The old town of Paria was a small western outpost that was inhabited until the late 1920s. After it was abandoned, it became a ghost town and because of the incredible views in the surrounding area, it has been used as a film set for many successful western films, including Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales. Along the road to Old Paria, there is a multicolored mountain range that will make you believe for a moment that you are on another planet.
Old Paria is unknown to the crowds of tourists who flock to the southern part of Utah every year. I stumbled upon this place purely by chance. I was intrigued by a rest area along my route to Kanab, so I decided to take an adventurous detour from my itinerary. One of the many advantages of renting a car and of going on a road trip is being able to stop and change your itinerary when you make unexpected discoveries.
Location and Directions
As I mentioned above, you can reach this destination along a dirt road that starts from a large parking area next to the scenic Highway 89 that connects Page to Kanab.
On maps, you will find that this place is referred to in different ways, but most often it is either called Paria or Old Paria (not to be confused with Paria Canyon). It is located within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The road you must take is called Old Paria Town Road.
If you decide to venture along this road, please read these recommendations. You should drive the right kind of vehicle (SUV or 4×4) or one that is at least higher off the ground than normal. In this way, you will not be anxious during the entire trip (like I was) and be worried that there will be a deep hole that could ruin your rental car.
The last part of the route is also a bit more difficult, because there are more ups and downs and the road narrows. If it rains or it has rained recently, definitely skip visiting Old Paria, because the road becomes much more dangerous (the area is located on the Paria River and flash floods are likely during heavy rainfall) and you could get stuck in the mud.
Things to See
Although the information sign I saw in the parking lot along Highway 89 promised that there would be buildings of the film set perfectly preserved, once I arrived at the destination, I did not find what was described. In fact, the buildings, which were rebuilt in 2000, had been completely destroyed by fire.
Even though I had taken this detour for the sole purpose of seeing the set, I was not the least bit disappointed by what I saw, because the view along the way to get to Old Paria made it worth it to change my itinerary. The rock formations with multicolored layers to which, even the photos I took, do not do justice, will accompany you throughout your journey.
It’s certainly unique and unlike anything you would see in the most famous parks in the area such as Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. Another factor that some travelers will be very pleased with is, as I mentioned, this area is particularly isolated and therefore you can enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds you in perfect tranquility and solitude.
Just beyond the parking area, you will find the Old Paria Cemetery, a small cemetery with gravestones that are now almost all illegible and are the only evidence of the first people to inhabit this beautiful yet lonely place. When I arrived at this cemetery, I started to find warning signs that advised to proceed only with a 4×4 car, so I decided to turn back. I was still very satisfied with the views that I was able to see.
Where to Stay in the Area
As I said earlier, Old Paria is located halfway between the cities of Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona. You can determine which city to stay in depending on which one better suits your itinerary. To get a general idea of the hotels in the two cities, you can read our advice on where to stay in Page e where to stay in Kanab.