Justly famous for the Grand Canyon, Arizona also contains many spectacularly beautiful, lesser-known canyons. Three—Paria, Buckskin Gulch, and Wire Pass—are in the 112,500-acre Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, established in 1984 under the Arizona Wilderness Act. Paria Canyon has soaring, multi-colored sandstone walls streaked with a tapestry of desert varnish. Hanging gardens adorn seeps and springs, carved arches and amphitheaters, and wooded terraces.
Three zones of riparian vegetation line the Paria River, a year-round stream. Aquatic plants such as cattail, sedge, reed, rushes, and horsetail grow close to the stream. Seedlings of cottonwood, willow, and ash also sprout in this zone. Farther from the river, ash, cottonwood, willow, and tamarisk saplings have gained a foothold. And on the wooded terraces up away from the river, in a transition zone between desert and riparian habitat, tall, sturdy trees provide shelter and shade for wildlife and hikers. This trail guide covers an area with 55.7 miles of trails.
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