20 Insanely Beautiful Slot Canyons in the American South West!

antelope canyon

Antelope canyon is a beautiful slot canyon in the American South West. It is known for its beautiful orange hues, swirling patterns and mysterious passageways. Yet this is not the only slot canyon in the American Southwest! Whether you fancy tackling the famous narrows in Zion, going on a day hike in Wire Pass slot canyon or squeezing through Peek-A-Poo slot canyon – there are some insane slot canyons in the American Southwest! There are some wonderful slot canyons in Arizona, pretty slot canyons in Nevada and plenty of epic slot canyons in Utah too! Here is a list of 20 of the best slot canyons in the American South West.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links

What is a slot canyon?

What is a slot canyon

A slot canyon is a narrow gorge. Characteristically these have high, steep rock walls and tend to be made from sandstone. You can find slot canyons around the world but the best are the American South West slot canyons.

How are slot canyons formed?

Slot canyons are formed as slightly softer rock is eroded away as a creek or stream passes through. The stream eventually carves deeper in to the rock. As debris is washed down the stream it is eroded further. Huge thunderstorms can carry rocks and sand which chisel away at the walls. As more durable rock refuses to budge, the stream has no choice but to go downwards creating the slot canyons in the American South West we see today. It is worth noting that these processes still continue today so you always need to be careful of wet weather in slot canyons!

Where can I find slot canyons in the American South West?

Slot canyons can be found through the American South West. The most famous slot canyon is Antelope canyon. Yet if you are looking for a free alternative to Antelope Canyon or one that is much cheaper and does not require you to book months in advance there are plenty of slot canyons in the American South West to discover!

Slot canyons have been formed on the Colorado Plateau. It is said that Southern Utah has the densest population of slot canyons in the world with over 1000 slot canyons! There are a few main areas where you can find slot canyons in the American Southwest. These are mainly slot canyons in Utah and slot canyons in Arizona.

The main places to find slot canyons in the American South West are:

Slot canyons in Zion

zion angels landing viewpoints

Zion has a few slot canyons but most require canyoneering gear. Of course, the most famous slot canyon in Zion, the Zion Narrows do not but you will get wet in this slot canyon!

Slot canyons in Canyonlands National Park

slot canyons in canyonlands national park

The name of this national park includes the word ‘canyon’ so of course there are a few slot canyons here such as the Little Wild Horse slot canyon.

Slot canyons in Capitol Reef National Park

slot canyons in capitol reef national park

Capitol Reef national park is not as popular as some of its more famous neighbouring national parks in the American South West. However, it still has plenty to see and some slot canyons! The main 3 slot canyons are Burro Wash, Cottonwood Wash and Sheets Gulch.

Slot canyons in San Rafael Swell

There are a few slot canyons in San Rafael Swell. For those who are on a budget, choosing to visit San Rafael Swell means you can find a free Antelope canyon alternative as there are no fees to enter this part of the American South West.

Slot canyons in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park

Some of the most epic slot canyons in the American South West can be found in Grand Staircase-Escalante! Popular Utah slot canyons such as Peek-a-boo slot canyon and zebra slot canyon can be found her.

Slot canyons in Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness

Vermillion Cliffs

Paria Canyon Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness area is an otherworldly place located in northern Arizona and southern Utah. The longest slot canyon in the world can be found here. Also, while you are in the area why not stop off at the famous Wave?

Slot canyons in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

There are several slot canyons in Glen Canyon national recreation area too. The famous Antelope canyon can be found around here.

Slot canyons in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area

Red Cliffs is a little visited part of Utah but has some pretty cool slot canyons, one of which made it onto our list of the best slot canyons in the American South West.

Slot canyons in Valley of Fire

slot canyons in valley of fire

Did you know that Nevada has some slot canyons too? The Valley of Fire is a really cool state park which is just outside of Las Vegas and is much cheaper than Antelope Canyon!

You can also find slot canyons in California such as in Death Valley national park.

So now you know the areas where you can find Antelope canyon free alternatives, what are the best slot canyons in the American South West? Well here is a list of 20 epic slot canyons in the American South West!

Most of these are free slot canyons but some of course require permits or national park entrance fees. Do not fear though as they are all cheaper than the Antelope canyon tour!

