19 Amazing American Southwest Slot Canyons – Secret Slot Canyons!

Are you looking to visit the stunning slot canyons of the Southwest? This post covers the best American Southwest Slot Canyons in Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. These are the most popular slot canyons.

Slot Canyons in the American Southwest

I have organized this list by State and included each slot canyon location, how long of a hike it is and how difficult is the hike. I’ve also included an American Southwest Slot Canyon Map at the end too.

What is a Slot Canyon and Why are they so popular in the American Southwest?

A slot canyon is formed by rushing water through rock, which over time forms a narrow canyon through rock. These flash floods have been happening for millions of years and the wind and erosion form a tiny crack which eventually grows larger through the years.

Slot canyons can be both deep and narrow, from meters wide to just 10 inches wide. Slot canyons usually feature twists and turns, with beautifully colored walls ranging from reds to purples. Some canyons feature creeks and streams which you have to wade through, others are short and some are 20 mile long hikes.

15 Amazing Slot Canyons in the American Southwest to Explore

Slot Canyons in Utah

Zion Narrows

Location: Zion National Park

Length: 16-miles

Difficulty: Hard

best hikes in utah
Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah

This is often referred to as the perfect slot canyon. Despite its challenges, the canyon provides beautiful breath-taking views and is a memorable experience for anyone who attempts it. You can complete the trail in various ways.

Firstly, you can start from the bottom and hike as far as you can up before turning around and heading back down. This is a relatively moderate hike and can be easily completed in one day.

The alternative is to complete the entire route, in which case you start from the top and work your way down. This is a more difficult hike and can either be done in one day or as a back-packing trip over the course of 2 or more days. Which ever way you chose to complete it, it will be a great adventure filled with beautiful scenery all around.

Buckskin Gulch

Location: 43-miles East of Kanab

Length: 21-miles one way

Difficulty: Hard

Two hikers dwarfed by Buckskin Gulch, located in southern Utah, it is one of the longest slot canyons in the world.

This is one of the longest slot canyons in the world and could take many days to hike the entirety of this canyon. The trail itself is not technical, however, due to the length it is considered a strenuous hike.

The route takes its visitors through a beautiful slot that is both dark and narrow. The hike can be completed in one day although, it is recommended to take on this hike as an overnight backpacking adventure.

A permit is required for entrance into this slot canyon, whether your visit is for one day or overnight. This slot canyon is open year-round although, fall and spring is the most ideal time of year and hike this gorgeous slot canyon. 

Wire Pass

Location: 47-miles East of Kanab

Length: 3.5-miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Easy

Wire Pass slot canyon right before it converges with Buckskin Gulch. (in the background) Buckskin Gulch, located in southern Utah, it is one of the longest slot canyons in the world.

Wire Pass is a much shorter and easier slot canyon hike that joins the Buckskin Gulch. Entering the Buckskin Gulch through Wire Pass is a popular way to do the hike as it provides a convenient and easy way to access Buckskin Gulch without completing the first few miles which are both hard and not as beautiful as the remainder of the hike.

The trail through Wire Pass is a narrow path and provides for some amazing photo opportunities. This is due to the sun often illuminating on the sandstone walls of the can, providing some beautiful and amazing reflections and alternating colours through the canyon.    

Zebra Slot Canyon

Location: 16-miles East of Escalante

Length: 5-miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Moderate

This is a beautiful hike that has an amazing slot canyon at the end of the trail. The hike to the slot canyon has beautiful landscape views of Utah. There are pools of water through this narrow canyon, although depending on the weather conditions, these may be ankle deep, knee deep or even waist deep water pools. 

Columns and wave formations in Zebra Slot Canyon Utah, USA natural shapes of sandstone formed by little creek

At some sections of this canyon, it can get very narrow where it is common for many people to leave their backpacks at the entrance of the canyon, so they don’t interfere with getting through the narrow walls.

There are sections of this canyon that are rather difficult, so it is common to turn around and head back without completing the entirety of this otherwise beautiful canyon hike.

Kanarraville Falls

Distance: 4.8-miles round trip 

Difficulty: Moderate  

Located in the small town of Kanarraville, in southern west Utah, this is a beautiful hiking trail that cannot be fully completed without the hiker getting wet, as this is a water hike! 

