How to hike Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch in Southern Utah (Permits, safety, trail experience, & more!)

Planning to hike Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch near Kanab, UT? In this guide we share everything you need to know before you visit one of the longest and deepest slot canyons in the world!

Ever since our first slot canyon experience hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park back in 2018, we’ve been mesmerized by these incredible natural wonders.

Slot canyons form over millions of years as water rushes through rock, especially sandstone or limestone, creating narrow canyons, with wavy textured, curved walls. They are so incredibly fun to explore and we knew that we had to visit a couple during our most recent trip to Utah.

After a little bit of research we landed on a popular trail option near Kanab, Utah called Wire Pass trail, which takes you to Buckskin Gulch, the longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwestern United States!

We put it at the top of our Utah hike wishlist and after conquering the rough road to get to the trailhead and an overnight stay nearby, we hit the trail bright and early for what has been one of our favorite Utah adventures yet!

It’s hard to put the beauty of these slot canyons (yes, two!!!) into words. Despite the majority of the trail being a slot canyon, which looks a bit similar after a while, around every curve there is something slightly different, whether it’s the way the light hits the walls, a more narrow passageway, or a huge opening that makes you feel like a tiny ant. 

In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know to hike Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch including the mileage, important safety information, our tips for a more secluded visit, details on the road to the trailhead, and more! Want to see the experience more firsthand? Watch us hike Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch!

Looking for more things to do near wire pass and buckskin gulch? Check out these guides:

Reminder: Leave No Trace

Before starting your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave the places you explore even better than you found them.

  1. Plan ahead & prepare. Make sure you research and prepare for every adventure so that you know the rules, stay safe, and to minimize resource damage.
  2. Travel & camp on durable surfaces. Stay on the trail and only camp in designated areas, as well as the required length away from water sources.
  3. Dispose of waste properly. Whatever you pack in, pack it out! Make sure to carry out your trash, as well as any trash you find. If you have a dog, please do not leave poop bags on the trail. For human waste, use a trowel to dig a hole far from water sources or use a wag bag (sometimes required).
  4. Leave what you find. Do not take any items from the trail with you, including rocks, plants, or artifacts.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts. Know the rules of where you can and cannot have campfires and if allowed, use designated fire rings. Use local firewood to prevent bringing any pests or diseases to the area you’re visiting and make sure to fully extinguish your fire.
  6. Respect wildlife. Keep your distance from wildlife, control your pets on the trail, and never ever feed them! Make sure to keep your food stored properly as well (we like this bear canister).
  7. Be considerate of other visitors. Be respectful to others on the trail. Hikers going uphill have the right of way on hikes and it’s always courteous to let those quicker than you pass. Avoid playing music out loud, talking loudly, and having your pets bother others.

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

As we mentioned above, Buckskin Gulch is said to be the longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwest, and possibly the world, at over 13 miles long (we have read varying mileage) and up to 500 feet tall!

Since Buckskin Gulch is 13 miles long, it is a bit of a commitment to explore in its entirety, requiring either a backpacking permit (only 20 permits are given per day) or a shuttle for one-way hikers. 

However, there is another option for those who want to explore it, the Wire Pass trail! The Wire Pass trail not only gives day hikers access to Buckskin Gulch, but also to the Wire Pass slot canyon, so you get to explore multiple slot canyons in one hike…score!

On this hike you’ll walk through a wash, with rocky views around you, climb down a 10 ft ladder, wander through slot canyons and tall canyon walls, and see petroglyphs. Prepare to feel small and amazed by how powerful nature can be!

Where is the Wire Pass Trailhead?

For the Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch hike, your journey will begin at the Wire Pass trailhead, which is located in Utah, but very close to the Arizona border. The trailhead is about 1 hour and 5 minutes from both Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona, but keep in mind that during the spring and summer, Arizona is one hour behind Utah.

The Wire Pass Trailhead is located on House Rock Valley Road, which is off of US 89 in Utah or US 89A in Arizona, depending on if you’re coming from the north or south.

If coming from Utah, you will turn onto House Rock Valley Road from US 89 and follow the dirt and gravel road for about 8 miles. There will be signs for the trailhead and you will see a rather large parking area. 

Before the hike, we were a bit nervous to drive down this road. We had heard it was rough and while it has some ruts and bumps, it isn’t that bad. The road does not require 4×4 most of the time and while high clearance is recommended, lower clearance could be fine as well if you take it slow.

We saw regular passenger cars, including a low to the ground Ford Mustang, make it out to the trailhead with no issues. We are very cautious about where we drive in our van (it is our home too after all!) and were able to navigate the road just fine, although it did take us 45 minutes, but we had to go a lot slower than other cars.

