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Making decisions is hard, #amirite? There are so many choices in this modern world! Should I diversify my IRA or bury it in the backyard? Depends on your short-term goals. Should I get a turtle or a dirtbike? Could go either way. Should I hike a slot canyon this year? That one is simple: Yes!
Southern Utah has more tiny, narrow cracks than a shattered iPhone screen.
Slot canyons are nice because you don t have to make very many decisions in them. Carved by wind, water and dinosaur tears, slot canyons can be hundreds of feet deep and so narrow you have to cram yourself through sideways. (There s one near Zion called Fat Man s Misery.) Another benefit, among many, is that their unique shape and basic astrophysics means slot canyons are shady all but a few minutes a day, making them a pleasant respite from the relentless summer sun!
A word to the wise: Slot canyons can be as dangerous as they are beautiful, much like Kevin Bacon. Much like a giant, bloodthirsty sandworm, flash floods can sneak up on you quick. Rainwater collects from the non-absorbent plateau and drains into these canyons creating an instantaneous wall of water.
DO NOT ENTER A SLOT CANYON IF IT IS RAINING, IF IT HAS RAINED IN THE PAST 24 HOURS OR IF RAIN IS FORECASTED.
Flash flood warning signs:
Seek high ground immediately! Don t worry about foot vibrations; just get out of there. Even climbing a few feet could save your life. Check the weather and talk to the appropriate park/BLM authority before you go. And finally, plan an alternative itinerary in case the weather turns against you. If you reeeally want to gamble with slots, go to Vegas. That ll ruin you too, but more slowly.
The entirety of Buckskin Gulch canyon is one of the longest slots in the world. Or so proclaims the internet. And the internet is always interesting? . a spectrum of truth and falsehoods?
Really though, to hike the whole thing would take a few days, a precious permit and some technical gear. Sounds fun! Maybe not with the kids though. Try this: Buckskin Gulch via the Wire Pass trailhead. Wire Pass winds through a spectacularly striated little slot canyon to Buckskin Gulch. There are a few obstacles to toss the kids over (don t toss the kids; that s a joke, an internet falsehood, fake news), but nothing prohibitive and round trip it is only 3.5 miles! Do-able for a sturdy five-year-old. Look for petroglyphs at the junction of the two canyons. Bask in the real truthiness of it all.
This place is perfect for all the wobbly little foals in your life. A stone's throw from Goblin Valley a Burning Man of strange and playful sandstone goblins Little Wild Horse is a strange and playful sandstone canyon. Smaller in scale than, say, the Narrows, its dry, sandy wash is friendly to all abilities. The kids will naturally propel themselves along the twists and turns with nary an expletive from parents. The entire loop (up Little Wild Horse and down Bell Canyon) is about eight miles a liiiittle too long for kids who aren t a pre-Prefontaine, perhaps but families can explore at their leisure until it s time to return to the car for more fruit snacks (or kale, or spelt, or gluten-free chia pet seeds, or whatever kids eat these days). If they re having too much fun galloping about and ignore your call to head back, tell them you ll call the BLM about some little wild horses in Goblin Valley that need to be immunized. The feds are coming! With the vacciiiiines!! RUUUUUNNNNNNNN! Threats don t work with kids but it doesn't hurt to try.
Have you ever wanted to be bear-hugged by the earth? A nice, firm, sandy squeeze that lingers so long it becomes awkward. Earth! you say, I like you, but I don t like-like you. Oh, Earth says, a little embarrassed. I just thought maybe you and I No, Earth. No. Our kind cannot be together. We would destroy each other.
