The Paria Canyon Backpack

March 25-31, 2023 | October 21-27, 2023

About the Trip

Operated by AWE’s local partner Dreamland Safari Tours

From the mountains near Salt Lake City to the salt flats and wonders of the Colorado Plateau – there is no limit to Utah’s natural beauty. Nestled in the heart of the Vermilion Cliffs, the Paria River Canyon is right up there with some of the most spectacular scenery in Utah. Red rock walls that soar for hundreds of feet above the canyon floor; narrow sections evoke impressions of Buckskin Gulch, one of the Paria Canyon’s tributaries. The Chinle’s formation rainbow colored rock layers provide a spectacular frame to this diverse desert thruway.

Be ready for an adventure away from the crowds, and don’t forget your camera!

About the Paria Canyon Backpack

The Paria Canyon Backpack is not a mountaineering adventure, but it is an excellent foray into remote backcountry travel, endurance, and (for departures in the winter months) cold weather safety and camping.

Backpacking the lower Paria Canyon is a bucket list item for many hardcore desert explorers. The traditional White House to Lee’s Ferry Route covers 38 miles of off-trail, canyon-floor ground with plentiful river crossings and miles of mandatory wading. This is a true desert backcountry hike that requires fortitude, stamina, and the willingness to navigate ever-changing conditions that can range from scorching heat to below-freezing temperatures.

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

Trip duration: 7 days / 6 nights
Max group size: 8 guests & 2 guides
This adventure is produced and operated by Dreamland Safari Tours, and led by the excellent women guides of 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 AWE’s Paria Backpack:

  • Day 1 Arrive Kanab, meet team
  • Day 2 Gear check, trailhead transfer & begin backpacking (~7 miles)
  • Day 3 Trail time (8-10 miles)
  • Day 4 Trail time (8-10 miles)
  • Day 5 Trail time (8-10 miles)
  • Day 6 Finish backpack (8-12 miles), transfer to Kanab; final dinner
  • Day 7 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

Inclusions

  • 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 (rental cars / car-pooling advised)
  • 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 8-10 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 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 45 miles 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? Paria is quite 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 8-10 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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Trip Video



Sunny’s 57hr Webinar about the Paria