My first visit to any slot canyon was the beautiful antelope canyon in Arizona. Back then, I had very little idea about any slot canyon and the rock formation. But I was blown away by the beauty and color of the canyon walls. I did not know what to expect; but I enjoyed thoroughly. But this time, I was on my way to explore a slot canyon in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah. This slot canyon is nothing like any slot canyon I have ever visited, yet unique in its own way. The stunning feature of this slot is the pink and white striped Zebra like pattern of the canyon walls.
The trailhead of the Zebra slot canyon is located at the Hole in the Rock road. We did not see any sign or description on the trailhead parking. It’s an open space where you can park your vehicle. We went there in March. The road condition was dry, so we did not have any trouble getting there. We reached the trailhead the night before the hike and there were two other cars in the parking lot. We stayed the night at the trailhead and started our hike around 8 in the morning. It was still early and quite cold. We started our hike wearing jackets, layers of clothes, gloves, etc. As the time passed, the weather became hot and it became really hard to hike with all these clothes and we ended up packing almost all the warm clothes we were wearing, in our backpack. This was still late winter, and the weather was this hot. I cannot imagine the summer weather. Though the trail to the slot canyon is pretty much straight forward, still the trail is fully exposed and no shade at all. So, it may seem a little difficult in the summer months and may wear you out. Please be cautious about the hot weather and bring enough water with you.
The trail starts from the other side of the road and though the trail is not well-marked, still it is well traveled distinguishable path. After around one mile you will find a wooden cattle guard. Go through it and you have around another mile left to the bottom of Halfway Hollow. From here you have to take the left trail which leads to Zebra slot canyon. The right path heads towards the entrance of the Tunnel slot canyon. The entrance of the Zebra slot is wide open. You may feel it’s like all other slot canyon. But from the entrance of the slot canyon, it’s whole another story. It becomes narrow and narrow. Initially you may be able to cross the narrow portion but wait for it. The challenging sections are ahead where you can not pass walking through the walls. You have to climb or scramble to go any further. When we were there, it was dry inside the canyon. Still it seemed quite challenging. Depending on the weather condition, there may be pools of water at places from ankle to waist deep inside the slot canyon. In that case, please pack very light and wear water shoes. Some people even leave their backpack at the entrance. The hike though the slot is short but tough. The most beautiful section where the you can see the distinguished Zebra stripes prominently is at the end of the canyon. We both spent most of our time here at this section. There was a nest of birds on the top of the canyon wall, which we did not expect at all. The formation, the colorful stripes on the wall and the sunlight – everything has made this section unbelievably beautiful. This trail is dog-friendly, but the dogs must be kept on leash. Please note that not all dogs are fond of this hike. There was a couple in front of us, hiking with their dog. They had to turn around from the entrance as the dog was scared and adamant not to go any further.
You can also add the Tunnel slot canyon and complete two slot canyons together. We were planning to visit another place; hence decided to leave Tunnel slot canyon for next time. The experience inside the slot canyon was a bit challenging but exciting. I would suggest to not to visit this canyon if you have claustrophobia as some of the sections are really narrow. If you see other hikers inside the canyon, wait patiently as too many people may congest the narrow area. Start early to beat the heat and avoid the crowd.
At a glance/fact
· Hike length: 5.3 miles out and back
· Location: Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah
Trailhead: 37.63955, -111.44573
Cattle gate: 37.64995, -111.42861
Point to turn towards Zebra slot canyon: 37.65505, -111.41938
Zebra slot canyon entrance: 37.66187, -111.41743
· Difficulty: Hike is easy, but getting inside the canyon is challenging
· Elevation gain: 225 feet
· Best time to visit: Spring and fall
· Permit/Fee: none
· Parking: There is parking lot on the other side of the road where the trail begins. It has sufficient space unless it gets extremely crowded.
· The trail is not well marked. If possible, take a map, hand-GPS, GPS track or any offline app (highly recommended) with you so that you can take the right trail.
· Please check the weather before you start. Summer months can be really hot and there is no shade throughout the trail. Dress appropriately, wear hat, sunglass and sunscreen. Take enough water and snacks. While going inside the wall, it may be challenging at times, so pack lightly.
· There may be water inside the canyon depending on the season and weather. So, take your water shoes with you.
· Please leave no trace. This slot canyon is very beautiful. Please be respectful about this beautiful canyon walls. It’s not worthy to draw anything or write your name on the walls. Leave only your footprints, nothing else.