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Located on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona, the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona includes the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. This remote and unspoiled, 280,000-acre Monument - a part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands - is a geologic treasure, containing a variety of diverse landscapes from the Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyon. 

Visitors enjoy scenic views of towering cliffs and deep canyons. Paria Canyon offers an outstanding three to five day wilderness backpacking experience. The colorful swirls of cross-bedded sandstone in Coyote Buttes are an international hiking destination.

A permit is required for hiking in Coyote Buttes North (the Wave), Coyote Buttes South, and for overnight trips within Paria Canyon. Visit the BLM Arizona’s website to learn more about this beautiful area and plan your visit.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM Wilderness Specialist

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The Wave

The Wave consists of 200 million year old sand dunes that have turned to rock. These large sandstone formations are located on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in Arizona. The spectacular ribbons of various colors, called Liesegang Bands, were formed by the movement and precipitation of oxidizing materials such as iron and manganese in ground water. The Wave is accessible only on foot via a three-mile hike and is highly regulated.

Paria Canyon Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona — Bob Wick, Instagram Guest Photographer 

About the photo: The red rock of the Colorado plateau contains some of the most photogenic landscapes anywhere on the planet. I especially love the area during the summer monsoon when dark clouds add to the drama of the landscape, and thunderstorms fill depressions with water forming reflective pools as shown in this photo.

This diverse National Monument includes Paria Canyon with its towering walls streaked with desert varnish, huge red rock amphitheaters, sandstone arches, wooded terraces, and hanging gardens. The 3,000-foot escarpment known as the Vermilion Cliffs dominates the remainder of the wilderness with its thick Navajo sandstone face, steep, boulder-strewn slopes, rugged arroyos and stark overall appearance.  The variety of colors and textures in the rock formations within the wilderness are a photographers dream and constantly change with variations in light and weather. Parts of the area are accessible by passenger car while others require 4-WD vehicles. Unpaved roads may be impassible after rains.

Camera Settings: Lens focal length: 18mm, aperture: f14, shutter speed: 1/15 second, ISO 100

Arguably some of the planet’s most unique and spectacular geologic features are the narrow slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau — and the grand-daddy of them all is Buckskin Gulch in the BLM-managed Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness/National Monument. Straddling the Utah/Arizona border, this 13 mile long canyon is 400 feet deep and sometimes as narrow as six feet — not just at the bottom but all the way up to the canyon rims (thus the name “slot”). In places you can’t see the sky when looking up; only the sun’s indirect glow bouncing off the scalloped rock walls & creating an ever-changing colorful tapestry. Logs wedged between the narrow walls 20-30 feet above the stream-bed are a reminder to avoid the area during the summer monsoon, when flash floods combined with no escape routes make the canyon unsafe for hiking.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Before highways and railways, before pioneers, even before Columbus…..the land we know as the United States was truly a vast wilderness. To protect these last remaining areas, in 1984 Congress created the Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Coyote Buttes’ outstanding scenery, desert wildlife, colorful history, and opportunities for primitive recreation will remain free from the influence of man and are protected in this condition for future generations. Its 112,500 acres beckon adventurers who yearn for solitude, scenic splendor, and the chance to explore one of the most beautiful geologic formations in the world.

Photo: Adam Marland 

Before highways and railways, before pioneers, even before Columbus…..the land we know as the United States was truly a vast wilderness. To protect these last remaining areas, in 1984 Congress created the Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Coyote Buttes’ outstanding scenery, desert wildlife, colorful history, and opportunities for primitive recreation will remain free from the influence of man and are protected in this condition for future generations. Its 112,500 acres beckon adventurers who yearn for solitude, scenic splendor, and the chance to explore one of the most beautiful geologic formations in the world.

Photo: Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management

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