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Slot canyons have always been the apple of an eye for photographers, hikers, backpackers, and Microadventurers around the globe. And why would slot canyons not be? The escalated red rock walls, tight corners, and spooky lighting under the blue sky would make anyone fall in love with them. If you are an adventurer and have not yet visited any slot canyons in Utah or Arizona, then you are missing something great. However, finding the best slot canyon can be quite overwhelming. This is a list of our favorite 10 slot canyons in Utah and Arizona for you:
The Subway at Zion National Park in Utah is one of the most visited slot canyons in the world by backpackers and canyoneers alike. The Subway is not for the faint at heart- it takes some work to get there.
There are two ways to explore The Subway. The first is from the left fork of the north creek, which requires a 9-mile hike in starting at the Zion Narrows. Known as the bottom-up route, to get to the Subway youll have wade through miles of the ice-cold river. However, it is comparatively an easier hike than the other option: the top-down hike. This approach is a 9.5-mile hike with a lot of route finding, scrambling, and a bit of rappelling.
The views of the slot canyon once you get there are incredible. Experience a nearly enclosed tunnel with several large pools of water, resting beside a quiet creek. Absolutely worth the hike in. The Subway is best for people who like to test their fitness and want a great reward at the end of their journey- which is why The Subway makes our list.
This is probably among the shortest slot canyon on our list but it is worth the trip regardless. Yankee Doodle Hollow will provide you with the magical view of Navajo sandstone in a tight canyon space. If youre into photography, get ready to have some of the best shots of your life. With deep, vibrant colors and picturesque scenes, this slot canyon is on the checklist of many tourists, especially canyoneers, so don t expect to have any me time here. The hike is a bit steep, but still, you will manage to access the canyon without any trouble.
As told by Jesse from Wandering on a Whim
Also referred to as Kanarra Falls or Kanarraville Falls, this hike near the famous Zion National Park offers a beautiful slot canyon experience. After a short stretch of a dusty road, the trail leads you to Kanarra Creek, which flows year-round through the heart of the canyon. Follow the canyon as it narrows, oftentimes trekking through the refreshingly cold water of the creek (proper footwear for water is highly suggested).
Tread carefully in the Kanarra Creeks slot canyon- you might just end up getting soaked! Photo from Wandering on a Whim.
A little less than two miles of hiking, the slot canyon and creek will bring you to a picturesque waterfall nestled between the colorful sandstone walls: 0.3 miles after the first waterfall, the canyon narrows again and reveals a second waterfall. The scenery intermittently opens up to lots of lush greenery, smaller waterfalls, and wading/ swimming spots throughout the creek. Around three miles from the trailhead the canyon views begin to disappear (most people turn around before or at this point).
Both of the main waterfalls require you to scramble up a ladder in order to continue past. These ladders are usually slick and a bit shaky- use caution and common sense when climbing.
One of the main falls and ladder on Kanarra Creek. Photo from Wandering on a Whim.
A permit is required for this hike. Permits currently cost $12 per person and can be obtained online or in-person at the trailhead if not sold out for the day (online is recommended as this is a very popular destination). The total distance of the hike depends on how far you choose to explore- if you turn around after the second waterfall, it s approximately four miles roundtrip. This overall easy hike is made more challenging by the two waterfall obstacles.
Located near the Little Wild Horse Canyon in Utah, Ding and Dang is one of our favorite slot canyons. It is an 8.4-mile less-crowded hike that offers very scenic views. The hike itself is a little challenging: lots of scrambling and avoiding pools of water. But if you have no issues getting wet, it won t be a problem. The short stretch of twisting and turning in the heart of Ding and Dang is what makes this slot canyon so much fun to hike.
A tight squeeze and complete with gymnastic-type moves in Ding and Dang. Photo from The Outdoor Vegan.
Located technically on the Navajo Reservation just southeast of Page, Arizona, Lower Antelope Canyon is the most popular slot canyon on our list. Because this slot canyon is located on and managed by the Navajo Reservation, permits and a guide are required. While that does sound scary and a hassle, it really isnt. Nearby Page offers half a dozen guiding companies that offer tours of this area. Tours range from $40-75 for 1.5 hours in Lower Antelope Canyon. Transportation to the slot canyon and a walking tour is standard for all of the guiding companies.