Slot Canyons in Utah
Waterfall in Kanarra Creek Canyon, Zion National Park

Along the trail there are many parts in which you must walk through a water creek, before coming to a slot canyon in which you must travel through the water (usually around 3-ft deep) to be able to access the waterfalls. The trail itself is beautiful, filled with lush scenery, making the entire trail an enjoyable experience. unique to some other waterfall hikes, a permit is required in order to attempt this one. 

You can check out my posts on the Best Slot Canyons in Utah, the Best Hikes in Utah.

Or Hikes with Waterfalls in Utah for more ideas of places to visit in Utah.

Headquarter Canyon

Distance: 2.0-miles round trip 

Difficulty: Easy

Several ravines cut through the steep east face of the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park, south of Highway 24, and many of them form narrow slot canyons where the drainage is enclosed by the Navajo sandstone layer. The drainages further north, where the reef is broader, are longer, further apart, and often harder to follow.

Check out my post on the Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park

Slot Canyons in Arizona

Antelope Canyon, Page Arizona

Location: Page, Arizona
Distance: 90-minute tours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Antelope Canyon is the most popular slot canyon in Arizona.  You can visit either Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon but make sure you purchase your tickets months in advance as they do sell out at this popular attraction.

Upper Antelope Canyon is easier to access as there are no stairs.  It is also less crowded but you do not get to see the light beams in the canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon has the light beams but you need to climb up and down ladders to access the canyon.

Both are beautiful and there is a small price difference between the two.  Access to the canyons is restricted to guided tours only.

You can check out my posts on the Best Antelope Canyon Tours and how to choose between Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon.

Canyon X Page Arizona

Location: Page, Arizona
Distance: 90 minute tours
Difficulty: Moderate

Located outside of Page, Arizona near Antelope Canyon.  Canyon X is the less popular slot canyon in the area.  The light beams in this canyon are fantastic and it is an absolutely lovely canyon to visit.

This is the place to go if you want to miss the crowds yet still see the natural beauty of the slot canyons.

Buckskin Gulch Canyon

Location: Utah- Arizona border, between Page and Kanab.
Distance: 3.5 – 21 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Moderate due to large distances

This is one of people’s all time favorite hikes – Buckskin Gulch Canyon. The canyon is the longest slot canyon in the world as it runs continuously for 15 miles.  It is deep, dark, and narrow, with plenty of obstacles to make it fun. It is not a technical hike but is rated as strenuous because of its length. You do have to scramble over rocks and wade/swim potholes.

Secret Canyon

Location: Page, Arizona
Distance: 1-2 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Easy

This Secret Canyon exists in the same general area as Antelope Canyon and Canyon X but it sees fewer visitors and is gorgeous! You’ll see some similar views as you would at Antelope Canyon, but you’ll know that you’re one of few who’ve explored this place.

There is also another Secret Canyon in the Sedona region but this one is located outside of Page, Arizona.  It is worth noting you will see all of the same views as Antelope Canyon without the crowds.

Slot Canyons in Nevada

Pastel Canyon

Location: Valley of Fire, Nevada
Distance: 1-2 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Easy

Pastel Canyon, also known as Pink Canyon, is located in The Valley of Fire State Park and is near to The Fire Wave and the White Dome trail. But, since there is no official trail and it isn’t marked on any map, it is often overlooked.

The canyon stretches for miles and provides a lovely sandstone hike that can get a little muddy at times. You may go as far as you want because there are no trails or markings, but if you go out and explore the tiny side canyons, keep track of where you are or you can get lost in the labyrinth of sand and rocks.

The best scenery in Valley of Fire State Park is along the 5.7-mile Mouse’s Tank Road, a spur off the main highway, where the otherwise pure red rocks are mixed with strata of distinct, lighter colors – pink, orange, yellow, and white – with the contrasting layers sometimes close together.

Check out my post on Las Vegas to the Valley of Fire

Moon Cave, Canyon Caves, and Cathedral Caves

Location: Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
Distance: 1-2 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Easy

At Cathedral Gorge State Park there are three slot canyons, which are easy to reach and explore, are the main attraction. Moon Cave, Canyon Caves, and Cathedral Caves are all accessible with a short walk from the park’s main parking area.

