Julie United States 26 Comments

The hike along the Willis Creek Slot Canyon is so much fun! And to think that we almost skipped this hike.

After a long day of hiking and exploring both Bryce Canyon National Park and Kodachrome Basin State Park, we wondered if we should tack on Willis Creek to the end of our day. Would it be worth it?

The answer is yes. Willis Creek was a blast to hike. Hiking within the narrow canyon, hopping and skipping over the creek, and watching as the canyon walls steadily grew higher and higher over us as we headed downstream was such a great experience.

Willis Creek is fun to explore. 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.

Tim Rivenbark

Details about the Hike

  • Distance: 3+ miles (out and back)
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length of Time: 1.5 – 3 hours
  • When to go: April to October, but it can get brutally hot during the summer months

Getting to the Willis Creek Trailhead

Willis Creek is located within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The closest town is Cannonville. From Cannonville, head south on Kodachrome Road, which becomes Cottonwood Canyon Road. Before arriving at Kodachrome Basin State Park (and before crossing over the Paria River), turn right on BLM 500, also named Skutumpah Road.

Getting to Willis Creek

Skutumpah Road is a well groomed dirt road that takes you to the trailhead. Cars should be able to drive on this road, although a SUV or 4×4 is ideal. During wet, rainy weather, this road may be impassable, even if you have a 4×4.

Follow Skutumpah Road for 5.8 miles (about 20 minutes of driving) to a car park on the right hand side of the road.

Important Update: In recent weeks (as of September 2020), we have heard numerous reports about the road conditions on Skutumpah Road. I have read reports (and there is comment below) that you currently need a high clearance vehicle with 4WD to make it down this road. 

The GPS coordinates for the trailhead are 37.483062, -112.096760.

From the car park, cross the road to get to the trailhead.

Hiking Willis Creek Slot Canyon

After following the trail for about 200 meters through brush and small trees, the trail dips down to Willis Creek. For the rest of the hike, you will be walking alongside or in Willis Creek.

Heading down Willis Creek

At first, the canyon walls are not very high, and the canyon is relatively wide. But this changes the further you hike.

It does not take long for the canyon to get narrow. This is when it gets really fun! Tim and I tried our best to keep our feet dry, since we only had one pair of hiking shoes and several days of hiking to go. It kept things fun, hopping and skipping across the creek.

Tim hiking Willis Creek

Jumping across Willis Creek

Willis Creek Slot Canyon

Crossing Willis Creek

Tim Rivenbark

Willis Creek

In some places, the canyon widens, which is nice, but the best parts of the hike are when the walls close in on you and make you feel so tiny. We felt like kids again, out exploring. During our hike, we only saw a handful of other people, making this an even better experience.

Hiking Willis Creek

You have the option to hike all of the way to Sheep Creek. However, the slot canyon ends at 1.4 miles. Beyond this, the canyon widens and even though its scenic, it can get monotonous. If you do not have a GPS with you, once you get to this gigantic rock in the creek, the slot canyon portion of the hike is over. You can keep going or turn around here, the choice is yours.

Turn Around Here

About Our Experience

Willis Creek can be combined with other parks in the area.

We started our day at sunrise at Bryce Canyon. After spending six hours in Bryce, we drove out to Kodachrome Basin State Park where we did two hikes (Shakespeares Arch-Sentinel Trail and Angel’s Palace Trail). Later in the afternoon, around 4 pm, we started the Willis Creek hike. We almost did not do this hike, thinking it would be a bust after amazing Bryce Canyon and hiking in Kodachrome, but Willis Creek surprised us. This hike is pure fun and with very few people here, it was a great experience.

If you are wondering if Willis Creek is worth it, it really is! It’s fun, it’s easy, and it only takes a few hours. If you are traveling with kids, they are going to have a blast! Why not add it to your list if you are in the area?

Driving times to nearby attractions:

  • Bryce Canyon National Park: 24 miles, 50 minutes
  • Kodachrome Basin State Park: 10 miles, 30 minutes
  • Zion National Park: 91 miles, 2 hours
  • Escalante: 43 miles, 1.25 hours

Important Things to Know Before You Go

Flash Floods. Since you are hiking through a slot canyon, flash floods are a danger. Make sure you check the weather forecast before you start the hike. Don’t hike if thunderstorms are in the area.

Shoes. There is a good chance you feet will get wet. You need to wear a sturdy pair of shoes, like hiking shoes, tennis shoes, or sandals designed for hiking (Keen sandals).

Bring lots of water. Bring several liters of water per person, especially during the summer months.

Sunscreen. Even though you are hiking through a canyon, you will still be exposed to the sun for most of the hike. Make sure you are wearing sunscreen.

Where We Stayed

We stayed in Tropic at the Bryce Canyon Inn. This place was wonderful. We had our own cabin with queen sized beds, bathroom, and kitchenette. It was cozy, quiet, and very clean. From here, it was just a 15 minute drive to Bryce Canyon and a 30 minute drive to Willis Creek.

More Information for Your Trip to Utah:

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Willis Creek Slot Canyon Utah


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Comments 26

  1. On Oct 24, 2020 Skutumpah Rd coming from the N to the slot was not passable in our year 2013 2xWD Sprinter van conversion. We had driven the road previously, without problems, about six years ago and again about three years ago. Now, however, there is deep sand covering the steepest climb of the road maybe a mile short of the slot parking area. Near the top of the pitch there are deep and wide grooves in the hard surface that underlies the sand, cutting diagonally across the road. Due to the sand I couldn’t build and maintain enough momentum to get across these grooves, despite about four attempts. Each time I had to back down the slope to try again. Finally bailed. Very disappointed as we love hiking the slot. We take our Sprinter on some really bad roads and I’m confident could have succeeded here if not for the sand.

  2. Went to Willis Creek Canyon today (Oct 13th, 2020). Skutumpah Road was easy to find from Canonville. And after that it got really hard. In a few places there about a foot or more of dirt making it really hard to pass. My Prius couldn’t do it. SO after about 3.7 miles on Skutumpah Road, I parked on the road side and decided to walk the rest. A passer by said there is a marker for the trail to Willis Creek – a few stones stacked up. I missed it and walked further up where the road forked. Decided to give up and on my way back, noticed the stones stacked up (it’s really about a foot high and easy to miss). Trail head is just a foot wide. Trail to the river bed is definitely longer than 200 meters (I felt it was about a mile).

  3. We just did this hike yesterday with our 3 kids ages 8,10 and 13. Be careful if coming from Kanab direction not to follow Google directions as it put us on a rugged mountain road not meant for anything other than purely off-road vehicles. Became impassable after a few miles so had to work our way out. Had we gone the correct way, we would have been just fine. Drive in from other direction has two areas that will currently require 4wd until they get it fixed. Once we got there though it was so worth it. One of the best experiences of our trip which included Zion, Bryce, Cedar Breaks and more. It really was a super rewarding hike. A fun little hike we did nearby was at the Red Canyon visitor center. Highly recommend that as well.

    1. Josh, to be clear, if you are driving from the north (Canonville area) the road to Willis Creek is passable for cars? I don’t have 4wd but would like to visit this area next week. Thanks.

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