Are you a fan of slot canyons? Are you traveling in the USA? If you answered yes to those questions, then you really should consider visiting the state of Utah. While slot canyons can be dangerous during rainstorms, they are great for adventurous, scenic hikes. Based on the personal experiences of a small panel of travel writers, here, from bottom to top, are the top 12 slot canyons in Utah.
The Top 12 Slot Canyons In Utah
12. Kanarra Falls, Kanarraville
Kanarra Falls is unsurprisingly located close to Kanarraville. Although this is a relatively short hike in terms of distance, it is a water hike and thus can present a challenge to anyone unable to hike with caution. It is famous for a pair of small waterfalls and aluminum ladders that one must climb to complete the hike. If you are visiting Zion National Park, keep in mind that Kanarraville is close to the park so this would make a great day trip. A permit is required here. Remember, you will get wet!
11. Peek-a-Boo Gulch, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
This slot canyon is located in the Escalante area, best known for a pair of little arches at the entrance. Here the canyon can get very narrow but that just makes it more fun. There’s even a 10-foot scramble in order to enter. Here you will also often come across unavoidable water pools, so dress knowing that you will get wet. The best time to hike here is early in the morning when it is cooler. You’ll avoid any potential crowds as well.
10. Leprechaun Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
You will find lovely Leprechaun Canyon off the beaten path, north of the gorgeous Glen Canyon. It is a notably deep canyon and if you hike it you will discover a notably beautiful endpoint. In fact, if you choose the family-friendly option, you will not encounter any dangerous sections. Additionally, it only takes a short hike to reach it. It’s close to the Colorado River crossing at the remote Ranger District of Hite, which is exceptionally scenic.
9. Spooky Gulch, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
While you’re in the Peek-a-Boo Gulch area, why not check out its neighbor Spooky Gulch. This is actually one of the narrowest slot canyons on this list. It also includes some lengthy portions where you have to hike sideways in order to squeeze through. Indeed, this can sometimes create “traffic jams” during busy periods. Again, the best time to start this hike is early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
8. The Subway, Zion National Park
Without ropes, you can only see a small portion of the Subway. What you can hike, however, is incredible. The hike to the Subway is a bit long but reportedly fun and enjoyable. Here you will see a number of slanted waterfalls and an even larger one at the canyon’s end. You will need permits in order to hike here. They are available at the park’s visitor center or even online.
7. Little Wild Horse Canyon, San Rafael Swell
Little Wild Horse Canyon is said by some travel journalists to be quite an impressive slot canyon situated in the popular San Rafael Swell region. This slot canyon is narrow and long which makes for a noteworthy hiking experience. Take a loop hike via Bell Canyon or hike out and back. Take some time to visit nearby Goblin Valley State Park.
6. The Zebra Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
The Zebra Slot Canyon is a local favorite of a number of travel writers and experienced hikers. It’s marked by zebra-like stripes within the sandstone. This 300-foot-long slot canyon generally has water in it and can be as narrow as 10 inches too.
In fact, some hikers have turned back because they actually get claustrophobic. The canyon’s tapered floor can make it difficult for some hikers to easily navigate. Be prepared to get wet.
Dress accordingly. Start your hike at Hole in the Rock Road then slowly descend into Harris Wash. It is there that you will eventually come to the mouth of the canyon.
5. Little Death Hollow, The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
At first, Little Death Hollow, in the Escalante area, is deep and wide. However, as you progress in your hike, it slowly converges into a slot where you must hike single-file for miles. Additionally, you will find fewer people here than at Peek-a-Boo or Zebra. The rich sandstone here comes complete with exceptional color and textures too.
4. Paria Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Paria Canyon is located on the border of Arizona and Utah. Thus, you might also consider it an Arizona slot canyon too. The canyon features many miles worth of towering walls.
It is also the second-largest slot canyon on this list. Again, prepare to get wet as the mighty Paria River runs wall-to-wall in many areas. You will be doing some river hiking. Get a permit and go backpacking along the Paria all the way out to the rushing Colorado River at majestic Marble Canyon.
3. The Joint Trail, Canyonlands National Park
The Joint Trail is unique. It is unlike the other slot canyons of Utah. Most slot canyons are the result of water erosion. This one, however, was created by huge layers of sandstone that actually cracked beneath their own weight. This, in turn, left a great grid of multiple slot canyons with caverns and perpendicular intersections. You will need a full day of hiking within the Needles District of Canyonlands in order to reach your destination.
2. Buckskin Gulch, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Beautiful Buckskin Gulch is one of the world’s longest continuous canyons and has a total of 13 miles of narrows. It actually leads into the previously mentioned Paria Canyon. You can think of the bottom entry line spot as a detour from Paria Canyon’s “Whitehouse” Trailhead. If you would rather not hike too far, you can see the upper entry point of Buckskin Gulch at the “Wire Pass” Trailhead. Get a permit and go backpacking through both Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon in one trip.
And the winner is . . .
1. The Narrows, Zion National Park
Regular readers may already recognize The Narrows. As previously mentioned elsewhere on this website, visitors to Zion National Park will find a number of different hiking trails here that vary in levels of difficulty. The Narrows, however, is hands down the most popular hike to do here in the park.
The Narrows is the biggest canyon on this list. The walls are more than 1,000 feet high and only 20 feet wide in some places. If you want to see the deepest and narrowest parts of the canyon, do a day hike up the Virgin River.
Do you enjoy camping? Speak to the Park Service personnel and get an overnight permit. Then hike The Narrows top-down.
The best time to hike any popular canyon is as early in the morning as possible in order to avoid any potential crowds. You can even try this hike in the fall or winter but then be sure to check on the weather and water temperature. Mind you, if you forget your waterproof gear, you can rent some here in the park. How’s that for convenience?