Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

A fun, short hike through one of the most popular slot canyons in the southwest.

★★★★

Wow factor

★★★★

Overall rating

★★★

Difficulty

★★★★

Trailhead access

★★

Crowds

Wire Pass is a main access to Buckskin Gulch, a main tributary of the Paria River and, with a total length of 13 miles, it’s the longest slot canyon in the southwest, perhaps even the world. If you hike the loop it’s 20 miles total and one very long day. However, I’ve only hiked into it from Wire Pass, a much more intimate slot, and then explored the wider Buckskin for an hour or so.

 

From US89, between mile markers 25 and 26, turn south on House Rock Valley Road for just over 8 miles to the large parking area at the Wire Pass trailhead. The road is wide and graded (predominantly gravel) and suitable for just about any vehicle. At the trailhead you’ll need to buy and display a permit.

 

Before you hike out check the skies because these slots are no place to be if there’s a storm. Follow the signs into a wide wash. After about 1.2 mile you’ll come to a trail junction and a sign for Coyote Buttes (special permit required and very limited availability). You continue towards Buckskin Gulch. Check out the beautiful cross-bedded sandstone along the way, some of which is similar to the famous ‘Wave’ and ‘Teepees’ in the Coyote Buttes area. You’ll notice that the landscape gets more intimate and soon you’ll enter a short slot section where’s there’s a 5 foot climb down (easy for adults) to negotiate. The trail opens up again soon after into another wash section before entering the longer, second slot. It’s darker and cooler in here and the water sculpting over the ages has created some amazing forms. At times the slot is only 18 inches wide and you may see some logs jammed between the walls above, reminding you of the power (and depth) of a flash flood here. After a total of 1.7 miles from the trailhead you’ll come back into daylight at the junction with Buckskin Gulch. On the right hand side is a large alcove (easy access to it) with some rock art. If you have time, explore Buckskin in either direction, though the better section is to the right. It’s much wider than Wire Pass here but does slot up more several miles downstream.

 

Except for a couple of modest obstacles this is an easy hike through one of the best slots in Utah, and refreshing on a hot day.

© 2015-2020 Bob Palmer.