Hiking through the longest slot canyon in the US makes Buckskin Gulch one of the most sought after things to do near Kanab in southern Utah. Options for hiking Buckskin Gulch include a short day hike return from Wire Pass or a multi day backpacking trek from Wire Pass to Lee’s Ferry over 40 miles away.
In this guide, we will explain everything you need to know about hiking the razor thin slot canyon Buckskin Gulch from the most popular and direct trailhead at Wire Pass.
Let’s hike a few miles into Buckskin Gulch via Wire Pass Trailhead!
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What Is Buckskin Gulch?
Buckskin Gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the United States, and it is considered as one of the longest slot canyons in the world. The narrow Buckskin Gulch slot canyon is a tributary draining an area of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument into the Paria River, which ultimately flows into the Colorado River.
Sections of Buckskin Gulch slot canyon are barely 10 feet wide with canyon walls as tall as 400 feet in certain areas.
The Southern Utah / Northern Arizona border area is home to dozens of slot canyons, but many require official guides or high clearance vehicles to access, both of which cost to acquire. Buckskin Gulch is completely free to enter and it is easily accessible via Wire Pass.
A hike into this incredible slot canyon should definitely be included on your Utah road trip wishlist. How far you go is entirely up to you.
Where Is The Trailhead For Buckskin Gulch?
There are several ways you can enter the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, but the quickest entry point and most popular option for a day hike when visiting Kanab is via Wire Pass Trailhead.
We will quickly discuss the other trailheads below so you know your options for hiking Buckskin Gulch slot canyon and exactly what to expect.
Trailheads leading to the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon include:
- Buckskin Trailhead (day hike)
- Middle Trail Entrance-Exit Trailhead (day hike)
- Wire Pass Trailhead (day hike)
- White House Trailhead (multi-day hike)
- Lee’s Ferry Trailhead (multi-day hike)
This trailhead is a longer day hike option when compared to the Wire Pass Trailhead. The trail will be very similar but you will have to hike a longer distance to reach the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon at the Buckskin / Wire Pass junction.
If you start at Buckskin Trailhead, there is a 3 mile walk in sand along a dry wash before you join the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon at the junction with Wire Pass Trail. This will not be the best entry point if you are short on time.
Directions To Buckskin Trailhead From Kanab, Utah:
The location of Buckskin Trailhead is 4 miles north of Wire Pass trailhead on the same road (House Rock Valley Road). Head south on US-89 for about 40 miles and then turn right on House Rock Valley Road for 4.5 miles.
Please note Buckskin Trailhead is different from Buckskin Gulch. Buckskin Trailhead leads to the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon after 3 miles of hiking.
Middle Trail Entrance-Exit Trailhead (Middle-Out Escape Exit)
Middle Trail Entrance-Exit Trailhead enters Buckskin Gulch around 4 miles into the lower section of the slot canyon from Buckskin / Wire Pass junction.
However, this trailhead is often referred to as the Middle-Out Escape Route. It is the only way out of Buckskin Gulch if the weather takes a turn for the worst so it is good to know where it is located.
Entering or exiting Buckskin Gulch via Middle Trail is very strenuous with extremely steep drop offs and requiring rock scrambling, which would make an emergency escape out this way very difficult.
This route is not recommended for beginners or those who have a fear of heights. Despite beginning easily through a dry wash, it eventually turns into a class 4 100-ft descent into the slot canyon.
The road to access Middle Route Trailhead can be very sandy in some sections and 4×4 wheel drive may be required.
Read more about Middle Route Trailhead here.
Directions To Middle Route Trailhead From Kanab, Utah:
Head south on US-89 for about 30 miles and then turn right onto The Cockscomb for 2.5 miles. From here, there will be several quick turns for the next 9 miles until you reach the Middle Route Trailhead.
Wire Pass Trailhead
The easiest and safest way for day hikers to access Buckskin Gulch is the Wire Pass Trailhead. This is a short 1.7 mile trail along a sandy wash leading to Buckskin / Wire Pass junction and the entrance to Buckskin Gulch.
As an added bonus, Wire Pass Trailhead will also allow you to get a taste for slot canyons before entering Buckskin Gulch if you are a little anxious about tight spaces. Before arriving at the junction, you will pass through the much smaller Wire Pass slot canyon.
Most day hikers take Wire Pass Trailhead into Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, walk for a few miles and then turn around.
This route via Wire Pass is one of the most fun things to do on a visit to Utah and it is explained in great detail further below.
White House Trailhead
The White House Trailhead doubles as the entrance to Paria Canyon narrows.
Hiking the White House to Wire Pass route can be done as a long day hike, but most hikers choose to do this as a multi day backpacking trip. You will also need to use a shuttle service since you are starting and ending at different trailheads.