The slot canyon itself is unbelievable- we would consider it one of the great wonders of Arizona (on par with the Grand Canyon and Navajo tacos). The hike is very, very easy. Most people spend all of their time in Lower Antelope Canyon taking pictures of the light dancing on the sandstone walls. For any photographer, amateur or professional, Lower Antelope Canyon is a must-visit for your next trip to Arizona.
The longest slot canyon in the world, Buckskin Gulch offers over 30 miles of twists, turns, and narrow passageways. If you are looking for the ultimate slot canyon experience- Buckskin Gulch is it. While the first mile or so sees the most traffic from hikers, deeper than that, youll probably have the place to yourself. Expect the width of the slot canyon to vary from two feet at its narrowest and 15 feet at its widest. Most of the 30 miles of this slot canyon consist of flat hiking and wading through shallow water pools with two major exceptions: the Cesspools and the rock jam. Most hikers will only hike a few miles into Buckskin Gulch before turning around for the day. If you do have an extra two days in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area or Vermillion Cliffs, and are looking for the ultimate Microadventure, consider backpacking the entire slot canyon from Wire Pass to the Paria River confluence at Lees Ferry.
Staring into space: a trapped log deep in the heart of Buckskin Gulch.
The Narrows, found within Zion National Park, is one of the most legendary canyons in all of Utah, While technically a little too wide to be considered a slot canyon, weve added it to our list because it contains all of the attributes a normal slot canyon would: route finding, scrambling, being wet, and extraordinary fun.
The Narrows has soaring walls that sit at the base of the Virgin River. Most of your time in The Narrows will be spent either in the Virgin River directly or with wet feet as you hike along the rivers banks. Be prepared for cold water throughout the year- we actually recommend using a dry suit (for your lower half) and insulated water shoes or booties from late fall to late spring. The water is cold we cannot understate that.
The views are as legendary as the hike itself. Expect grand views of the tall canyon walls with dozens of waterfalls and greenery sprinkled throughout your hike.
A quiet scene in the heart of the Zion Narrows. About a mile from the famous Wall Street area.
As told by Jesse from Wandering on a Whim
A short and sweet canyon hike that feeds into Buckskin Gulch. The trail begins in the same area as The Wave , but does not require permits (although there is a day-use fee of $5, which can be paid at the trailhead).
Weaving through the desert, you will enter some small sections of the canyon, continuing further until the walls begin to rise steeply above you. Soon you ll understand where the name Wire Pass was derived from as the bottom of the canyon becomes dramatically narrow.
An overall easy hike, there is one section with about an eight-foot drop. When we last visited, there was a makeshift step created from logs, but if you don t feel confident in your ability to climb back up, don t go down! The canyon ends at a large intersection with Buckskin Gulch (where you can choose to continue hiking further in either direction). At this point to your right, there is a giant arch in the wall, as well as some ancient Petroglyphs to check out. If you turn around here and return to the trailhead, the distance is about 3.5 miles.
Taking in a serene moment in Wire Pass Canyon. Photo from Wandering on a Whim.
Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon and Spooky Gulch are two short and extremely narrow slot canyons within walking distance of each other just south of Escalante, Utah. Their names are truly justified: the slot canyons are very dark, eerie, and unbelievable narrow at parts. If you are claustrophobic, you might want to consider a different slot canyon entirely; Peek-A-Boo and Spooky might give you a touch of anxiety.
Because of their proximity to one another, they are often done on the same trip. In fact, its pretty common to do Peek-A-Boo first and finish out the hike with Spooky. While somewhat disputed, our estimates put the roundtrip hike at 2.5 miles with a roundtrip approach of three miles from the initial trailhead (total of 5.5 miles start-to-finish). The best thing about these two slot canyons is the physical and mental challenges involved. There are sections of Spooky that are literally itches wide- causing you to discover your flexibility and mental fortitude in a pinch. These two slot canyons are considered some of the best in Utah without any doubt.
