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 it’s 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 you’re in. Always check local weather reports before you venture into any slot canyon. If you’re unsure if the rainy weather will affect the slot canyon you’re interested in just ask a local, they would have some of the best insight.