Slot canyons in Arizona are some of the most photogenic and magnificent canyons in the world. Whether you have time only to visit the best slot canyons in Arizona or you want to check out most of them, you’ve come to the right place.

Slot Canyons are one of the prominent landmarks dominating the Grand Canyon state and other southwest United States.

These gorgeous formations comprise tall cliffs, and a labyrinthine of vibrant narrow spaces, formed over aeons by the unwavering power of water carving splendid canyons through the rocky soil. 

These mystic structures draw professional photographers, hikers, outdoor lovers and nature admirers alike. If you are visiting Arizona, you need to add at least a few of these slot canyons to your itinerary.

In this post, we’re going to cover 17 Arizona slot canyons, how to access each of them, helpful tips, and all other things to know.

WHAT ARE SLOT CANYONS?

Slot Canyons are long, narrow channels or drainage ways created by rushing water through the cracks in the rocks, which over millions of years erode the layers with water, and wind, creating deep crevices within forming Slot Canyons.

What is unique and spectacular about these narrow canyons deep in the earth are the colourful wavy walls curving around the water beds, with each canyon different in shape and size.

best slot canyons in Arizona

Many slot canyons are formed in sandstone and limestone rock, and they can reach great heights, even up to 1000 feet sometimes. The bottom of slot canyons are sandy and rocky, and they are often prone to flash floods.

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING THE SLOT CANYONS IN ARIZONA

BOOK TOURS TO EXPLORE SLOT CANYONS IN AZ

The best way to explore all the slot canyons in Arizona is via guided tours led by local experts that know the terrain, weather conditions and trails.

During the peak seasons, these group tours, usually taking smaller groups, tend to fill out quickly, many before months. So it is recommended to book as early as possible so that you don’t miss out on visiting these slot canyons in Arizona.

slot canyons in Arizona

Also, the best time for joining tours is early morning when the weather is milder, and the crowds are fewer.

CHECK WEATHER FORECAST

Before starting your trip, one of the most important things to do to visit any of the slot canyons in Arizona is to check the weather forecast.

The slot canyons in Arizona are prone to flooding during monsoon season, between mid-June through September. 

A few miles away rainstorm creates a dangerous flash flood sweeping through slot canyons without warning.

The tour guides will give the instructions and are equipped to safeguard you from any dangers, but keep an eye on the weather before you book a tour. 

canyons in Arizona

Cancelling the tours is expected if the water levels in slot canyons rise to dangerous levels.

CARRY ESSENTIALS

Dress for the weather, and carry enough food and water, a first aid kit, and other outdoor essentials, but do not bring unnecessary items, as oversized backpacks are usually not allowed on tours. 

TOP SLOT CANYONS IN ARIZONA

UPPER AND LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON

  • Location: Page, Arizona
  • Distance: 90 minutes tours
  • Hiking Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

By far the most famous of all the slot canyons in Arizona, and one of the iconic landmarks in the world is Antelope Canyon, located in the Navajo Nation east of Page. It is so large that it is split into two distinct canyons: Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope.

Upper Antelope is the most famous and visited, while Lower Antelope is slightly more challenging to see and receives fewer tourists.

You can only access Antelope Canyons on a guided tour, which remains full throughout the year, thanks to its immense popularity. It is best to book the tours in months if you want to explore during peak seasons.

While both canyons are relatively short in length and offer a slightly different experience, both are incredible slot canyons comprising unique and impressive formations on the tall Navajo sandstone walls.

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These striking wonders are millions of years old, formed due to the consistent work of flash floods, carving their famous rugged edges, creating deep and narrow winding fissures through the soft, red sandstone rock.

Upper Antelope Canyon, also known as the place where water runs through rocks, is the most crowded of the slot canyons near Page. 

Upper Antelope Canyon, spanning 200 meters long, has the largest caverns, with the entire canyon at ground level and no climbing, giving it easy access and attracting millions of visitors each year. It is narrow and has more twists and turns than Lower Antelope Canyon. 

Upper Antelope Canyons is also easily accessible from Horseshoe Bend and the Glen Canyon Dam. One of the biggest draws of the Upper Antelope Canyon is its higher location at over 4000 feet; the directions and effects of sunlight filtering through the narrow and deep walls create fascinating illuminations of reds and oranges, changing position throughout the year, and create fabulous views.

