I’m in Utah now, boondocking in the Dixie National Forest just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Having  arrived here just yesterday afternoon I don’t have much to write about this area yet, so I’ll save that for a future post. Right now I’ll tell you a little about the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon which I visited a couple days ago.
There are many excellent, even famous photos of Antelope Canyon, which have been widely published. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon in Arizona: a narrow canyon with high vertical walls of beautifully sculpted sandstone and at times, in places, shafts of light which come beaming down as if heaven sent. According to Wikipedia, Antelope Canyon “is the most-visited and most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest”. I’ve read that Upper Antelope Canyon, as opposed to Lower Antelope Canyon is the place to go for the shafts of light, by the way.
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon

I visited neither of the Antelope Canyons. Rather, I opted to visit the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, the longest slot canyon in the country, not too far away from Antelope Canyon. While more famous, Upper Antelope Canyon is but 100 yards long, requires the purchase of tickets in the neighborhood of $30, and is thronged by visitors on guided tours, which, I imagine may make photography difficult. The Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, on the other hand, goes on and on and on and on, and you’re likely to spend long periods of time without hearing or seeing anyone else. It too bears a cost to enter, but here the price is a $6 BLM self-issued permit which can be purchased at the trailhead.  It is spectacular in its own right, with canyon walls about 100′ high in places. I saw a raven fling through the canyon which was barely wide enough for it to flap its wings and it was maybe midway from the top to the bottom of the canyon walls. This was a most surprising sight. I also saw a coyote, not in the slot canyon–that would be scary–but rather on the trail that leads to it.

Along the Road to Wire Pass
Along the Road to Wire Pass

The BLM web site cautions that a 4-wheel drive vehicle should be used for the 8 mile drive on the unmaintained dirt Houserock Valley Road to the trailhead but I think that’s probably silly if the road is dry. It’s perfectly passable by an ordinary passenger sedan when dry and there were any number of them at the Wire Pass trailhead. When wet, however, even a 4-wheel drive may have problems at points along the way.

Patterns in the sandstone: Buckskin Gulch
Patterns in the sandstone: Buckskin Gulch

You may not find the famous lights beaming down from the heavens in the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, but it’s still a terrific place to visit with many beautiful surprises along the way from unexpected patterns in the canyon walls, beautifully colored sandstone, to patches of flowers, depending on the season.

Patterns in the sandstone: Buckskin Gulch
Patterns in the sandstone: Buckskin Gulch
Buckskin Gulch shares the same trailhead as “The Wave” a very famous geologic formation that people come from around the world to see. Permits for The Wave are extremely difficult to obtain. I mention it because if you plan on being in the area it may be worth a shot at getting a permit to hike the trail to The Wave. You should begin your quest for permits a year ahead of time if you can.
Wildflowers at Bucksin Gulch
Wildflowers at Buckskin Gulch
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon


  1. I love slot canyons. There are a bunch in southern Utah that are free and you won’t see a soul.
    ps You wildflowers a Buckskin Gulch are Oenothera – evening primroses.

    1. Thanks Cinda. I wondered what they were.

      Can you recall where any of those slot canyons to which you referred are located or what they are called? I am sure inquiring minds want to know (including mine)

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