If you ve never had this conversation, dear reader, you ve never been to Spooky Gulch. Located along Hole in the Rock Road in Escalante Canyons country, Spooky and Peek A Boo Slot Canyons make a great half-day adventure. Start at the bottom of naturally sculpted Peek A Boo and climb up, passing under a few arches and over a few potholes (usually dry). From the top, follow the cairns over slickrock and sand to the entrance of Spooky. Leave your backpack behind. Shed any unnecessary layers: fun hats, push-up bras, ironic mustaches, fanny packs, babies in baby carriers, the ticket to Tremors 7 in your front pocket. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope and nope. Slide sideways through this narrowest of the earth s crevices and ponder how a canyon can taper so. Kids love this part! Finally an activity they can accomplish more swiftly than adults. Send them to get help when you find yourself trapped hard in Earth s awkward embrace.
Sometimes you just need a calm, dependable slot canyon. No 10-inch-wide walls closing in on you, no frigid water to wade or swim through, no rappelling or scrambling or climbing. Like a nice hallway. Furniture Draw is the family-friendly slot canyon you ve been searching for. Bring sunscreen.
The Narrows in Zion National Park is the one slot canyon to rule them all. The grand dame of gorge-ous divisions. The Citizen Kane of sightly crevasses. The head honcho of heavenly chasms. The Patti Labelle of parted pathways. The Phil Collins of fault-less canyons. The Beyonce of handsome breaches. In some places the walls rise 1,000 feet above you and the canyon narrows to 20 feet across. It s almost as dramatic as the rise of Kevin Bacon (the Meryl Streep of actors).
There are a couple ways to go about the Narrows:
1. Start from the bottom at Temple of Sinawava and mosey upstream in the Virgin River. No, not along the river: IN the river. Bring (or rent from local outfitters) some great water shoes and a walking stick for stability on slippery rocks. Sometimes vintage walking sticks au naturel (aka discarded branches) can be found at the beginning of the hike. Continue up the river for two or three hours and arrive at Wall Street, the narrowest section of the canyon. Gawk. Go back from whence you came. Or amble on for a bit; the farther up the canyon you go, the fewer humans you ll share it with.
2. This hike can also be a 16-mile multi-day trip from the top, granted you are lucky enough to win a permit and popular/rich enough to arrange a shuttle. It's worth a try!
This out-and-back trail is short, but don t think you re getting off easy. It s all boulders, all the time. You ll be walking between boulders and towering rock walls, scrambling over boulders, even climbing between cracks in boulders that fell from the cliffs at some point in time. (Don t think too hard about that, but don t not think about it either. Falling rock is a risk here.) Boulders, boulders and more boulders.Kids can totally take this trail, but there is one spot where a generous previous hiker secured a rope to a 15-foot boulder that you will need to scale. Your options are to loosen up that protective instinct and let your offspring give it a try, or hit the gym starting now so you can lift them up to a trusty partner who has braved the rock first.At the end of the trail is a lovely waterfall that has yet more boulders and a rope to climb it, but climbing this spot isn t recommended unless you come prepared with rock-climbing gear.Note that this trail is on private property, but the public currently has permission to scurry and scramble their way through. Check before you go to make sure that s still true and also that there isn t water in the canyon.
Zebra Slot Canyon delivers exactly what it promises: some really cool zebra-ish stripes on its narrow walls that are sure to make you the coolest kid on Instagram. That is, if you re tough enough to earn them. You ll enjoy a roasty walk through the desert and Harris Wash to get to the slot canyon, which does not take too long to slither through. (And slithering is about what you should expect at one point the canyon focuses down to a 10-inch gap. Suck it in!) There are watery spots as well, and while you may see people leaving their shoes at the entrance, you d be better off hoisting your kicks aloft as you ford the chilly pits. There are places in the canyon that you might not be able to do barefoot. And then you won t get those Instagram shots of the zebra stripes at the end. And then you ll be sad. However, do leave your backpack at the entrance as there s no room for that baby. If you really want to go for the gold, you can keep going through the zebra stripes to the dry fall on the other side where the canyon opens back up again, but this is no small feat and most people treat that trek as an out-and-back. But if you re still feeling un-slot-isfied after Zebra Slot Canyon, you can head back to Harris Wash and continue on your merry way to nearby Tunnel Slot Canyon.
