While the rocky landscape of southwest America is replete with rocky gorges, Zebra Slot Canyon is a particularly beautiful one. At Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, you will find this small but very beautiful canyon- a great hike for people who love slot canyons.
Zebra Slot Canyon is a 5.2 mile hike (round-trip). This canyon is a relatively short hike, but a bit tricky in spots. Along the way you will gain about 300 feet in elevation (on the return hike). The total hike takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete. The trail to the slot canyon is fairly easy and it’s only the slot canyon itself that is tricky.
Make sure to bring lots of water, sunscreen, and shoes that will be adequate for a bit of scrambling in the canyon.
What is a "slot canyon"?
A "slot canyon" is a gorge with high vertical walls that are very close to each other. Most slot canyons are formed in arid areas that have occasional violent flooding. During such natural disasters, the water with rock and other debris scours through the softer rock layers, creating the narrow gorges.
Getting to Zebra Slot Canyon
First, we need to get to Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
Hole-in-the-Rock Road is a dirt road that starts on State Route 12, between the towns of Escalante and Boulder. You will find the exit five miles east of Escalante, close to milestone 65. Follow the Hole-in-the-Rock Road for a distance of just under 8 miles. There are a few grilles (cattleguards) across the width of the road, park the car immediately after you have crossed the third grille on the right-hand side of the road. The GPS coordinates are: 37 ° 38'15 '' N, 111 ° 26'40 '' W.
The road surface of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road can be quite washboarded. It helps tremendously to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but in dry weather conditions the road is generally quite passable.
Hiking Route to Zebra Slot Canyon
The trail starts on the left side of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, right in front of where you parked the car. Walk through a clearly visible path into the open field (towards north-east) until you come across a wash: this is Half Hollow Wash. Keep following this wash: you can choose to walk over the bottom of the wash or on the top of it. If you walk as much as possible on the top, you can cut off the bends that the wash makes, making the hike slightly shorter.
After 2.3 miles, Half Hollow Wash meets the wide, sandy Harris Wash. From this point, continue through Harris Wash, in a northerly direction (turn left). Take in the point where you come from Half Hollow Wash, so that you know how to walk back on the way back. You will notice Harris Wash getting narrower; after approximately 0.3 miles (more than 500 meters) you will enter Zebra Slot Canyon (GPS: 37 ° 39'39''N, 111 ° 25'02''W).
Hiking in Zebra Slot Canyon
While Zebra Slot Canyon can be hiked any time of year, you may want to avoid summer as the heat can be quite oppressive. The slot canyon may have standing water in it; depending on recent rainfall this can be as high as up to your ankle or chest. Even during hot temperatures, this water is often very cold and, in cases where the water is chest-level, this can make the canyon impassable. Zebra Slot Canyon gets quite tight almost immediately, measuring less than a foot across in places and will require a bit of scrambling.
Can you camp at Zebra Slot Canyon?
You are not allowed to camp right at Zebra Slot Canyon; however, there are nearby camping spots available that will give you easy access. As Grand Staircase Escalante does not allow for reservations to be made through recreation.gov, you should plan on swinging by the Vistors Center for information at the Bureau of Land Management Kanab Field Office, located at 745 East Highway 89, Kanab, UT 84741.
There are three developed campgrounds near the Grand Staircase Escalante that are entirely first come first serve with no advance reservations. These are ideal for venturing out and hiking Zebra Slot Canyon.
Check out our other Hiking Destination guides!
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