Julie United States 31 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!

8 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

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

Antelope Canyon Lower

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.


Photo Credit: OakleyOriginals

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

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

PeekABoo 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

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. 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

Willis Creek Slot Canyon

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

6. 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

7. 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

8. Pastel Canyon

The Pastel Canyon, also called the Pink Canyon, is photogenic slot canyon to explore in Nevada. The highlight of this canyon is the pink and yellow pastel stripes that decorate the canyon.

Pink Canyon Valley of Fire

Pastel Canyon Valley of Fire

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

Bonus! White Domes Canyon

There is a second slot canyon to visit if you will be traveling to the Valley of Fire (the same location as the Pastel Canyon). There is a short slot canyon on the White Domes hike.

White Domes Slot Canyon

Location: Valley of Fire, Nevada
Distance: 1.25 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Read more: Exploring the Valley of Fire

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!

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


You Might Also Like:

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


Hike Slot Canyons Southwest USA


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Comments 31

  1. Hi Julie I am a big fan of yours. Just love to read your travel stories from all over the world. We will be travelling to Antelope Canyon during our spring break in April. We got our tour ticket at 3pm for Upper Antelope. Do you think around that time we can still get some good pictures? We will be travelling from LV that morning and that’s why we will not be able to manage the prime time to see the canyons. We are going only to the Upper Antelope though. Pl advise. Thanks!

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      At 3 pm, the canyon will be getting dark. If you take a look at our photos on our Upper Antelope Canyon post, most of these photos were taken between 1:30 and 3:00 in early May. I expect that photography will be challenging at 3 pm, because of the dim lighting conditions, but it will still be a very neat experience to be there. Cheers, Julie

  2. Thank you so much for these advise!

    Do you know “Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon” ? Is it a mandatory tour with a company (such as Antelope Canyon) ? When I google this slot canyon, only tour companies appear.

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      I don’t know much about Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon, although it sounds like a nice alternative to Antelope Canyon. For Antelope Canyon a guide is mandatory. I imagine that Horseshoe Bend is the same way. It’s crazy to see how popular these spots have gotten in really just the past 3 years. We didn’t hear anything about Horseshoe Bend SC on our visit in 2017 and now I am hearing more and more about it. Enjoy! Cheers, Julie

      1. Yes, we did Horseshoe Bend slot canyon last year. I believe it was formerly known as Secret Canyon. We had a great experience! There is actually only one company that does tours here, I believe it’s a family business. They take you with jeeeps to the canyon, and there are only max. 12 people in your group, so it is SO much more quiet than the Antelope Canyons. I would defenitely choose this one above Antelope, which may be just a little more scenic, but so rushed and packed with people….

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      Thank you SO MUCH for recommending this! I never heard of it and we will be out that way in a few weeks. Putting it on our already long and growing list of things to do. 🙂 Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi, beautiful pictures and descriptions of those slot-canyons, some of which we’ve visited as well.
    Although we live in Europe, we’ve already visited Kanarraville Canyon twice, see here for pictures and descriptions:

    Kanarraville itself has a rather small, but nice and good campground, and Cedar City has a wonderful KOA, as well that it just is a very pleasand city !

    Hope you’ll make it one day.

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  4. Beautiful descriptions of some amazing hikes. I was sorry to read that health reasons delayed your planned Zion Narrows hike. I did the top down full 16 miles some years ago as a backpacking trip and it remains the most amazing hike I’ve ever enjoyed. You guys are monster thru-hikers and could easily consider tackling this in a day, but I cast my vote for a more relaxed two day trek leaving plenty of time for setting up a tripod and snagging some amazing pics.

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  5. Hi Tim, Julie, Tyler and Kara !
    I’m very happy that I had this opportunity to come across your beautiful site. I was greatly impressed by the quality of all the information you provide: fascinating and interesting stories accompanied with professional grade pictures.
    The thing is that four of our friends are coming from Ukraine to visit us( we live in Columbus, Ohio). So, selfishly enough, I try to use this opportunity to fulfill a long time dream to go to Grand Canyon, Zion Park and Bryce Canyon. For that matter your site was so helpful I think I don’t need any more information.
    Thanks again for your cheerful smiles and Good luck in future endeavors!
    With respect, Andrew.

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      Hello Andrew. Thank you for the wonderful comments. That’s quite a nice lifetime dream…all of the places you mentioned are amazing and what an awesome place to take your friends (and not at all selfish…hopefully you all will be blown away like we were). Happy travels! Cheers, Julie, Tim, Tyler & Kara

    2. Hi Andrew, your trip sounds great, I line in New Zealand and planning a sim trip in a few weeks, flying into Las Vegas then hiring a car, will visit Valley of Fire, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon, Page to see a few slot canyons and Horseshoe bend, then on to the Grand Canyon south side then onto Sedonia and back to Las Vegas. hope to take some great photos, hope you enjoy your trip.



  6. Thanks for this great list.

    Just did part of Buckskin Gulch (and Wire Pass, the slot canyon shortcut to the Gulch). Below the Wire Pass/Buckskin Gulch intersection, the pools of cold water were sometimes up to mid thigh in early April, while the walls soared above us. Upstream was great too, even when the slot canyon opened up and turned into something entirely different and fantasy-like. Check it out for yourself.

    And as for Antelope Canyon, also try kayaking up the bottom from Lake Powell and then hiking (possibly through an obstacle of thick mud) to this lonely and quiet part of the canyon–still with curvy slots hardly wider than your shoulders.

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  7. Which hikes in Grand Staircase-Escalante are the best for young children? Our youngest is 4, but she likes to hike with the “big kids”. Thanks! BTW, we loved your advice for our trip to Isle of Skye this summer. We followed your itinerary quite closely and absolutely LOVED our trip.

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      Hello Heather. I am so glad you had a nice time on the Isle of Skye. In Grand Staircase I would recommend Willis Creek. It’s mostly flat and you can hike out as far as you want and turn around when you are ready. Zebra Slot and PeekABoo/Spooky Gulch is probably too challenging for a 4 year old, although your older kids may like squeezing through the narrow Spooky Gulch slot canyon. Nearby is Devils Garden, a great place for kids to explore. Near Grand Staircase (really, it’s practically part of it) is Kodachrome Basin Park. There are lots of short, family-friendly trails here. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

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