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14 Insane Slot Canyons in the Southwest You Need to Explore

Exploring the best slot canyons in the Southwest is one of my favorite things and has led to some incredible hiking experiences. Truly, these are some of the most visually stunning and geologically fascinating landscapes in the United States.

Plus – who can deny that exploring a slot canyon just feels like an epic adventure??

In this guide, I’m highlighting some of the most remarkable slot canyons in the USA that I have personally hiked myself, from the textured patterns of Cathedral Wash to the maze-like structure of Fiery Furnace and the winding trails of Little Wild Horse Canyon.

The post is divided into two sections: easy hikes and more moderate hikes, and is a combination of popular, bucket list hikes and hidden gem, off-the-beaten-path trails. Every trail on here is a canyon hike that I truly loved, whether it lasted 5 minutes or 5 hours.

Important Safety Note: Slot canyons have generally been formed by the forces of water, most notably powerful flash floods that can unexpectedly rip through the region. Flash floods are a danger to hikers, and checking the weather report before you set out is imperative.

Rain anywhere in the forecast near you, or rain that has fallen recently, can all turn into flash floods in your slot canyon. The state and national parks, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, have webpages dedicated to the daily flash flood risks in their area.

Helpful Tip: I’ve written separate posts about many of the locations I talk about in this post, so be sure to click through on the links in each section to learn more about the state parks, national parks, or specific hikes that we discuss below.

Easy Slot Canyon Hikes in the Southwest

1. Jenny Canyon

Dark brown rock walls with small holes eroded into the wall with sand covering the path.

Jenny Canyon is a quick, easy, and very short hike in Snow Canyon State Park in southwest Utah. Despite the fact that the slot canyon is less than 100 yards long, the canyon itself is beautiful! This is a great option for families with young kids or anyone who can’t do a long hike, yet wants to get a taste of the wonder of slot canyons.

If you want to add a little extra to this hike, you can climb to the small lookout just above Jenny Canyon, giving great views over Snow Canyon.

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 0.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty: Very easy

2. Pioneer Park Narrows

A very skinny rock path with two dark colored walls making a small sandy path.

Pioneer Park is a cross between a city park and a nature adventure in St. George, Utah. This park is full of rocks to climb on, with lots of little caves, inlets, and spots to walk around and explore, and is a very popular spot with families.

The Narrows is a super, super skinny slot canyon that takes you up to the top of the rock pile. The slot canyon starts out narrow but then gets even tighter as you go through – I had to take my backpack off and even then had just barely enough space to squeeze through.

At the top, you can walk the rest of a loop trail around and down the rocks, or you can just go “off-trail” and keep exploring.

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 1.3 mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: 121 feet
  • Difficulty: Very easy

3. Slot Canyons of Cathedral Gorge State Park

A woman stands in the middle of the path winding throughout the tall spires with erosion patterns covering the rocks.

Cathedral Gorge State Park is an underrated and remote park in southern Nevada filled with a landscape of tall spires, slot canyons, and heavily eroded ridges forming unique “badland” formations.

What sets this park apart is its array of slot canyons, which are unique from others on this list. Instead of one long, slot canyon trail, Cathedral Gorge is dotted with dozens of short slots created from clusters of knobby spires and erosion patterns along the main ridge.

These formations create a labyrinth of narrow, winding passages as they descend to the valley floor.

These canyons are relatively short and narrow quickly, leading to dead ends or spaces too tight to pass through. The walls are extremely tall and straight and have an interesting texture to them.

So while each slot canyon is relatively short, there are dozens of little canyon areas to explore!

4. Pastel Canyon on the Seven Wonders Loop

A sloped rock leading into the path with bright blue small rocks littering the dusty path

The Seven Wonders Loop is a gorgeous hike in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada that starts by taking you right by the crowning feature of the park: the Fire Wave. This unique rock formation is decorated with vibrant, swirling bands of color and is absolutely gorgeous.