Spooky corner in the heart of Spooky Canyon. Photo from The Outdoor Vegan.
This particular slot canyon is somewhat unique: imagine strokes of a white paintbrush on red sandstone walls amid an array of sandstone. This is exactly what Zebra Slot Canyon looks like, and it justifies its name. This slot canyon is one for the memory books. Zebra is not going to last for more than 12 minutes before you get shut in its grip and have to turn around. Similar to Peek-A-Boo and Spooky, there are sections that are inches wide- causing you to twist and turn your way through. The pure adrenaline and zebra-like texture on the walls make this our favorite slot canyon in both Utah and Arizona. You will remember this hike for years to come.
Utah and Arizonas slot canyons are the prime hikes if you are looking for a good time with a little Microadventure accompanied with twisting, turning, great photography opportunities, and lots of laughs as you step and jump over water pools. Both Utah and Arizona are home to some of the best slot canyons in the world. So make sure you take account of the weather conditions, lace up your water shoes, push any anxiety away, stretch, and jump right into a slot canyon near you.
Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When hes not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.
Slot Canyons of Utah: Are you looking to visit the slot canyons in Utah? You are in the right place. This list contains the most beautiful slot canyons in Utah and where they are located so you can plan your next visit!
Waterfall in Kanarra Creek Canyon, Zion National Park
A slot canyon is a formed by rushing water through rock, which over time forms a narrow canyon through rock. These flash floods have been happening for millions of years and the wind and erosion forms a tiny crack which eventually grows larger through the years.
Slot canyons can be both deep and narrow, from meters wide to just 10 inches wide. Slot canyons usually feature twists and turns, with beautifully colored walls ranging from reds to purples. Some canyons feature creeks and streams which you have to wade through, others are short and some are 20 mile long hikes.
Use this list to find the best slot canyons in Utah for you!
Location: 43-miles East of Kanab
Length: 21-miles one way
Two hikers dwarfed by Buckskin Gulch, located in southern Utah, it is one of the longest slot canyons in the world.
This is one of the longest slot canyons in the world and could take many days to hike the entirety of this canyon. The trail itself is not technical, however, due to the length it is considered a strenuous hike.
The route takes its visitors through a beautiful slot that is both dark and narrow. The hike can be completed in one day although, it is recommended to take on this hike as an overnight backpacking adventure. A permit is required for entrance into this slot canyon, whether your visit is for one day or overnight. This slot canyon is open year-round although, fall and spring is the most ideal time of year and hike this gorgeous slot canyon.
Location: 47-miles East of Kanab
Length: 3.5-miles roundtrip
Wire Pass slot canyon right before it converges with Buckskin Gulch. (in the background) Buckskin Gulch, located in southern Utah, it is one of the longest slot canyons in the world.
Wire Pass is a much shorter and easier slot canyon hike that joins the Buckskin Gulch. Entering the Buckskin Gulch through Wire Pass is a popular way to do the hike as it provides a convenient and easy way to access Buckskin Gulch without completing the first few miles which are both hard and not as beautiful as the remainder of the hike.
The trail through Wire Pass is a narrow path and provides for some amazing photo opportunities. This is due to the sun often illuminating on the sandstone walls of the can, providing some beautiful and amazing reflections and alternating colours through the canyon.
Location: Zion National Park
This is the little sister to the much more popular Zion Narrows slot canyon. Although, often seen as a hard or strenuous hike, it is a good choice for beginner hikers as well as the more experienced ones. For the majority of this trail, hikers will be required to walk through water.
Most of which, are just small puddles but depending on the conditions there might be much later pools that might require swimming. There are also some obstacles along the way that will require you to climb over and down, although this all adds to the amazing experience of this incredible slot canyon hike.
Location: Red Cliffs National Conservation Area
This is a short, easy, and fun slot canyon that used to be unexplored but in recent years has become a more popular canyon to visit.
Welcome to the interesting world of slot canyons. Slot canyons, sculptured by water over millions of years, offer an adventure experience that is amazing and vastly different from anything you've probably seen before. While not unique to Utah Arizona, slot canyons develop in this area as a result of the slickrock landscape and inevitable rainfall.
