Paria Utah: A Cinematic Ghost Town Steeped in History
Hidden away in the vast expanse of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in central Kane County, Utah, Paria, or Pahreah, is a fascinating ghost town with a colorful history and breathtaking scenery.
Once a bustling settlement in the 1800s and later a popular filming location for western movies, Paria Utah Ghost Town now offers a unique glimpse into the past, surrounded by the stunning multicolored mountain ranges of southern Utah.
A Brief History of Paria Utah
The Early Days of Paria
The area now known as Paria was first settled in 1865 by a group of Mormon pioneers led by Peter Shirts. Initially called Rockhouse, the settlement thrived for a few years before being abandoned due to the Black Hawk War and irrigation issues.
In 1870, the residents decided to move the settlement, with half of the people relocating about 5 miles upstream to establish the town of Pahreah. Here, they built sandstone houses, a church, and a general store, with the population eventually reaching 130.
Struggles and Abandonment
Despite its growth in the 1870s, Paria faced numerous challenges, particularly from the Paria River, which flooded every year from 1883 to 1888, destroying fields and buildings. As a result, many residents moved away, leaving only eight families by 1892.
The town experienced a brief resurgence in 1911 with establishing a small gold mining operation, but this too was wiped out by flooding within a year. The post office closed in 1914, and 1929 Paria was completely abandoned.
Paria Utah: A Hollywood Ghost Town
The Filming Location
In the years following its abandonment, Paria caught the attention of Hollywood, thanks to its picturesque canyon vistas and remnants of the Old West.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, the ghost town served as a filming location for several movies and television shows, including “Buffalo Bill” (1943), “Sergeants 3” (1961), and Clint Eastwood’s “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976).
The Movie Set
For the filming of “Sergeants 3,” producers built an imitation Old West town about a mile west of the original Paria townsite. This movie set was used for several films until 1976, when it disappeared.
In 1998, after being severely damaged by flash flooding, the set was dismantled and rebuilt by a team of volunteers and employees of the Bureau of Land Management between 1999 and 2001. However, in 2006, a suspicious fire destroyed the rebuilt set.
Exploring Paria Utah Ghost Town Today
Location and Directions
Paria is located within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, accessible via a dirt road called Old Paria Town Road that starts from a large parking area next to the scenic Highway 89 connecting Page and Kanab.
You’ll need a suitable vehicle to reach Paria, preferably an SUV or 4×4, as the road can become dangerous and muddy during or after rainfall.
Things to See
While the original buildings of Paria and the movie set are no longer standing, the area’s natural beauty makes it worth a visit. The multicolored rock formations and layers create a unique landscape, offering incredible views and photo opportunities.
If you’re looking for a more isolated experience, you’ll appreciate the tranquility and solitude at this off-the-beaten-path destination.
Old Paria Cemetery
Just beyond the parking area lies the Old Paria Cemetery, a small graveyard with nearly illegible gravestones that serve as the only remaining evidence of the town’s early inhabitants.
Exploring the cemetery offers a glimpse into the lives and hardships faced by those who once called Paria home.
Hiking and Outdoor Activities
Paria River Valley Road
This 6-mile dirt road descends from the junction with Highway 89 into the colorful Paria River Valley. The road becomes steep and winding near the end, offering stunning views of the multicolored cliffs on either side.
Hiking opportunities abound in this area, including the route to Starlight Canyon.
A short drive away from Paria, you’ll find the Toadstools, a collection of unique hoodoos (rock formations) in Grand Staircase-Escalante. This easy hike offers another opportunity to explore the diverse geological features of the region.
Where to Stay
Paria is located halfway between Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona, making either city a convenient base for exploring the ghost town. For a general idea of accommodations in the area, check out the advice on where to stay in Page and where to stay in Kanab.
Visiting Paria Utah Ghost Town with Pets
If you plan to bring your furry friend along for the adventure, keep them on a leash within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument at all times.
Remember the hot desert temperatures and avoid letting your pet walk on scorching surfaces that could cause burns to their paws.
Capturing the Beauty of Paria
Paria Utah Ghost Town’s stunning landscapes and unique geological features make it a photographer’s dream. Be sure to bring your camera and capture the vibrant colors of the cliffs and rock formations and the peaceful solitude of the Old Paria Cemetery.
A Cinematic Ghost Town to Remember
Paria Utah may no longer be a bustling settlement or a Hollywood movie set. Still, its captivating history and dramatic landscapes make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a glimpse into the Old West.
Whether exploring the multicolored cliffs, hiking through the Paria River Valley, or simply taking in the serene atmosphere, Paria Utah Ghost Town offers an unforgettable experience for all who venture to this hidden gem.