Willis Creek is one of those unexpected, under-respected kinds of places. Nearby, flashier neighbors like Bryce Canyon and Kodachrome Basin State Park steal all the thunder. Because who can top colorful sandstone spires or golden arches shining in the sun? Willis Creek Slot Canyon, that s who! Or maybe top isn t the right word. Complement. Willis Creek Slot Canyon is the perfect complement to its fabulous canyon friends. With its trickling creek and gorgeous canyon walls, Willis Creek is the friend you almost forgot to invite but turns out to be the life of the party.
The trail starts out through brush and trees, then takes a turn down toward Willis Creek. After that, you ll follow along with the creek the rest of the way. Your feet will get wet so plan accordingly. The canyon walls start off low and comfy but the farther you go, the more they close in on you until you re snuggled in the earth s warm clutches. ( No means no, Earth!) The hike is fun for all and great for kids, who will enjoy skipping their way through the creek. Check conditions before you go. Rain can cancel the viability of not only the slot canyon but also Skutumpah Road by which you access it.
Zion National Park is home to more than one slot canyon. While the Narrows may be the Preciousssss, the Subway is still a classic, like Breakfast at Tiffany s or Casablanca or the first Star Wars (the original one, before George Lucas discovered CGI). But be aware that the Subway will kick your booty into next week and you shouldn t underestimate it. It s a tough, semi-technical journey, especially leaving the canyon when there s nothing to look forward to but your job and the melted fruit snacks in your car. But on the way in, you ll be looking forward to one of the most beautiful slot canyons in Utah.
The top-down route is the classic way to get to this classic canyon. This route involves wading, scrambling, slip-sliding, climbing your way down the Left Fork of the North Creek. Expect a long, hard 6 10 hour day with a few rappels, down-climbs and a couple surprisingly chilly swimming sessions. But all work and no play makes Jack/ie a dull climber, so take plenty of time to use all your senses. The reward for all your work: the tubular in both senses rock formations that give the hike its name. They re just a smidge photogenic.
If technical climbing isn t your bag of gummy worms, you can also start and end your climb at the Left Fork Trailhead, which is about 8.2 miles up the Kolob Terrace Road from Virgin, Utah. This route is not technical and you can still see some waterfalls and the lower Subway formations. It s still a slog, though, and you ll be hiking for 5 9 hours, and the scenery is not nearly as great as the top-down route.
Note that you will need a permit as this hike has become so popular that visitors are now limited to 80 per day. You can get a permit from the National Park Service a few months in advance through a lottery process, or cross your fingers for a last-minute drawing two to seven days before you d like to go.
Slot canyons are extremely narrow canyons that can measure as narrow as 3 ft. in width and as deep as 300 ft. They are formed over millions of years as water, wind, and larger sedimentary particles erode existing channels in the earth s surface. Slot canyons mostly occur among softer rock types like sandstone and limestone, and their formation is rare mostly because they demand certain climactic characteristics regarding regional rainfall and temperature. Though conditions for formation are particular and demanding, Utah boasts the highest density of slot canyons in the world, with hundreds of those slot canyons being found in Kane County.
Where is it?
Though slot canyons generously dot the region, they are most popularly found in the following areas: Zion National Park, the Grand Staircase, the Paria Canyons region, and the Lake Powell region.
What do you do there? What do you see there? What is most interesting about it? Why I would enjoy visiting this place? How do I get there? When can I go?
Zion National Park boasts perhaps the most famous of the slot canyons in Utah the Zion Narrows. Though this slot canyon ranks as the easiest to traverse within Zion National Park, it is 16 miles long and requires 13 hours to traverse. It includes slippery rocks, river hiking, and some swimming.
Another famous slot canyon within the park is The Subway. Though it requires only 8 hours to traverse and is a shorter length at only 11 miles, it is more difficult. Hikers attempting this slot canyon must be adept at rappelling and down climbing, in addition to the regular river hiking and swimming.