This is the book I used to find slot canyon hikes.
In contrast to the Grand Canyon which is a mile deep and ten miles across, a slot canyon can have walls that are only a few feet (or even inches) apart and be so enclosed that sunlight rarely reaches the bottom. Slot canyons offer an intimate experience on a small scale versus an overwhelming experience on a massive scale.
The granddaddy of all slot canyons is The Narrows in Zion National Park. Walls rise nearly 2000 feet and are only 30 feet apart at the extremes. Other slot canyons have a different appeal and are unique in their own way. For more information about Narrows, please visit the Exploring Zion National Park page. Following is a representative list of slot canyons.
Follow the link for a list of suggested books. See an overview map of the Escalante/Page/Lake Powell vicinity.
| Technical Slot Canyon Guide to the Colorado Plateau |
Michael R. Kelsey; Paperback; Buy New: $11.16
Drive up and walk-in. Most photogenic.
Zion National Park, Utah
Follow this link for more information about The Narrows and Orderville Canyon. Be sure to visit the Canyon Country Gallery to see pictures.
Escalante National Monument, Utah
Peak-A-Boo - Entrance Double Arch
Peak-A-Boo, Spooky and Brimstone Gulches are 3 distinct slot canyons accessible in a single day hike. Peak-A-Boo is fairly short and shallow slot that gets plenty of sunlight. It's got a smooth texture and light color (picture). Peak-A-Boo is the first of the three slots. Continue far enough into Peak-A-Boo and you'll eventually climb out the top at the end. Spooky is completely different. It's a narrow affair with a rough texture and dark color. It gets so narrow in places that you have to suck in your stomach (ok, maybe it's just me) and contort your body to get through some of the water contours. It eventually becomes so narrow it's impassable. Further down the trail, you eventually arrive at Brimstone Gulch. I would wager that a good percentage of people don't go as far as Brimstone Gulch. Most probably visit Peak-A-Boo and Spooky and then leave. It's a fairly long walk to include a round trip to Brimstone (add approx. 2.5 miles). There's also a boulder obstacle not too far from Spooky. If you have the time and energy, it's worth the extra effort. Brimstone is narrow, deep and dark. so dark in places that you can't see and have to feel your way along. Bring a flashlight if you plan to hike Brimstone. Use appropriate caution in all your hiking; but especially here. There's not much traffic back in this area. One guy got stuck in Brimstone and was found (alive) after about a week. He'd apparently tried to navigate one of the narrower spaces and got himself stuck between the walls. He was lucky enough to be found by some unwitting hikers.
Access is via the Hole in the Rock Road along highway 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah. The Hole in the Rock Road is a grated dirt road for most of its length. Take a lot of water if you plan to take this trip. If your car breaks down, it could be a long while before anyone shows up. Use caution when taking the side roads to the trailheads, they can be rough or even impassable. A high clearance vehicle would have made the trip more pleasant; but isn't required to access the Peak-A-Boo trailhead (when the road is dry). Check locally to determine road conditions to your destination. There are a couple of ranger stations in the area (Boulder and Escalante) that can provide more information.
To reach the trailhead: drive south on Hole in the Rock Road from highway 12. You'll pass Cat Well and Early Weed Bench around mile 24. Continue approx 2.5 miles. You should see a lone juniper tree on the right with 2 trunks. A short distance after the tree, turn left and continue about 1.5 miles to the trailhead 1 .
Get a good topographic map if you plan to visit this area. Carry a lot of water and keep a lot of water in your vehicle. An online topographic map is available here. Be advised that the online map isn't detailed enough for hiking; but offers a more detailed view of the area.
I camped overnight at the Calf Creek campground and hiked to the Lower Calf Creek Falls on a different day. Note: there's no water available in the campground in late October, early November as they shut it off for the winter. Fill up extra water containers in Escalante or Boulder.
A four wheel drive vehicle opens up more options to explore Escalante. If you plan to spend more than a couple of days in the area, you probably wish you had one.