LOWER ANTELOPE

If you only have time to visit one of Page’s famous slot canyons, it should be Lower Antelope Canyon. Lower Antelope Canyon is known for its spectacular spiral rock arches amidst narrow passages and shallow water on the ground.

Since the lower canyon is v-shaped, the light shines from above onto the canyon floor instead of through specific openings like the a-shaped upper canyon bringing more light into the canyon and offering splendid photo-capturing options.

Although it is only a quarter-mile long and twice as long as the Upper Antelope, it is home to some of the most iconic undulating formations in the rock walls, along with fantastic lighting and colouring, making it one of the top landmarks in Arizona and a bucket list destination for hikers, outdoor lovers and photographers.

On your guided tour, you will pass through a series of fantastic passageways where you can see the floors and the walls illuminated by sunlight pouring in, creating beautiful views.

You’ll have to scale some ladders to access Lower Canyon, but it is worth the extra effort.

As this is one of the most popular canyons, tours for Lower Antelope Canyon can fill up fast, and booking your trip in advance is best.

SECRET CANYON

  • Location: Page
  • Distance: 90 minutes(on tour)
  • Hiking Difficulty: Easy

A famous and excellent alternative to Antelope Canyon is Secret Antelope Canyon, which is very similar, except for the intense crowds. 

Also known as Horseshoe Bend Canyon due to its proximity to the famous Horseshoe Bend overlook, the canyon is a part of the Waterholes Canyon. It is known for its spectacular swirling, beautifully lit-up walls.

The only way to view this canyon is through guided tours. The only tour group with access to Secret Canyon is Horseshoe Bend Tours, which organizes custom, small-group tours that offer you an intimate experience exploring these fantastic formations.

Take the 1.5 to 2 hours trip that combines a private overlook of Horseshoe Bend, one of the most fun and adventurous tours where you will go off-road for 8 miles in an open 4×4 jeep to arrive at the entrance to the canyon. 

The canyon entrance is more expansive and has shorter walls, which will eventually change, becoming narrow canyons as you hike through the rocks, leading to longer walls with incredible patterns and colours, similar to Antelope, but with fewer visitors accompanying you.

WATERHOLES CANYON

  • Location: Near Page
  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Moderate

Among the famous slot canyons in Arizona located near Page is Waterhole Canyon, a renowned trail on Navajo land known for its narrow passageways adorned with bright orange rocks and soft sandstones.

Waterholes Canyon comprises many sections venturing deeper. The slot canyon stretches over 13 miles of narrow passages, cliffs, and sandy wash areas, but only about 2 miles are open for touring, which takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to hike.

This 3 miles round trip, moderately complex trail is categorised into two access levels. It can only be explored via a tour company with a tour guide who provides excellent details about the local history and formations.

You can choose between a general hiking tour or a photography tour.  Waterhole Canyon might be rugged if you are a beginner, but you can see the first section as it is broader and more open, allowing an easy walk.

After walking through the first section, the trail narrows down after the sandy wash area. After squeezing a bit, you will have to climb down a 16-foot ladder leading you into the narrowest part of the slot canyon.

You will sometime need to use rappelling equipment in the lower sections if there is water. 

As you travel back in time to witness these millions of year-old geological magical formations check out the gorgeous red and orange walls of rocks in these deep and narrow passages that glow as the sunlight touches them, creating fantastic photo opportunities.

RATTLESNAKE CANYON

  • Location: Page, near Antelope Canyon
  • Distance: 90 minutes tour, 2 miles
  • Hiking Difficulty: Difficult

One of the best slot canyons in Arizona that you can combine on your visit to Antelope is Rattlesnake Canyon, accessible via Rattlesnake Canyon hike, one of the most popular in Arizona. 

This slot canyon gets its name from snake-like patterns formed on the rocks and the colourful winding passageways. You will see gorgeous red, orange, and even blue formations, perfectly blending to create a beautiful Canyon.

The challenging hike for about 2 miles winds its way through the canyon offering stunning views and unique desert wildlife on your trail. Stop by to admire the fantastic views and scenery at the top and entrance of the canyon.

Some narrow sections in the canyon involve climbing ladders to navigate, so it is harder to get through, making it an adventurous journey in the canyon.