If you choose to start here, you will hike through both the Paria narrows and the entire length of Buckskin Gulch after turning at the Paria Canyon confluence.
At 20.6 miles, this trail is the shortest route if you want to hike the entire length of Buckskin Gulch.
If you are looking for a longer hike through Buckskin Gulch that doesn’t end up taking 3 or 4 days, this might be a great option for you.
There is a campground at the White House Trailhead you can use for the night before setting off on your hike into the slot canyon.
Use our special discount for the dyrt PRO to find camping other camping options!
Lee’s Ferry Trailhead
The Lee’s Ferry Trailhead is about 45 miles from Wire Pass Trailhead. This route can be hiked in either direction as a multi-day backpacking trip and there’s no getting around having to camp for a few nights.
If you start hiking at the Wire Pass Trailhead, this route will take you through the entire length of Buckskin Gulch where it meets Paria Canyon at the confluence and then continues through the length of the Paria Canyon.
You would not see the part of Paria Canyon as though you had started at White House. But you could alternatively hike Lee’s Ferry to White House and not go into Buckskin Gulch at all.
Lee’s Ferry is much closer to Page, Arizona. See recent comments on AllTrails for this multi day hike version.
How To Get To Wire Pass Trailhead?
Wire Pass Trailhead is located along House Rock Valley Road in Southern Utah, just 1.5 miles north of the Arizona border. If you are coming from the Arizona side on US-89A, House Rock Valley Road is called House Rock Road (without valley) and it turns into House Rock Valley Road once you hit the Utah border.
Directions To Wire Pass Trailhead From Kanab, Utah:
From Kanab, Utah, follow US-89 south for about 40 miles, turn right onto The Cockscomb for about 4.5 miles and continue on House Rock Valley Road for about 3.5 miles.
Directions To Wire Pass Trailhead From Page, Arizona:
From Page, Arizona, turn left onto S Lake Powell Blvd for about 1.3 miles and continue straight on US-89 for about 35 miles. Turn left onto The Cockscomb for about 4.5 miles and then continue onto House Rock Valley Road about 3.5 miles.
Keep in mind you will cross into a different time zone when coming from Page, Arizona at certain times of year.
House Rock Valley Road Conditions
Once you turn onto House Rock Valley Road (The Cockscomb turns into House Rock Valley Road), you will have a grueling 8 mile drive on a dirt and clay road.
In dry conditions, House Rock Valley Road is passable but there are many potholes, loose gravel and lots of dust. It is slow going. Give yourself plenty of time.
Our SUV handled it well, but we passed plenty of 2WD cars and RVs on the road. A high clearance vehicle would be the best option on this road.
In wet conditions, House Rock Valley Road may be completely impassable as clay turns into deep sludge very quickly.
Do You Need A Permit To Hike Buckskin Gulch Via Wire Pass?
Yes, permits are required for hiking Buckskin Gulch. The Buckskin Gulch slot canyon is located in an area known as the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, which means a day use permit is required for day hikers and advanced permits are required for any overnight use.
We will cover all permits for hiking in Buckskin Gulch but if you are just planning to visit on a day hike via Wire Pass, you only need to know about day use permits which are covered directly below.
Buckskin Gulch Day Use Permit (For All Trailheads)
Day use permits for hiking Buckskin Gulch can be acquired in advance online or at the trailhead. A Buckskin Gulch day use permit is required for anyone entering Bucking Gulch via the Buckskin Trailhead, White House Trailhead and the Wire Pass Trailhead.
Important: We strongly recommend you purchase a Buckskin Gulch day use permit in advance online prior to your hike.
Despite there being an option to scan a QR code at each trailhead and pay with a self-serve envelope, the internet in this entire area is extremely spotty. It’s better not to risk it and pay in advance before leaving Kanab or Page.
If you do manage to get a bar of service for the internet and use the QR code scan, you will receive a PASS ID which must be written on the trailhead fee envelope.
Your Buckskin Gulch day use permit should be displayed on the dashboard of your vehicle with the PASS ID visible.
The Buckskin Gulch day use permit does not include access for any other permit area in the Paria Canyon, Coyote Buttes North (The Wave), or Coyote Buttes South regions.
Rangers may be on the trails checking permits so don’t even try it. This may result in a hefty fine and even jail time.
Buckskin Gulch (Paria Canyon) Overnight Permits
Advanced permits are required for any overnight backpacking trips into Buckskin Gulch slot canyon. Unfortunately, there are no walk-in options available for these types of permits and they are limited to only 20 people per day (dogs do not count in this quota).
Buckskin Gulch overnight permits are very competitive and they can be difficult to obtain. Group sizes are limited to 10 people and all hikers must be listed on the overnight use permit.
Overnight permits are available for application beginning at 12:00pm MT on the 1st day of every month for permits to hike 3 months later.