After you admire the Fire Wave, you can continue on the Seven Wonders Loop, which will take you through Pastel Canyon. This is a short yet beautiful little slot canyon, made up of low rock walls filled with waves of lightly colored pinks, purples, and creams. You’ll see striations in the rocks here, similar to at the Fire Wave.

Although the canyon walls aren’t super high here, the rocks are really grippy and you can actually scramble up and down the walls as you hike through the canyon – fun for kids and adults alike before continuing on the rest of the Seven Wonders Loop.

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 209 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

5. White Domes

A white rock slot canyon in Nevada with holes in the rocks from erosion. A woman stands on the dirt path looking up at the walls.

White Domes is another hike in Valley of State Park, Nevada. The trail has big, light colored rocks at the beginning of the trail that resemble domes (thus the name of the trail). As you hike down into a small valley, you’ll pass by multi-colored rocks and striated rocks that the park is famous for.

The slot canyon trail of the hike is fairly short and lasts just 5 minutes or so, but it’s a proper slot canyon that is really beautiful. The rock walls are white, full of little pocks, tall, narrow, and undulating. It’s a memorable part of a fun trail in Valley of Fire.

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 177 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

6. Red Reef Trail

A woman sits on the edge of the water with a reflection of the large rock walls of the slot canyon of Red Reef Trail

Red Reef Trail is a gorgeous, fun hike with a ton of wow factor. The trail follows a little stream, which enters and then winds through a fairly narrow canyon. There are a couple of little waterfalls (that you can play in) that you’ll pass by on the hike.

At one point, you’ll have to climb up the side of the “cliff” just using handholds and footholds carved into the rock. You can see these little handholds behind me in the picture, above – it’s not dangerous or scary at all, but is very fun. There are also some little caves created by the undulations in the canyon walls and spots where you have to cross the stream to continue on the trail – which all add to the uniqueness of this hike.

Plus, the canyon walls are deep, gorgeous red and there’s a lot of visual interest and little spots to explore as you hike. This is a fantastic hike in southern Utah, not far from St. George, that’s great for families or adults.

Trail Stats:

  • Entrance fee: $6/vehicle. Parking can be limited, especially on weekends
  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 219 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

7. Little Wild Horse Canyon

An upward sloped skinny rock path with curved rocks winding up the path. The path is covered with small rocks and sand.

Little Wild Horse Canyon is located just outside Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, on the San Rafael Swell, a mass of land that was pushed up from underneath (known as an anticline).

Little Wild Horse is a visually dynamic and exciting trail, as there are a lot of horizontal layers in the rock walls, with different ledges to climb on, small “caves” to sit in, and lots of pocked holes in the walls.

As you hike farther in, the walls become straighter and taller and the path becomes narrower. Eventually, you’ll be hiking along a path only a couple of feet wide. This part is very fun, but there is still plenty of space to fit almost any size body while walking forward normally.

When we did this hike with our whole family, we decided to just go to the section of the trail that was the “most slotty”, so we went in about 1.5 miles and then turned around (for a round trip total of just under 3 miles). My husband, Matthew, has done the full loop and recommends it if you have the time.

Trail Stats

  • Entrance Fee: None
  • Distance: You can either do an out-and-back hike in Little Wild Horse Canyon, which is 3.6 miles one way. Alternatively, you can do a loop hike, by hiking through Little Wild Horse, walking down behind the Reef Road, and then back out neighboring Bell Canyon. This loop is 8 miles total.
  • Elevation Gain: We gained 328 feet in our 2.8 mile round trip hike
  • Difficulty: Easy

8. Capitol Gorge Trail

A large canyon with two dark rock walls sloped upwards from the dusty path covered with pebbles.

Capitol Gorge Trail, located in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, is right off of the scenic Waterpocket Fold, which is essentially a large warp in the Earth’s crust. This dramatic buckle in the landscape, formed millions of years ago, showcases layers of colorful rock strata, cliffs, and canyons.