Navajo Nation, Arizona (near Page)
Antelope Canyon is the most photogenic of all the slot canyons and is a popular destination with photographers, especially in the summer when the lighting is best. (photo 1) (photo 2)
Antelope Canyon is a couple of miles east of Page, Arizona along highway 98. You should see a parking area on the right side of the highway for upper Antelope Canyon. To reach Lower Antelope Canyon (aka Corkscrew Canyon or The Corkscrew), continue a few hundred yards east on highway 98 and turn left onto a paved road that takes you to a second parking area. If you drive east past the power plant, you've gone too far.
Following is the list of ways you can reach Antelope Canyon:
- hire a guide to take you to Upper Antelope Canyon
- drive yourself to the Upper Antelope Canyon parking area and pay at the gate
- drive yourself to Lower Antelope Canyon (no guide service)
If you hired a guide to take you to Upper Antelope Canyon and you want to visit Lower Antelope Canyon, you'll have to drive yourself back to the Lower Antelope Canyon parking area after the guide takes you back to your car in town. I f you drive yourself to Upper Antelope Canyon, you can simply drive across the street. It's only a couple of miles either way, just something to consider.
Keep your receipts from your visit to Upper Antelope Canyon as it proves that you've already paid the Navajo Reservation entry fee. You'll probably still have to pay the Lower Antelope Canyon entry fee.
Driving yourself to Upper Antelope Canyon may be cheaper; but may also affect how long you can stay. There will be someone at the ticket booth who will shuttle you to from the parking area entrance. Hiring a guide may allow you to stay in the canyon longer. I hired a guide because I thought they were required. The guide will give you a brief tour and then leave you on your own. My allowed time was from 10:00-1:30 for $44 in 2001. The upper part is not very long and can be exhaustively explored in a short time; however, if you are looking to get some pictures, it will take a while. Good photo spots are often occupied so you might have to wait.
Visitors to Antelope Canyon should expect a crowd. This is not an adventure experience. It's a drive-up and walk in experience. You'll have to navigate around a number of photographers with heavy equipment. Each will expect you to wait until their exposure is complete before passing. In spite of these inconveniences, it is still worth the trip especially if you are interested in photography. Take a free standing tripod and a cable release (self timer is an option but can be irritating to others if it beeps). Low film speeds may also require the use of an external light meter if your camera doesn't support shutter speeds over 2 seconds. For best results, don't use a flash.
Upper Antelope Canyon receives the majority of visitors and is the better destination for photographers. Lower Antelope Canyon is more intriguing, longer, deeper and more of an adventure.
It was in the lower part where 11 people died on August 12, 1997 as the result of a flash flood. Nine of the eleven were visitors from European countries (7 French, 1 Great Britain, 1 Sweden), 2 were Americans. 1
Paria Canyon - Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness
(south border of Escalante National Monument)
near Page, Arizona
Buckskin Gulch is perhaps the longest slot canyon in the world. It's 100 to 200 feet deep and 30 to 50 feet wide for more than 12 miles. (photo)
From Page, Arizona travel west on highway 89 until you reach the Paria ranger station. You can stop here to obtain more information about the area including a map. To reach the Wire Pass trailhead, continue west on 89 to an unmarked, gravel road on the left (south) at 0.8 miles past mile marker 25. You'll see the road just after highway 89 crests the top of a hill. The unmarked road is known as the House Rock Valley Road. It's about 34 miles from Page to the turnoff. Don't be fooled by the weedy, overgrown vehicle tracks nearer the top of the hill, go a little further. As you crest the hill, you'll see highway 89 curve off to the right ahead of you. House Rock Valley Road heads south of 89 just as you would begin rounding the turn.
The House Rock Valley Road can be a bumpy ride in a passenger vehicle and may require a 4-wheel drive when wet or after storm run-off has washed out sections of the road. It's advisable to check road conditions at the Paria ranger station and confirm your understanding of the directions.
