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Cobra Arch & the Middle Route of Buckskin Gulch - Grand Staircase Escalante

Summary: A half day hike to an unusual and scenic arch and the middle route of Buckskin Gulch.
Directions: From Highway 89 between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT turn south between mileposts 21-22 at the Paria Outpost on the well graded, dirt Forest Road #750 (zero your odometer here). Drive straight past the Outpost through a few gates (leave them open or closed, as the case may be) and soon the road begins climbing beside Long Canyon (which looks like it has some ok narrows). Stay left at the road junctions at miles 4.0, 4.3, and 4.4. At the 5.0 mile point stay straight on FR #750, the road becomes extremely sandy beyond this point. At the 7.7 mile point you will pass through a fence line. Park immediately after the fence on the right under a juniper tree near the trail register for the Middle Route. A sign at the trailhead reads: "Middle Route - hazardous route ahead. This route to Buckskin Gulch includes a steep, slippery descent from the rim into the canyon. A permit fee is required for hiking and overnight use in Buckskin Gulch. Please pay for your permit at either the Whitehouse Trailhead or the Paria contact station before or after your hike." The gps point for the car park is: UTM 418250mE, 4100147mN
Road Conditions: 4-WD recommended to handle the deep sand
Navigation: Moderate
Length: ~4 hours for either hike
Date Hiked: March, 2005
Weather Conditions: Partly cloudy and cool
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the car park and trail register, begin walking south along a sandy track beside a fence line until you soon reach a cliff band with views south of Buckskin Gulch and Steamboat Rock to the south of Buckskin. Hop the fence to the right and look for a break in the cliff band which will allow you get down (UTM 418183mE, 4099759mN).
Cobra Arch: Route find your way to the southeast, working your way down to the fairly level bench between Buckskin and the cliff band through which you just passed. Once on the bench you may be able to pick up a moderately traveled footpath amongst the many cow prints. As you walk in a southeasterly direction, the cliff band on your left will fade back into a drainage then extend back out again. Where it extends out you'll see an upper cliff band and a lower one. The arch is in the lower set which means you'll want to continue along a route that roughly parallels Buckskin Gulch (head towards: UTM 419920mE,  4097361mN). After the route begins to bend to the northeast and you have a full view of a large mounded plateau off in the distance to the east, look for the arch to the north among a group of red rocks (UTM 420334mE, 4097568mN). Return the way you came.
Middle Route of Buckskin Gulch: Route find your way down to the right into the most prominent drainage heading south towards Buckskin. Simply follow this wash down to the edge of the canyon then work your way left (east) across the slick rock until you find the only route that looks even remotely possible down into the canyon (UTM 418019mE, 4098716mN). You'll likely find a few cairns in the area. Be very careful on the descent (going down is much more difficult than coming up), the route is steep and covered with sand making footing sketchy. Best to pass packs and provide a spot for others in your group. Once in the canyon you can explore up or down stream in Buckskin Gulch. When ready, return the way you came.
Rating (1-5 stars):
While the hike itself is nothing special, the destinations are really nice. The author and his wife completed the hike to the arch then down the middle route of Buckskin Gulch and back in 5.5 hours. Buckskin was flowing quickly with muddy water, so we did not proceed down the canyon. Note: I've hiked Buckskin and the Paria River on several occasions, all prior to starting this web site, so I don't have a description. I guess this will give me an excuse to go back at some point.
Maps: Click here for a map of this route
Books:  Hiking and Exploring the Paria River - Michael Kelsey
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
View along the way to the arch. Cobra Arch.
Nearby hoodoo. Middle route entry into
Buckskin Gulch.