List of epic slot canyons in American South West

1. Wire Pass Slot Canyon

Slot canyon in Utah & Arizona (Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness)

Wire Pass Slot Canyon Day Hike Guide

One of the best slot canyons in the American South West is Wire Pass slot canyon!

Wire Pass slot canyon is a great alternative to Antelope canyon!

Firstly, it costs just $6 for the permit which is a much cheaper alternative to Antelope canyon. Secondly, you can bring your dog too!

Wire Pass slot canyon is a great slot canyon in Utah. It is located close to the famous Wave in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness.

The orange cliffs of Wire Pass slot canyon will take you into another world. You can follow the slot canyon down to Buckskin Gulch which is said to be the longest slot canyon in the world!

2. Kanarra Creek Canyon

Slot canyon in Utah

Kanarraville Fall along Kanarra Creek
Image by Tim & Lisa

Kanarra Creek Canyon is a very instagrammable slot canyon in Utah! You may have seen this beautiful slot canyon with a magical waterfall next to a little wooden ladder pop up on your Instagram feed. The ladder means that hikers can enjoy this slot canyon without needing climbing gear.

Located just outside of Kanarraville, it costs $12 for the permit and is a 3.5-mile round trip to the second waterfall and back. https://www.kanarrafalls.com/about/

There are two waterfalls in this slot canyon and both have ropes and types of ladders to help slot canyon explorers reach the next part of the canyon. You can even choose to swim and wade up through the stream on a hot summer’s day.

You can buy your Kanarra Creek Canyon permit online or at the trailhead kiosk. Only 150 hikers are allowed per day but if you are lucky enough to get a permit this is one of the best slot canyons in Utah and one of the best slot canyons in the American South West!

3. Pastel Canyon

Slot canyon in Nevada (Valley of Fire)

Kaolin Wash II
Image by James Marvin Phelps

Nevada’s pastel canyon is a beautiful slot canyon in the American South West.

Located not far from Las Vegas is the Valley of Fire. Within the Valley of Fire are mysterious sandstone formations making this a wonderful place to explore and hike. One short but mesmerising slot canyon in the Valley of Fire is the pastel slot canyon which is also known as the pink canyon. While it is not the deepest slot canyon in the American South West, the pink and orange swirls make this one of the prettiest spots in Nevada!

You can combine a hike in Pastel slot canyon as part of a loop with the Fire Wave.

The Valley of Fire is a state park which is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The entrance fee for the Valley of Fire is $10 per vehicle which makes Pastel canyon a much cheaper alternative to Antelope canyon!

4. Zebra Slot Canyon

Slot canyon in Utah (Grand Staircase-Escalante)

Zebra slot canyon is an amazing slot canyon in Utah! Furthermore, Grand Staircase-Escalante has no entrance fees as it is a national monument, not a national park! This makes Zebra slot canyon a great free alternative to Antelope Canyon! 

Zebra Slot Canyon got its name due to the pink and white striped pattern along the sides of the canyon walls.

Getting to Zebra Slot Canyon requires a drive down the Hole in the Rock Road. Once you get to the trail head it takes around 45 minutes to get to this Utah slot canyon. Sometimes, pools of water can be waist deep in Zebra slot canyon so be prepared to get a bit wet! You can also take your dog in this slot canyon making this a great dog-friendly slot canyon hike. Just make sure you keep your furry friend on a leash.

Zebra slot canyon hike is an epic hike which takes around 3 – 4 hours to complete the round trip. As it is free to visit, this slot canyon in Utah is a fantastic free alternative to Antelope Canyon!

5. Zion Narrows

Slot Canyon in Utah (Zion national park)

The Narrows in Zion national park must be one of the most famous slot canyons in the American South West if not the world! The Virgin River has carved a magnificent canyon creating 2000-foot-high walls! If you would like to visit this slot canyon you need to be prepared to get wet!

While this slot canyon is not a great alternative to Antelope Canyon if you are looking for a crowd-free slot canyon, its popularity is understandable. Most hikers start by walking up the Riverside Walk from the Temple of Sinawava. Once you get to the slot canyon you have to get into the Virgin River! Wade upstream for a few minutes or a few hours!

Hiking the Zion narrows is a cheaper alternative to Antelope Canyon. While you do have to pay the national park entrance fee there is not extra permit required to hike in the Narrows.

After you have hiked the Narrows, why not stay to watch the Zion sunset?

