Paria Canyon, located in Northern Arizona, is a staggering 112,500 acres of land. It’s strongly protected and the Vermilion Cliffs are a National Monument but a lucky few can camp overnight.
Paria Canyon has a lot of nearby competition in the impressive canyon stakes. Not just from the Grand Canyon which is about three hours away. The nearby limestone wonder Marble Canyon also gives it a run for its money. But Paria has got an ace in its hand: It’s home to The Wave.
The Wave is part of Coyote Buttes (oh, stop sniggering at the back). The rock here is sandstone and thanks to iron oxide pigments in the sand and some Jurassic age erosion, we’re left with the beautiful wave formations. The deepest troughs would have been caused by runoff water at one point, but now most of the erosion is caused by wind. And yes, Dinosaurs definitely used to call this place their home once upon a time.
There are dinosaur tracks near The Wave (you’ll need to head to North Coyote Buttes), so make time to see those as well (like we could stop you). You might be lucky enough to see some Triops, or ‘tadpole shrimps’. These odd little creatures are regarded as living fossils, they have not changed significantly for 180 million years. Living fossils! We expect to end up crawling around in the sand looking for these amazing little critters. That is, if we can tear ourselves away from staring in awe at this huge sandy wonder.
You’ll need a hiking permit to see The Wave and walk through Coyote Buttes. Camping permits are very cheap and will cost you a few pounds but they must be booked well in advance. We recommend to book four months before you want to go. Only 20 people are allowed to sleep in Paria Canyon each night. Surprisingly, you are allowed to bring a dog with you. Your pooch won’t count towards the total allowed in the Canyon, but he’ll cost you a fiver.
Whether you come here for the incredible rock and sandstone formations or the living fossils and dinosaur tracks, camping out in Paria Canyon is a night you’ll never forget.
Paria Canyon in Arizona
Mid March to June and then late September to November are the best times to visit. The canyon is prone to flash floods throughout July to September.
What you need to know:
This isn’t an easy hike. It takes around five days and you’ll need to be moderately fit. The canyon no longer closes due to bad whether, the ranger will warn you of danger due to bad weather, but you’ll still need some hiking experience.