Example: An overnight use permit for June 12th is available from March 1st at 12pm MT.
- Overnight trips begin on the first reserved date.
- Permits for overnight use must also be picked up in person 10 days before the trip begins in Kanab, Utah.
Is Buckskin Gulch Free?
No, hiking Buckskin Gulch is not free. Permits are required for both day use and overnight use in Buckskin Gulch with both permit options requiring a small fee.
- Buckskin Gulch Day Use permits cost $6.00 per person and $6.00 per dog.
- Buckskin Gulch (Paria Canyon) Overnight permits have both a reservation and recreation fee. There is a $9.00 reservation fee for each permit. Then a recreation fee of $5.00 per person and $5.00 per dog for each day.
If you have an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass, be aware this pass is not accepted as payment for either day use hiking or overnight hiking in Buckskin Gulch slot canyon near Kanab Utah.
Fees are used to help preserve wilderness conditions and enhance visitor services. They also help to fund trailhead and toilet maintenance as well as help BLM staff, interns and volunteers.
How Long Is The Buckskin Gulch Hike Via Wire Pass?
Buckskin Gulch is over 40 miles in length from Wire Pass to Lee’s Ferry, but most will day hike into the slot canyon for an unspecified distance before turning around and doubling total distance on the hike back to Wire Pass. It is not possible to list how long the Buckskin Gulch hike is because everyone will hike a different distance.
There aren’t many obvious landmarks to use for turnaround points inside the slot canyon. Buckskin Gulch Overlook is a point above the slot canyon looking down into the crack for hikers on The Wave trail.
Buckskin Gulch from Wire Pass runs Southeast for a few miles and then turns left sharply into a Northeast direction. The point of this turn is where Buckskin Gulch Overlook is located and it is the point we will use for a turnaround point on the day hike.
- Trail Distance: 5.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 616ft
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time Required: 3-4 hours
- Dogs: Allowed but must be on a leash
- Best Season: Spring, Fall
- Recent Comments: AllTrails
Above we have listed the statistics as though you were hiking from Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch Overlook and returning back through the slot canyon to Wire Pass.
If you choose to hike further or not as far into the slot canyon, these statistics will be different.
Buckskin Gulch Via Wire Pass Hiking Walkthrough
As we mentioned earlier in this post, you can hike Buckskin Gulch in many different ways but we will only cover a day hike beginning and ending at Wire Pass trailhead.
Wire Pass Trailhead To Wire Pass Slot Canyon
From Wire Pass Trailhead, you will begin the hike following Coyote Wash. This is an easy hike along a dry river bed with minimal elevation gain.
At about 0.5 miles, the wash will continue straight (it is very obvious) but there will be a small sand trail to your right. Do not take this trail as it leads to the Coyote Buttes North region. A different permit is needed for this section.
Continue along the dry wash for another 0.8 miles until you reach Wire Pass slot canyon.
Wire Pass Slot Canyon
Wire Pass slot canyon is a much smaller slot canyon when compared to Buckskin Gulch. But passing through this smaller slot canyon is a wonderful taste of things to come along this trail.
You will follow the canyon along hard packed wash with sand, stones and small rocks underfoot. One of the most notable features is a man made ladder which will help you scale down a 15 foot drop.
This section may be a bit tricky for dogs. We did see some dogs along the trail who handled this okay, but just keep in mind you may need to pick your pooch up here, hopefully it isn’t a great dane!
Very close to the ladder you will also have to navigate a thick tree branch wedged between the canyon walls. It is notable because it is at the perfect height to cause a dilemma between going over or under.
Buckskin Gulch Petroglyphs
All of a sudden the narrow walls of Wire Pass begin to open wider and wider. You are now at the Buckskin / Wire Pass junction which is a T shaped junction with canyon walls towering around you on all sides of the T.
Look right to see a gigantic natural alcove shaped like an arch backed by an even more enormous canyon wall. This is a fantastic and somewhat unexpected spot to grab bonus photos.
If you take a left at the T, this will lead you to Buckskin Trailhead (where there is no slot canyon). Instead, you will take the right turn into Buckskin Gulch.
But before you make the right, you will notice the canyon wall next to the alcove is smooth will smooth and you should be able to find a handful of small lightly stenciled petroglyphs.
Please admire them from afar and do not touch. There are also some information boards explaining geology and history of the area.
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
A mile and a half after entering Coyote Wash, you will finally see the entrance to Buckskin Gulch. This area may be busy depending on the time of day, but crowds tend to thin out the further you advance into the canyon.
From here it is one way in and one way out so hike until you feel like it is a good place to turn around. Remember to watch your daylight hours if you set off around noon or early afternoon.
There may or may not be stagnant pools of water dotted throughout the slot canyon, depending on the time of year you hike Buckskin Gulch.