Rattlesnake Canyon is a tributary to the more extensive Antelope Wash and is not as tall or as long as either Upper Antelope Canyon or Lower Antelope Canyon. 

So you can either book a tour for just Rattlesnake Canyon, which lasts for about an hour, or join longer combined tours and see multiple canyons together.

Only Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours company has access to organize tours for smaller groups and customized tours.

CARDIAC CANYON

  • Location: Page
  • Distance: 2.5 miles round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Difficult

One of the unique slot canyons in Arizona is Cardiac Canyon, an off-the-beaten destination that has been gaining more eyeballs with every passing year, thanks to Instagram.

Cardiac Canyon gets its name from the 90-foot steep, sandy hill you must descend to get down into it, and the hike to climb up back up is not for the faint of the heart and is only recommended if you are an experienced hiker.

Suppose you are adventurous enough to tackle this trail. In that case, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of this spectacular canyon with intricately carved formations gleaming in reds and oranges in the sunshine.

You can now only visit Cardiac Canyon on a guided tour offered by Taadidiin Tours, the only company to do so, with whom you will go on a 6-hour hiking tour spanning the 2.5-mile-long canyon. 

The tour only includes six people at a time to properly navigate and enjoy in a small group.

There is a ladder with a rope to make the initial descent and the climb back later. Before arriving at the stunning wavy formations, you will pass through many narrow passageways and climb up and down a few boulders.

CANYON X

  • Location: Page
  • Distance: 90 minutes(on tour)
  • Hiking Difficulty: Easy

If you want to tour Antelope Canyon but want fewer crowds, Canyon X is one of the best slot canyons in Arizona, famous for hiking and wilderness photography.

If you are interested in capturing the rugged slot canyons with fewer visitors in the frame, Canyon X offers better opportunities than Antelope Canyon.

Although it is a part of the Antelope Canyon complex, you need to go further to arrive at Canyon X, which is why only fewer tourists often travel here.

The unique slot canyon, famous for its red sandstone walls, gets its name due to the X” shape created by the canyon walls at an intersection that you can spot above you.

Slot canyons in Arizona

Only Taadidiin Tours company conducts guided small groups into Canyon X, offering two types of small group tours – a hiking tour and a photography tour. 

While the hiking tour lasts about 1.5 hours, the photography tour is more extended, at roughly 3 hours.

The path is relatively easy without ladders or navigating through very narrow passageways and is an ideal slot canyon in Arizona to visit with your kids, as children are also allowed on tour.

OWL CANYON

  • Location: Page
  • Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Easy

If you are looking to explore a Canyon that’s not typical, you will love visiting Owl Canyon located in Page. The canyon gets its name due to the majestic inhabitants, and Great Horned Owls, and you can view many of them on your hike.

The canyon doesn’t have quite the same narrow passageways as the other slot canyons in Page and is an easier one to check out.

Arizona slot canyons

You must go on a combo tour also covering Upper Antelope Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon to visit Owl Canyon. 

Check this ideal tour to experience 3 different types of slot canyons.

DEER CREEK NARROWS

  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park
  • Distance: 20 miles
  • Hiking Difficulty: Challenging

One of the best slot canyons in Arizona is deer Creek Narrows located in the Grand Canyon National Park, which ends its journey as Deer Creek, a magnificent 150-foot waterfall joining the Colorado River. 

slot canyons near Sedona

You can enjoy spectacular views of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River while visiting Deer Creek Narrow. 

Deer Creek Narrows is the most remote and challenging to get to slot canyon on this list as you can only access it by either hiking 20 miles with 10,000 feet elevation gain or by an overnight float trip along the Colorado River.

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Rappelling to Deer Creek Narrows is recommended only if you have experience and are accompanied by experienced rappellers as you will do four different challenging rappels including the last one, 190 feet down the side of the magnificent Deer Creek Falls. 

If you plan to hike to the Deer Creek Narrows, the entire distance would be about 20 miles, although the total length of the actual slot canyon is only 0.4 miles. Most people choose to do this hike and canyon in 2-3 days, which is the best way to go.

CATHEDRAL CANYON

  • Location: Near Page
  • Distance: 1-mile round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Easy

Another slot canyon near Page worth checking out is Cathedral Canyon, which has become recently popular as one of the alternatives to the famous and crowded Antelope Canyon.

