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    Vermilion Cliffs and Paria Canyon: a secret natural monument

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    Martí Micolau

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    Straddling Utah and Arizona, near Page, there is a small secret geological treasure that is worth visiting, if only to relive the beauty that has already been seen in all the national parks scattered in the rich area that stretches between Nevada, Arizona and Utah. We are talking about Vermilion Cliffs National Monument / Paria Canyon, a rare and remote natural area that is ready to reveal its secrecy to you.


    • Vermilion Cliffs and Paria Canyon: what to expect
    • How to get to Vermilion Cliffs 
    • Vermilion Cliffs in 4 × 4: all the wildest roads and paths
      • White House Trailhead
      • Wire Pass Trailhead
      • Buckskin Gulch Trailhead
      • Lee’s Ferry Trailhead
    • Coyote Buttes, a hidden gem in the canyon
    • The Wave, the natural wonder of Coyote Buttes North
    • Coyote Buttes South: two recommended trails
      • Paw Hole Trailhead
      • Cottonwood Cove Trailhead
    • Latest recommendations

    Vermilion Cliffs and Paria Canyon: what to expect

    The natural monument of Vermilion Cliffs it is a very high escarpment that dominates a vast desert area, with its sandstone walls, steep slopes and cracks that open to dark tunnels deeper and deeper into the rock. The other point of interest in the area is the Paria Canyon, a grandiose "museum" of wild nature, made up of long desert corridors between vertiginous walls of red rock, arches and terraces, galleries and natural amphitheaters, along the Paria River.

    It is in this part of the nature reserve that perhaps the most fascinating walks are found: a type of landscape of this type may perhaps recall Antelope Canyon, but it is unique. Finally, it will also be worth talking about Coyote Butte, a spectacular area, but subject to strict limitations, which we will see later. Please note that it is possible to sleep inside the Paria Canyon thanks to a special permit, limited to 20 people per night, and available at this address. There is no Visitor Center near the monument.

    How to get to Vermilion Cliffs 

    But how to get to this space so hidden and full of treasures? Surely, due to the nature of the place, you will not be able to interpret your visit to the park as a simple stage of passage from one place to another: an afternoon will not be enough for you to visit these places.

    In case you don't have an off-road vehicle and want to reach the Vermilion Cliffs Monument, here are your options:

    • get married yes Flagstaff, you will need to take US Highway 89 north to Bitter Spring, where you will turn to 89A, which will take you to the heart of Vermilion Cliffs and Paria Canyon, the two hubs of this section of the Colorado Plateau;
    • If instead you come from Kanab, take the same US Highway 89 east or 89A south through Fredonia and Jacob Lake.

    Vermilion Cliffs in 4 × 4: all the wildest roads and paths

    If, on the other hand, you have an off-road vehicle, there are various alternative paths to sneak through the meanders of Paria Canyon: they all start from US Highway 89, which we have talked about so far, and head to Paria Contact Station. Pay attention: the routes illustrated from here onwards all require, in addition to the appropriate means of transport, a great technical preparation, the suitable equipment for camping and above all a lot of time to invest!

    White House Trailhead

    • Da Page, drive 30 miles west on Highway 89. You will find Paria Contact Station, which is your point of reference as well the final frontier" where to arm yourself properly for long excursions. The trail begins after two miles of dirt road;
    • da Kanab, drive 43 miles east on Highway 89. Then see above.

    The path that starts from here rejoins other itineraries after long routes of 21 miles (Wire Pass Trailhead) up to 38 miles (Lee’s Ferry Trailhead). A camping area is available.

    Wire Pass Trailhead

    • Da Page drive 34 miles west on Highway 89. Exceed Paria Contact Station (as usual, last chance to get water), turn left onto House Rock Valley Road. The start of the trail is after 8.3 miles of dirt road;
    • da Kanab drive 38 miles east on Highway 89. Then see above.

