailhead transfer & begin backpacking (~12-14 miles)
  • Day 3 Trail time (10-12 miles)
  • Day 4 Trail time (10-12 miles)
  • Day 5 Finish backpack (12-14 miles), transfer to Kanab; final dinner
  • Day 6 Depart

The last official business for all of our adventures is the final team dinner on the expedition’s penultimate day. While your expedition fee includes a hotel stay after the final team dinner, you may make departure plans for any time after 12:01am on the indicated departure day, including red-eye departures.

All itineraries are subject to change based on weather, team condition, and local logistics.

You will receive a detailed packing list in your expedition handbook after reserving your spot on this expedition.  AWExpedition provides the team, cooking and emergency gear for this adventure; you are responsible for your personal backpacking gear including the following items:

  • 50-65l backpack
  • 20 degree sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Tent, if desired
  • Trekking poles
  • Trekking shoes
  • Backpacking attire including
    • Warm layer (down jacket)
    • Wind/water-proof jacket
  • Cup, bowl & spoon

Select gear rentals for items such as sleeping bags, pads, tents and trekking poles are available directly through AWExpeditions and AWE's local partner Dreamland Safari Tours; a broad selection of rental gear is also available through national brands such as REI or Kit Lender


  • Accommodation in Kanab, double occupancy
  • Transport between Kanab hotel to the trailhead and back
  • Breakfasts and dinners in Kanab
  • All meals on the trail (incl. water, coffee/tea and hot chocolate)
  • Professional guide(s) with intimate knowledge of the route and conditions along the canyon
  • Team gear including cooking gear, team medical kit, radio equipment, GPS tracking & communication

Other costs 

  • Flights to/from the nearest airport & transfer to Kanab
  • Lunches in Kanab
  • Gratuities for guides
  • Personal gear including tents & sleeping bags
  • Personal medications
  • Personal snacks (bars/gels for on-trail & climbing sustenance)
  • Medical, travel, and rescue insurance

  • How fit do I have to be? This is an advanced desert backpacking adventure. You have to be able to comfortably hike 10-12 miles on uneven terrain (and not feel utterly exhausted at the end of it) in order to enjoy this hike.
  • How difficult is the route? There is no meaningful elevation change along Buckskin and the Paria River, but there is a lot of uneven footing as well as long stretches of mandatory wading. Every mile in the Paria is equivalent to ~1.5 miles on "regular" trails.
  • How much weight will I have to carry? It all depends on how carefully you skinny down your gear! Jokes aside - 35lbs is a realistic expectation. In addition to personal gear, you will be responsible for a ~5lbs allocation of team gear.
  • Is is possible to hire porters? No. Due to strict group size limitations, hiring a porter would be forbiddingly expensive in the realm of 1.5x your expedition fee. That's why we do not offer porter services on this route.
  • Will we be walking in water? Yes. There is mandatory wading along much of the Paria. Spring and fall typically see the Paria flowing all the way from White House to Lee's Ferry, and we'll have wet feet for likely at least 70% of our trip (if not more).
  • Should I bring water shoes? No. Water shoes don't offer enough structural support for a 50 mile backpacking trip, and we'll be in and out of water so much that it is impossible to switch back and forth between water shoes and regular shoes for each crossing.  Bring a regular, comfortable pair of hiking boots or trail shoes; make sure they are synthetic - NOT leather, and NOT GoreTex - which will allow you to wear them dry easily when we are out of the water for longer stretches.
  • Wont I get blisters if I hike in wet shoes? Hiking in wet shoes is a surprisingly common occurrence for many serious outdoor adventurers. If your boots and socks fit right, and you employ standard blister prevention strategies, whether your shoes are wet or not should have minimal impact on the development of blisters.
  • Do I need neoprene socks? Maybe. Neoprene socks won't keep your feet dry, but they will keep your feet warm(er) if you are hiking in icy cold water for extended periods of time.  If you are planning to hike the Paria during cold weather - November through February, or through a surprise cold spell in March/October - neoprene socks can be a great asset. The downside of neoprene socks is that you'll most likely have to buy a new pair of shoes a size larger than what you typically wear (on account of the thickness of the neoprene), and neoprene socks can be somewhat uncomfortable to wear for longer periods of time.
  • What happens if it rains? Buckskin and the Paria are susceptible to flash flooding. If there is a major storm in the forecast it may be unsafe to enter the Paria River drainage. Spring & fall typically bring good, steady weather - but if the weather doesn't cooperate, we will pivot to an equally spectacular 'backup' route of similar length and difficulty.
  • How many miles will we hike each day? Daily mileage depends on the terrain and available camp spots; you should expect 10-14 miles a day.
  • What is the closest airport to Kanab? The closest airport is St. George (SGU), a regional airport about 1.5 hours driving from Kanab.  While it is possible to arrange a taxi transfer from St. George to Kanab for ~$250 one way, the easiest way to reach Kanab is typically to fly to Las Vegas (3.5 hours by car from Kanab) and rent a car in Las Vegas. The Salt Lake City airport is ~5 hours driving from Kanab.

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