If you’re coming from the Arizona side, you will have a much longer ride on the dirt and gravel road after turning off US 89A. However, they recently did some maintenance and grading on this road to make it slightly less bad. Note: The Arizona side of this road is named House Rock Road (just missing the word “Valley”) until it crosses the Utah border, so despite their slightly different names, it’s the same road. 

While House Rock Valley Road is typically fine to drive if it is dry, if it has rained recently, the road is impassable, even with 4×4. So it is recommended to let the road dry for a day or two before attempting this hike. You can check road conditions here and also call the Paria Ranger Station at (435) 644-1200 for even more updated information.

Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch Trail Stats

For this guide, we’re focusing on the Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch trail, which includes hiking a portion of Buckskin Gulch. We used AllTrails to find this trail, as well as for an offline map during the hike. For the specific portion we did, the hike is said to be the following mileage and elevation gain.

Miles: 5.6 miles
Elevation gain: 616 ft
Reviews & Current Conditions

Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch Map

However, we did lose GPS signal in the canyon and our map ended up looking like this zig-zaggy mess and by the time we finished, our AllTrails recording said 8.59 miles. But since there is only really one route through the canyon, we think it was likely closer to the 5.6 miles that the trail page on AllTrails states.

For this hike, you start in a wash after leaving the Wire Pass trailhead and then enter the Wire Pass slot canyon, go down a ladder (which we will cover more in a bit), and wander through the slot canyon some more before reaching a large opening, which is where the trail connects with Buckskin Gulch. 

At this opening, we took a right and continued to explore the gulch until we reached where the AllTrails route ended on the map, which is called the Buckskin Gulch overlook, which unless we missed something, is just a super cool, wide open area. We turned around here, as that is what the trail map suggested, but the beauty of this hike is that you can choose your own adventure.

You can either continue on further into Buckskin Gulch if you have the time and energy or you can turn around much sooner than we did. We noticed a lot of people tend to just hike the Wire Pass portion of the trail and turn around at the wide opening where it meets the gulch. There are a lot of options! However, we suggest doing the entire 5.6 mile trek, as it continues to amaze the entire time and feels more remote the further you go.

Regardless of how far you decide to go, the trail is pretty flat and is doable for all ages, minus the ladder portion, which would be tricky for small kiddos without some assistance, as well as for dogs.

When to visit Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

Wire Pass Trailhead

Hiking the Wire Pass trail to Buckskin Gulch is doable anytime of the year, with April through June and September through October having the best temperatures. However, there is one very important thing to know when choosing when to do this hike.

DO NOT attempt this hike if there is rain in the forecast, even miles away! 

Slot canyons can flash flood very quickly, even if it isn’t raining in the immediate area. Getting caught in a flash flood can be deadly and there is only one exit in Buckskin Gulch, called Middle Trail Escape Route, that you can use to escape the canyon if it starts to flood. 

While flash floods can happen year round, storms are more common in the summer. To see weather conditions and determine if it’s safe to visit, we suggest contacting the Paria Ranger Station at (435)-644-1200.

Another big consideration if it has rained or is going to rain, is that the road to the trailhead is going to be impassable, so please save this hike for a sunny day. You can always read recent reports about the trail and road conditions on AllTrails as well! 

Start early!

With no capacity limits and a reasonable fee, this hike is very popular, so we highly recommend starting early! We started at 7:15 AM, just before sunrise, on a Sunday during Spring Break and had the entire hike to ourselves until we turned around! We were shocked, but SO happy to experience this hike in solitude.

We encountered people on the way back in Buckskin Gulch, but things didn’t get hectic until we got into the Wire Pass slot canyon…there was even a line for the ladder! So we highly recommend starting around sunrise if you want to enjoy the slot canyons (and snap TONS of photos!) without many others around.

Stateline Campground

Tip: Sleep near the trailhead the night before for an early start!

Since we didn’t want to drive the rough road in the morning before sunrise, we ended up camping at the Stateline Campground, which is a FREE campground just down the road from the trailhead, right on the Utah and Arizona border.

This campground only has 8 spots and you cannot camp outside of them, but we arrived in the late afternoon on a Saturday and about half of the spots were open. While there wasn’t really much cell service there (there is a bathroom!), it was so nice to be able to get an early start and not have to drive much of the road before the sun came up. 

Important note for the Stateline Campground: being on the border of Arizona and Utah, your phone might get confused by what time it is if you’re visiting during Daylight Savings Time. We went to bed with our phones on Utah time (and with alarms set for Utah time) and woke up on Arizona time, one hour “later” than planned. It took us a bit of time to even realize this and once we did, we had to rush to the trail to get there when we hoped to.

Don’t want to camp? We’d suggest staying near Kanab, Utah or Page, Arizona. Check out our Kanab guide and Page guide for lodging recommendations!

