Forget Antelope Canyon and go to Wire Pass Canyon instead!
You have probably seen beautiful images of the gorgeous slot canyon, Antelope Canyon on social media. Yet what is less publicised are the huge crowds, the steep entrance costs and the sustainability of putting so much pressure on a delicate eco system. If you are looking for another epic slot canyon hike in the American South West, consider the Wire Pass Canyon day hike. It costs just a fraction of the price to visit, is just as beautiful and has far fewer crowds! Read on to find out everything you need to know about hiking Wire Pass Canyon.
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- What is Wire Pass Canyon?
- Where is Wire Pass Canyon?
- How do I get to Wire Pass Canyon?
- What facilities are at the Wire Pass Canyon trailhead?
- How much does it cost to visit Wire Pass Canyon?
- Can I bring my dog to Wire Pass Canyon?
- How do I get a permit for Wire Pass Canyon?
- Wire Pass Canyon Day Hike Description
- How long does it take to hike Wire Pass Canyon?
- Safety Hazards at Wire Pass Canyon
- Where can I stay near Wire Pass Canyon?
What is Wire Pass Canyon?
Wire Pass Canyon is an epic slot canyon in South West USA. Wire Pass is a tributary canyon which joins onto the much longer Buckskin Gulch canyon. Buckskin Gulch is said to be one of the longest slot canyons in the world. Many hikers who embark on the multi-day hike in Buckskin Gulch choose Wire Pass Canyon as the entrance point. It is easy to see why.
Wire Pass Slot Canyon is a beautiful place.
The curving sandstone walls of Wire Pass slot canyon mesmerise visitors. You have entered into the body of the earth. You will no longer hear the wind howling across the Paria plateau. You will just hear the crunching of the stones beneath your feet and your own breathing.
The Wire Pass slot canyon is very narrow, just 3 feet wide in places. Wire Pass Canyon is a wonderful place for hikers, children and visitors who are intrigued by desert landforms.
Wire Pass is not as long or as deep the Buckskin Gulch canyon. Only 0.5 miles of Wire Pass is a slot canyon. Yet the narrow, smooth sandstone walls are just as spectacular making Wire Pass an otherworldly hiking destination.
Where is Wire Pass Canyon?
Wire Pass Canyon is in Utah, USA. The slot canyon is part of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Compared to some of the other famous national parks in the area such as Zion national park there are only a few signposts and very few visitor facilities. This makes the Vermillion Cliffs a wonderful area for tourists looking for a proper wild hike.
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is a place where otherworldly multicoloured rock formations swirl across the Paria Plateau. To reach here, there are no tarmacked roads (see more below about getting to Wire Pass Canyon) making this a wonderful isolated place.
On the Western edge of the Paria Plateau you will find Wire Pass Canyon. Weather rock formations such as the Wave and the Coyote Buttes dot this landscape of eroded colourful strata.
How do I get to Wire Pass Canyon?
Getting to Wire Pass Canyon is a little trickier than some of the famous national parks in the area such as Zion and the Grand Canyon. Most visitors drive past the unassuming road which leads you to the Wave and the epic Wire Pass Canyon.
To get to Wire Pass Canyon, you must leave the nicely tarmacked Highway 89 and turn onto the House Rock Valley Road.
House Rock Valley Road is an unpaved road.
The House Rock Valley Road is a dirt track with loose stones. There are also little stream beds which are known to fill up quickly in flash floods. You must not drive on this road in wet weather, if you do not have a vehicle used to off road driving. Similarly, if it looks like rain, do not go down this road. You will get stuck.
You must follow this dirt track for 8.5 miles to the Wire Pass Canyon trailhead.
The trailhead is the same place hikers start the famous route to the elusive Wave trail. (If you want to hike the Wave, you will need to enter the lottery for 1 of the 20 permits available a day! So if you do not want the hassle of competing for a permit for the Wave, but want to enjoy the otherworldly colourful desert scenery, Wire Pass is a great alternative!)
Once you have parked your car and obtained your permit (see below for more details), the path to the canyon is about a mile. There is only one turn which lead to the Wave trail, so you cannot get lost. Just follow the path until you reach the epic Wire Pass slot canyon itself!
What facilities are at the Wire Pass Canyon trailhead?
There are very few facilities at the Wire Pass Canyon trailhead. There are toilets but no designated visitor centre. A ranger may be patrolling checking the various permits. Information about Wire Pass canyon can be found in the little wooden boxes when you collect your permit (see more information below about obtaining a Wire Pass Canyon permit).
How much does it cost to visit Wire Pass Canyon?
Wire Pass Canyon does have an entrance fee. Yet it costs much less to visit Wire Pass Canyon than it does to visit Antelope Canyon.
To visit Wire Pass Canyon, it costs $6 per hiker. You do not need to reserve online in advance. You can pay your $6 permit fee when you get to the Wire Pass trailhead. (Read below on how to get a permit for the Wire Pass Canyon)
Can I bring my dog to Wire Pass Canyon?
Yes! You can bring your dog to Wire Pass Canyon! Your furry friend is allowed on the trail, but you must also purchase a permit for your dog.
Most national parks, like Death Valley, do not allow dogs on the trails which makes Wire Pass Canyon day hike a great alternative!
How do I get a permit for the Wire Pass Canyon?