The Capitol Gorge trail winds through a fairly wide canyon (it’s still a slot canyon, but definitely a wider one), edged by high rock walls, with a level, gravel-covered path. Along the trail, you’ll find several small canyons that feed into the main Capitol Gorge, interrupting the continuous rock wall.

While walking, keep an eye out for the Pioneer Register on the cliff walls, where early LDS settlers left their names carved into the rock.

Further into the canyon, there’s a path that leads up the canyon walls to a ridge. Here, you can find “The Tanks,” which are natural rock depressions often filled with water (though they are often dry in the summer.)

  • Distance: 4.4 miles round trip, but if you just go to The Tanks and back (what we did), it’s just 2 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

More Difficult Slot Canyons

9. The Narrows

A shiny metallic like rock surface with blue water on the path leading across the canyon.

The Narrows is one of THE most famous slot canyon hikes in Utah, as it’s located in Zion National Park, Utah, and involves hiking in the Virgin River. The hike starts by walking a sidewalk that follows the Virgin River, but then ends at the shores of the river. From here, you continue hiking IN the water!

The water aspect makes this an exceptional hike, but the canyon itself is gorgeous, with massive orange-red walls over 1000 feet high that get progressively narrower as you hike.

The water level does change throughout the hike and fluctuates depending on recent weather conditions, and generally ranges anywhere from ankle depth to waist deep.

The entire hike is 8 miles round trip, which isn’t bad, but hiking in water is pretty tiring, so most people just do a couple miles and then turn around.

If you can, try to make it to the Wall Street section, where the canyon walls narrow to only a few feet wide – the most incredible part of the Narrows!

Trail Stats

  • Distance: Up to 10 miles round trip, most people just do a portion of the whole hike
  • Difficulty: Moderate

10. Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

A winding rock path with lots of different colors curving around with the lines on the rock on the dirt path.

Buckskin Gulch is a massive slot canyon hike that straddles the border of Utah and Arizona. At 16 miles long, Buckskin Gulch is one of the longest slot canyons in the world. You can either do this canyon as a day hike, going several miles and then turning around, or you can backpack the entire canyon all the way to the Colorado River.

There are also many different access points to Buckskin Gulch, and one of the more popular routes (and the one that we did) has you start by hiking through Wire Pass trail and slot canyon, which merges with Buckskin after a couple of miles.

This hike is seriously epic – the trail is only a few feet wide, the walls are tall and sheer, and have all sorts of pretty undulations in them. Seriously, around every corner is another gorgeous view of this jaw-dropping canyon that feels like it continues forever.

Trail Stats

  • Distance: Up to 18 miles (can do as much or as little as you like – most people do a few miles)
  • Elevation Gain:
  • Difficulty:

11. Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch

A woman in a pink tank top looks back walking along the small skinny path leading around the winding red and brown rock walls

Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons are some of my favorite slot canyon hikes. Located in Escalante, Utah, these canyons feature some of the most narrow slot canyons that the southwest has to offer – the narrowest sections are only 10 inches wide!

While Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch are separate and distinct canyons, they are located right next to each other, and you can easily turn them into one loop trail. The canyons are very narrow during their entirety, but for the most part you can hike normally through the undulating walls.

There are, however, a few spots where you have to take off your backpack, hold it in your hand, and turn sideways work your way through. Hiking through these slot canyons is such a novelty!

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 604 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

12. Fiery Furnace

A man and three kids stand on the top of a large protruding red rock coming out onto the path looking out at the green buses and tall rocks.

The Fiery Furnace might just very well be the best hike in Arches National Park, and it is certainly the most adventurous hike on this list. Because you need a permit to do the Fiery Furnace, only a few dozen people can do this hike every day.

Fiery Furnace is made up of tightly packed rows of rocky fins and canyons, creating maze-like passageways with sheer walls, interesting rock formations, a few arches, and a ton of opportunities to scramble over the rocks.

While arrows and markers provide some direction, the absence of a defined trail allows for exploration, making you feel like you’re the first people to explore as you make your way through the towering fins and rugged terrain.

While this is not your typical slot canyon with a defined trail between a set of tall rock walls, the maze of Fiery Furnace is filled with slot canyons to discover.

