Set in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Willis Creek Slot Canyon is grand, indeed. It’s accessible and mellow enough for just about anyone who wants to experience canyoning with minimal effort and technical know-how. You’ll cross the Willis Creek numerous times (it’s only an inch or two deep). The best part? You’ll feel wonderfully secluded compared to the area’s most popular destinations: Peek-a-Boo/Spooky, The Narrows and Antelope Canyon. Here’s what you need to know about tackling Willis Creek Slot Canyon.
Where Is Willis Creek Slot Canyon?
You’ll find Willis Creek Slot Canyon near Kanab, Utah, off Skutumpah Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The hike is 4.8 miles roundtrip. However, after you finish the first narrows section, you have the option of turning around to make it a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike. Overall, there is only a 300-foot elevation gain.
So, Why Is Willis Creek Slot Canyon So Grand?
Like noted above, this easy hike offers a lot of bang for the buck. In a relatively short period of time (less than three hours), you’ll access stunning canyon scenery – colorful Navajo sandstone and the orange-hued creek. The smooth rock walls have been carved by thousands of flash floods.
Plus, you won’t need any ropes, ladders or guides. With the exception of one that you can walk around, there are no obstacles on the trail.
What Is the Willis Creek Slot Canyon Hike Like?
This is a slot canyon hike for those who have never done one before or even those who love them dearly, but want an easy afternoon adventure. From the parking lot, start into the narrows, hiking over and through the creek. As the canyon comes in around you, the walls are less than 25 feet tall and only about 8 feet wide. The walls grow as you move on, towering about 100 feet above, but become less narrow. You’ll clear the narrows about 1.3 miles into the hike. If you wish, keep walking along the creek-side trail for 2.4 miles, then turn around.
When Should I Visit Willis Creek Slot Canyon?
You can hike the Willis Creek Slot Canyon year-round. It’s especially pleasant from late March through September. It’s a nice choice for its ample shade and cool Willis Creek.
Can I Make the Willis Creek Slot Canyon Hike Longer?
You can do two loop hikes that will increase your total Willis Creek experience. One is a 14-mile circuit of Bull Valley Gorge-Sheep Creek-Willis Creek, best done clockwise. Or, for a much shorter option, choose the 4-mile hike through Averett Canyon and Willis Creek. There is a historic memorial in Averett Canyon to Elijah Everett, a Mormon settled who was killed by Native Americans here in 1866.
Is There Another Slot Canyon I Should Hike in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument?
Yes! Lots of them. If you’d like something a bit more challenging than the Willis Creek Slot Canyon, try Zebra Slot Canyon. For this one – 5.3 miles roundtrip and an elevation gain of just 25 feet – you’ll want three to four hours. Drive down Hole in the Rock Road outside Escalante. The trailhead is approximately 8 miles down the road.
What Is the Zebra Canyon Hike Like?
Walk along the path near the cattle guard for about 45 minutes before coming to the entrance of the slot canyon. As you hike in, the canyon narrows. Depending on the season and recent rainfall, there may be pools of water waist deep in places. After 15 minutes, you’ll arrive at the Zebra section, where there is a small dryfall and a large pothole.
You can add on a hike to Tunnel Slot Canyon while you’re here. Go down the Harris Wash about 20-30 minutes from Zebra Canyon to the first side canyon that comes in on the left. Hike this side canyon about 10 minutes to reach the Tunnel Slot Canyon.
What Are Some Other Fun Things to Do in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument?
- Hike from Escalante River to Natural Bridge. If you are new to the park, this is a great intro hike. Find the Escalante River Trailhead off Scenic Byway 12, north of the Boynton Overlook. Along the way, you’ll cross the river several times and see everything from petroglyphs to arches to a cliff dwelling.
- Enclose yourself in the short, family-friendly Round Valley Draw slot canyon. Look for it southeast of Cannonville and Kodachrome Basin State Park.
- Explore Bull Valley Gorge. This dimly lit canyon takes you through slot canyon confines and the wild lands of the park. If you’d like, you can extend this to the longer Bull Valley Gorge-Sheep Creek-Willis Creek hike outlined above.
If you’d just like to explore Bull Valley gorge, park by the bridge at the trailhead (off Skutumpah Road), then hike up the canyon, staying to the right side. Climb down into the canyon once you find a shallow spot to do so. Notice the tall, fluted and striated rock of the Navajo sandstone canyon walls. There may be a stream of water moving down the wash, depending on recent rainfall or flash floods. Continue to tributaries on both sides just past the bridge, juniper and fir trees at the 2-mile point and, finally, around 3 miles in, a clay and sand bottom.
If you have time, view the 100-foot-deep Bull Valley Gorge from above on either side of the road bridge – you’ll be able to see the mud, pools and boulders below you.
How Far Are Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
They’re geologically related – the Grand Staircase is a massive sequence of sedimentary rock layers that stretches from Bryce Canyon National Park through Zion National Park and into the Grand Canyon. It’s less than an hour to drive between Grand Staircase and Zion National Park. Grand Staircase is 59 miles east of Bryce Canyon National Park, in the town of Escalante. The area is operated by the Bureau of Land Management and covers almost 1.9 million acres of reddish orange canyons, mesas and plateaus.