This morning I got to read Ed Abbey’s post about hiking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. Afterwards, while scrapping ice off the windshield of my “bent up truck,” I began to long for May. Actually, I hate to see winter go, but this winter has had so little snow, so I’m now anxious for a trip. In mid-May, I’m scheduled to travel out to my old stomping grounds in Southwest Utah to take care of some business. But that’s not going to take but a day or two, so I plan on packing in a four or five days for hiking and reacquainting myself with the desert. My dilemma now is what should do when then, as there are so many canyons and mountains to explore. I’ve narrowed my options to three. I’d love any advice you have as to which option sounds the most enticing. .
Option 1: Paria River from US 89 to the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry (38 miles)
I hiked the first six or so miles of this trail on a backpacking trip through Wirepass Canyon and Buckskin Gulch. . Buckskin is the most amazing slot canyon I’ve hiked in, but it’s not the place to get caught during a flash flood Buckskin ends in the Paria and there, in a hike in 2003, I turned north and hiked out to US 89. I’ve also day hiked along the Paria north of US 89. The Paria is wider than Buckskin and a trip down to Lee’s Ferry would be three long or four easy days. There is a lot of wading in the upper parts of the river, but the water shouldn’t be as cold as option 2. This is a popular hike so one disadvantage is getting permits. Another is the long shuttle run.
Option 2: Zion Canyon from the north via Deep Creek (22.6 miles)
Deep Creek starts south of Cedar Breaks, at Webster Flats and flows south into Zion Canyon where it merges into the Virgin River in the Zion Narrows, supplying the bulk of the water in the Virgin. While hiking the Zion Narrows is popular and requires a permit and limited to 50 people a day, Deep Creek is not very popular (but much more difficult with steep descents and deep pools). I had planned to hike this back in 2001 or 2002, but a fire in the region which has destroyed many of the Ponderosa Pines along its upper sections, caused me to change my plans and I headed over to Great Basin National Park for a backpacking trip through Bristlecone Pines. Most people allow three days to hike from Webster Flats to Zion Canyon. One disadvantage of this hike is the cold water which is coming from springs and snow melt high in the mountains. It would be a difficult hike if there was heavy snow runoff, but this hasn’t been a particularly heavy, but that can change in the next six weeks. I have hiked the last eight miles of this trip several times, hiking the Zion Narrows from the east side of the park and up from the south.
Option 3: Pocum Cove and Sullivan Canyon, Paiute Wilderness Area (approximately 25 miles)
This is the least known of all the options. The Paiute Wilderness is in the Arizona Strip (the part of Arizona that’s cut off from the rest of the state by the Grand Canyon. It does not feature the tight slot canyons through Navajo Sandstone that the others offer, but the desert area has Joshua trees, plenty of cactus and some unique wildlife included Gila monsters and several species of rattlesnakes. There shouldn’t be any wading except at the end of the trail where one has to ford the Virgin River to get to the Cedar Pocket Rest Area along I-15 (where the hike would end). If there is a threat of heavy rain, this option becomes the only real option as it’s too dangerous to hike in the Paria or the Zion Narrows when there is a threat of a flash flood.