Cathedral Gorge State Park is in southeastern Nevada, in a long, narrow valley where erosion has cut dramatic and unusual patterns in the soft bentonite clay.

The park’s beauty started with explosive volcanic activity that deposited layers of ash hundreds of feet thick with each eruption.

There are numerous walking trails to explore the cave-like formations and cathedral-like spires created by geologic processes that occurred millions of years ago.

The park is a photographer’s dream, with breathtaking views of the scenic canyon and opportunities for hiking, picnicking, camping, and nature research.

Lake Mojave Slot Canyons

Location: West Side of Lake Mojave, Nevada
Distance: 3 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Lake Mohave is a Colorado River reservoir that was built in 1951 after the completion of Davis Dam between Laughlin, Nevada, and Bullhead City, Arizona.

Lake Mohave, named after the Mohave Indians who once lived in this part of the Colorado River valley, stretches 67 miles from Hoover Dam to Davis Dam, straddling the southern Nevada and northwestern Arizona border and following the initial river channel.

Anniversary Narrows Slot Canyon

Location: Lake Mead, Nevada
Distance: 6 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Anniversary Narrows Slot Canyon is located just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, along the Lake Mead Scenic Byway. This trail is better hiked from November to March, when the weather is cooler.

There is no shade or water, and there is no such thing as an “official trail.” Regardless, hiking the Anniversary Narrows Slot Canyon is a great activity for the entire family, including dogs (off leash).

Red rock sandstone in the lake mead national recreation area, Nevada, USA

This slot canyon is ideal for hiking around Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area because of its short distance. You can also check out my post on where to hike near Las Vegas and the best Hot Springs in Nevada.

Slot Canyons in New Mexico

Tent Rocks Slot Canyon

Location: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico
Distance: 3 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Easy to moderate

The Slot features stunning examples of rock strata, hoodoos, and wind and water effects. It’s a pleasant climb, with a gain of about 750 feet in about three miles.

Passing through caves and climbing ledges There are railway ties to use as steps to the top, which offers panoramic views for miles.

With soaring raptures and cliffs, the loop for handicapped small children is lovely. Except for rock climbers and rock scramblers, there’s almost enough for all. Since this is a holy spot, stay on the trail.

This region was created six to seven million years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity. The pumice and other igneous rock found in the monument were used to construct the slot canyon’s walls.

The slot canyon and cave loop is three miles long and has an elevation gain of 839 feet. The cave’s entrance resembles a giant cookie cutter carved into the rock. If you’re looking for a slot canyon in an alien environment, this is the place to go.

Check out my post and the Best National Parks and National Monuments in New Mexico

Jemez East River Slot Canyon

Location: Jemez Falls, New Mexico
Distance: 3 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Easy to moderate

This is a hike along a stream that leads to a spectacular slot canyon. Park along the highway, near the drainage, at the curve in the route. Walk east along the river’s many trails until you reach a slot canyon with several waterfalls.

This hike is dog-friendly! It’s a good idea to wear your water shoes! This trail is very busy from Spring to Fall, so be careful!

If you are going to be in Jemez Falls, check out my post on the Best Hot Springs in New Mexico

Leasburg Slot Canyon

Location: El Paso, New Mexico
Distance: 2.4 miles
Hiking Difficulty: Easy to moderate

The Robledo Mountain Wilderness Study Area has a slot canyon on the western side of the Rio Grande. Up to the slot canyon, follow the wash.

This hike necessitates a foot crossing of the Rio Grande. Just cross in the late fall or winter, when the Rio Grande’s flow has been reduced to a minimum for the growing season.

This trail is only accessible by crossing the river. You will be stranded if you try to drive on the western route, which Google Maps marks as D013 Rocky Acres Trails, since it is private property. This is true from both a north and south perspective.

Check out my post on the Best Waterfalls in New Mexico

American Southwest Slot Canyons Map

American Southwest Obsessed

Nicole is a travel expert who has been traveling to the American Southwest since 1992. There is so much to see and do in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and California. I spend part of the year in Phoenix and travel around the area visiting all the best places and going on the best hikes. Check out my detailed destination guides, the best hiking in each state guides, and the travel gear you need for your next trip.

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