It is wrong to group such a standalone classic with the Grand Canyon, but that was the name of our trip, so I’ll have to live with it. Buckskin Gulch is truly the classic slot canyon. I’ve had my eye on it for over a decade. It was extremely exciting to finally do it, and it did not disappoint.
Buckskin Gulch feeds into Paria Canyon, and there are a few ways to hike it. The original plan was to hike down Buckskin from Wire Pass Trailhead to the confluence with Paria, camp one night, then hike out Paria to White House Trailhead. Unfortunately, overnight camping requires a permit, and we did not get one of the only 20 that are issues each day. Wire Pass to White House is 20 miles so we chose to do it all in one day. In the end, we were glad we did not camp as we did not need to, though the slots at night would have been fun. For the less adventurous, hiking in about 2 miles from Wire Pass Trailhead allows you to experience much of the narrow canyon. They are about 45 minutes from Kanab.
Our research indicated there was either no water, or it was not fit for filtering at this time of year. So we loaded up with 6 liters each and food for starting weights of 18 and 19 lbs. This proved to be sufficient, with each of us finishing with about 1 liter – a good safety margin. No special equipment is required. Before sunrise, we parked at White House Trailhead and met our pre-arranged shuttle with local guide Yermo from seekingtreasureadventures.com and headed to Wire Pass. Ten hours later, we emerged at the other end.
There were only a handful of cars at either trailhead, so I was wondering how many of the 20 permits were being used, and how many people we’d see. There are warning signs about navigating, flashfloods, and how “Emergency Response is not Rapid.” The flashfloods are the greatest concern as there is nowhere to escape, but no rain was anywhere in the forecast. Navigation for Buckskin was not a big issue as there is only one way to go! However, GPS’s struggle in the canyon. Temperatures were perfect so we did not linger, and the canyon quickly narrowed and presented obstacles, one of which had a ladder after about 1 mile. This ladder is securely fastened to prevent it suffering the fate of the previous one, which is about a mile downstream, high above the canyon floor!
After a couple of miles, I realized that the remaining 18 miles were likely to be very similar. I feared I might get bored, but the hike continued to enthrall. Each corner we turned revealed a new formation or lighting, equally thrilling as the first. The challenge was limiting how many photographs to take! We stopped at 5 and 10 miles for water, food, and brief rests. The temperature in the canyon remained cool.
About a mile before the confluence, the canyon floor became damp, and turned into clear running water. We saw a lizard and baby tadpoles which suggested the viability of such water for filtering. Someone had mentioned a seepage around here, but I am not sure if it is dependable year-round. There were also several collections of “fallen” tumbleweeds, that had fallen into the canyon!
After about 12.5 miles, we reached the confluence with Paria, which happens to be on the Utah/Arizona border. There was a bit of water in Paria, but we had been warned against filtering as it was agricultural run-off. While its green tint was a bit unpleasant, the lack of any life in the water was telling. Unfortunately, this was the end of the slot canyon for us. There was a cool arch on the hike out along Paria, but most of it was a hard slog through mostly-soft sand, racing between shade where possible. We met our only other hikers on this section, a couple with a dog resting in the shade, which might have been for the dog’s paws benefit. As we had previously scoped out the end, we could recognize where we had to leave the canyon to get back to the car (it is not that obvious). We had done it!
This was the final trekking adventure of our Grand Canyon / Buckskin Gulch trip, but there was one more cool experience on the way back to the airport.
This page is linked to from my Grand Canyon Buckskin Gulch home page.