Important things to know before hiking Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

Check the weather 

Just another friendly reminder to please check the weather before you go! 

There is a fee to hike

There is a $6 fee per person and dog to access the trail, which you can purchase on Recreation.gov. They used to accept cash at the trailhead, but they are now wanting hikers to get the pass online and while there is supposedly Wi-Fi at the trailhead, we have heard that many have struggled to access the internet on their phones while there. So we suggest getting your permit in advance and having a screenshot on your phone!

Another thing to note is that Wire Pass shares a trailhead with the famous Wave, which goes into Arizona. Unlike the Wave, which only allows 64 people or 16 groups per day (and it’s VERY hard to get a permit), Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch does not have any daily permit limits.  

Limited cell phone service 

Cell phone service will basically be non-existent, so we suggest downloading offline Google Maps and an offline AllTrails map in advance, as well as let someone know your itinerary and when you expect to be back.

Dogs are allowed

Furry friends are allowed for $6 per dog, but the 10 ft ladder towards the beginning of the Wire Pass slot canyon will be difficult for them to pass. You could either take them and turn around at this point (but you’d miss out on some of the best parts!) or try to carry them down if possible. We did see a few dogs that made it past the ladder, but we decided to let Kona nap in the van during this adventure to save all of us some stress. 

Learn what we do with Kona when she cannot join us

Wire Pass Trailhead

Check the road conditions 

We’re a bit of a broken record, but make sure you check the road conditions before you head down the dirt and gravel road. You can check road conditions here, call the Paria Ranger Station at (435) 644-1200 for even more updated information, and also read AllTrails reviews to see others recent experiences.

Parking and restrooms

There is a large gravel parking lot, with an expansion coming soon, as well as pit toilets available in case you need it before or after your hike.

What to Bring to hike Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

Wire Pass Trail Utah

As always, we recommend having the 10 essentials on you when doing any hike, but here are a few key items we want to point out that will especially help you during this hike!

Sunscreen

Although you will spend a lot of your time in the slot canyons, the hike in the wash is very exposed to the sun!

Water

We love our Camelbak bladder for hikes because it stores a ton of water and it’s easy to drink from while moving. If you do this hike mid-day, you’ll get very hot and will want lots of water!

Layers

There is very little sunlight in the slot canyons, so it will get chillier in there than it is outside the canyon walls. We suggest bringing some layers for the varying temperatures on your hike.

Offline Map

We’d highly recommend downloading the AllTrails map before you go. While the trail is pretty straight forward, there is not much cell service in the area and it’s helpful to track your progress on the trail. You will need an AllTrails Pro membership to download maps, which is $30 a year and so worth it! 

Our Experience hiking Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

After spending a night at the Stateline Campground and waking up very confused about what time zone we were in, we quickly made coffees and booked it to the Wire Pass trailhead, unsure of how many cars or people we’d encounter.

We LOVE hiking early! It has become normal for us to start a hike in the dark or very early light and while sometimes it means lots of solitude, depending on how popular a hike is, sometimes it’s still relatively busy (we’re lookin’ at you Canyon Overlook at Zion!). So when we rolled up to the trailhead and only saw two other cars in the Wire Pass parking lot, with no humans in sight, we were so excited!

Wire Pass Trail Utah

The first part of this trail is through Coyote Wash and there is a sign specifically saying to please hike in the wash (vs. hurting vegetation on the sides of it). While this part of the hike isn’t incredibly exciting, the surrounding rocky terrain looked beautiful as the sun began to rise. It’s a flat walk, so it’s pretty easy to knock it out quickly, although it would be VERY hot on a sunny afternoon.

After about 1.4 miles you reach the beginning of the Wire Pass slot canyon, which is where the fun begins! You’ll begin winding through the narrow canyon walls and just a few minutes later, you’ll reach a massive boulder with about a 8-10 ft drop off on the other side. But thankfully, there is a wooden ladder, which is pretty wide and sturdy, to help you get down. Getting onto this ladder can require some careful movements, but it’s not that scary. We have seen photos of what the drop off used to look like and the new ladder is definitely an improvement!

This is the area where it may be tricky for a dog or a small child. On our way back, we saw parents helping their kids down and while we didn’t see any dogs go down, we assume they carried them down.

There is apparently a way to go around the ladder section by going to the right before the slot canyon (as seen on the map below, the dashed lines). However, if you’re able, the ladder just adds to the experience!

Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch Map


The Wire Pass slot canyon, despite not being the main attraction if you decide to go all the way to Buckskin Gulch, is still pretty spectacular! You’ll go through the slot canyon for about 0.3 miles, with some of it being more exposed and some being narrow like you expect from a slot canyon. 

