Slot canyons in Utah: here are the ones not to be missed

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Lluis Enric Mayans
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SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Southern Utah has the largest density of slot canyons in the world (if any can be found more than a thousand south of Interstate 70). Some of them are concentrated within two national parks well known and extensive. Not being able to report them all, let's find out the most important and particular ones.

In making this list, only the slot canyons that can be walked by most people have been selected. For this reason, the more demanding ones that also required specific equipment were excluded. Furthermore, before venturing, I invite you to take into account some recommendations discussed in more detail in the article dedicated to Slot Canyons in the USA.



Index

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
    • Spooky, Peekaboo e Dry Fork Narrow
    • Singing Canyon – Burr Trail
    • Willis Creek Narrows
  • Zion National Park
    • The Narrows
    • Kanarra Creek
  • Buckskin Gulch
  • Little Wild Horse Canyon
  • Robber’s Roost Canyon
  • Nine Mile Canyon

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Here are some of the best known slot canyons within the huge Grand Staircase-Escalante park.

Spooky, Peekaboo e Dry Fork Narrow

They are three canyons located a short distance from each other and are most likely the most famous and spectacular in the area.

To get as close as possible with the car you will have to take the dirt road called Hole-in-the-Rock Road for about 42 kilometers until you reach a parking area called Peek-a-boo Gulch Parking Area (see map). Here you should park if you have a standard car that is not suitable for rough roads. If, on the other hand, you have a 4 × 4 or similar you can continue for another kilometer and a half until you reach a rest area at the entrance to the Dry Fork Trailhead.



In general, however, to travel the Hole-in-the-Rock Road it would be recommended to have a 4 × 4 car or in any case an SUV with an above average height from the ground, at least to avoid being anxious all the time. of the journey. The above is not valid in case of rain because the mud that is created makes the road impracticable even for 4 × 4s. Therefore, have the foresight to inquire at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center on the weather conditions of the area, especially in summer, when thunderstorms, even violent, sudden are not rare and you may find it impossible to proceed further or to go back until the road is dry again.

Once you leave the car, stop for a moment to contemplate the panorama that opens up below you, from which you can also see the entrance to the two slot canyons in the distance. Before leaving with the walking itinerary, do not forget to fill in the attendance register that you will find at your disposal. This for a twofold reason: to let people know that there is a tourist interest in the area, and to signal your presence in case there are any unexpected events.

From the parking area the start of the path is well signposted, and your first goal will be to go down inside the Dry Fork wash, also called Coyote Gulch. Once you arrive in the large drained water bed, you will have to continue eastwards where, after a few hundred meters, you will find a climbing wall (with due caution) which marks the entrance to the Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon.


Ingresso del Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon

You should be able, without too much difficulty, to climb this part, which will be the most complicated part of the route: once you have overcome it you will not encounter other too demanding obstacles. However, personally evaluate the feasibility of the climb. The characteristic of the Peek-A-Boo are the large puddles that you will encounter once you enter, and the stone arches that form between the walls. If it hasn't rained recently you shouldn't find water, otherwise you'll have to be ready to dive into standing water to continue or, if you can, get around the pool. Also in this case, consider if you feel up to it.


After passing them you will come across the most fascinating point of the slot canyon because you will be able to observe a double stone arch. From here I would say that you can consider the choice whether to continue towards the bottom of the canyon which is about 500 meters long in its entirety or to go back.

To achieve the Spooky GulchWhether you've walked the Peek-A-Boo in its entirety, or made your way back to its entrance, you'll need to head east. This slot canyon in its interior is much tighter and narrow than the previous one and, for this reason, even less bright (from these characteristics derives its name). So if you suffer from claustrophobia I advise you to let it go. At the limit, evaluate from time to time how much to keep going.


After a fairly wide entrance within a few meters, the walls of the slot canyon shrink to a width of a few tens of centimeters. Therefore, consider leaving your backpack at the entrance to the slot canyon, or keep it to the side, because it will be practically impossible to proceed with the backpack on your shoulders. Furthermore, inside the slot canyon, some fallen boulders make the path particularly impervious to the point of forcing you to pass through small and narrow crevices. If you don't feel like it, it's best to retrace your steps.

You can therefore visit these two slot canyons individually, entering each one as long as you have the desire and the possibility and then returning back to reach the next, or make a sort of loop thanks to a path that also connects the final part of the two slots canyon.

By opting for this choice you will have to consider about 5 kilometers of path, so you will have to allow for at least 4 hours. If you have more time, once you get to the intersection that would take you back to the car park, you can continue west and visit the area commonly known as Dry Fork Narrows. It is not a real slot canyon but it is the part where the river bed narrows particularly creating a beautiful scenographic effect. In general, this is it the easiest canyon to explore.


If you do not want to venture alone to discover these wonders, or you prefer not to jeopardize the integrity of your machine, you can opt for a guided tour or for a "passage" up to the start of the path. In the small town of Escalante you will find numerous tour companies that can offer you this type of services. For any other advice you can pay a visit to the Visitor Center at Escalante (755 W. Main) and ask for help directly from the rangers of the Bureau of Land Management who are in charge of preserving the area.

Singing Canyon – Burr Trail

This suggestive slot canyon is located along the course of the dirt road that takes the name of Burr Trail. As you can imagine from the name, the main peculiarity of this slot canyon is to have aperfect acoustics. In fact, it is not uncommon to meet musicians playing their instruments in this fascinating place.