After turning south from 89, stay left at mile 2.5 where the right fork goes to Five Mile Mountain. At mile 4.4 you'll pass through a wash. Follow the road passed the turnoff to the Buckskin Gulch trailhead about a quarter mile after the wash. You'll eventually reach the Wire Pass trailhead 8.4 miles south of 89. The Wire Pass trailhead is the shortest and most popular route to reach Buckskin Gulch. Wire Pass is also an interesting portion of the hike that you'd miss taking other trailheads.
It's about a 3.4 mile round trip from the trailhead through Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch. It's up to you how much distance you'd like to add hiking Buckskin Gulch from here. Buckskin Gulch is 12.5 miles long eventually reaching the Paria river.
The hike through Wire Pass requires navigation of two obstacles. In October of 2001, a ladder was in place to assist hikers over these challenges. If you need the ladder to get down the 2nd obstacle, you should keep in mind that anyone going the opposite direction can move it to help them up the first one. Thus, it might not be there when you get back. As a result, you should be confident that you can climb the 2nd obstacle without the ladder.
Log jams occasionally appear overhead indicating that water can get deep. Check the weather before you go and don't hike this area if there is rain in the forecast.
Online topographic map (here).
Canyonlands National Park - Needles District, Utah
The Joint Trail is an interesting hike through varied types of terrain. You can access this trail by driving to the Chesler Park trailhead (4-wheel drive, high clearance) or hiking from the Elephant Hill trailhead
Another Needles hike that you might enjoy is to the Confluence Overlook. There's not a lot to see on this hike until the overlook itself; but it's impressive. This is where the Green River and Colorado River meet. The three pieces of the pie represent the different districts of Canyonlands. Across the river to the left you can see The Maze, to the right is Island in the Sky (you're in The Needles). It's an 11 mile hike (round trip) from the Big Spring Canyon Overlook trailhead at the end of the road. Take along a map of the area and plenty of water. There is little shade on this hike.
A few quick notes about visiting Canyonlands - Needles District (photo, photo):
* make sure you're well stocked prior to arrival. If you don't make it to the area's only convenience store before they close, it's a minimum of 100 mile round trip to get supplies (i.e. ice).
* don't plan to listen to the radio (no stations here)
* camp sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Call the ranger station to see if there are sufficient openings to improve your chances of getting a site. Arrive early. If the campground is full, there are some public campgrounds outside the park along the road.
* The three areas of Canyonlands are Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze. Island in the Sky is just outside Moab, UT up the road from Arches National Park. It's a really neat place to spend a day; but probably not too much longer. The Maze is the most remote area in the lower 48 states. Only the most prepared and experienced desert hikers should plan trips in The Maze. The Needles offers a remote feeling and enough hiking for 2-3 days.
* a four wheel drive vehicle opens up a lot of options to explore that are not available otherwise. For example, I don't have a four wheel drive so had to hike 11 miles to the Confluence Overlook. You can nearly drive right to it in a four wheel drive. A mountain bike can also be used on the 4-wheel drive roads (not allowed on hiking trails). ATV's not allowed.
More information about Canyonlands can be obtained on the National Park Service web site.
Zion National Park, Utah
See the Exploring Zion National Park page for more information about hiking The Subway.
If youre into space travel, you can experience the next best thing by hopping on a plane to Vegas, renting an SUV, and booking it around Utah / Arizona / Nevada. My boyfriend and I planned a 9 day backpacking trek that covered 1200 miles of slot canyons and red mountains through this area. It was one of the most other-wordly (and cheapest) trips of my life. Below is a a chronicle of our trip, including where we found free camping, where we showered (yes, I insisted on showering every few days), and a few key lessons we learned.
*I saved photos for the end of the post due to formatting issues, so scroll to the end to follow the Mars Loop in photos*
(1) Flight to Vegas.
We flew into Vegas on a Tuesday and rented a Jeep Patriot from the airport. The Patriot was amazing… We abused the hell out of it on rocky canyon roads, plus lived out of it for 9 days, and it never disappointed. Id strongly recommend it, or a similar 4 wheel-drive vehicle. Another interesting option, if you dont want to tent camp, is to rent a campervan from Escape or a similar dealer.
(2) Hoover Dam En Route to the Grand Canyon.
It was well worth a 45-60 minute delay on our way to the Grand Canyon to check out Hoover Dam. Its right off the road (youll see the signs).
