The Best Slot Canyons in Utah Guide

The Best Slot Canyons In Utah

The Best Slot Canyons in Utah Guide

Best Slot Canyons in Utah 

If you’ve never had the experience of hiking in a slot canyon in Utah, it’s an adventure you won’t want to miss. These narrow, winding passageways carved by water through sandstone and other rock formations offer a unique experience unlike any other. In this post, we’ll guide you through some of the best slot canyons across the state, providing insights into the best times to visit, what to expect, and tips to make the most of your journey through these natural wonders. If you need any gear for your outdoor adventures in Utah, we can help! We have a huge variety of items in stock including accessories for camping, hiking, going to the lake, and more!

Slot Canyons in Southern Utah 

The best slot canyons in Utah are predominantly found in the southern part of the state, where the unique geological formations of the Colorado Plateau have given rise to these narrow, mesmerizing canyons. Recognizing the popularity and breathtaking beauty of these formations, we’ve put together a list of the slot canyons in Utah that are renowned for a reason: 

  1. The Narrows – Zion National Park 

  • Location: Zion National Park 
  • Distance: Up to 16 miles round trip 
  • Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall 
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate to strenuous 

The Narrows in Zion National Park is not just a hike; it’s a journey through one of the most iconic slot canyons in Utah and arguably the world. As you wade or sometimes swim through the Virgin River, you are enveloped by majestic sandstone walls that soar up to 1,000 feet above you, creating a natural cathedral of rock. The beauty of this hike is unparalleled, with the narrowest sections of the canyon only 20 feet across, forcing you to feel the immense power of nature as you navigate through. 

Before embarking on this adventure, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, the river is your trail, so water levels and flow rate are crucial factors in determining the hike’s safety. It’s essential to check the park’s website or visitor center for current conditions, as flash floods can occur, especially during the monsoon season from July to September. Suitable footwear is a must, as you’ll be walking on slippery rocks and uneven terrain. Many hikers opt for closed-toe, sturdy water shoes or boots with a good grip. 

The Narrows can be a family-friendly hike, but it’s important to assess the conditions and your family’s ability to handle cold water, potentially strong currents, and walking on uneven surfaces for an extended period. The hike’s duration varies depending on how far you choose to go. The most popular route is the bottom-up day hike from the Temple of Sinawava to Big Springs, which is about 10 miles round trip and can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours. For those seeking a more extended adventure, the top-down hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch is a 16-mile trek that typically takes 12 hours or can be done as an overnight backpacking trip. 

Getting There: The Narrows is located in Zion National Park, near the town of Springdale. The hike starts at the Temple of Sinawava, which is accessible by the park’s shuttle bus. The canyon is situated near other notable attractions such as Angel’s Landing and the Emerald Pools. 

Zion Narrows Slot Canyon With Hiker

  1. Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch – Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument 

  • Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument 
  • Distance: 3.5 miles round trip (combined loop) 
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall 
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate 

Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch are not just slot canyons. They are a mesmerizing labyrinth of sandstone, offering a unique adventure in the heart of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. These canyons are renowned for their narrow passages, where the walls seem to close in on you. In some sections, the canyons are so tight that hikers must contort their bodies, turning sideways or even crawling to navigate through. This physical interaction with the landscape adds an element of challenge and excitement to the experience.

When planning to explore Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, the hike involves some scrambling and climbing, so a basic level of physical fitness and agility is required. It’s also crucial to check the weather forecast, as rain can make the canyons extremely slippery and dangerous, and flash floods are a serious risk in this region. Additionally, because of the narrow nature of these slots, they are not suitable for large backpacks or groups. It’s recommended to travel light and in smaller groups to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. 

Getting There: Located in the remote Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the trailhead for Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch is accessed via the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. The canyons are situated near other attractions like Coyote Gulch and Lower Calf Creek Falls. 

  1. Buckskin Gulch – Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area 

  • Location: Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area
  • Distance: Up to 21 miles one way 
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall 
  • Difficulty Level: Strenuous 

Buckskin Gulch is renowned as one of the longest and deepest slot canyons in the world. Before starting on this journey, hikers should be aware of several important considerations. The length and remoteness of Buckskin Gulch demand thorough preparation and self-sufficiency. Adequate water, food, and emergency supplies are essential, as there are no sources of potable water along the route. Navigation skills are also important, as the canyon’s twisting passages can be disorienting. Additionally, the risk of flash floods is significant in this narrow canyon, so it’s imperative to check weather forecasts and avoid hiking during periods of rain or when there’s a threat of storms in the area. 

Permits are required for both day hikes and overnight trips in Buckskin Gulch, and hikers must adhere to Leave No Trace principles to preserve the fragile desert environment. The challenge of Buckskin Gulch lies not only in its physical demands but also in the respect and responsibility required to traverse such a pristine landscape. 

Getting There: The most common access points are the Wire Pass Trailhead and the Buckskin Gulch Trailhead, both located off House Rock Valley Road. The canyon is near the Utah-Arizona border, close to other landmarks like The Wave and the Paria River. 