In addition to the numberless slot canyons within the boundaries of the park, there are a variety of breathtaking canyons located just outside the park. For these canyons, hikers may opt to hire a guide for a jeep tour an interesting and exciting way to explore these twisting canyons.
Zion National Park is open year-round, though admittance to certain areas is dependent on weather conditions. The park may be accessed from I-15 to UT-9 or from US-89 to UT-9.
The Escalante River region within Kane County also contains countless slot canyons. Some of this region s highlights include Davis and Llewellyn Gulch. Davis Gulch is quite spectacular and includes tortuous, narrow paths that are perfect for exploration. To access this Gulch requires a 50-mile drive along Hole-in-the Rock Road. In Llewellyn Gulch, hikers experience magnificent scenery as they begin at a sandy wash at the base of 1500-foot cliffs, which soon deepens. Later in the hike, for approximately a mile, the gulch is very narrow, and its walls are a breathtaking canvas of light red and orange. It is 7 miles south of the main river within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Booker Canyon is only one of the numerous slot canyons in the Paria River region. Its walls are composed of thin, curved strata of pale sandstone and the canyon itself feels remote and largely untouched. It is 32 miles north of US 89 and is 6.7 miles from Kodachrome Basin State Park.
The slot canyons in the Lake Powell area are too numerous to recount in full, but they include Butler Canyon, Maidenwater Canyon, and Poison Spring Canyon. Some of the slot canyons in the Lake Powell region are best explored by boat.
Some other notable slot canyons in Southern Utah are Peekaboo, Buckskin Gulch/Wirepass, Bull Valley Gorge, Lick Wash, Willis Creek, Cottonwood Narrows, Huntress, and many, many more! When you arrive in Kanab, stop by our Visitor Center to learn more about these great slot canyons and how to get to them.
Slot canyons can be very dangerous during monsoon season. Southern Utah usually sees its monsoon season during July and August each year. These monsoon storms can bring very heavy bouts of rain. Even if the precipitation is not falling in the direct area of the slot canyon you may be exploring, rainfall from many miles away can quickly fill drainage that empties into the slot canyon youre in. Always check local weather reports before you venture into any slot canyon. If youre unsure if the rainy weather will affect the slot canyon youre interested in just ask a local, they would have some of the best insight.
Want to visit the awesome Antelope Canyon? Utah offers all kinds of adventurous day trips for visitors start planning your getaway today.
Explore up to 20 miles of trails for an unforgettable day hike in Buckskin Gulch in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Of all the stops on Burr, there s really nothing like the little slot canyon at an inconspicuous turnoff 11.5 miles down from the starting point. Some locals of Boulder, Utah, call this slot canyon on the Burr Trail, Singing Canyon. When you go, you know exactly why.
Among the exceptionally beautiful slot canyon hikes in the southern San Rafael area, Little Wild Horse Canyon is a classic, as well as the perfect introduction both to non-technical canyoneering for just about anyone in decent shape. The nearby Ding and Dang Canyons are a bit more difficult, and best suited for experienced hikers.
Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons in the Dry Fork area of Escalante Utah offer backpacking hikers scenic views without special gear or know-how.
Simply hike into Willis Creek Narrows, a southern Utah slot canyon, for easy, scenic adventures of less than 5-miles (round trip) and many creek crossings.
Deep, spectacular canyons with lots of water make Zion the ONLY place for canyoneering at the height of summer. A few dramatic, technical routes challenge the veteran canyoneer, but most routes in Zion offer more beauty than challenge, with well-established anchors that make them a good place for folks to start their canyoneering careers. While many people consider Zion crowded and over-civilized - with permit and access issues getting in the way of a wilderness experience - away from the ten most-popular canyons can be found much wilderness and adventure. Easily worth a week - or a month! - of exploration!
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