Best Slot Canyons for Hiking and Camping

The American Southwest is one of the most storied environments in the world. Of course, everyone knows about pioneer tales and Wild West legends, but there is also the beautiful land itself.

One of the more unique activities to engage in while in the Southwest is visiting slot canyons. As opposed to the gigantic, panoramic vistas of sites like the Grand Canyon, slot canyons are smaller, more intimate. They’re places you can go into, hike around, and camp near. 

Exploring slot canyons can check off all the boxes on an adventurer’s list. Read on to learn how!

Fast Facts About Slot Canyons in the U.S.

Hearing the word “canyon” in “slot canyons” usually brings to mind much bigger gorges, those big enough to swallow entire cities whole. While slot canyons are “canyons,” they are a bit different in size and how they form. 
  • Slot canyons are deeper than they are wide. Some can be only a few feet across, but much, much (hundreds of feet) deeper. 
  • Much like “regular” canyons, slot canyons form as water flows over millions of years through rock. 
  • The “best” rock for slot canyons is sandstone or limestone, providing the perfect combination of rock and water for a deep but narrow canyon to form. 
  • There are many slot canyons throughout Northern Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Utah.
  • Slot canyons are also found in certain regions of Spain, France, and Australia.
  • The biggest concentration of slot canyons in the world is in southern Utah, where the desert south of Interstate 70 contains more than 1,000 slot canyons!
Now that you’re more familiar with slot canyons, let’s talk about hiking and camping in slot canyons. 

Is It Legal To Go Hiking and Camping in Slot Canyons?

Generally, you won’t be able to camp within a slot canyon itself, but some areas offer dispersed camping (no hookups, no amenities) within walking or hiking distance. Some slot canyons are open for visitors to simply visit and hike, while others require that you reserve a space on a tour and/or a permit to visit them. 

Your Guide To the Best Slot Canyons for Hiking and Camping

While there are slot canyons all over the world, the best slot canyons are located in the American Southwest. Whether you want to go on a slot canyon hike or just take pictures, have a look at some of the best slot canyons to visit! 

Antelope Canyon

Located on Navajo Nation land, Antelope Canyon is the most famous and most photographed of slot canyons in the US. It is split into two canyons: Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope. While both can be visited, Upper Antelope Canyon is where you’ll want to go to see the famous sunbeams shining into the slot canyon. 

Nearby Activities: Horseshoe Bend is one of the most famous attractions near Antelope Canyon, but don’t miss the Navajo Village Heritage Center.

More Information: Antelope Canyon 

Buckskin Gulch

At 21 miles long, and stretching from southern Utah into northern Arizona, Buckskin Gulch is known as the longest slot canyon in the world. Hikers enjoy the challenges this slot canyon provides. You can camp at certain points along the trail, usually in areas not within the canyon itself.

Nearby Activities: Buckskin Gulch is in the vicinity of Kanab, Utah, and there is lots to see in the area. Other attractions include Cottonwood Canyon, Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam, and Bryce Canyon National Park

More Information: Buckskin Gulch

Spooky Gulch

Spooky Gulch is known for being extremely narrow —  at some points within, it is only 10 inches wide! Its narrowness makes it darker than other slot canyons, giving rise to its “spooky” name. 

Nearby Activities: Spooky Gulch is connected with Peek-a-Boo Canyon, and some visitors recommend hiking both, starting in the wider Peek-a-Boo Canyon before reaching the much narrower Spooky Gulch. 

More Information: Spooky Gulch

Robbers Roost Canyon

This slot canyon in southern Utah is famous as the hiding spot of Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch,” an infamous gang of outlaws. While Robbers Roost Canyon is a famous tourist spot today, in Butch Cassidy’s time, the law never found out where he and his gang were hiding as the area was secluded.

Nearby Activities: There isn’t much in the Robbers Roost Canyon area, as it is quite remote (making it a perfect outlaw hideout in the past!). If you are into hiking, there are many trails in the area to enjoy. 

More Information: Robbers Roost Canyon

Zion Narrows 

Located within Zion National Park, the Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and is a hiker’s dream. If you don’t like getting your feet wet, then this slot canyon is not for you, as you have no choice but to explore its beauty while sloshing through the Virgin River.

Nearby Activities: If you’re at Zion Narrows, then you’re already at Zion National Park. There are numerous hikes to go on, and chances to take pictures of features like Angel’s Landing.

More Information: Zion Narrows 

Tips for Visiting Slot Canyons for Camping and Hiking

A slot canyon hike is fun to go on, but know these things ahead of your visit:
  1. Booking a tour to the most popular slot canyons is usually essential. 
  2. You should also decide on a season to visit certain slot canyons. For example, Upper Antelope Canyon and its sunbeams are best seen in summer. Depending on which state you’re visiting, spring may be better, while at others, a slot canyon may be closed due to melting snow.
  3. If there is an active river in a slot canyon, be aware that flash flooding is a possibility.
  4. If you’re going to camp near a slot canyon, there may be limited amenities or none at all. Make sure you have a generator and/or filled propane tank in your RV before visiting. 

Experience Slot Canyons With Your Cruise America RV

Some of the best slot canyons to visit are a bit out of the way, and require lots of driving to reach them. One of the best ways to go camping near a slot canyon is in an RV!

With Cruise America, you can get an RV rental for your slot canyon road trip. Enjoy hiking during the day and relax in your RV at night. To get your next RV adventure started, get in touch with Cruise America today!