The narrow slot canyon feels much more imposing in person versus photos. We were blown away by the beauty of the canyon walls, with smooth formations mixed with sharp eroded features.
There were large logs from previous floods stuck between the walls high up above in the canyon, which serve a reminder of how powerfully water rushes through canyon walls in this region.
Points Of Interest Along Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
There are a slack handful of landmark turnaround points in Buckskin Gulch you can use to set your day hike goals from Wire Pass.
All distances listed below are one-way and start from Wire Pass Trailhead. Double the distances for roundtrip hikes.
- Wire Pass Slot Canyon: 1.6 miles
- Buckskin Gulch Entrance: 1.8 miles
- Buckskin Overlook: 2.8 miles
- Middle-Out Escape Route: 6.5 miles
- The Paria Confluence: 13.2 miles
These trail distances were taken from Gaia GPS which is our go to hiking navigation app.
Get 20% off a GAIA GPS Premium Membership with our special discount.
Can You Hike Buckskin Gulch Alone?
Yes you can hike Buckskin Gulch alone and there’s no need to worry about hiking as a group, but as with hiking solo into any slot canyon you should let someone know your plans and take essential safety gear just in case of an accident.
We saw many solo hikers walking through Buckskin Gulch. This is a very busy trail especially within the first few miles of the slot canyon.
Best Time To Hike Buckskin Gulch
The best time of year to hike Buckskin Gulch is in Spring (April-May) or in Fall (October-November) as these periods have the lowest chances of potentially dangerous flash flooding.
We hiked Buckskin Gulch in early December, when the Winter weather was cooler and perfect for hiking. Even inside the cooler canyon walls, we were still fine in shorts and t-shirts.
You do not want to hike Buckskin Gulch during the American Southwest monsoon season from mid-July to mid-September. There is a high risk of flash floods and it is difficult to predict when storms may occur during this time of year.
If rain is in the forecast, even miles away, do not hike into the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon. There are very few places you can exit if the canyon starts to flood.
For this reason, Buckskin Gulch has been listed as one of the most dangerous hikes in America.
Important Tips For Your Hike
Hiking Buckskin Gulch slot canyon is very rewarding. However, there are a few safety precautions you can take to ensure a safe hike for both you and rescue teams:
- Notice the trail register at each trailhead. Sign in when you start your hike and sign out when you finish your hike. This is a great safety precaution because if an emergency occurs during your hike, rescue teams will have a paper trail and can narrow down your location.
- There is limited water available in Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon. Make sure you carry and drink enough water while hiking.
- Flash floods can be deadly. Be sure to check the weather forecast, weather conditions and river flow prior to hiking Buckskin Gulch.
- Make sure someone knows where you are planning to hike. The same person should also know who to contact if they do not hear from you.
- Everything you pack in, you must pack out – including your personal waste and garbage.
- Campfires are not allowed.
- Start your hike as early as possible. This trail gets very busy late afternoon so if you want solitude, the early bird gets the worm.
- Before you start your hike, have an idea about where you will turn around in the trail.
- Be prepared for boulders, ladders and water along the trail. The deeper you go into the slot canyon, the more obstacles you will encounter.
Looking for hiking inspiration? Read our popular guide to the 50 Best US Hikes next!
Where To Stay
Your best bet for accommodation if you plan to hike Buckskin Gulch would be in Kanab in Utah or Page in Arizona.
We stayed in both places during our first and second road trips through the area. We personally prefer the vibe in Kanab so if you’re planning to stay in only one place, make it Kanab.
However, if you are visiting other nearby landmarks before and after, it’s likely you will stay in both small cities. Here are the top rated hotels in each:
Top rated hotels in Kanab, Utah
- La Quinta Kanab – 8.9
- Comfort Suites Kanab – Rated 8.7
- Holiday Inn Express – Rated 8.6
- Hampton Inn – Rated 8.6
- Canyons Boutique Hotel – Rated 9.1
Top rated hotels in Page, Arizona
Is Buckskin Gulch Worth It?
Yes, day hiking Buckskin Gulch from Wire Pass is worth the time on every Utah and Arizona itinerary. This is one of the longest slot canyons in the world and it’s not every day you get to hike into a natural wonder.
We highly recommend Buckskin Gulch as an alternative activity to do near Kanab if you don’t win a permit to hike The Wave, which is going to be a high percentage of applicants in the area.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is among the very best places to visit in Arizona. Don’t miss the chance to explore some of the finest adventure landscapes in the US!
More Around Kanab
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- Visit Horseshoe Bend at Sunset
We hope this guide to hiking Buckskin Gulch helps with planning your visit to the longest slot canyon in the United States!
Please let us know if you have any questions about Buckskin Gulch or the surrounding area of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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