Wire Pass Trailhead to White House Trailhead via Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River

Church Wells, Utah 84741

Wire Pass Trailhead to White House Trailhead via Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River

Wire Pass Trailhead to White House Trailhead via Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River Professional Review and Guide

"Buckskin Gulch is the ultimate in slot canyons, being longer and more consistently narrow than any other canyon in the world. Nearly 1,000 hikers from across the nation and around the globe visit Buckskin each year. A backpacking trip, or even a day hike, in Buckskin Gulch is a truly memorable adventure, but the trip should not be taken lightly.

Only experienced canyoneers who are well prepared and equipped for an extended trip through a slot canyon should attempt Buckskin Gulch. Tight narrows are uninterrupted for 15 miles on this hike, so if you don’t like confined spaces, choose another trip."

Wire Pass Trailhead to White House Trailhead via Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River Reviews

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In my experience this is a pretty tough hike. If you like slot canyons it's absolutely worth the effort but you should definitely be an experienced hiker. The various rock formations will thrill any amateur geologist and there's also petroglyphs on some of the canyon walls. I thought it was beautiful but also at times felt a bit claustrophic walking through the slots. We didn't experience the water issues I've read in other reviews but probably that's due to time of year. There's also a section you need to climb down with a rope that made me a bit nervous I admit! I will say one of the best parts was camping and seeing the incredible Utah night sky above us. I recommend this hike but do your research before going and prepare for a tough but rewarding journey.
I had a great time on this trip, with a few caveats. The first day was the toughest. The stagnant, frigid pools were relentless and did not let up until the Middle Trail. Like CanyonMan said, the pools and the unending twists and turns create a huge drain on morale. By the time we reached the Middle Trail, we decided to camp, just so we could recover our spirits. However, there is a nice little stone bench elevated about ten feet above the canyon floor across from the Middle Trail where we set up camp. There's no water whatsoever, but we brought plenty with us. The next day was much better. There were hardly any pools and the hiking went much faster. The boulder jam wasn't too difficult to overcome with rope. We initially missed the dropdown point and were searching all along the edge of the thirty foot drop thinking it looked nothing like the explanation in the guidebook. But then we turned around and saw the old ropes leading through a hole behind the large boulder. It was enough to get down. Shortly afterwards we hit the confluence with Paria. The immense height of the walls was spectacular, and the hiking remained easy even though we were wading in the Paria most of the time. Unfortunately, the walls begin to quickly descend and the canyon widens out, losing its uniqueness. However, there are still a number of interesting rock formations in the canyon walls until it finally opened up right before the White House trailhead. All in all, the scenery in Buckskin was incredible. Around every corner came something new and interesting, whether it was shafts of sunlight unexpectedly penetrating into the depths, creating beautiful pools of light against the canyon walls, or the interesting fluted patterns carved into the walls when the canyon was at its narrowest (little more than three feet). It was a surreal experience unlike any hike I have ever done. I highly recommend it, so long as you’re mentally prepared for it.
I took along a detailed topo map so I was able to gauge my progress on the route, and knew where I was most of the time. The water is cold and the pools are grouped into 10-15 close together with sections of nice flat easy walking in between. It took me a bit over 7 hours to get from the Wire Pass trailhead the the confluence camping area. The rock jam was steeper and harder than I expected. Though I brought a rope, there was one there that was clearly new, so I used it - it had loops tied in it. I had expected to use the cut holds, but they were covered with a fine dust and seemed to risky. The very obvious camping area was gorgeous and I was lucky to have it to myself that night. The hike out to White House was nice but Buckskin is the prize. This is a great route for the neophyte canyoneer. Just be damn sure to bring along one trekking pole for the water. The footing is not stable. One hand against the wall and another with a pole was perfect.
I reviewed the Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch separately, so I will skip that. Once you hit Buckskin Gulch, heading to the White House Trailhead, you better hold on. Roughly 40 pools of ice cold water await you. Everything we read lead us to believe that this was about a 13 mile stretch. I don't know if it's 13 miles or not, but it seems like 20 at least. It is very slow going as you are walking in and out of pools and over river rocks. There is a mental aspect that you need to prepare for before entering this. Every turn starts to look the same. With no visible clues to know how far you've gone or how far you have to go, you start to feel like you are going in circles and you can't get out. It got to everyone in our group. If you prepare for a full day and plan on camping in the canyon at the confluence, you will probably be ok. We started late, thinking it would only take us around 6 hours to get to the confluence. After 7+ hours, we still weren't there and had no idea how much farther we had to go. Once you hit the confluence, it is spectacular for about 2 miles, then the narrows end and you get into the desert and it loses it's appeal, especially after being mentally drained the day before. I really did enjoy the hike, but I was not properly prepared mentally for this. If you prepare properly, it could be a wonderful trip.

Wire Pass Trailhead to White House Trailhead via Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River Photos

Trail Information

Church Wells
Nearby City
Trail Type
Skill Level
2 days
Apr through June; Sept
Additional Use

Activity Feed

Jul 2018