Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch between Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona are two of the coolest slot canyons in southern Utah. It has the advantage of being relatively easy and accessible without 4WD. This shares a trailhead with “The Wave”. The Wave has a lottery system that only allows a very limited number of hikers. Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch also requires a permit, but there are no limits. Just pay $6 per person online through Recreation.gov. Cell service is spotty at the trailhead, so it’s best to buy your permits beforehand, but you can buy them afterwards if needed.
The Wire Pass Trailhead is equally situated just over an hour from both Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona. The last eight miles is on an improved dirt road, House Rock Valley Road. I had done a lot of research beforehand to know if we could make it in our minivan, but we had no troubles. This type of clay dirt gets very slippery when wet. Slot canyons are dangerous in rain, because of the potential for flash floods, so a rainy day would be too dangerous for this hike anyway. Keep an eye out the window as you drive at the rock formations and colors.
The trail begins next to the signs and guestbook. From there walk straight and when it opens up, head to the left. You will follow this dry creek bed for about a mile.
There are some interesting red rocks, but the best is yet to come. As you approach the turn off for Coyote Buttes North to The Wave, the rocks start to look super cool.
The walls start to narrow and rise until suddenly they are only three feet apart!
Wire Pass is a really fun slot canyon. It reminds me a lot of the narrower parts of Kanarra Falls, but without the water (there could be water if it had recently rained). It is flat except there is a ladder in one section. My kindergartner did it himself and said it was his favorite part of the hike, but it might be challenging with a dog.
I never felt like it was so narrow, but the photo above shows the skinniest part. The Wire Pass Slot Canyon is only about 0.5 miles long. Then you come to a large opening. To the right you see a large arch in the rock with cool rock formations underneath.
Just beyond the arch on the wall are some petroglyphs.
As you turn the corner to the right there are more petroglyphs. You can also see how tall the wall is there. If you look back to the left side of the canyon, across from the arch, then you see more cool rocks that remind me of The Wave.
Buckskin Gulch is actually one of the longest slot canyons in the world! It is over 13 miles long, so backpackers will sometimes get an overnight permit to hike the whole slot. Wire Pass perpendicular to Buckskin Gulch, if you look to the left, you’ll see the wider, part of Buckskin. It still looks impressive.
For this hike you will probably want to head the opposite way, so take a right after the petroglyphs.
As you round the corner you will see the canyon walls narrow again into an awesome slot canyon. It is wider than Wire Pass, but the walls are higher and of course it’s much longer.
It had rained and snowed two days before, so there were a few muddy spots, but we could maneuver around them fairly well. As you can see this is a popular hike, but we didn’t feel crowded.
You can follow Buckskin Gulch to make the hike as long as you wish. It’s 3.4 miles round trip to get to Buckskin, so you’ll need to make it at least 4 miles to get a taste of Buckskin Gulch before turning around.
One of my favorite parts of this hike were the incredible textures and formations. Here are just a few:
Here are a few more pictures from this hike.
Stats: Distance – 4+ miles round trip (3.4 miles to Buckskin and then you choose how long until you turn around)
Approximate hiking time – 2-5 hours (with my kids it was 3 hours for nearly 5 miles)
Elevation gain – 616 feet
Difficulty – Easy
Trail – well maintained trail of dirt and rocks
Bathrooms – At trailhead
Seasons to hike – Year-round (The road and trail may be tricky when wet.)
Permits needed – $6/person (or dog) permit through Recreation.gov
Pets allowed – Yes (horses are also allowed in Buckskin)