The Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness is a 112,500 acres (455 km2) wilderness area located in northern Arizona and southern Utah, USA, within the arid Colorado Plateau region. The wilderness is composed of broad plateaus, tall escarpments, and deep canyons.
The Paria River flows through the wilderness before joining the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry, Arizona.
The U.S. Congress designated the wilderness area in 1984 and it was largely incorporated into the new Vermilion Cliffs National Monument proclaimed in 2000 by executive order of President Bill Clinton.
Both the wilderness area and the National Monument are administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
The Colorado Plateau and its river basins are of immense value in the Earth sciences, specifically chronostratigraphy, as the region contains multiple terrain features exposing miles-thick contiguous rock columns geologists and paleobiologists use as reference strata of the geologic record.
Ancient petroglyphs, granaries, and campsites indicate that ancestral Puebloan people utilized the Wilderness between AD 200 and AD 1200. They hunted mule deer and bighorn sheep and grew corn, beans, and squash in the lower end of the canyon. Paiute people later occupied and traveled much of the area before Europeans arrived. Because no habitations or large villages have been found in the canyon, researchers believe the canyon was primarily used as a travel route.
The first documented Europeans in the area were Fathers Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante of the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition. The expedition stopped at the mouth of the Paria River in 1776 after they unsuccessfully attempted to establish a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Monterey, California. The 19th century drew outlaws who hid out in the Wilderness and prospectors who mined gold, uranium, and other minerals.