Paria is one of the most popular destinations in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and this historic destination actually is fairly easy to get to. The Paria access road can be found just a short drive west of the Toadstools Trailhead on Highway 89 and the roadside signage for both of these destinations is easy to spot. There is a historic marker and information placards at the starting point of the long dirt road that goes to Paria. Most questions about Paria will be answered here, so be sure to check it out.
The name Paria can refer to the old historic pioneer townsite, the Hollywood movie set, the canyon or the nearby river. When this name is mentioned to somebody that has already been there, a smile will gleam on their face and they will start talking about how much you will enjoy this colorful place. Paria certainly is worth getting excited about visiting, because this most definitely is one of the most beautiful places on earth!
The red clay dirt road to Paria is the only limiting factor. This road is only a few miles long and it is well maintained. This dirt road is smooth enough for ordinary passenger cars on a dry day. On the flip-side, all it takes is a quick rainstorm to turn this road into an impassible slick muddy mess. Fortunately it does not rain heavy too often in this desert environment, so the chances are that it will be an easy ride to Paria if the skies are blue.
Pahreah was the original Mormon Pioneer name for this place back in 1865. This small settlement grew and the farming by the river was good, till disaster struck in the late 1800s. All it takes is one look at the landscape to see that this entire region is prone to flash floods and there is also visual evidence of massive Paria River floods that occur on occasion. Sure enough, a big flood hit the little town of Paria after many good years. In fact, Paria was hit by floods for several years in a row in the late 1880s and by then most of the townsfolk moved on to new horizons. A mining operation in this area was wiped out by a flood a few years later and that was like the final straw.
Only a few stragglers remained in Paria after the flood disasters, then this townsite was completely abandoned till Hollywood came along. Scenes for several old western films and cult classics were filmed in Paria. A stage set was built and this too was wiped out by floods. Basically, Paria has been abandoned ever since and very little evidence of modern man remains in this place. Paria has returned to its natural state, which is likely best for all.
The dirt road to Paria is a real pleasure to drive because the scenery is as pretty as can be! Grand Staircase-Escalante is famous for its multi color layered rock strata and Paria certainly is a showcase in this respect. Layers upon layers of red, white, gray, purple and magenta tints paint the hillside in every direction that one looks. Paria truly is an amazing sight to view in person, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride and share the memories back home!
As mentioned earlier, not much of anything remains of the old Paria townsite or movie set at the end of the trail. However, this is a cozy day use picnic area with facilities and tables in the shade, so plan on sticking around for a while. Paria is one of the most colorful landscapes in the west and the old townsite is simply a must to visit when touring Grand Staircase-Escalante on old Highway 89!
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