There are so many epics hikes in Zion such as Angel‘s Landing and Zion Observation Point, but hiking the narrows is one of the best hikes in Zion and one of the best slot canyons in the American South-West!

6. Peek-A-Boo slot canyon

Slot Canyon in Utah (Grand Staircase-Escalante)

Image by Matěj Halouska from Czech the World

Peek-A-Boo slot canyon is a fun and free alternative to Antelope Canyon!

Located in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, this is a free slot canyon in Utah. While it is quite short, the various scrambles, pools and arches make this an entertaining slot canyon to manoeuvre through.

This can be quite a popular slot canyon so arrive early to beat the crowds!

7. Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon

Slot canyon in Utah (San Rafael Swell)

Little wild Horse slot canyon
Image by M. Orchard

Little Wild Horse slot canyon is another amazing slot canyon in Utah! Located near Goblin Valley, in south-central Utah this is a great place for hiking! Also, this is a free slot canyon making this a much cheaper alternative to Antelope Canyon!

Little Wild Horse Canyon makes for a great slot canyon hike due to the beautiful walls and the fun section where you have to squeeze through! Sometimes there are pools after summer storms but rarely are they more than ankle deep. There is a little bit of scrambling but otherwise this is a great non-technical slot canyon hike in Utah. Lots of people combine visiting this free slot canyon with Bell canyon creating an epic slot canyon loop hike!

8. Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon

Slot Canyon in Utah (Grand Staircase-Escalante)

Spooky Gulch
Image by Our Breathing Planet

Another wonderful slot canyon in Utah is Spooky Gulch slot canyon! Called spooky as it can get pretty dark between the narrow walls of this Utah slot canyon. Furthermore, this is a free slot canyon meaning it is a free Antelope canyon alternative! Forget joining a tour for cool pictures when you can hike in Spooky Gulch slot canyon for free!

9. Willis Creek Slot Canyon

Slot canyon in Utah (Grand Staircase-Escalante)

Willis Creek Slot Canyon
Image by Cathy Scola

Willis Creek Slot canyon is a little-known slot canyon in Utah. The closest town is Cannonville and Willis Creek slot canyon is located in Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument. This is a free slot canyon as there are no entrance fees to enter the monument or permits needed for the slot canyon trail.

The trailhead is on Skutumpah Road which is a dirt road so be careful in wet weather. Once you enter the canyon you follow the Willis Creek. Choose to hop over and across the stream or wear sandals and wade through. This is an easy slot canyon hike and an excellent free alternative to Antelope Canyon.

10. White Domes Canyon

Slot canyon in Nevada (Valley of Fire)

Rock Lines
Image by Kurt Lawson

If you are looking for a slot canyon near Las Vegas, White Domes slot canyon is an excellent choice! White Domes slot canyon is located within the Valley of Fire State Park. The entrance fee is $10 per vehicle making this a much cheaper Antelope Canyon alternative.

This slot canyon is not super long but the walls are quite high and the pink hues make it very photogenic. This is quite a popular loop trail but it is great for all fitness levels. Also, you can bring your dog too as long as it is on a leash.

11. Brimstone Gulch

Slot canyon in Utah (Grand Staircase-Escalante)

brimstone gulch
Image by Guillaume Coquin

There are so many wonderful slot canyons in Grand Staircase-Escalante and Brimstone Gulch is one of the best slot canyons in Utah! Brimstone Gulch is less popular than nearby Spooky & Peekaboo slot canyons but is much bigger, darker and narrower! If you have time after visiting Spooky & Peekaboo slot canyons you can combine a visit to Brimstone Gulch slot canyon.

Brimstone Gulch is a dark slot canyon which provides everything you want from a slot canyon hike. Otherworldly patterns, narrow passageways, precariously positioned rocks and chilly pools. You will have to return the same way you came in but this free slot canyon is one of the best slot canyons in the American South West.

12. Echo Canyon Passage

Slot canyon in Utah (Zion)

Echo Canyon
Image by Daniel D.

Echo Canyon Passage is a slot canyon in Utah that you can explore when dry on the easy sections without a permit. Do not enter the more technical sections or the deep water without the knowledge or proper gear.

13. Bell Canyon

Slot canyon in Utah (San Rafael Swell)

Duck
Image by William Horton

Bell Canyon is another great slot canyon in the San Rafael Swell. It joins on to Wild Horse Canyon so you can tick off two of the best slot canyons in the America South West in one day!

14. Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon

Slot canyon in Utah & Arizona

Buckskin Gulch slot canyon is said to be one of the longest slot canyons in the world! Therefore, it had to be on our list of our best slot canyons in the American South West and a fantastic Antelope Canyon alternative!

Buckskin Gulch canyon is narrow for about 12 miles. The cliffs reach huge heights of 500 feet towards the end when Buckskin Gulch meets the Paria River. It can be quite dark in the canyon which makes it an otherworldly experience hiking in the slot canyon.

Buckskin Gulch is a much cheaper alternative to Antelope Canyon too. The day permit costs $6 and if you would like to camp overnight in this American South West slot canyon it costs an additional $5. You need to book overnight trips in advance too.

While this may not be a free Antelope Canyon alternative, this is an epic slot canyon in the American South West and is much cheaper!

15. Little Death Hollow Slot Canyon

Slot Canyon in Utah (Grand Staircase Escalante)

Love slots!!  Little Death Hollow
Image by John Morrow

Little Death Hollow slot canyon is an amazing free slot canyon in the American South West! Located in Grand Staircase Escalante this slot canyon is a great alternative to Antelope Canyon if you are looking for an adventurous slot canyon hike!

It is a long day hike to hike the entirety of this American Southwest slot canyon. It is about 17 to 20 miles so you may want to stay overnight.

16. Crawford Draw

Slot Canyon in Utah (San Rafael Swell)

Crawford Draw
Image by Scott

Crawford Draw slot canyon is a little-known slot canyon in the American South West. Crawford Draw is one of the hidden gorges in the San Rafael Swell.  Just 3 miles from Interstate 70 it is quite easy to reach. This slot canyon can contain quite a few pools which make for hauntingly beautiful reflection photos.

It is free to visit San Rafael Swell which makes Crawford Draw a free slot canyon in the American South West!

You will need a good vehicle and good map reading skills to find this slot canyon.

17. The Chute of Muddy Creek

Slot canyon in Utah (San Rafael Swell)

Canyon Light
Image by Randy Langstratt

The chute of Muddy Creek is frequently said to be one of the best slot canyons in the American South West. It is a non-technical canyon adventure. Many people attempt this slot canyon hike in April, May, September and October. While these months mean that rain is minimal and that the pools tend to only be ankle deep, they can also be chest deep! Hiking poles come in handy when hiking in this slot canyon.

While this is a great free alternative to Antelope Canyon, if you want to stay dry this may not be the best slot canyon for you!

18. Egypt 3 slot canyon

Slot canyon in Utah

Egypt 3 slot canyon is one of 5 slot canyons on the Egypt Bench. It is said to be one of the best slot canyons in Utah.

The slot canyon is very impressive. There are potholes, tight narrows, deep canyons and dry falls to discover. You can rappel down or easily hike down into the canyon from the parking area. This slot canyon treats visitors to a variety of rocks from dark blackish cliffs to smooth red sandstone similar to the walls in Antelope Canyon. Some parts can be wet.

19. Leprechaun Slot Canyon

Slot canyon in Utah (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area)

I think I found the gold. Leprechaun Canyon
Image by Nathan Yan

Leprechaun slot canyon is a short slot canyon but pretty impressive!

A short hike from the road leads you to the bottom of the canyon. You enter into the slot and marvel at the huge walls before it begins to narrow.

20. Antelope Canyon

Slot canyon in Arizona

Finally, we had to add Antelope Canyon to this list of best slot canyons in the American Southwest! It’s otherworldly red swirls and iconic twists make this one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Safety Hazards of Slot canyons

Before visiting a slot canyon, it is good to be aware of the safety hazards of slot canyons.

Slot canyons have been forged by heavy rains. Water has carved the narrow passages over thousands of years. It is a process that continues today and you should never forget that when you are in a slot canyon in Utah or in a slot canyon in Arizona.

Always keep an eye on the weather before starting your slot canyon in the American South West adventure and during your visit! If there has been a thunderstorm or heavy rain or if it looks like rain please do not enter the slot canyon. Slot canyons can fill up quickly and bring debris. You may not have time to get back to the start of the trail or be able to climb up the steep canyon walls.

Similarly, you should never camp in a slot canyon. If you are asleep in your tent, you have no chance of escaping a flash flood in a slot canyon.