  1. Little Wild Horse Canyon – San Rafael Swell 

  • Location: San Rafael Swell 
  • Distance: Up to 8 miles round trip 
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall 
  • Difficulty Level: Easy to moderate 

Little Wild Horse Canyon is one of the best slot canyons in Utah for families and beginners. It offers a relatively easy hike through a stunning, winding slot canyon with opportunities for exploration and adventure. When planning a visit to Little Wild Horse Canyon, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Firstly, while the hike is generally considered easy to moderate, it’s important to wear sturdy footwear with good traction, as the canyon floor can be sandy or rocky.

Bringing plenty of water and snacks is also essential, as there are no facilities or water sources along the trail. For those looking to extend their adventure, Little Wild Horse Canyon can be combined with nearby Bell Canyon for a longer loop hike. This option provides a more comprehensive exploration of the area’s landscapes, but it’s important to assess your group’s stamina and time constraints before embarking on the longer route. 

Getting There: The trailhead is located off Goblin Valley Road, near the popular Goblin Valley State Park. Little Wild Horse Canyon is an excellent starting point for exploring the San Rafael Swell, with nearby attractions like Bell Canyon and Crack Canyon. 

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon

  1. Zebra Slot Canyon – Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

  • Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument 
  • Distance: 5.2 miles round trip 
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall 
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate 

Zebra Slot Canyon stands out for its distinctive pink and white striped sandstone walls, which give the canyon its name. The trek to Zebra Slot Canyon involves a relatively flat but sandy hike, which can be tiring as the sand shifts underfoot. Hikers should be prepared for a few short but challenging scrambles and may need to wade through water in certain sections, especially after recent rains. It’s advisable to wear quick-drying clothing and shoes suitable for both hiking and water. 

One of the unique aspects of Zebra Slot Canyon is its relatively short length, which allows hikers to experience the beauty of a slot canyon without the commitment of a long trek. However, the narrowness of the slot can be intimidating for those with claustrophobia, and it’s important to be aware of this before venturing in 

Getting There: The trailhead is located off Hole-in-the-Rock Road, within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Zebra Slot Canyon is relatively close to other attractions such as Tunnel Slot Canyon and Harris Wash. 

Zebra Slot Canyon in Utah

  1. Willis Creek Slot Canyon – Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument 

  • Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, near Cannonville, Utah 
  • Distance: Approximately 4.8 miles round trip 
  • Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall 
  • Difficulty Level: Easy 

What sets Willis Creek apart is its gently flowing creek, which runs through the canyon floor, creating a tranquil and picturesque hiking experience. The canyon’s walls are not as towering or narrow as those in other slots, making it an excellent choice for families or those seeking a less strenuous journey.

Willis Creek Slot Canyon is also known for its accessibility. Unlike some other slot canyons that require technical skills or challenging hikes, Willis Creek offers a straightforward, family-friendly trail that allows visitors of all ages and abilities to experience the beauty of a slot canyon. 

Getting There: Willis Creek Slot Canyon is located off Skutumpah Road, which is a well-maintained dirt road accessible by most vehicles under normal conditions. The trailhead is about 45 minutes from the town of Cannonville, Utah. To reach the canyon, you’ll need to drive on Skutumpah Road for approximately 6 miles from the junction with Kodachrome Road. The road can be rough in places, so a high-clearance vehicle is recommended, especially after rain or snow. Once you arrive at the trailhead, you’ll find a small parking area and an information kiosk. From there, the trail descends into the creek bed, marking the beginning of your adventure through Willis Creek Slot Canyon. 

  1. Kanarra Creek Canyon – Kanarraville, Utah 

  • Location: Kanarraville, Utah 
  • Distance: Approximately 3.5 miles round trip 
  • Best Time to Visit: Late spring to early fall 
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate 

Kanarra Creek Canyon, often referred to as Kanarraville Falls, is a captivating slot canyon that offers a unique blend of hiking, creek walking, and ladder climbing. The canyon is known for its stunning waterfalls, which are accessed by climbing up a series of wooden ladders. One of the highlights of this hike is the photogenic waterfall that cascades down a narrow slot, with a ladder bolted to the rock face for hikers to ascend. The canyon’s lush vegetation, fed by the perennial stream, adds a touch of greenery to the red rock landscape, enhancing its beauty. 

Getting There: Kanarra Creek Canyon is located just east of the small town of Kanarraville, Utah. From Cedar City, take I-15 south to Exit 51 for Kanarraville. Follow 100 North Street eastward, which turns into Old US Hwy 91. Continue to the Kanarra Creek Trailhead parking area, which is well-marked and located on the south side of the road. A parking fee and hiking permit are required, which can be obtained online in advance due to the popularity of the trail. 

The Best Slot Canyons in Utah Guide Conclusion 

Utah’s southern region is home to some of the most spectacular slot canyons in the world, each offering a unique and unforgettable outdoor adventure. From the serene beauty of Willis Creek to the exhilarating climbs of Kanarra Creek Canyon, these natural wonders provide a diverse range of experiences for hikers and nature enthusiasts. 

For all your outdoor gear needs, General Army Navy Outdoor has you covered. Whether you’re gearing up for a slot canyon hike or any other outdoor adventure, you can find everything you need at our Taylorsville location or shop online.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Call Now Button Click to listen highlighted text!