Julie United States 51 Comments

The American Southwest is a playground for hikers, photographers, and adventurers. Fun to explore and extremely photogenic, slot canyons provide a unique hiking experience.

We have assembled a short list of some of the best slot canyons in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. This is not an all-inclusive list, because there are tons of slot canyons in this area, but listed below are some of the most popular and the most scenic slot canyons to explore.From short, easy, scenic walks to all day technical hikes, take your pick of the slot canyons you want to explore.

What is a Slot Canyon?

A slot canyon is a narrow canyon that is formed from water rushing through rock. What starts off as a tiny crack steadily grows larger from repeat flash floods and erosion over millions of years. The end result is a narrow canyon with very high walls.

Slot canyons can be several meters wide or just one foot wide. The narrower canyons usually feature twists and turns and beautifully scalloped walls. Some canyons feature sections requiring canyoneering or rock scrambling experience while others have you hiking through a creek or standing water.

And because slot canyons are formed from rushing water, the danger of flash floods still exists today. Hikers have died because they were caught by a flash flood while in some of these canyons. Before hiking through any of these slot canyons, it is important to check the weather. If there is any rain in the area, do not enter the slot canyon. Don’t become a statistic!

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.

10 Amazing Slot Canyons to Explore

1. Antelope Canyon

Arguably the most beautiful slot canyon on this list, this is also the most popular. Located on Navajo lands, this slot canyon can only be visited on a tour.

Two different slot canyons make up Antelope Canyon and both offer very different experiences.

When people refer to Antelope Canyon, they are usually referring to Upper Antelope Canyon. With its light beams, falling sands, and high canyon walls, this is the more photogenic of the two canyons.

Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon


Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon is narrower at the bottom. With these narrow passageways and ladders to climb, this canyon is more fun to visit.

Antelope Canyon Ladder

Lower Antelope Canyon 


Antelope Canyon Lower

Lower Antelope Canyon 

You can visit both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in one day. But if you only have time for one, how to you decide which one to visit? Check out our post: Should you visit Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

Location: Page, Arizona
Distance: Less than one mile
Difficulty: Easy
Read more: Lower Antelope Canyon: A Photographic Tour and Upper Antelope Canyon: A Journey in Photos

2. Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch is labeled as the longest slot canyon in the world, 21 miles one way. It is dark and narrow with just enough obstacles to keep things interesting.

Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon

Photo Credit: Wanderingwulfs

It is possible to do this as one long day hike, going point to point, although some hikers do this in two days, camping overnight along the trail. A permit is necessary, even if you do it as a day hike.

Location: Utah-Arizona border near Kanab
Distance: 21 miles
Difficulty: strenuous (because of the distance)

3. Zebra Slot Canyon

With pink and red striped walls, this slot canyon is uniquely beautiful. Parts of the slot canyon can be challenging to hike through but your reward is seeing these extraordinary striped canyon walls.

Zebra Slot

Zebra slot canyon


Zebra Slot Canyon

Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Hole-in-the-Rock Road
Distance: 5 miles
Difficulty: The trail to the slot canyon is easy; the slot canyon can be challenging
Read more: How to hike Zebra Canyon

4. Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulches

Located just down Hole-in-the-Rock Road from Zebra Slot Canyon are two thrilling slot canyons to explore. In terms of pure enjoyment, these are our favorites on this list.

Peek-A-Boo Gulch has several sections of challenging rock scrambling, including a 12 foot climb just to enter the canyon.

PeekABoo Slot

Peek-A-Boo Gulch


PeekABoo Gulch

Peek-A-Boo Gulch

Spooky Gulch is one of the narrowest slot canyons around, only 10 inches wide in some spots! It’s dark, it’s mysterious, and it’s fun to squeeze yourself through, just as long as you are not claustrophobic.

Spooky Slot Canyon

Tim in Spooky Gulch


Spooky Gulch

Spooky Gulch

Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on Hole-in-the-Rock Road
Distance: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Read more: A Photojourney through Peek-A-Boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch

5. Little Wild Horse Canyon

Little Wild Horse Canyon is one of the most thrilling slot canyons in Utah. With tight passageways, curving, scalloped walls, and short sections of easy rock scrambling, this hike is fun for both kids and adults. You can hike the narrowest (and most fun) section of Little Wild Horse as a fast out-and-back hike, or do this as a loop, adding on a second slot canyon named Bell Canyon.

Little Wild Horse Canyon

Little Wild Horse Canyon


Best Hikes in Utah

Little Wild Horse Canyon

The Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon loop is located in the San Rafael Swell, just a 10 minute drive from Goblin Valley. Both of these places can be combined into a full day adventure, which you can do as a day trip from Moab or when driving between Moab and Capitol Reef National Park.

Distance: 8.1 miles for the full Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon Loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 4 to 6 hours
Getting Here: This hike is located in the San Rafael Swell of Utah. The trailhead is located six miles from Goblin Valley State Park.
Learn More:  How to Hike the Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon Loop

6. Willis Creek

Willis Creek is pure fun. Hiking within the narrow canyon, hopping and skipping over the creek, and watching as the canyon walls steadily grow higher and higher as you head downstream is such a great experience. 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.

Hiking Willis Creek

Willis Creek Slot Canyon


Willis Creek

Willis Creek Slot Canyon


Willis Creek Slot Canyon

Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, near Cannonville
Distance: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Read more: Hiking Willis Creek Canyon

7. Zion Narrows

This is the quintessential slot canyon hike. It’s challenging, it’s breathtaking in its beauty, and it makes for a very memorable experience. For many hikers, this is a hike that makes the bucket list.

