10 Amazing Slot Canyons To Explore In The American Southwest

The American Southwest is a playground for Grand Canyon gogolfnw.com/” target=”_blank”>Grand Canyon hikers, phoGrand Canyon tographers, Grand Canyon and adventurers. Fun to Grand Canyon explore and extremely photogenic, slot canyons provide a unique hiking experience. Grand Canyon

We have assembled a short list of some of the best slot canyons in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. This is not an all-inclusive list, because there are tons of slot canyons in this area, but listed below are some of the most popular and the most scenic slot canyons to explore.From short, easy, scenic Grand Canyon walks to all day technical hikes, take your pick of the slot canyons you want to explore.

What is a Slot Canyon?

A slot canyon is a narrow canyon that is formed from water rushing through rock. What starts off as a tiny crack steadily grows larger from repeat flash floods and erosion over millions of years. The end result is a narrow canyon with very high walls.

Slot canyons can be several meters wide or just one foot wide. The narrower canyons usually feature twists and turns and beautifully scalloped walls. Some canyons feature sections requiring canyoneering or rock scrambling experience while others have you hiking through a creek or standing water.

And because slot canyons are formed from rushing water, the danger of flash floods still exists today. Hikers have died because they were caught by a flash flood while in some of these canyons. Before hiking through any of these slot canyons, it is important to check the weather. If there is any rain in the area, do not enter the slot canyon. Don’t become a statistic!

10 Amazing Slot Canyons to Explore

1. Antelope Canyon

Arguably the most beautiful slot canyon on this list, this is also the most popular. Located on Navajo lands, this slot canyon can only be visited on a tour.

Two different slot canyons make up Antelope Canyon and both offer very different experiences.

When people refer to Antelope Canyon, they are usually referring to Upper Antelope Canyon. With its light beams, falling sands, and high canyon walls, this is the more photogenic of the two canyons.

2. Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch is labeled as the longest slot canyon in the world, 21 miles one way. It is dark and narrow with just enough obstacles to keep things interesting.

Photo Credit: OakleyOriginals

It is possible to do this as one long day hike, going point to point, although some hikers do this in two days, camping Grand Canyon overnight along the trail. A permit is necessary, even if you do it as a day hike.

Location: Utah-Arizona border near Kanab

Distance: 21 miles

Difficulty: strenuous (because of the distance)

3. Zebra Slot Canyon

With pink and red striped walls, this slot canyon is uniquely beautiful. Parts of the slot canyon can be challenging to hike through but your reward is seeing these extraordinary striped canyon walls.

Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Hole-in-the-Rock Road

Distance: 5 miles

Difficulty: The trail to the slot canyon is easy; the slot canyon can be challenging

Read more: How to hike Zebra Canyon

4. Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulches

Located just down Hole-in-the-Rock Road from Zebra Slot Canyon are two thrilling slot canyons to explore. In terms of pure enjoyment, these are our favorites on this list.

Peek-A-Boo Gulch has several sections of challenging rock scrambling, including a 12 foot climb just to enter the canyon.

Spooky Gulch is one of the narrowest slot canyons around, only 10 inches wide in some spots! It’s dark, it’s mysterious, and it’s fun to squeeze yourself through, just as long as you are not claustrophobic.

Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Hole-in-the-Rock Road

Distance: 3.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Read more: A Photojourney through Peek-A-Boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch

5. Little Wild Grand Canyon Horse Canyon

Little Wild Horse Canyon is one of the most thrilling slot canyons in Utah. With tight passageways, curving, scalloped walls, and short sections of easy rock scrambling, this hike is fun for both kids and adults. You can hike the narrowest (and most fun) section of Little Wild Horse as a fast out-and-back hike, or do this as a loop, adding on a second slot canyon named Bell Canyon.

The Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon loop is Grand Canyon located in the San Rafael Swell, just a 10 minute drive from Goblin Valley. Both of these places can be combined into a full day adventure, which you can do as a day trip from Moab or when driving between Moab and Capitol Reef National Park.

Distance: 8.1 miles for the full Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon Loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Time: 4 to 6 hours

Getting Here: This hike is located in the San Rafael Swell of Utah. The trailhead is located six miles from Goblin Valley State Park.

Learn More:  How to Hike the Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon Loop

6. Willis Creek

Willis Creek is pure fun. Hiking within the narrow canyon, hopping and skipping over the creek, and watching as the canyon walls steadily grow higher and higher as you head downstream is such a great experience. It’s easy, it’s great for all ability levels and ages, and with the creek and high canyon walls, you can stay cool (almost) even during the hotter summer months.

Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, near Cannonville

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Read more: Hiking Willis Creek Canyon

7. Zion Narrows

This is the quintessential slot canyon hike. It’s challenging, it’s breathtaking in its beauty, and it makes for a very memorable experience. For many hikers, this is a hike that makes the bucket list.

You can hike the Zion Narrows as a quick day hike, hiking from the bottom-up. You simply hike up the river as far as you want to go and turn around when you start to get tired. Or, hike the entire length of the Narrows from the top-down, either as a very long and challenging one-day hike or as a two day backpacking trip. Whatever you choose, it will be an adventure!

The Narrows is closed during the spring months while the snow is melting, creating high flow rates in the river. A permit is necessary if you want to hike the Narrows top-down.

Location: Zion National Park

Distance: 16 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Read more: Complete Guide to Hiking the Zion Narrows

8. Kanarra Creek

Similar to the Zion Narrows, but on a smaller scale, this makes another great slot canyon destination. For much of this hike, you will be walking in the Kanarra Creek, so water shoes are recommended. There are several obstacles along the way that require some rock scrambling or the use of ladders.

Photo credit: Dean Souglass

Location: Kanarraville, Utah

Distance: 3 to 4 miles, round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

9. Pastel Canyon

The Pastel Canyon, also called the Pink Canyon, is photogenic slot canyon to explore in Nevada. The highlight of this canyon is the pink and yellow pastel stripes that decorate the canyon.

Location: Valley of Fire, Nevada

Distance: 0.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Read more: Exploring the Valley of Fire

10. Headquarters Canyon & Surprise Canyon

When you venture out to these two slot canyons, you are really going off-the-beaten-path. These slot canyons are tucked away in a remote region of Capitol Reef National Park. Not only are they fun to hike, but you just might have them all to yourself.

Headquarters Canyon is short, sweet, and super easy to hike, and in my opinion, the more thrilling of these two slot canyons. Surprise Canyon, located about one mile away, is also a short, fun canyon to explore.

Headquarters Canyon

Distance: 2.6 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 1 to 1.5 hours

Surprise Canyon

Distance: 2.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 1 hour

Getting Here: Headquarters Canyon and Surprise Canyons are located side by side in Capitol Reef National Park. You can do this if you plan to “Loop the Fold,” a one day road trip around a remote region of this park. You can also get here by driving Burr Trail Road east from highway 12. Because of the remote location, there is a chance you could have these two slot canyons all to yourself (we did and it was a blast!).

American Southwest Slot Canyons: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

About this List

We have not hiked all of these slot canyons, at least not yet. Still on our bucket list are Buckskin Gulch and Kanarra Creek. Have you done these? Let us know about your experience in our comment section below.

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