On the Utah/Arizona border
The Quick Stats
Distance: 5 miles out & back
Elevation Change: 616 ft
Type: Follows a sandy desert wash and slot canyon with some steep drop offs
Restrooms at the Trailhead: yes
Water at the trailhead: no
Dogs allowed: yes
Parking lot: yes
Hiker’s ledger: yes
Fee: $6 Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness permit
The slot canyons of the southwest desert and Colorado Plateau are captivating for so many reasons. They make for great photos the way the Sun’s rays fill the top of the canyon walls and bounce off the walls below creating glow within stand stone. The wear and tear of hundreds of thousands of years of water and wind along the walls is so obvious; forces so powerful and consistent over time that we long to see a time lapse video of mother nature at work! Standing at the bottom of the canyon it’s hard not to think about the violent flash floods that have left behind beautiful walls rippled, waved, and smoothed out as the natural rinse and repeat cycle happened an unimaginable number of times.
The easiest way to get to the Wire Pass trailhead is off of US Route 89 in Utah and to take House Rock Valley Road south. However, it is possible to come from the south and take House Rock Valley Road north from US Route 89A in Arizona, east of Marble Canyon.
The entrance to the very start of Buckskin Gulch is north of Wire Pass and adds about 4 miles onto the hike. Like most, we started from Wire Pass. We walked along the wash until we got to the entrance of the slot canyon and wash was no longer. There were trails along the outside of the wash, but they seemed to alternate sides as the wash cut through the trail. Wire Pass was narrow at points and had a small wooden ladder, but overall not difficult and extremely gorgeous.
Once through Wire Pass you’ll enter a large open area at the intersection of Buckskin Gulch. There are towering canyon walls and ancient petroglyphs along one of them. We took a right turn and continued down Buckskin Gulch. Absolutely stunning!! Every turn with the canyon walls was jaw dropping. It was hard to put our phone down because we wanted a picture of it all. Although it’s easy to get fixated on the canyon’s walls and beauty, make sure you look down at the rocks and boulders that have been moved by water over time. Much of the walk through the slot canyon is rocky or sandy. We stopped for so many photos and videos. The canyon can get crowded or difficult to get pictures without others. Some people were great and hid behind walls if they saw us taking a picture, and we’d do the same. We also used camera angles to hide people, or we would wait for sharp enough curve in the canyon so other hikers could not be seen. We ended up turning around after about 2.8 miles at a popular camping spot for those doing the full 45 miles trip to the Paria River that confluences with the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry.