The Buckskin Gulch is considered the longest slot canyon in the southwestern United States and one of the longest slot canyons worldwide. Located south of Highway 89, along the Utah/Arizona border near Kanab, it is part of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion/Cliffs wilderness. Hiking through Buckskin Gulch is both exciting and dangerous as most outdoor adventures. It’s a favorite among hikers around the world.
The Buckskin Gulch is 16 mile-long hike according to the Bureau of Land Management. Fifteen miles of this route runs through a spectacular slot canyon. Because of its length, it’s considered a challenging hike by most standards. Fit hikers can cover the entire distance in one day. A longer hike of 45 miles is available but requires overnight trips and legal permits that take up to four months.
When preparing for your hike, it is paramount to check the weather forecast constantly for your safety. Don’t attempt to hike here during flash flood season; it’s a death sentence. There are essentials that you’re going to need on your hike; they include drinking water, 30 feet of rope, appropriate footwear, and weather-appropriate clothes.
You’ll need the rope to get through the boulder jams. Water is an absolute necessity because the nearest drinking water source is located five miles away in Big Springs. The Paria River is silty and not suitable for drinking.
Your feet will get wet from walking through the Paria River Canyon or slugging through thigh-deep mud, so wear appropriate footwear such as trail runners and an extra pair of socks. The air inside the gorge is chillier because sunlight does not penetrate the gulch, so dress appropriately. Also, go with sun protection gear like sunglasses and sunscreen.
The best time to hike here is in early summer, spring and fall. April, June, September, and November are the best months to plan your hike. During these periods, the threat of flash floods is very low. Check the weather forecast before you visit.
The best time of the day to visit is in the morning. The hike is already long, so you need to start early. The worst times of the year to visit are July and August. It is not advisable to visit during these months because flash floods are more likely to happen then.
Two types of permits are available if you want to visit the Buckskin Gulch: the overnight permits and the day hike permit. The overnight permit is for when you plan backpacking trips at the Gulch. This one is much harder to get; you must book four months in advance just to be on the safe side. There is also a limit of twenty people per day for this permit. It costs $6.
Paria Canyon day hike permit is easier to get and is accessible via the website. The permit costs $6 per adult and $6 per dog. Children twelve years of age and below do not require permits. The permit is non-refundable and non-transferable.
There are about four ways to reach Buckskin Gulch. For day hiking, the most direct access is the wire pass trailhead or the Buckskin Gulch trailhead.
This is the first trailhead you’ll see. It’s located 4.5 miles from House Rock Valley road.
Wire pass trail is located 8.4 miles from house rock valley road, on the left side of the road. The parking lot here gets filled quickly, so you want to arrive early. The trail is exposed and rocky; it passes along a coyote wash. Starting early will offer you a few hours of blessed coolness.
Wire Pass and Coyote Buttes share the same parking lot. Part of this trail goes to the Wire Pass wash.
White House Trailhead Road is south of route 89, 30 miles from Page in Arizona. It’s 2 miles of rough road that leads to the White House Trailhead and White House campground. If you’re coming from Kanab, head east on US89, it’s a 43-mile drive.
To get here, head south on US89A for 78 miles from Kanab. When you get to Marble canyon, turn right into lee’s ferry road and drive for 4.4 miles to get to the trailhead.
There are lots of amazing sights to see for the duration of the entire hike. Highlights include Unique and fantastic rock formations and rock cairns from other hikers. The petroglyphs on the right side of the large rock alcove before Confluence displays the rock art of ancient cultures. It is something you must see.
There are the things you should know before your visit. Knowing these things ensures you don’t unknowingly break the rules during your hike.
- Camping isn’t allowed near archeological sites.
- The maximum size for a group is ten.
- Campfires aren’t allowed.
- Littering of any kind isn’t allowed. A waste bag will be given to you for free at the Paria contact station or Kanab after using the toilet.
- While dogs are allowed, you must also pack out their poop.
There are lots of obstacles on this hike, so be prepared. Also, watch where you’re going as the terrain is rocky. If you’re backpacking, please decide your turn-back point before you start your hike. You will encounter pools of standing water that may be knee-deep or neck-deep. It is always best to keep this in mind as the water can quickly rise during rainfall.
Due to extreme flash flood danger, Buckskin Gulch is a dangerous hike by any standard; only the brave ever dare. It is the deepest slot canyon floor and has narrow slot canyon walls. Please do not hike here if there’s the slightest chance it may rain, even as far out as Bryce canyon. Getting caught between narrow canyon walls during heavy rains in southern Utah is an absolute disaster.
The day hike requires a lot of driving; sometimes, shuttles are your only choice if you do not own a car. You can book a ride through a website or call the Paria Ranger station. It doesn’t come cheap, though. Below is the price list.
- Wire Pass to White House $100
- Wire Pass to Lee’s Ferry $200
- Lee’s Ferry to Buckskin Gulch $200
Several factors contribute to the fantastic hike Buckskin Gulch offers, including the incredible photographs you’re sure to take. You will come across some stretches of deep sand and it is all a part of what makes Buckskin Gulch such a great hike.