Julie United States 22 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:

Are you planning a trip to the United States? Read all of our articles about the USA in our United States Travel Guide.

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Willis Creek Slot Canyon Utah


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Comments 22

  1. I was SO looking forward to doing this hike! Took our rental Toyota RAV4 (not AWD) out there today for Labor Day. Got about a mile from the trailhead and encountered an uphill climb (maybe 1/10 mile long). The road was dry with 3-4″ of ground up dirt on the road surface, and major potholes. Tried climbing it twice (shifting into low gear), and gave up as the vehicle got stuck with spinning tires and I didn’t want to damage the rental vehicle. If the dirt had been hard packed, it would have been doable. Sign heading in recommends high clearance 4-Wheel drive (wish I’d had AWD!) 🙁

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  2. Thanks for the great post. Our extended family reunion (ages 6 months to almost 60) hiked this trail today and absolutely loved it! Your info was so helpful in convincing us to give it a try. Thank you!

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  3. Hi,
    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog about Utah’s Mighty 5. We’re taking an RV trip there this summer. I thought the Willis Creek canyon would be a great hike for my kids but I’m wondering if our 30′ RV can travel the road to the Willis Creek Trailhead?
    Thank you!

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      No, I don’t think a 30 foot RV would make it down that road. There has been the occasional report from someone who has driven a standard car that they had some difficulty, so I wouldn’t recommend driving this road in and RV. Cheers, Julie

      1. Thank you for the confirmation. Can you recommend another slot canyon of about 3 miles that we could take an RV to get to – on the way from Bryce to Arches via the 12?
        Thank you!

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          Google search Little Wild Horse Canyon. It is located between Bryce and Arches. We have not done it yet, so I don’t know much about the drive or the hike, but it has been recommended to us. It might be an option for you, but you will have to check the hiking distance. Goblin Valley is near LWHC, and it’s not a slot canyon, but it looks very cool (haven’t been there yet either). There is Peek A Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons in Grand Staircase Escalante, but lately our readers have been reporting rough conditions on Hole in the Rock Road, so this might not be an option with an RV, but I wanted to mention them, just so you know what is in the area. I hope you have a nice trip! Cheers, Julie

          1. Thank you for your helpful info! I will definitely look into these options. Your site is a wonderful resource for all levels of Earth Trekkers 🙂

          2. I 2nd the suggestion for Little Wild Horse…one of our favorite, easy non-technical slots…and right next to Goblin Valley. Can do both easily on the same day

    2. Absolutely not! We drove our Nissan Rogue FWD there two days ago. We almost got stuck in an un-groomed, gravel uphill section by a cliff. Besides, the road is narrow. Your option would be a local shuttle to take you there. Good luck and have fun.

  4. Thanks for the detailed review! This was a great midday hike on Labor Day after our day in Bryce Canyon. Plenty of shade from the canyon walls, and beautiful throughout. Also a few birds and butterflies here and there: saw a few spotted towhees and scrub-jays.

  5. Thank you so much for such detailed information!!! I’ve been reading alll your blogs to prepare for our Mighty 5 in late Sept-Oct. We are 67-69 and I want to do a slot canyon but can’t climb a wall or repel down a wall. Looks like we can do Willis.

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      Yes, Willis Creek is wonderful. No technical challenges, no big hill climbs, just a lovely walk through a wide canyon. Enjoy! Cheers, Julie

  6. Hello, Earth Trekkers!
    Just wanted to say “thank you” for your excellent and detailed information! We are planning our first trip to Utah (Zion, Bryce, Page AZ, Kodachrome, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Arches) in May, and your blogs have provided much help and inspiration! So glad I found you : )

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  7. Thanks for your helpful tips! Willis Creek has been on our bucket list for years and we just got to do it for the first time today. A fun little bonus that I didn’t see on any of the sites we looked at is, if you are up for a bit of scrambling, instead of taking the trail across the road from the parking area, walk down the road about 40ft. to where Willis Creek crosses the road itself and climb down into the fun little windy slot that forms on the side of the road. We discovered it on the return trip. Fun!

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  8. We did this hike in 2016 with our teenage boys, and loved it! It doesn’t look like much from the parking lot, but gets better and better the further you hike in.

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