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The Paria River: Old Paria Townsite to Starlight Canyon

Canyons of the Paria | Southern Utah Wanderings
Wednesday – Thursday, October 7-8, 2020

After spending Wednesday afternoon going on a pair of short hikes along The Cockscomb and then grabbing a quick dinner in Kanab, Jared and I made our way back to the Paria River to find a place to camp just after dark past the Old Paria Townsite and Movie Set. We found a great spot at the very end of the road under a couple cottonwood trees and set up camp in the dark. Our plan for Thursday was to hike up the Paria River to Starlight Canyon and this time we wanted to get an earlier start since it was going to be a longer hike, so we made sure to get to bed early.

The colors of the badlands were looking really nice at dusk as we drove through them on our way to the Old Paria Townsite on Wednesday evening.

Old Paria Badlands

We woke up extra early on Thursday morning so we could get an early start and try to beat the heat of the afternoon. After packing up camp in the dark we started hiking up the Paria River as dawn was beginning to break and when there was just enough light out to see without needing to use our headlamps.

Since there were actually clouds in the sky this morning we were treated to an amazing sunrise as we hiked along the river. It was the first nice sunrise all week and a great way to start the day!

Morning Sky

Paria River Sunrise

Walking Along Water

Calico Peak was looking very good this morning.

Calico Peak

After hiking a few miles up the river we came to this old chimney which is all that is left of the old Kirby Ranch.

Kirby Chimney

Just another beautiful morning along the Paria River.

Paria River Morning

On the other side of the river we found the old chimney from the Carlow Ranch.

Carlow Ranch Chimney

Next we stopped at this large boulder to check out some small dinosaur tracks.

Boulder Tracks

Here’s a closer look at the small tracks.


Then we continued up the Paria River on our way to Kitchen Canyon.

Paria Canyon View

Side Canyon

Jared searching for petroglyphs along the river…

Looking for Petroglyphs

Soon we found another interesting petroglyph panel that was hard to see and photograph. I can’t recall ever seeing a squared zig-zag line turning into the standard V-shape. I thought it was pretty cool.


This is the right side of the same panel.

Right Side Petroglyphs

Magic Mushroom Petroglyph

Magic Mushroom Petroglyph



There was another Herman Pollock inscription carved into this panel.

H Pollock

After hiking up Kitchen Canyon a little ways, we were eventually stopped by this waterfall. Apparently there used to be a trail around the waterfall, but it washed out many years ago.

Kitchen Falls

We backtracked a short distance from the waterfall and started hiking up Starlight Canyon.

Lower Starlight Canyon

Pretty soon we reached the Starlight Canyon Narrows which were very nice and colorful!

The First Bend

Just a rockfall in the narrows…


Canyon Photographer

Canyon Photographer

Beautiful colors and reflections in the Starlight Canyon Narrows.

Starlight Canyon Narrows

At the upper end of the narrows was this steep chute with a pool of water at the bottom. Jared was able to climb along the rock on the right side to keep his feet dry, but I just walked through the knee-deep water and got wet. It was a fun scramble up the chute!

The Chute

Looking down from the top of the cute before we continued up the canyon.

Top of The Chute

Upper Starlight Canyon

Above The Narrows

Soon we had a brief view of Mollies Nipple through the trees as the canyon started to open up.

Mollies Nipple

We left the main canyon and went looking for Starlight Cave.

Starlight Cave

At the back of Starlight Cave are some interesting pictographs that are mostly painted in black.

Starlight Cave Pictographs

Black Pictograph


Climbing back down through the chute on our way back down the canyon.

Down We Go

Looking down the steepest part of the chute into the narrows.

Down the Chute

The light was still looking good as we hiked back through the Starlight Narrows.

Starlight Narrows

Golden Wall

Since we were going to be hiking near Kitchen Canyon Falls on our way back, we decided to stop again to catch it in the shade.

Kitchen Canyon Falls

Even though we had left early in the morning, the hike turned out to be a bit longer than I had anticipated, so we ended up hiking back along the river without shade during the hottest part of the day. Oh well, it was a nice hike and worth it! Once we returned to our vehicles at the trailhead it was time to drive back around to the other side of The Cockscomb again to find a spot to camp along Cottonwood Creek.

This was our view as we left Old Paria behind to drive around to the other side of The Cockscomb.

Leaving Paria

>> Old Paria Townsite to Starlight Canyon Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne November 9, 2020

    Beautiful narrows, colored walls and those fabulous pictographs and glyphs. Thanks so much for letting us see!

  2. Kim
    Kim April 20, 2021

    I love your trail descriptions but havent found mileage. Maybe i am missing it. Was wondering for this on and also pariah box section. Thanks!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat April 21, 2021

      These are just my personal trip reports and photos, not trail guides, so I haven’t included mileage or other planning information like that.

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