(3) Grand Canyon South Rim (by mistake).
Our first planned stop was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We ended up at the South Rim, due to my excellent mapping skills. Pro Tip If you stop at Hoover Dam, it will be easier to visit the South Rim (and GPS will likely try to map you there). South Rim Pros Theres a great trail from top to bottom of the GC, the views are incredible, and you can camp off of US Forest Service dirt roads near the airport. South Rim Cons Its extremely crowded, and took us a few hours out of our way (next stop was The Wave in Kanab, UT).
(4) Glen Canyon / Lake Powell Page, Arizona
We planned to go straight to Kanab post-Grand Canyon to try our luck in The Wave lottery. Due to our mapping mishaps, we hit Lake Powell / Glen Canyon first. We happened upon Wahweap campground around 11PM. It had paid showers, laundry, and open spots. We also found that you could camp without paying if you left before 7AM. We ended up staying there 2 nights since it always had open spots (we paid the second night), and we could shower. Youre right on Lake Powell, the views are incredible, and youre within 1-1.5 hours driving distance of a number of incredible attractions, including: The Wave, Buckskin Gulch, Coyote Buttes, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon.
Free camping off of 89. One of the most fun parts of the trip was the nightly treasure hunt for the best spot to park and camp. If youre into this, you can camp off of any US Forest Service road, or anywhere off of 89, which runs through Utah and Arizona (and beyond). We found a few good spots up against the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which spans this entire area.
(5) The Elusive Wave Kanab, Utah
We came, we saw, we lost The Waves lottery. Color me not surprised… The Waves (Coyote Buttes North) lottery is located at the visitor center for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Kanab. There were about 40 applications (so 90ish people total that were attempting to see The Wave), and 10 of the lucky ones got the passes. The lottery for Coyote Buttes North (The Wave) runs at 9AM, and the lottery for Coyote Buttes South runs at 9:30 or 10. For photos from a writer who got to see The Wave, check out this post.
(6) Buckskin Gulch / The Wave Trailhead Kanab, Utah
Even if you dont win the lottery, its still worth heading to The Waves trailhead to hike around, try to catch a glimpse of it from above, and check out Buckskin Gulch, an awesome slot canyon. We hiked this area twice: Once when we got quite lost following what turned out not to be a trail (however, we ended up seeing something that looked at lot like The Wave from above…), and again when we hiked Buckskin Gulch. A few key points…
(7) Horseshoe Bend Page, Arizona
On our way back from The Wave / Buckskin Gulch, we quickly drove to the other side of Glen Canyon to check out Horseshoe Bend. Its a 10 minute walk from the parking lot, and the views are terrifyingly beautiful. Similar to the Grand Canyon, you walk right up to the edge of a sheer drop off hundreds of feet high. From the main vantage point, you see camping spots for those able to obtain backcountry permits in this area.
(8) Antelope Canyon Page, Arizona
I expected the least from Antelope Canyon, yet it was my favorite part of the trip. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon thats broken into two portions: Upper (the Crack) and Lower (the Corkscrew). You can access it by tour or by kayaking into it. We opted for the latter. We rented a kayak from Antelope Point and paddled a few miles to the entrance of (I believe) Upper Antelope Canyon. It was stunning miles of uninterrupted, martian-like landscape. We saw nearly no one and were free to explore as long as we wanted since we didnt go with a guided tour. This is a must-see if youre in this region.
(9) Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Bryce is the lost city of Atlantis found… The main amphitheater containing thousands of hoodoos (odd-shaped rock pillars that were formed over many years by erosion) is one of the most alien things Ive ever seen. We only had one power day in Bryce before we headed to Zion, plus it was Memorial Day weekend and exceptionally crowded, so we didnt do anything too far off the beaten path. However, we did find amazing truck camping sites on a long, winding US Forest Service road within the park. There were miles of camp spots ranging from ones that were less exposed and closer to the hoodoos (pictured below), to those located high atop peaks overlooking the stunning pink and white mountain ranges (also pictured below). And, for others who need to shower once in awhile, theres a campground run by the National Park Service right inside an entrance (and close to the aforementioned USFS road) with paid showers. (If youd like to reach out to Bryce Canyon directly for more info, please contact them here).
