I've hiked both the lower and upper parts of this spectacular canyon and plan to return for a through hike as soon as possible!
I did this hike in late August and it was already 85 degrees when we took off from the car at 9:00. Be sure to stop in and get your permit. This is not a recommended time to go to this area due to flash flood season! There was one other group in the canyon, but we did not see them in Buckskin Gulch at all.
The trail starts off across the desert and heads straight into the silty Pariah drainage. After about 1/2 mile, wading is required and we began crossing back and forth. The hike gets progressively interesting as the canyon gets deeper and so does the river. Since this was my first canyon hike, one of the most intriguing parts was that the river looked like cans of green, yellow, red paint swirled together.
Footwear becomes a science in the canyon. We wore tevas the entire time, but I have since learned that a good pair of neoprene socks will prevent the chafing that occurs when sand rubs in between your barefoot and sandel.
The canyon becomes even more photogenic as you progress and large sand boulders start to emerge both in the river and along the shores. Small "cave washouts" litter the sides and make for nice places to rest out of the sun. Be sure you have lots of water, there are only a few springs in the canyon... we had no desire to filter the Pariah River water.
Once you get to the confluence of the Pariah and Buckskin gulch (probably about 6 miles), be sure to take photos... this is probably the most common photo that I've seen on the net or in guide books. We opted to hike up Buckskin 1/4 mile rather than to some of the campspots down the Pariah. At that time of year, we were completely alone...
The campspot up Buckskin was about 200 feet above the canyon floor, which was only a trickle of clear water in Buckskin... still not a spring though.
With the lack of experience, we were constantly paranoid of flash floods and hearing the wind blow through the canyon had us literally running back to the confluence on a couple of occasions. Still, we hiked up Buckskin and it was magnificent! Early in the morning you'll see tiny salamanders that were washed out from the previous night's water rise. The canyon narrows to the point where you can touch both sides with outstretched arms. We made it to the falls, which is about a 15 foot climb up carved out steps. Imagining a flash flood through this areas is simply chilling. We did not mess around above the falls, but hiked quickly for 30 minutes and then returned even faster. On the way back we heard a unique wooshing sound that brought us quickly to a sprint, only to see two enormous ravens flying above us in the canyon. That was pretty incredible, but also made me realize how inexperienced we were.
The next day we hiked down the Pariah, which is quite a bit broader than Buckskin. I almost stepped on a 6-inch rattler that was literally vibrated it's entire body when it shook.
We returned the next day in scorching heat.
This trip was done in late May, when hiking in the canyons is a good idea. Wirepass is a very tight slot canyon that leads into Buckskin. This is highly recommended and you actually have to take your pack off and turn sideways in a couple of places to get through. There are also a couple of short dropoffs that require minor scrambles down boulders or drift wood.
The top of Buckskin Gulch is much rockier than the sandy bottom end by the Pariah. We wore tevas, which worked great. Be sure to bring plenty of water because there are NO springs in the upper section and the canyon is dry for miles before you start to wade in pools of stagnant water. The pools are nastier up in this section of the narrows, but the narrows are closer together and more dramatic. It also feels much more obvious that you are hiking downward into the canyon... which is considerably cooler because it is shaded as you get deeper.
My brother and I hiked down about 5 miles and then turned around. This is an excellent place for out of this world photographs!