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Buckskin Gulch: A Guide to One of America’s Largest Canyons

February 1, 2021 /
Buckskin Gulch

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

Although it is not one of the busiest tourist destinations, Buckskin Gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwest of the United States. It can be reached via Highway 89 and is located about halfway between Kanab and Page on the border between Utah and Arizona.

Both Buckskin Gulch and Water Holes Canyon are definitely good alternatives for those who were not able to book a tour at the popular Antelope Canyon, or simply want to enjoy these natural wonders without too many tourists around.

How to geto to Buckskin Gulch


You can reach Buckskin Gulch by taking four routes on foot:

  • Buckskin GulchBuckskin Trailhead: To reach the beginning of this trail you have to drive on House Rock Valley Rd for 4.3 miles. After you have walked at least 3 miles on the trail through a very wide gorge, the walls will start getting higher on both sides and the canyon itself starts. As a result, the disadvantage is that it takes longer and makes the trail harder and more spread out.
  • Wire Pass Trailhead: This is the most popular trail chosen by tourists who want to take a trip to the Buckskin Gulch. This trail also begins along House Rock Valley Rd a little less than 4 miles south of the Buckskin Trailhead. This trail takes its name from a small canyon that you have to hike before reaching the wider Buckskin Gulch.
    Those who don’t have the whole day to hike tend to choose this trail, because it allows you to reach the first part of the Buckskin Gulch in a relatively short time, while still walking through a scenic slot canyon. In addition, at the part where the canyon merges with the Buckskin Gulch you can see ancient petroglyphs carved along the walls, which is a plus. From this point on, the canyon continues for over 15.5 miles until it reaches Paria Canyon.

  • White House Trailhead: Just like the previous trail, this route is also recommended if you only have half a day available to hike. The trail starts at the end of White House Trailhead Road where there is also a camping area. However, before entering the actual canyon, there is a part of the trail that goes through a wider gorge which, like the Buckskin Trailhead, can be a much less fascinating experience for some.
  • Middle Trail: This trail is the least recommended among the four because after driving on House Rock Valley Rd for 2.5 miles, you need to take another road that is in worse condition. In addition, to access the base of the Buckskin Gulch, you have to climb part of a rock wall.

How to Get a Permit to Visit Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch is part of the Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area and you must have a permit that costs $6 per person. The money is deposited at the classic payment drop box, which you find at the beginning of each route, and then you must put the receipt of payment on the dashboard of your vehicle.

Recommendations

Buckskin Gulch KanabAlthough it is undoubtedly a very special and fascinating attraction, there is a lot of important information to consider before venturing into Buckskin Gulch. First of all, the roads leading to the various routes are all unpaved and, to be safe, it is best to drive a 4×4 or another vehicle that is high enough off of the ground.

When it rains or has rained recently, the trails and House Rock Valley Road become virtually impassable due to the mud. Also, do not underestimate the danger of sudden flash floods, which, especially inside a slot canyon, can be extremely dangerous. So be careful even when it has rained heavily in places close to Buckskin Gulch.

Once you have reached the starting points of the various trails you will encounter numerous obstacles along your route, from piles of boulders to natural pools, that are neither shallow nor deep, that form after storms that may take many months before they dry out completely. The recommended seasons to hike to Buckskin Gulch are in spring and autumn (during the so-called dry season when there is less of a chance of rainfall), because in the summer the heat can be so grueling that it can be very difficult to hike late in the morning.

I have another recommendation concerning clothing. You must wear suitable shoes (if they are waterproof, even better) and bring an adequate supply of water. Obviously, always be cautious and also look out for dangerous animals in this area such as snakes.

In order to stay updated on the condition of the trails and any other factors to be taken into account, please contact the Paria Contact Station, which is located on Highway 89, 5 miles before (or after depending on your direction of travel) the beginning of House Rock Valley Rd. This information office managed by the Bureau of Land Management is open seasonally from March 15 to November 15 from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm every day of the week.

Where to Stay in the Area

As I mentioned earlier, the Buckskin Gulch is located about halfway between Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona. Depending on your itinerary, you may decide in which city it would be most convenient to seek accommodations. For more information about the hotels in the two cities, you can read our advice on where to stay in Page and where to stay in Kanab.

Filippo Nardelli
Filippo Nardelli

I have a degree in History of North America and have always been fascinated by the United States.

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