(10) Zion National Park Utah
Surprisingly, Zion was my least favorite stop on the trip. This may have been due to the crowds and that we had to be bussed around (and wait for an hour in line for each bus) to get from the entrance side of the park to the hiking areas (also, we went on Memorial Day weekend, which I wouldnt recommend doing…). That said, there are a number of amazing experiences in Zion, so its well worth seeing.
On day 1, we hiked / scrambled up Angels Landing. The views are insane, and it is one of the most famous and thrilling hikes in the national park system. The hike to the peak took us 2 to 3 hours, when it should have only taken 1, due to the sheer number of people attempting to scramble up chains on a narrow cliff. It was a bit terrifying because lots of people who had no business attempting the hike were heading up, and you had to hug the cliff ledge to let others past on the chains somewhat frequently. Was the view worth it? You can decide for yourself from the photos below. If you are going to attempt the hike, its best to arrive and start before 8 or 9 AM. This will help you avoid the big crowds.
On day 2, we hiked and floated the famous Zion Narrows, and it was pretty amazing. We rented dry suits and a giant walking stick, which I found essential to the experience since the water was 50 degrees and you walked upstream in small rapids. The dry suits also are buoyant, so after you hike as far as you desire to go upstream, you can use them to float through the rapids, which is really fun.
Tip Try to get a Subway permit. We didnt know it existed, but it looks amazing. However, it seems the permits are nearly as difficult to obtain as those for The Wave, so plan for it in advance. We (obviously) werent able to obtain a permit.
Entrances Truck Camping One of my favorite parts of Zion was the trip down (you guessed it) highway 89 through the east side entrance that traversed a 1.1 mile tunnel and the Zion Scenic Drive. Be sure to pay attention during this because you will drive by some of the coolest scenery in the park. We truck camped one night in Zion. We stayed near Kolob Canyon Entrance, which (I believe) is the entrance and road you use to access The Subway. It was hands down my favorite camping spot. We were up against ancient, crumbling mini-cliffs on one side, and had a vast view of all of Zion on the other side. See for yourself in the photos below…
Paid Showers We found paid showers in Zion Mountain School on the main drag of the Zion resort town.
(11) Red Rock Canyon Vegas Pools Las Vegas, Nevada
If you can tag 24 hours in Vegas onto the end of your trip, its well worth it. We found a good deal (since it was off season for Vegas) on Red Rock Resort. We spent our final 20ish hours swimming, drinking, and checking our Red Rock Canyon (which has some excellent climbing spots) before hopping on a plane to come back.
Mars Loop in Photos.
First Stop Hoover Dam. Hanging on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. View of Lake Powell from our Jeep at Wahweap Campground. Jeep Campsite off Highway 89 in Utah. Shortcut between Highway 89 and House Rock Valley Road to The Wave and Buckskin Gulch. Off Roading on the Shortcut in North Coyote Buttes, Arizona. Buckskin Gulch. Buckskin Gulch. Buckskin Gulch. Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon. Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon. And Patricks Eagle Shirt… Kayaking Lake Powell into Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon.
Working out in Antelope Canyon. Lounging in Antelope Canyon. Truck Camping off US Forest Service Roads inside Bryce Canyon. Scrambling inside Bryce Canyon near our US Forest Service Road Campsite. The Highest Campsite on our US Forest Service Road inside Bryce Canyon. Peak in the Distance of the Highest Campsite on our US Forest Service Road in Bryce Canyon. Angels Landing, Zion National Park. Angels Landing, Zion National Park. Angels Landing, Zion National Park. Zion Narrows, Zion National Park. Zion Narrows, Zion National Park. Our Best Truck Camping Spot of the Trip Campsite off Kolob Canyon Road outside Zion National Park. Our Best Truck Camping Spot of the Trip Campsite off Kolob Canyon Road outside Zion National Park. View of Red Rocks Canyon from Red Rocks Resort Casino in Las Vegas.
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