A few weeks back I spoke about Fairyland, a hike in Bryce, and I mentioned a hike where we met a guy who had taken LSD. Well today is the day to talk about that hike. It’s called Buckskin Gulch and it’s located two and half hours from anything and a few miles into no where.
Buckskin Gulch is a slot canyon located on the border of Utah and Arizona. It’s probably, if not the longest slot canyon in the United States. The canyon is located off of highway 89 on a small dirt road named White House Trail Road.
The first opening into the canyon is located a 5 miles down the road, but that takes longer to get to the good part of the hike, so I suggest pressing forward to the second entrance which is about 3 miles further. To be more specific, the second entrance is called Wire Pass Trail Head. It’s a few miles away from the Vermilion Cliffs area (By the way, it requires a permit to go into the Vermilion Cliffs.)
- Distance- 1-21 miles. Pick your distance.
- Cost-6 dollars per person and per dog, and an additional 5 dollars for overnight camping in the canyon.
- Bring a sweater, it gets very cold down there, especially when wet.
We began at the Wire Pass Trail Head and headed off to the canyon. The trail begins in a river bed and it takes about a mile before you get to the exciting stuff. A word of caution, there is a trail that does lead out of the river bed, do not follow it, that goes somewhere else. If you stay in the river bed, you will get to the canyon without any problem.
After 20 minutes of walking you will arrive at the first slot canyon. This may be considered the Wire Pass, but I cannot find any specific details on it, but it is one thin slot canyon. Most of the canyon is about shoulder width but does vary from that. I keep thinking I should mention what the walking conditions are like, but it seems to change from month to month and year to year so when you go, it will be different then my experience.
When I first visited this canyon back when I was 16, this part of the trail had no obstacles. Lets just say that has changed. We encountered a few rock falls to get over. A few more logs to get around and were greeted by a few more trees that were lodged 10 feet above our heads in the canyon.
After a few minutes of working your way through Wire Pass, you will finally arrive at Buckskin Gulch. Upon entering the canyon you will notice that it is quite large and not very slot canyon like. Don’t worry, the canyon continues both to your right and to your left and it narrows very quickly in either direction. When we first visited this place, the actual canyon topography was different though. There was a large hillside where wire pass came out of, but that is all gone now. A huge section of the canyon wall that we had climbed on years back was missing too. So it was almost like being on a new hike.
From this point we headed south (right if you are walking in from wire pass) and soon encountered some long missed friends, icy cold pools of water. Slot canyons flood… alot. And thus water is left inside of them. Not all slot canyons have water in them, but it not unheard of. When the water finds a place to pool it is usually down in an deep dark section of the canyon, blocking all light from hitting the water, making them freezing cold.
From this point on in the hike, you will encounter water. It may be different depending on the year you are there, but count on going through at least 5 large pools of water. Most are not too bad, and few are waist deep, all were enjoyable except one. We encountered a particular puddle that was exceptionally disgusting to walk through. It smelled like deer and looked as if a tree had gotten stuck under the water and disintegrated. You will see it in the video, but it was disgusting. It is safe to say we smelled a bit funky after that.
Well we continued down the canyon far another few miles enjoying the twisted nature of the canyon. The water has beautifully sculpted out the rock into unique shapes and structures that keep going for miles and miles. Some other interesting things you will see along the way is the mud and its formations. Also, you will see trees and debris that has been lodges 20 feet above your head. A testament of how powerful the water can be in a big flood in one of these canyons.
We traveled down the canyon for about 3 miles before we turned around. If you were to continue farther and do the entire trail, it would probably take 2 days, but three miles is more than enough. The canyon floor is often covered with large rocks and boulders that are havoc on your ankles and knees. By time we got back to the vehicle we were all exhausted.
To cap off an amazing day, we went back and stopped by the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, enjoyed dutch oven and sat around the camp fire. If you have any questions or comments, let me know!