Zion Narrows Hike

You can hike the Zion Narrows as a quick day hike, hiking from the bottom-up. You simply hike up the river as far as you want to go and turn around when you start to get tired. Or, hike the entire length of the Narrows from the top-down, either as a very long and challenging one-day hike or as a two day backpacking trip. Whatever you choose, it will be an adventure!

The Narrows is closed during the spring months while the snow is melting, creating high flow rates in the river. A permit is necessary if you want to hike the Narrows top-down.

Location: Zion National Park
Distance: 16 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Read more: Complete Guide to Hiking the Zion Narrows

8. Kanarra Creek

Similar to the Zion Narrows, but on a smaller scale, this makes another great slot canyon destination. For much of this hike, you will be walking in the Kanarra Creek, so water shoes are recommended. There are several obstacles along the way that require some rock scrambling or the use of ladders.


Photo credit: Dean Souglass

Location: Kanarraville, Utah
Distance: 3 to 4 miles, round trip
Difficulty: Moderate

9. Pastel Canyon

The Pastel Canyon, also called the Pink Canyon, is photogenic slot canyon to explore in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The highlight of this canyon is the pink and yellow pastel stripes that decorate the canyon. This slot canyon may not be as narrow as the others on this list, but it’s colorful walls make it very unique and well worth the visit.

Pink Canyon Valley of Fire

Things to do Valley of Fire

Location: Valley of Fire, Nevada
Distance: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Read more: Exploring the Valley of Fire

10. Headquarters Canyon & Surprise Canyon

When you venture out to these two slot canyons, you are really going off-the-beaten-path. These slot canyons are tucked away in a remote region of Capitol Reef National Park. Not only are they fun to hike, but you just might have them all to yourself.

Headquarters Canyon is short, sweet, and super easy to hike, and in my opinion, the more thrilling of these two slot canyons. Surprise Canyon, located about one mile away, is also a short, fun canyon to explore.

Headquarters Canyon

Capitol Reef Slot Canyon

Entering Headquarters Canyon


Headquarters Canyon

Headquarters Canyon

Distance: 2.6 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1 to 1.5 hours

Surprise Canyon

Surprise Canyon Hike

Slot Canyons in Utah

Surprise Canyon

Distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1 hour

Getting Here: Headquarters Canyon and Surprise Canyons are located side by side in Capitol Reef National Park. You can do this if you plan to “Loop the Fold,” a one day road trip around a remote region of this park. You can also get here by driving Burr Trail Road east from highway 12. Because of the remote location, there is a chance you could have these two slot canyons all to yourself (we did and it was a blast!).

American Southwest Slot Canyons: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

About this List

We have not hiked all of these slot canyons, at least not yet. Still on our bucket list are Buckskin Gulch and Kanarra Creek. Have you done these? Let us know about your experience in our comment section below.

Slot Canyon Tours

Here are several tours and entrance tickets to popular slot canyons in the American Southwest.


Are you ready to go exploring? Which slot canyon is your favorite? Comment below!

More Information about the American Southwest

PLACES TO GO IN ARIZONA: Go hiking in Sedona, visit Saguaro National Park and Petrified Forest National Park, explore Monument Valley, photograph Antelope Canyon, and visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Learn how to put all of this together in our Arizona Road Trip Itinerary.

UTAH’S MIGHTY 5: Utah’s Mighty 5 is a collection of five national parks in Utah. Learn more about the parks and how to plan your visit in our Guide to Utah’s Mighty 5.

HIKES IN ZION: Angels Landing, the Zion Narrows, Observation Point, and the Watchman Trail are some of the top hiking trails in Zion. For the full list, read our Best Hikes in Zion guide.

SEDONA: Get links to all of our articles in our Sedona Travel Guide. To help you plan your visit, we also have guides to the best things to do in Sedona, the best hikes in Sedona, and how to plan the perfect Sedona itinerary. Learn where to stay in our Sedona Hotel Guide.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries. You can also learn more about the national parks and get a FREE printable checklist in our US National Parks Checklist.


If you are planning a road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.


Best Slot Canyons American Southwest

Hike Slot Canyons Southwest USA

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Comments 51

  1. Avatar for Shelly Hardester
  2. Avatar for Paul Bick
    Paul Bick

    Actually, it is SW of Santa Fe. But so nice and compact. Too bad you can’t (legally) take the Apache Tears home with you anymore.

  3. Avatar for Sandra

    Have you hiked Buckskin Gulch? It seems like a great hike but it seems difficult to do in a day hike. Secondly, Coyote Gulch is mentioned as a potential hike you are planning to do in the future. The reason we are asking is that we completed your incredible 14 day Southwest Itinerary, and we liked it so much that we want to back again to Arizona and Utah for another hiking trip. There is so much to do in this region, and hence wondering if you have plans to do another alternate itinerary for this region, with a list of other hikes that you plan to do. Your insight, as usual, is very much appreciated.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Sandra. We have not hiked Buckskin Gulch or Coyote Gulch yet, and don’t know enough about them to offer any advice. You’re right…there is so much to do in this area. We want to plan a trip to Kanab at some point to explore this area more. If you go to this area in the summer, add on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and if you rent a 4×4, Toroweap Overlook on the North Rim is high on our bucket list. Death Valley is an awesome spot to visit in the winter/early spring/late fall. There are so many great places to visit…trying to find the time is the trick. We are planning a trip at the end of February, from Las Vegas through the Mojave Desert to Joshua Tree NP, and this looks like another cool area to explore. Happy travels! Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Greg

    Another great area in a nearby state of NM is the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It has a slot canyon you hike through to begin your hike to the top of the area. Its a great little known place NW of Santa Fe. The canyon is fun and easy for all ages. Couple of miles long and worth the effort. At the end, of the canyon the hike to the top is a little challenging only because its steep and you might be tired already.

    Great place and worth the visit.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
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