Buckskin Gulch - Wire Pass to Middle Trail


Jan 19, 2012
This is Part 1. Part 2 is here

In 2008 Antlerking invited me on my first trip down to the Paria with him and his friend Justin. During that trip I hiked Wire Pass. When I rounded a corner and the whole canyon was glowing it took my breath away and I knew I had to come back! Then again, in 2011, we ventured into Wire Pass to the confluence of the Buckskin. We didn't go any further as the Buckskin was flowing with ice cold runoff and it being the first part of March we didn't want to get our feet wet. Finally, just this past weekend, I got to hike the Buckskin Gulch and check off that major "bucket list" item!!! WOW! What an amazing canyon! I'm ready to go back again!

Buckskin Gulch requires a permit to camp in it. We decided to avoid the hassle of obtaining a permit and also not having to pack sleeping gear, food, and extra water but day hiking it. Our plan was to camp near the Middle Trail TH the first night, get up the next morning and drive to the Wire Pass TH. We'd then hike the Buckskin to the Middle Trail exit and hike up to our camp we had left setup. Then the next morning hike back down into the Buckskin and hike down to the Paria and up to White House TH. I owe a big thanks to Jammer for this awesome idea as he is the one who suggested it!! :twothumbs:

There would be four of us driving down from Logan and another friend meeting us there from Saint George. This would allow us to leave one vehicle at White House TH and one at Wire Pass TH. We were set!

View larger map.
Here's a map I used for the trip. I added the location of some features, mileage, and travel times.
buckskin - map.jpg

Here's some video of the trip I shot. Warning, it's very shaky and may make you loose your lunch! It's HD so make sure its turned on!

On Friday we left Logan around 8:30 and made the 7 hour drive down to the Paria. We weren't in a hurry and got to the middle trail exit in the late afternoon after a few stops for gas and lunch. We looked around and didn't see much for camp spots but then found a previously used location just before the Middle Trail TH. After setting up camp, we walked over to the edge to see where we would be hiking up from the Buckskin the next day.

Middle Trail TH. I had to steal this photo off the web as I forgot to get a picture of it. The one I found just happened to be Jammer 's! (hope you don't mind!)

View down to Buckskin Gulch

After looking around a bit we went back to camp and I found my tent had blown over. Stakes don't work to well in loose sand.

These was one car (a Subaru Sedan) at the Middle Trail TH when we got there. We were surprised a car made it to the Middle Trail TH as the sand was a little dip in some areas and there was a wash you had to cross. After a hour or so a couple came back to their car. Talking to them we found they had hiked to Cobra Arch. It wasn't even 5 minutes after they left the guy came jogging back down the road to our camp. He had gotten stuck. We drove down to his car and help dig him out and then we hooked on and pulled him out. He was really grateful! He then backed way up and got a run and made it through the deep sand part. My friend followed him out to where the road was good to make sure he made it out OK. I don't know what that guy would have did if we weren't around.

Day 2:
We got up and had breakfast and then drove over to the Wire Pass TH. We didn't get to the trail head until around 10am, but we were in no hurry as it was only 8 miles to the Middle Trail exit.

Wire Pass had changed a little from when I was last in it 3 years ago. The small boulder drop off was a little higher than I remembered.

Wire Pass

Wire Pass

Petroglyphs at the confluence of the Buckskin

After reaching the Buckskin it was all new scenery to me! Each corner was cool and unique! The canyon continued to amaze us!



After hiking a little ways down the Buckskin we came to our first water pool that couldn't be avoided. We all had packed water shoes or sandals which we changed into. This was the area we saw the most people, but it still wasn't bad. After drying our feet and putting our shoes back on we continued down the canyon.

Surprisingly, we passed a handful of hikers heading up canyon that had started at White House TH.

I hope you don't mind all the photos! I took over 400 and it was hard cutting them down.









The canyon would open up and then narrow back down again.

There was 3 alcoves in a row in this section


Narrowing back down

Do you see a profile of a face?

That definitely looks like a face to me on the right!





We also passed a group of backpackers heading down the canyon. They said they were going to camp at the Middle Trail Exit. One of them we spoke to told us he had 2 gallons of water he was packing (at 8.34 lbs/gallon that's just about 16.7 lbs)!





Eventually we came to the infamous "Cesspools" of the Buckskin (there was two of them, pretty close together). Luckily they were just below knee deep. I had seen pictures of people carrying their packs over their heads in water nearly up to their necks! The Cesspools did stink, but I didn't think they were as bad as people made them sound... I had visions of loosing my breakfast over the smell people had described. I put my neoprene socks on to keep my feet clean and they worked great.

"Cesspools of the Buckskin" It was more of a mud slurry than water.


I knew to be watching for the Middle Trail Exit soon after the Cesspools. Luckily I had studied some photos for it or I would missed it. Even so, I still pulled my GPS out to verify that we were truly at the Middle Trail Exit. The climb out is a bit scary. There's sand all over making the slick rock, slick. Three of us climbed up the crack and made it. But it was a little too exposed it one spot for myself and my friend. After looking around a bit we found that we could cut back to the left and go up a edge that had some good hand holds. This was a much easier way.

Middle Trail Exit. Blue is the easier route, the Red is the harder route.

After scrambling up this I turned to look for the Petroglyphs I had read about at the middle trail and soon found them! It wasn't until I found them that I was 100% sure this was the middle trail exit.

Petroglyphs to the east just after the scramble up the steep part. Around the corner on the same section of varnished sandstone is another petroglyph. You can see it unless you hike further down the canyon and look back.

If you look closely you can see a man on his side and you can barely make out the petroglyphs in the photo above around the corner to the left.

Some more petroglyphs on the south side of the canyon

Looking back down into Buckskin Gulch after the scramble up out.

After the scramble out of the Buckskin it was just over a mile and 600' climb to our camp. It's easy going when on slick rock, but most of time you slogging through loose sand. It wasn't fun.

There were wild flowers all over on the hike up to the top!









After getting to camp, my friend from Saint George decided he was going to head home as his knee was acting up. He packed up and then drove us to the Wire Pass TH to get our car and then he headed home. We would have setup our shuttle car at the White House TH, but we had decided earlier to just hike down the Buckskin to the confluence of the Paria and then back. This would avoid the 7 miles of knee deep water that we assumed was ice cold run off in the Paria. After getting back to camp we made dinner and relaxed after an awesome day in the Buckskin!


TO BE CONTINUED.... (too many photos to post)

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Excellent photos. I'm dying to get back there, we went a couple of years ago and got rained out. Thanks for the report.