You need a permit for the Wire Pass Canyon day hike. You can get the permit for the Wire Pass trail at the trailhead in the car park. There are a few boxes with forms and pencils. Fill in the yellow form with your vehicle details. Put a slip on your car dashboard and put the exact change in the envelope for the number of hikers. It costs $6 per hiker. You must write how many of you are hiking and fill the envelope up with the exact amount. Once you have put that in one of the boxes, you must also fill in your starting time on the white spread sheet. Remember to sign back in when you come back from your day hike.
Description of the Wire Pass Canyon Day Hike
From the Wire Pass Canyon trailhead car park cross the road to start your epic hike! Follow the road for about a mile until the Wire Pass slot canyon.
The first section of the hike takes you along a sandy path. There is only one turning (which leads to the Wave) so it is not really possible to get lost. Please follow the sandy path and do not use any of the smaller shortcut trails. These harm the landscape through footpath erosion.
The surrounding red cliffs gradually become higher and come closer together. Then you will reach the epic entrance to the slot canyon. I advise going in this way but be warned you may be coming out shortly and following a different path into the slot canyon.
The first stretch of narrows is beautiful. The swirling rocky sides of the canyon envelope you into an underground world. You can only just see the sky above you as a bright narrow slither. Shortly after entering Wire Pass slot canyon you will come across a rather annoying 8-foot obstacle.
There used to be a ladder helping hikers down the obstacle but that has since disappeared or been removed (as of November 2019 there was no ladder).
You may be able to climb down this obstacle or you can go back out of the canyon and turn left. On your left you should see small rock piles. Follow these small rock piles. They will lead you into the canyon over the top of the cliffs. The small rock piles are easy to spot and go up and over the red cliffs. You will see the wash below where the slot canyon has widened out for a few meters. The rock piles disappear here and you will have to navigate your own way down into Wire Pass. The sandstone is fairly grippy though and should not be too difficult to navigate. In wet weather this is a different story as the cliffsides become slippery!
Wire Pass is divided into two slot canyons. The second slot canyon is shorter though deeper than the first. Follow the second part of the slot canyon until you reach Buckskin Gulch. You can choose to follow the Buckskin Gulch canyon for 1 mile before it opens up into a wider trail. Just be aware of quick sand and puddles in the Gulch. Alternatively, just reaching the confluence rewards day hikers with petroglyphs. There are several big horn sheep petroglyphs on the south side of Buckskin Gulch by the confluence.
There are plenty of amazing places to take photos and get that epic instagram shot on the Wire Pass Canyon day hike! For more desert instagram inspiration check out these insane instagram spots in Death Valley.
Walk as long as you feel like, or as the weather lets you, before walking back along to the Wire Pass trailhead.
How long does it take to hike Wire Pass Canyon?
Depending on how far you venture will affect the time it takes to hike Wire Pass canyon. It is possible to get a feel for this slot canyon in just under 2 hours. It will take you around 40 minutes to walk to and from the slot canyon. Once you are in the slot canyon you can spend as long as you like taking photos. If you venture in over the top of the cliffs it will take around 10 minutes to navigate your way into the canyon.
If the weather is fine you may wish to go down into Buckskin and spend longer exploring.
Also bare in mind that the 8.5 mile dirt road will take much longer to traverse than 8 miles on tarmac.
We did this hike on our way to the Horseshoe Bend in Page. Sadly, a storm was brewing so we had limited time to see the canyon then get back to the car and on the road before the rain came. We were on the trail and in the slot canyon for just under 2 hours.
Depending on how much time you have it will take between 2 hours to a whole day to do the Wire Pass Day Hike.
Safety Hazards at Wire Pass Canyon
Hiking in Wire Pass Canyon is an epic adventure but there are a few safety hazards you need to be aware of.
Firstly, flash flooding is a genuine concern. Whenever you go on a canyon hike you need to be aware of flash floods. The narrowness of slot canyons means there is nowhere to escape if you are caught in a flash flood. You may not be able to climb out and get to higher ground or get out of the slot canyon in time. Evidence of flash flooding is evident in Buckskin Gulch where there are many wet sections and areas of quick sand. Whilst Wire Pass is not known to have dangerous floods often, the number of logs jammed several feet from the floor demonstrate that flash floods do happen and cause great damage when they do.
The obstacle in the first section of the slot canyon is another danger. It is an eight-foot drop onto uneven ground. The climb up is not easy nor is the climb down. Be careful if you do decide to ascend or descend the obstacle. Otherwise take the detour over the canyon which is easier.
Another safety concern is heat if you are hiking in summer. Take plenty of water with you as it can get hot in the desert environment.
The final safety hazard is the road itself. A sedan can just about follow the road. Yet the many loose rocks could easily damage a tire. Furthermore, when the road is wet it is impassable to most vehicles.
Where can I stay near Wire Pass Canyon?
There is no where to stay at Wire Pass canyon trailhead itself. You also cannot camp in Wire Pass Canyon. The best places to stay near Wire Pass canyon are in either Kabab or in Page. Use this booking.com map to find places to stay.
Have you been inspired to do the Wire Pass Canyon day hike?
Have you been inspired to do the Wire Pass Canyon day hike? Would you like to hike in this slot canyon? Or maybe you would like to do the multi-day Buckskin Gulch hike for the ultimate slot canyon adventure! Let us know in the comments below.