At around 1.7 miles, you’ll exit the Wire Pass slot canyon into a massive opening with a huge alcove, which is where the trail meets up with Buckskin Gulch. After being in more confined spaces for a tiny bit, the sheer magnitude of this opening is breathtaking! The morning light was starting to pop into the alcove, giving it a bright orange color…it was incredible!

But what makes this spot even cooler is that there are petroglyphs carved onto the walls towards the end of the large opening (on the right side). You’ll see a few park signs, which tell you about them and also warn you to not deface them. It was really mind blowing to think about how long people have been coming to this area and getting to walk in their footsteps.

This is the spot where we later noticed a lot of people ending the hike, but we decided to continue on and go to the right (you can go left, but we cannot speak to it), into Buckskin Gulch, which we highly recommend! Unlike the Wire Pass slot canyon, which is pretty short, the Buckskin Gulch goes on for miles and it’s much taller and grand inside.

Right after entering into the Buckskin Gulch we noticed lots of puddles from rain a few days before, so we had to do quite a few water crossings. Thankfully the puddles weren’t too deep and we found a good amount of rocks to hop on, although there were a few spots that got our shoes wet.

We continued through Buckskin Gulch, going through windy slot canyons and also some areas with super tall, flat canyon walls. The entire time on the trail was magical! It reminded us of Antelope Canyon at times, but less orange, cheaper, you don’t need a guide, and we still had yet to see anyone else!

Our final destination was the Buckskin Overlook, which is where the AllTrails Map ends. This isn’t necessarily an overlook, but is a wide open area with an alcove, similar to where you entered Buckskin Gulch. It’s a grand way to end the trail!

We turned around here and started our trek back, running into a few people along the way. As we made it to the large opening where Buckskin Gulch connects with Wire Pass, we started seeing a lot more people and as we booked it through the Wire Pass slot canyon, the crowds grew bigger, including a line of people waiting to go down the ladder. Once we got back onto the wash part of the trail, there is more room to spread out, so it doesn’t feel as crowded.

Buckskin Gulch

We made it back to the van in about 3 hours 45 minutes from when we started, making our ending time around 11 AM. Despite seeing more people on the way back, the parking lot wasn’t full yet, so even if you do start later than we did, it may not be as horribly busy as we had envisioned it could be. After making the 45 minute trek back down the bumpy road, we headed to Kanab, where we enjoyed a post-hike feast at Rocking V Cafe (SO good!) and rested up for another day of adventures in Southern Utah.

If you’re visiting Southern Utah, especially near Kanab, or if you’re looking for an alternative to Antelope Canyon while in Page, Arizona, we couldn’t recommend Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch more! It was something different than what we are used to, feels adventurous, is absolutely stunning, and pretty flat and easy. We loved it so much!

What to do before or after hiking Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

Looking for things to do before or after your hike? Here are some spots nearby to check out! 

Restaurants

Coffee and Sweets

Activities

  • Backpack in Paria Canyon! The Paria Canyon is very popular for overnight backpacking and will give you the chance to continue exploring much of the other slot canyons for days. Overnight permits are required and are very competitive.
  • Try to get a permit for the popular Wave in Arizona. This starts at the same trailhead as Wire Pass, but only allows 64 people or 16 groups per day. They have a lottery system for permits for 12 groups or 48 people that opens 4 months in advance and also give out permits the day before for the remaining 12 people or 4 groups.
  • Hang out at Lake Powell, which is located in both Utah and Arizona. We recommend checking out Lone Rock Beach for kayaking, swimming, and beach camping!
  • Visit Page, Arizona, which is home to some iconic sights. To make the most out of your time in Page, check out our 1 Day in Page, AZ guide
  • Explore Kanab, Utah!
  • Sandboard or sled at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes 
  • Visit the Toadstool Hoodoos
  • Go on more adventures in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
  • Hike up into a Sand Cave, which was created in the 1970s to harvest sand for glass production.
  • Visit Antelope Canyon or Canyon X, for a fun slot canyon experience. Make sure to book in advance!
  • Admire the views from Horseshoe Bend.

Looking for places to stay?

While we stayed at the Stateline Campground that we mentioned above, if you’re visiting the area for a while and want something a bit more homey, check out our 1 Day in Page, AZ and Things to do in Kanab guides for suggestions on lodging in the area!

Ready to explore the Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch?

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about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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2 Comments

  1. Kelsey MacConell

    Just wondering what the closest area to stay in if not staying at the campsite would be? REALLY enjoying your videos and all the info. My best friend and I have been wanting to do a week in Utah for SO long. Hopefully next year will be it, finally.

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      Hi Kelsey! We’d suggest staying in Kanab, Utah or Page, Arizona! They are both about equal distance to the trailhead. We have a Kanab guide and a Page guide with some lodging recommendations! We’re excited to hear you’re hoping to head to Utah…it’s amazing!!!

      Reply

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