Best Slot Canyons of the Desert Southwest

Antelope Canyon

Why are slot canyons so attractive? Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona is one of the most photographed locations in America. It is a beautiful place with light peaking in through the narrow gap at the top of the canyon so I get that slot canyons are “attractive.” Maybe the better question is “what is the attraction of slot canyons?”

Buckskin Gulch

Considering how many people have claustrophobia, it’s a surprise that such tight confined spaces would be so appealing. And stories of deadly flash floods in places like The Black Hole are widely known so the fear factor should come into play. But slot canyons DO draw us inside. They have more than an aesthetic appeal. Having explored narrow canyons before, I can try to explain the draw. For me it’s a mysterious feeling that they create. Lots of shadows, cool temperatures (despite hot temps above), unique rock shapes, challenging obstacles, and not being able to see what’s around the next bend. It’s the “feeling” that makes adventurers want to find more. Slots are addicting.

Aptly named Zebra Canyon

The desert southwest region is where most slot canyons can be found. They are typically created by erosion in sandstone rocks which the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona has in abundance.

Here are some of the best slot canyons in the southwest. Some are well-known or are located in well-known parks (e.g. the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park), but others are hidden gems that take some effort to find. Most are not technical, but some may require rappels (e.g. Bluejohn) so do your research. All slot canyons have a risk of flash flooding so get a forecast and don’t go if there is rain anywhere in the watershed that feeds the creek – period.

Click on the map above or the links below to see topographic maps of the slot canyons.

Spooky Canyon (actual name!)

Places on this map

Mountain State
Antelope Slot Canyon AZ
Buckskin Gulch UT
Paria Canyon AZ
Peek-a-boo Canyon UT
Spooky Gulch UT
Happy Canyon UT
Little Wild Horse Canyon UT
Bell Canyon UT
The Narrows, Zion National Park UT
The Subway, Zion National Park UT
Cheesebox Canyon UT
Fortknocker Canyon UT
The Black Hole of White Canyon UT
Bluejohn Canyon UT
Buckwater Draw CO
Moonshine Wash UT
Pumphouse Wash AZ
Sulphur Creek UT
Grand Wash UT
Cathedral Wash AZ
Milkweed Canyon AZ
Big Horn Slot Canyon UT
Brimstone Gulch UT
Fry Canyon UT
Maidenwater Slot Canyon UT
Red Canyon Slot UT
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument NM
Hells Half Acre NM