Hello and welcome to our article on Buckskin Gulch! We are Sara and Andrew – the couple behind the Instagram handle @hitchedadventurers. We live in our Airstream as we road trip across the United States.
Sara was raised in the suburbs of Metro Detroit and went to college in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She then moved to North Carolina for her first job before heading to Washington, D.C. where she has lived for six years now.
Andrew grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. in Southern Maryland, moved to West Virginia for college, and then moved back to Washington, D.C. to start his career. We met on the dating app Bumble – Andrew was intrigued by Sara’s travel photos that she had just posted on return from her year-long sabbatical solo traveling through South America and Spain.
Andrew had recently done some hiking trips of his own in Alaska, Montana, France and Germany. We both have always had the itch to travel, hike, and explore, and we loved swapping travel stories on our very first date.
What Inspired us to Visit Utah this Year
Our first big vacation together was a campervan trip around Utah’s five famous national parks (The Mighty 5). This inspired our current adventure – living full time on the road out of an Airstream with the goal to visit all of the national parks in the Contiguous United States (we just got to our 23rd).
We didn’t originally intend on going back to Utah during our travels this year because we felt like there were still so many other destinations for us to explore! However, we were in Page, Arizona and knowing what is so close, we just couldn’t resist. We decided to dip into Kanab, Utah to try our hand at the Coyote Buttes Lottery (you can find out all about that process on our Instagram reel).
We planned to hit Buckskin Gulch after the lottery en route back to Page. Our love for slot canyons blossomed after visiting Antelope Canyon during our first trip together. Being that Buckskin Gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwest, we knew we had to check it out!
Our Experience at Buckskin Gulch
Paria Canyon is roughly a one hour drive from Page and Kanab, so it makes for a perfect day trip from either location or a trip between the two. Buckskin Gulch is part of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area.
While the main dirt road to get to the parking does not require a 4 wheel drive, it’s recommended especially if you want to explore the side roads. We made it there from Kanab around noon and were lucky to snag a parking spot!
We purchased our permits online and off we went. While the parking lot was packed, we were pleased to find that the canyon did not feel crowded since it’s secluded and parking is limited. We did a six mile hike from Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch. We made our way through a flat trail that led us to the canyon – the walls grew from waist high to hundreds of feet above.
There was a small ladder climb that made the depth even deeper as we continued hiking through the narrow channel. Eventually the walls opened up to the gorge where the Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon intersect.
Here we were able to enjoy a beautiful petroglyph panel. A reminder: it’s not appropriate to add your own markings. As we continued, we found birds nests high above, cracking mud underneath our feet, and could feel the wind passing through the Navajo Sandstone. This was a beautiful place to explore and experience the rawness and sounds of nature.
Why Buckskin Gulch should be on your Bucket List
Slot canyons are a natural wonder and Buckskin Gulch in Utah is certainly no exception. It’s truly wild to weave your way through such a narrow passage that extends so far above your head, and enjoy the natural curves in the Navajo Sandstone that have been carved out over hundreds of years.
Not to mention it’s the longest slot canyon in the southwest and may be one of the longest in the world. The hike from Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch is a moderate hike and is one that hikers of all levels can really enjoy.
We could have marveled at the canyon walls forever! It was an exhilarating feeling to hike through these passages and imagine the rush of water that helped form them over thousands of years. The confluence where the Paria Canyon, Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch intersect also felt very peaceful. It was unbelievable to think about how powerful water and wind can be.
Other Attractions in the Buckskin Gulch Area
- Coyote Buttes North and South are highly regarded and offer truly unique wilderness settings. Each requires a permit – the South is easier to get into and offers exceptional hiking. The North features The Wave, so if you want that famous picture – you need to get a permit!
- The Toadstools in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are great for a nice and quiet sunrise with cool figures to photograph/view.
- Lone Rock Beach Campground on Lake Powell is a fantastic place to stay and we highly recommend getting out on the lake water!
Where to Stay near Buckskin Gulch
Kanab and Page are the largest towns near Buckskin Gulch. For those staying only a couple of nights, we recommend staying at one of the BLM campgrounds in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs area for easy access.
Folks staying longer may opt to be closer to Kanab or Page for the various amenities on offer. We stayed at Lone Rock Beach, closer to Page, and recommended it for anyone looking to be right on the beach! For foodies, we suggest staying closer to Kanab because they have better restaurants.
Permits for Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Permits are broadly required for Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs. It takes two minutes to purchase a permit online ahead of time at recreation.gov or on the same day right from the parking lot by scanning a QR code at the trailhead. We recommend purchasing ahead of time due to limited cell phone service in the area. Day use permits are $6/person.
Essential Information for your Visit
- The road off the main highway to access the Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch trailhead can easily be missed, so keep your eyes peeled!
- While Buckskin Gulch is definitely a highlight, you will want to see more once you arrive in this area, so plan to stay for multiple days/nights.
- Bring plenty of water (one gallon per person as recommended by BLM)
- Check the weather ahead of time and monitor for any changes. Flash flooding is common in slot canyons and can be deadly.