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 2-5 miles, depending on how much you wander and explore
  • Difficulty: Moderate

13. Cathedral Wash

A rock gorge with textured rock walls that wind on the path making different indents on the rocks. The path has many layers with some being a light blue-green color.

Cathedral Wash Slot Canyon is located an hour south of Page, Arizona, in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Unlike most slot canyons with their smooth, wave-like walls, Cathedral Gorge stands out with its textured, layered, and protruding features. The initial section of the canyon is easy and straightforward, with a mostly flat dirt/sand path. However, about halfway through, you come to a big cliff, right in the middle of the trail!

Navigating down the rock layers at this cliff is an exhilarating (and safe – there is a good way down). Past this point, the canyon walls become more irregular, showcasing a diverse array of rock layers and erosion patterns that create texture and unevenness in the walls.

The hike continues with a few more minor descents and passages between this crazy and super cool rock layers.

The banks of the Colorado River mark the end of the trail, and is a gorgeous and relaxing spot. Here, you can relax and enjoy the view of the towering red cliffs and the vibrant green river flowing past.

This is an epic slot canyon hike in the southwest.

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 387 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

14. “Secret” Antelope Canyon

A small girl sits in a yellow canoe in the middle of a water oat leading between the winding rock walls of Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is probably the most famous slot canyon in the entire United States, and is known for its magnificent, orange curving walls that let in shafts of light. This canyon is on Navajo land, and you have to go on a guided tour to experience this incredible slot canyon. The tours are decently expensive and they are also extremely crowded.

If you want to hike through a “hidden” Antelope Canyon that is basically empty, you can actually kayak on Lake Powell into Antelope Creek, which is a slot canyon on the lake. Antelope Creek will eventually end at Antelope Canyon, and you can pull up your kayaks and start walking through the slot canyon.

This is such a typical slot canyon experience, in the best way – tall, orange, curving canyon walls make a narrow pathway to walk through. Now, this isn’t the same Antelope Canyon as the tours – it’s almost adjacent to the famous canyon, but there is no access point between that one and this hidden one.

Still, it’s a great slot canyon, and kayaking up to the hiking trail adds a really unique aspect!

Trail Stats

  • Distance: 5 miles round trip kayaking, up to 3 miles round trip hiking
  • Elevation Gain: Negligible
  • Difficulty: Moderate

FAQ’s About Slot Canyons

Why are there pocked walls in the slot canyons?

The pocks you’ll see on many of the slot canyon walls are formed from patterns of erosion. The softer sediment that is more easily eroded gets washed away in rain and flash floods, leaving behind these “pocks” in the canyon walls.

When is the best time to hike slot canyons?

You really can hike the slot canyons all year long. In winter, you will likely encounter snow and ice, but apart from hiking the Narrows in winter (where you need to rent a dry suit and neoprene boots), you can hike the canyons normally in cold weather.

Summer is extremely hot in the southwest, but because it’s the desert, mornings and evenings are cool and the air is dry. We’ve actually done quite a few slot canyon hikes in the middle of summer and found that the high canyon walls block the sun quite well (except right at noon).

In general, expect the air temps in the slot canyons to be around 10°F cooler than the outside air temp.

What is the longest slot canyon?

The longest slot canyon listed is Buckskin Gulch – one of the longest in the world!

What is the shortest slot canyon?

The shortest canyon on this list is Jenny Canyon.

What is the difference between a canyon and a slot canyon?

A slot canyon is created by rushing water in the form of flash floods. They are also noticeably narrow, often just a few feet wide, and have tall, often sheer canyon walls. Most canyons are formed by continuous streams and rivers that slowly wear their way through an area.

Map of Slot Canyon Locations in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada

Incredible Slot Canyons of the Southwest – The Wrap Up

Slot canyons offer some of the most dramatic and unique hiking experiences you’ll find, and I absolutely love them. I know many more are in my future, and I hope this list gives you a starting point as you begin your own adventures!

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