Wilderness Areas

The Kanab Field Office and the Arizona Strip Field Office share management of Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area.

Coyote ButtesIn Utah the spectacular Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area is about 45 miles east of Kanab. The Wilderness area encompasses 112,000 acres of redrock canyons and upthrust fault mountains. For more detailed information on this Wilderness Area, including permit requirements for the canyon and Coyote Buttes, please visit Arizona's online recreation permits page.

For more information on Wilderness Areas in Utah please visit the state web site.

The Main Paria Canyon:

The main Paria Canyon is a 38-mile long, desert river canyon, starting in a small valley under the pink crags of Bryce Canyon (50 miles north of the Wilderness Area) and ending at the Colorado River, the beginning of the Grand Canyon. The cliffs above the Paria, for the last 10 miles of its meandering, rise up 2,000 to 2,700 feet over the heads of backpackers slowly making their way through the canyon. A trek through the entire length of the area usually takes 4 to 6 days of hiking. The canyon is composed of several different layers of sandstone formed over millions of years of geologic time, where this part of the earth changed from lush jungles and swamps, to sandy desert, to inland sea, and finally to what it is now. There are several hundred river crossings involved in the hike down the canyon, which creates the ironic experience of wading through water while in the desert.

Learn about permits for this area.

Buckskin Gulch:Flash flood in Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch is a large, very narrow, tributary of Paria, occurring wholly within Utah and connecting to Paria Canyon precisely and serendipitously at the Arizona state line. It is known as one of the longest slot canyons in the world, winding its way through the Navajo Sandstone for about 12 miles of contoured, sculpted, and some would say, convoluted stone walls surrounding hikers in their rocky grasp as they experience the walk through the rock. Sometimes there are pools to wade through, and sometimes they are deep enough to have to swim through. One of the problems with hiking in narrow desert canyons is dealing with the force that has shaped them—mainly flash-floods.   Impressive thunderstorms form in the summer months to release their watery loads intensely and rapidly.

Because the area surrounding these canyons is mostly bare soil and rock, with a light coat of vegetation, the rain does not sink in but flows off the land and down into the canyons and eventually drains into the Colorado River. It is essential to check the weather report before entering one of these canyons, because once inside, sheer walls do not allow an escape from the canyon during a flashflood.

Learn about permits for this area.

Coyote Buttes:

Coyote Buttes is a Special Management Area of the Paria Canyon/ Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.  It has become one of the most popular destinations for many people visiting the Colorado Plateau. It is colorful but fragile Navajo Sandstone slickrock. The attraction is the thin ledges that swirl in wild contours of color and stone that are Coyotte Buttes Northvery brittle and breakable. It has grown as an attraction over the years due to the many published photographs and other media coverage of this small area. Nature has fully used its imagination to converge with the appreciation of our individual minds in all their variety of thought and wonder.

Learn about permits for this area.