Thursday, April 5, 2018

Hiking in the slot canyons

Hiking the Staircase

Toadstools in Escalante Staircase

On our previous visit to Lake Powell, we had taken a couple of organized tours, missing most of the Grand Staircase outback. This time we did more research to find hiking areas both on the Navajo Reservation and BLM and where to get the required permits.
On our way to the Toadstools, we also stopped at the Big Water BLM office and Dinosaur Museum for more information. There is little to no phone service out here. We wanted to be sure we were taking good roads with good directions, food and water.


Along the creek bed hiking trail, we passed variegated walls of sandstone that were quite pretty. 

Many toadstools had lost their tops from erosion.
  After the Toadstool hike, an easy 1.6 miles, we picked up some Subway and headed over to the Waterhole Canyon Trail on the Reservation to get in a longer hike. A $12 per person permit was required. We had to drive back to Page, go down a couple of more roads to find the office selling permits before driving back to the trailhead.

 The wind gusts were getting pretty strong, sandblasting our faces, causing us to finally call it a day and return to the Wahweep Campground to have our picnic while making better plans for our next two days of hiking.

Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyons 

The BLM ranger had suggested we take the hike through Wire Pass into the gorge of Buckskin Gulch of the Vermillion Cliffs of the Paria Canyon since the water in the gulch was going to be up to our waists and very cold.

We drove Highway 89 to House Rock Valley Road, turned left  and drove 8.4 miles on this dirt road. Fortunately, it had been dry and the road had been graded, which made for an easy drive, paid our $6 a person (dogs are also $6) at the trailhead and hit the trail.
 For 12.5 miles Buckskin Gulch is a very narrow gorge 100 to 200 feet deep, flanked by walls of Navajo Sandstone. Buckskin Gulch is renowned not only because of its continuous challenging narrows, but also because there is no other canyon like it in the world and thought to be the longest.

 We took the Wire Pass Trail to Buckskin, which is a short 3.6 miles round trip, with its narrows even more confined than those in Buckskin. Then we headed up the gulch for another mile before turning around. 

We enjoyed the cool 47 degrees temps as we started out.

At the end of Wire Pass Slot is a big rock with a big drop for our short legs. We turned around when we could tell how to get down safely and found a trail that went along the top of the gorge and climbed over and back down.

Below is the exit of the slot and a scramble down. The trail got more beautiful as we hiked. I took so many pictures it was difficult to chose which to post.

The petroglyph arch at the confluence of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch.

As we continued through Buckskin, the water wasn't very deep.

We thought we would try to climb over the rocks on the way out.
Mike made it with me telling him where to place his feet.

I reached a place where I needed a little boost and was glad that I kept my pack on. Mike grabbed the pack and gave it a little pull so I wouldn't fall backwards.
Our blue truck turned red after driving on the dusty roads.

Waterholes Canyon on Navajo Tribal Land

On our third day of hiking, we drove out of Page 3 miles on Copper Mine Road to Le Chee to purchase the $12 per person permit to hike on Tribal Land. Then drove back to the small parking area on Highway 89  for our hike. We only saw 2 other people on the way in but a few more as we exited the canyon. There was also no one pushing us along to hurry us like the Antelope Canyon Tours.
We finally found the place to purchase the permit to hike.

We found the cairns leading us into the canyon.

The sandstone was nice and grippy but I still crab walked when the sand was loose.

The clouds came over making the photos better.
 At the top of the ladder was a very narrow path we had to squeeze through.
 After returning to the trail head, we walked to the highway 89 bridge and found the car that had wrecked off of it and another ladder. It was another short hike of 3 miles round trip and a little extra walking but a good morning walk.
We have some longer hikes planned once we leave Lake Powell. It is definitely good to be back on the road. We are finding that there are more people from Asia and Europe than ever visiting our treasures.

The stars shine so brightly in the very dark sky at night as we sit by our fire at night.


  1. We have never seen Toadstools. Beautiful. I love the variegated rock.
    For the Waterhole Canyon Trail, how long is the permit good for? I am not opposed to a charge in order to save these beautiful natural wonders.
    I love the slot hiking of Wire Pass. No way would we try to hike that big rock either! That looks like a tight squeeze to get through that slot.
    Oh my gosh, the photos of the clouds in the Waterholes Canyon should be printed and framed. I love them! You made the most of your three days! Thanks for sharing.

  2. It could get expensive hiking around Page. Each permit was just for the day. We decided to go with Waterhole since it was less driving than Hackberry which would charge us $6 each.

    Thanks for the compliment. My legs are starting to get tired. We may need to start adding rest days.

  3. The 'toadstools' are so very awesome! Did not venture into that area during our brief visit. So many slot canyons to pick from how do you decide? We did Antelope, and as you point out the guide does have a schedule, but glad we did it

    1. There are so many slots but with rain arriving tonight we will steer clear for a while.

  4. You guys did some awesome hiking in your three days. The Toadstools were incredible as well as the variegated rock. Thanks for sharing the area.

    1. We enjoyed the time we were is an interesting area

  5. We loved exploring that area—both climbing around the Toadstools and the fabulous adventure of hiking in Buckskin Gulch from Wire Pass. After dropping down into the slot canyon we hiked up canyon from the petroglyph panel to a spectacular swirling array of sandstone cliffs. And then on the return trip had to climb up that choke stone, just as you did (I'm short, too!). Waterholes Canyon is on our list—it looks great from your photos.

  6. Southern Utah just has so much to enjoy.

  7. Thanks for this post. We're heading to the toadstools tomorrow and have talked about hiking Wire Pass. However, the weather may not hold out for us mid week with winds gusting and it rained last night. I'm getting tired of eating sand lol.

    1. The winds have been bad in Escalante too. Nothing like a little blasting to help exfoliate the skin.

  8. At the end of March we hiked Water Holes, what a great hike. Was the dead animal still there? We've done the Toadstools and Wire Pass\Buskin Gulch hike in past years.


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