The Burr Trail, which starts from the immediate vicinity of the town of Boulder, can be easily traveled with your car as the first 50 kilometers are paved and the entrance to Singing Canyon is located just over 18 kilometers from the beginning of the road . To mark the start of the slot canyon you will find only a small rest area on the side of the road.

Willis Creek Narrows

In this case it is not technically a real slot canyon because the distance between the high walls is still quite wide, but it is still a place charming and easy a must visit if you have no other way to experience a slot canyon. One of the qualities of this canyon is precisely that of being almost totally flat, and therefore not presenting any kind of excessive difficulty in visiting it.

Another positive factor is that, while located within the Grand Staircase Escalante, it is practically sandwiched between Bryce Canyon and Kodachrome Basin State Park, which makes it perfect if you are planning a multi-day itinerary in this area.

To get there, you will need to reach the town of Cannonville and travel south on Kodachrome Road which will then become Cottonwood Canyon Road. Before reaching the Kodachrome Basin State Park, and crossing the Paria River, you will need to take the dirt road Skutumpah Road also known by the technical name of BLM 500.

Also in this case what has been said is valid for the previous dirt roads it is better to use an SUV but with the necessary precautions a lower car can also be used. All this unless it rains, or has recently rained, in case it will become impractical.

After about 10 kilometers you will meet a parking area from which the path starts. On Google Maps it can be indicated as Willis Creek Slot Canyon Trailhead (these are still the coordinates 37.483062, -112.096760). During the path you will walk the course of the small Willis Creek that will go further and further between high walls forming a real canyon.

If you intend to travel it all in its entirety you will have to consider walking for about 8 kilometers between the round trip. Keep in mind that the most interesting part is certainly the first half.

Zion National Park

Here we are at one of the most famous parks in Utah: Zion National Park. Again you will find many slot canyons to explore, most of which however are recommended for experienced people with specific equipment. So let's see which are the simplest ones to undertake but no less spectacular.

The Narrows

As you can guess from the name, it is not technically a slot canyon, because the distance between the high walls remains a few meters wide but it was impossible not to mention it in this article as it remains one of the most beautiful places in the whole park.

It is a walk that goes up the Virgin River, which over time has managed to excavate this spectacular passage between the rocks. In theory, the entire route would be very long (more than 25 kilometers), and some sections can only be reached after purchasing a special permit. However, the most popular part is the defined one Bottom-Up Zion Narrows Hike, which we also described in the article dedicated to The Narrows excursion.

Kanarra Creek

It is one of the most photogenic slot canyons in the national park and is located near the section of the Kolob Canyons, one of the less visited areas of the Zion, but no less beautiful.

To make this excursion inside the slot canyon particularly scenic is the presence of two waterfalls and pools of water. To overcome the falls and continue the path inside the slot canyon it is possible that you will find stairs or ropes which, due to the deterioration linked to continuous use, are rearranged from time to time to facilitate visitors.

Obviously, given the presence of water, which in some places can even reach mid-legs, it is necessary to wear suitable clothing. Unfortunately, the trail has recently been closed. To be able to undertake the excursion, in fact, it is necessary to have a special permit that is issued to 150 people per day at a cost of $ 12 per person. You can buy it directly on the official website.

Buckskin Gulch

It is one of the longest slot canyons in America, if not the whole world. Given its breadth and importance, we have dedicated an article to this place entirely dedicated to what to see and how to reach the Buckskin Gulch.

Little Wild Horse Canyon

Little Wild Horse Canyon is located just over 8 kilometers west of the Goblin Valley State Park Visitor Center, and can be reached quite easily by taking a dirt road also known as Little Wild Horse Road.

For the first two kilometers you will walk in a fairly wide path, then the walls will tighten more and more taking on the typical shape of a slot canyon. This occurs mainly from the intersection with the path of Bell’s Canyon Trail on. If you want, you can join these two paths forming a real loop about 13 kilometers long.

If you want to stay alone only on the part of the Little Wind Horse Canyon, however, consider that about 6 kilometers one way is to be considered. The advice if you have little time is therefore to go forward only as long as you have the possibility and then go back.

Robber’s Roost Canyon

The peculiarity of this slot canyon is that it was used as a hiding place by well-known Far West outlaws such as Butch Cassidy who formed the famous Wild Bunch band in this very place. The Canyon develops along the Dirty Devil River between Canyonlands and Capitol Reef parks.

It can also be reached quite easily by car as long as you have an SUV or off-road vehicle. You can find the coordinates of the main points of interest on the dedicated page of the local tourist site.

Nine Mile Canyon

The most is defined longest art gallery in the world, as for most of its route the walls are full of ancient petroglyphs. It is therefore a real one open-air museum which, to the detriment of the name, develops for a length of more than 40 miles. Most of the drawings depict hunting scenes and portraits of animals, although some have wanted to interpret some of them as depictions of extraterrestrials.

About halfway down the canyon is a ghost town called Harper, which once served as a stopping point for caravans. Today the remains of the houses are on private property so you won't be able to get that close. There are also many rock formations with a curious shape such as the Balanced Rock, which almost seems to fall at any moment.

The road leading to Nine Mile Canyon can be accessed from the city of Wellingon and travel comfortably by car to the city of Myton (or vice versa if it is more congenial to your itinerary). Doing so you will have to drive for about 160 kilometers, but keep in mind that once you leave the cities behind you there will be no more services for the duration of the journey, so plan ahead for both petrol and water or food.

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