Best time of year to visit slot canyon

death valley mosaic canyon

You can visit a slot canyon year-round. Are you looking to visit a slot canyon without crowds or looking for the best temperatures to know when to hike in a slot canyon?

Visitors who still fancy visiting Antelope canyon may wish to visit between March to October to see the beautiful sun beams. If you are looking for a crowd-free slot canyon experience at Antelope canyon, you probably won’t find it but November to March is much quieter.

In terms of when the best time of year to visit a slot canyon in Utah or a slot canyon in Arizona is to go hiking it varies. July and August bring lots of rain to the American South West making this a more hazardous time to visit. The winter months can be cold meaning you will probably want a wet suit when hiking in slot canyons with water. For example, if you want to attempt the Zion narrows you can hire gear at Zion Outfitter.

The best time to hike in a slot canyon are the shoulder months. Spring and autumn are great times to visit slot canyons in the American South West.

Where to stay when visiting slot canyons?

Slot canyons can be found throughout the American South West. There are a few places you might want to consider to stay when visiting slot canyons. If you would like to visit Antelope Canyon the best place to stay is Page. If you would like to visit Wire Pass or Buckskin Gulch consider staying in Kanab or combine it with a visit to Zion national park by staying in Springdale. For visiting the slot canyons in Grand-Escalante staircase you could stay in Escalante.

Use this booking.com tool below to find the perfect accommodation for you.

Booking.com

More slot canyons in the USA

mosaic canyon
Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley

There are thousands of slot canyons in the USA! Many are inaccessible or require canyoning skills making these slot canyons not great Antelope canyon alternatives. There are plenty of slot canyons that are great to visit though outside of Utah and Arizona. For example, in Death Valley there are a few slot canyons. Mosaic slot canyon is a beautiful slot canyon in California. Similarly, Golden slot canyon is another great Instagram spot in Death Valley national park.

Which slot canyon in the American South West would you like to visit?

Have you been inspired to visit one of these slot canyons in Arizona or Utah? Which one of these Antelope Canyon alternatives will you be adding to your American South West slot canyon bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!

Best slot canyons in the American southwest! Looking for a slot canyon in Arizona or a slot canyon in Utah or even a slot canyon in Nevada? Well here is a list of the best slot canyons in the American southwest. Of course Antelope canyon made it onto the list but so did many antelope canyon alternatives such as peek-a-boo slot canyon and wire pass slot canyon. Furthermore there are tips for hiking in slot canyons and many other lesser known slot canyons!Best slot canyons in the American southwest! Looking for a slot canyon in Arizona or a slot canyon in Utah or even a slot canyon in Nevada? Well here is a list of the best slot canyons in the American southwest. Of course Antelope canyon made it onto the list but so did many antelope canyon alternatives such as peek-a-boo slot canyon and wire pass slot canyon. Furthermore there are tips for hiking in slot canyons and many other lesser known slot canyons!Best slot canyons in the American southwest! Looking for a slot canyon in Arizona or a slot canyon in Utah or even a slot canyon in Nevada? Well here is a list of the best slot canyons in the American southwest. Of course Antelope canyon made it onto the list but so did many antelope canyon alternatives such as peek-a-boo slot canyon and wire pass slot canyon. Furthermore there are tips for hiking in slot canyons and many other lesser known slot canyons!Best slot canyons in the American southwest! Looking for a slot canyon in Arizona or a slot canyon in Utah or even a slot canyon in Nevada? Well here is a list of the best slot canyons in the American southwest. Of course Antelope canyon made it onto the list but so did many antelope canyon alternatives such as peek-a-boo slot canyon and wire pass slot canyon. Furthermore there are tips for hiking in slot canyons and many other lesser known slot canyons!Best slot canyons in the American southwest! Looking for a slot canyon in Arizona or a slot canyon in Utah or even a slot canyon in Nevada? Well here is a list of the best slot canyons in the American southwest. Of course Antelope canyon made it onto the list but so did many antelope canyon alternatives such as peek-a-boo slot canyon and wire pass slot canyon. Furthermore there are tips for hiking in slot canyons and many other lesser known slot canyons!

2 Replies to “20 Insanely Beautiful Slot Canyons in the American South West!”

  1. And a word of caution, don’t go during monsoon season, you could get swept away by torrential tides.

    1. Completely agree! You should never visit a slot canyon if it is raining or if rain is forecast!

Leave a Reply