Best Slot Canyons in Capitol Reef National Park

Best Slot Canyons in Capitol Reef National Park

Southwestern Utah is filled with amazing slot canyons: The Narrows in Zion National Park, Buckskin Gulch at Vermilion Cliffs, Kanarra Creek in Kanarraville, and many others. Some of the best slot canyons are just a few miles from Fremont River RV, in Capitol Reef National Park. In this article, we've listed a few of Capitol Reef's best known, and most enjoyable, slot canyons. All are easy to get to from Fremont River RV. The listed "Distances from us" are to the canyons' respective trailheads. Keep in mind that all slot canyons are subject to flash flooding. Before hiking in any of these canyons, make sure you understand the risks involved, and check the weather forecasts for the appropriate areas. Note that all the canyons listed below are part of Capitol Reef National Park, and a minimal fee is required to enter the park. Check the National Parks Service's Capitol Reef website for entry fees.

Burro Wash

  • Location: Capitol Reef National Park
  • Length: 7.6 miles out and back
  • Distance from us: 43.5 miles
  • Difficulty: moderate

Burro Wash, located in Capitol Reef, is about 8.0 miles south of Highway 24, along Notom-Bullfrog Road. Burro Wash starts out as a rather easy hike, but quickly narrows and becomes difficult to maneuver through. It contains numerous chockstones, a number of very narrow sections, and potential water hazards. Navigating over chockstones requires quite a bit of climbing. The last third of Burro Wash requires technical climbing equipment and the ability to use it. Footing becomes treacherous, especially if conditions are wet or icy. If you're not comfortable with the trail at that point, just turn around, and head back the way you came.

Cottonwood Wash

  • Location: Capitol Reef
  • Length: 6.4 miles out and back
  • Distance from us: 44.8 miles
  • Difficulty: moderate

Cottonwood Wash, in Capitol Reef, is about 9.0 miles south of Highway 24, on Notom-Bullfrog Road. The trail is relatively open at the beginning; then, it narrows, forming slots. In general, Cottonwood Wash is a strenous hike. You'll need to be able to handle scrambling over chockstones and wading throught standing water in pools. Around the middle of the trail, you'll run into a large (40-foot) dryfall. Most folks turn around at this point. Hikers with considerable canyoneering experience can usually get around the dryfall and continue along the trail. 

Sheets Gulch

  • Location: Capitol Reef
  • Length: 19.5 miles out and back
  • Distance from us: 48.4 miles
  • Difficulty: hard

Sheets Gulch, located in Capitol Reef, is 12.7 miles south of Highway 24, on Notom-Bullfrog Road. It's a long route, but it has fewer obstacles than Burro Wash or Cottonwood Wash. It has no large chockstones, has relatively shallow pools, and it's narrow areas are less narrow than the other two nearby slot canyons. At about 4.1 miles in the hike, you'll reach a chockstone and pool that is difficult to get over without help. After five miles, or so, you'll see beautiful stands of Douglas fir and cool north slopes. The canyon walls will begin to change from white Navajo sandstone to orange and red Wingate.

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Grand Wash

  • Location: Capitol Reef
  • Length: 6.2 miles round trip
  • Distance from us: 31.3 miles
  • Difficulty: easy

Grand Wash is a great canyon hike for families and for folks new to hiking in narrow canyons. It is easily accessible, and the hike can be completed in around 1-2 hours. It provides great views of colorful strata and unique rock formations. The narrowest sections are around 15-feet wide, but the canyon still feels like a slot canyon. The canyon becomes narrower and deeper the farther you go, with the narrowest section being at around the half-way point.  

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