    The path that starts from here rejoins other itineraries after long routes of 5,7 miles (Buckskin Trailhead) up to 44 miles (Lee’s Ferry Trailhead). A camping area is available. The main path to the Coyote Buttes North, which we will talk about later.

    Buckskin Gulch Trailhead

    Both from Page that Kanab, follow the road to Wire Pass Trailhead that we have just illustrated: you will find the start of the path after just 4,5 miles of dirt road. Buckskin Gulch is famous for being the "slot canyon”Longer than the south-west, about 25 miles round trip, certainly one of the top routes in this area. You can of course also reach it from the other trails marked here: the longest distance reaches 47 miles (Lee’s Ferry Trailhead). It is possible to camp along the trail, in the authorized areas.

    Lee’s Ferry Trailhead

    • Da Page, drive south on Highway 89 for 25 miles. Enter the aforementioned Highgway 89A and continue for 14 miles. Reach the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on your right;
    • Da Kanab, drive east on Highway 89 73 miles to Page. Then see above.

    From here a very long trail starts, which will take you to cross the other routes: it will take 38 miles to White House Trailhead and 47 miles to Buckskin Trailhead. Camping in this area has limitations.

    Coyote Buttes, a hidden gem in the canyon

    Coyote Buttes (in the two North and South parts) is the most famous section of the canyon ever, and one of the wildest and most unspoiled. There are various reasons of interest: in addition to the ancestral antiquity of the bizarre rock formations (The Magic Crest seems sculpted by a visionary sculptor), you will find The Wave, a surreal landscape in which perfectly smooth rocks follow hypnotic undulating lines, and one Dinosaur Trackway, where dinosaur footprints are imprinted: a place out of time, which has remained so.

    For this reason, entry in this area it is regulated, and you will have to buy a permesso. Depending on the excursion you want to try, you will have to take into account that the number of daily permits is limited. You will find all the info here. Furthermore, camping is prohibited in this area. You will have to go back to Page, or near Paria Contact Station.

    The Wave, the natural wonder of Coyote Buttes North

    To access Coyote Buttes NorthFirst, you need a permit: 10 are distributed a day from March to November. If you have permission, reach the Wire Pass Trailhead, which we have already told you about. This itinerary will also take you to visit the famous one The Wave. To reach the start, we refer you to the directions indicated above.

    You will find The Wave after about 3 miles of walking from the beginning of the trail. We recommend that you pay close attention to the road you take, because the only orientation tool you will have to go back after this walk of about 1,5 / 2 hours will be visual memory.

    Here is a video that can help you understand the type of excursion that awaits you.

    Coyote Buttes South: two recommended trails

    To access Coyote Buttes South, we point out these two paths. Paths is a big word, because most of them aren't marked. For this reason, these itineraries are highly recommended to experts, because a strong sense of direction and a vocation to walk in extreme conditions are required. Here they are in detail.

    Paw Hole Trailhead

    To reach the start of this path, you will have to reach House Rock Valley Road, which we talked about in the section dedicated to Wire Pass. From here you will have to drive south on a very bumpy road (be careful, it requires an off-road vehicle and, if wet, it is impassable, always inquire at Paria Contact Station) for 16 miles, to Buckskin Gulch, then turn left and continue for almost 2 miles on a sandy road. From here begins a path of about 3 miles, medium difficulty. The excursion, as anticipated, is subject to obtaining a permit.

    Cottonwood Cove Trailhead

    This path also starts from House Rock Valley Road. You will have to take the same road: you will find the indication on the route. Although the route is slightly shorter (about 2,4 miles), beware again: the trails are not clearly marked. Here, too, you will need permits.

    Latest recommendations

    The area of Vermilion Cliffs e Paria Canyon, in many of its features, must be approached with attention and preparation. For this, take a look at the video below which, in addition to giving you a detailed idea of ​​the natural landscapes that you will admire, contains some important information for the visit.

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