Julie United States 54 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

Hiking Stats

  • Distance: 3+ miles (out and back)
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length of Time: 1.5 – 3 hours
  • When to go:  You can hike Willis Creek all year. The best time for this hike are during the spring and fall, when temperatures are mild. Expect very high temperatures midday during the summer. In the winter, it will be cold but crowds will be at their lowest.

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.

Willis Creek Drive EP

This is the elevation profile for the drive from the intersection of Cottonwood Canyon Road and Skutumpah Road to the parking lot at the trailhead (one-way). Some people report difficulties driving up the steeper sections of the road, and with this elevation profile, you can get an idea of what to expect. We do not have an elevation profile for the Willis Creek hike, since it is mostly flat.

Important Update: In recent months, we have heard numerous reports about the road conditions on Skutumpah Road. Make sure you read the comments below to get updated reports on the road conditions. And if you hike Willis Creek, feel free to write back in with your experience on the road and the trails, to help other hikers. Thanks!

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.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.


If you have any questions about hiking Willis Creek, or if you want to share your experience, either on the hiking trail or the road to get here, let us know in the comment section below.

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Comments 54

  1. Hello! I did this hike today (May 28th) with my dog and two kids (age 8 and 11).

    Update re: road conditions: We have an all-wheel drive car (not 4WD) and had no trouble navigating the road. We saw the large puddle, mentioned by previous commenters, but it is largely dried up and easy to navigate. We saw two lonely sedans among all the more rugged vehicles in the parking lot, so it appears everyone is making it there with current conditions.

    Thanks for your recommendation. My kids declared this their favorite hike of our trip.

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  2. Thank you so much for all of the information! We are pulling a popup camper. I’m guessing from some of the comments that we might not want to tow it to the parking for this hike. Any suggestions on where we could camp nearby and drop our camper?
    Thanks!

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      There are campgrounds at Kodachrome Basin State Park, which is very close to Willis Creek. This is the closest place that I know of. Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi! I just hiked this on May 5. (I love this page!) I was traveling alone and admit I got a bit nervous at first – it is a much more remote location compared to the lively lodge parking areas around the rim at Bryce and other street side trailheads. But I forged along and it was well worth it!! My car was fine doing this as it was an SUV – I noticed the trailhead was all trucks and larger SUVs, a couple big vans and one small sedan that pulled in as I was leaving (bless their hearts they really gave me confidence heading back out haha) I tell my friends and family that I felt like I was taking my car for a hike before I got to the hike. Many steep intimidating looking turns. anyway it was amazing and one of my favorite hikes of my trip. I read up a bit more about that area later at night and learned many more interesting things! There was a pool of standing water on the roadway that I was able to take the side of the road to slightly avoid. I would have been nervous if my car was lower to the ground but I just worry – you’re so far out there so if you get stuck..you’re stuck.

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      Hello Brooke! Thanks so much for sharing your adventure! I hope you have a great time wherever you are headed next. Cheers, Julie

  4. We loved this hike! It was a perfect spring day. Your directions were accurate. The trailhead is well marked so it would be hard to miss it.

    We have a Jeep Wrangler so the road was fine for us. We saw SUV’s, vans, and trucks on the road. I would think a sedan would be slow going and there are some spots that would be tricky. There was standing water in the road that a low riding car would have trouble with.

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  5. Thank you so much for your wonderful, informative blog! It has been such a help to us as we plan for a trip in the area. We are headed to Capitol Reef and Bryce area and would really like to do a slot canyon if the weather permits. We would be there late April/early May. We are trying to decide between Little Wild Horse and Willis Creek. If we could only choose one, would you recommend one over the other?

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      Hello Sara. That’s a tough one to answer. We really liked both. Willis Creek will be more convenient for you, since it is located near Bryce Canyon. Little Wild Horse is a bit of a drive from Capitol Reef and it is best done on the drive to Moab, in my opinion. If you have no plans to drive out to Moab, I would choose Willis Creek, since you won’t have to do any extra driving. Cheers, Julie

      1. Little Wild Horse Canyon is near Goblin Valley, south of Green River on Interstate 70. It’s a little past Green River on Hwy 24, the highway is marked. Take the road to Goblin Valley, there is an intersection. Take the right. The dirt road is easy going. Wild Horse is in the San Rafael Swell, which is a pretty neat geologic formation, but I didn’t make it there that time. It’s on my itinerary for this year. If you go on down south you’ll come to Hanksville, turn right there, it will take you to Capitol Reef. You don’t have to go to Moab. Be very aware of the weather. A storm 100 miles north, if it’s going in the right direction, will cause flash floods. That does not bode well for hikers in the canyon. It is now the end of August in Colorado. There’s been dustings of snow in the high mountains, which is where I intended to head to first. I may have to go to plan B, which is to head west. I usually go the first half of July. If you need a side trip, go to Goblin Valley State Park. I hope my directions to Wild Horse are helpful.

  6. Our first real slot canyon and it didn’t disappoint! Skutumpah Road was bumpier/washboardier (is that a word?) than expected; we drove it in a Honda CRV AWD but with the bikes on the rack on the back so my husband drove quite slowly. All of your photos and details were exactly right. The little stream was easy to jump across when needed, and the babbling of it only made for great atmosphere. The morning was cloudy and breezy, and we were glad to have brought our “winter” jackets and gloves. In fact, it snowed when we were coming up out of the canyon on the way to our car!

    I’m not much of a hiker but this one was super easy, and now we’re going to have to find some more (easy) slot canyons. It was addictive, walking along the stream and the neat rock formations – we couldn’t wait to see what was around the next bend. Thanks for your post on this canyon!

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