Cathedral Canyon is slightly narrow and is known for its splendid rock formations surrounded by beautiful arid landscapes, with four of them being star attractions – Cathedral Rock, Four Sisters, Thumb Rock, and Pucket Rock. 

slot canyons near me

You will have to squeeze your way to reach them, using your limbs as support keeping an eye for boulders wedged between the walls. Once inside, you will have to descend a 10-foot ladder to get to the actual canyon. 

The walk around is not challenging except for a bit of discomfort in navigating through the narrow space and using the ladder.

After hiking through the slot canyon, you’ll come to the Cathedral room, a splendid room towering 100 feet overhead. The beautiful colours and the views make it worth your hike.

OTHER SLOT CANYONS IN ARIZONA

ARIZONA HOT SPRINGS CANYON

  • Location: Lake Mead Recreational Area
  • Distance: 5 miles round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Easy

Suppose you plan a trip to one of the offbeat national monuments in Arizona, the Lake Mead Recreational Area, south of the Hoover Dam. In that case, you can stop to explore Arizona Hot Springs Canyon nearby.

Unlike the other Arizona slot canyons, you will be treated to fantastic series of hot spring pools, the perfect way to relax after your trek. 

slot canyons near phoenix

These small artificial pools of hot water have been created between the canyon’s high walls to prevent excessive water flow along the path. The water has a temperature of 111 degrees.

The hike, which is a 5-mile loop, is pretty straightforward. The trail starts from the trail’s parking lot along Highway 93.

There are two paths, the White Rock Canyon Trail and the Hot Spring Canyon Trail.  The Hot Spring Canyon Trail is a more popular route. Although this trail is shorter, there is an elevation gain of about 800 feet, which may be challenging for some.

As you walk along the giant canyon, you will witness spectacular formations of the nearly vertical steep walls in shades of red, yellow, purple, and pink and views of the Colorado River and the ancient rocky molten lava landscapes.

There is a 17-foot ladder that you must ascend to get to the hot springs, but you shouldn’t need any special gear.

If you are on the Hot Spring Canyon Trail, you will find a ladder after the pools that will lead you to the banks of the Colorado River.

Note that you will be hiking in the open without shade throughout your hike, so it is best to avoid it during the afternoon as the temperatures are dangerously high.

The trial is officially closed during the summer months as it becomes scorching. Read the warning signs before swimming in the pools.

JACKASS CANYON

  • Location: Near Lee’s Ferry and the Vermillion Cliffs
  • Distance: 5.5 miles round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

One of the best slot canyons in Arizona if you are looking to hike along Colorado with your family and friends is the Jackass Canyon, located on Navajo Reservation near Lee’s Ferry and the Vermillion Cliffs along the beautiful Colorado River.

Due to its secluded location, you can enjoy the hike with fewer tourists passing through the trail’s unique desert vegetation and pretty views.

It is a moderate to challenging hike where you will use rope passages and meander through narrow canyons and boulders. But you will be rewarded with stunning river views and witness the gorgeous bright orange Jackass Canyon. 

The incredible canyon has humble layouts at the start of a wash near Highway 89A, descending quickly to a narrow canyon at about 30 feet down, which you can navigate using ropes passing through boulders and small pools of water.

At the end of this trail, Jackass Canyon opens up into the magnificent Marble Canyon and the Colorado River. You will see large boulders and splendid rock formations dominating the landscapes.

Marble Canyon is also located at the edge of Grand Canyon National Park, so you can get glimpses of this world-famous park on the other end.

You will need a hiking permit from the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation department, which you can check here.

PARIA CANYON

  • Location: Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
  • Distance: 10 miles round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Difficulty

One of the longest slot canyons in Arizona, stretching for almost 40 miles, the Paria Canyon is known for its magnificent towering walls, some nearly as high as 800 feet tall, painted with vibrant shades amidst unique sandstone arches – Coyote Buttes, and offering fantastic opportunities for photography.

Due to its remote location at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument near Page, it is also one of the least visited slot canyons.

Paria Canyon, cut deep into the Navajo Sandstone, starts in Utah following the Paria River, is very wide in the beginning and crosses the border into Arizona near Buckskin Gulch, narrowing from here. 

Many prefer hiking in Utah due to the less challenging terrain, mostly downhill, ending at Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River. You will need at least three days to complete the stretch. It would be best if you had permits to camp overnight.

While ‘the Wave’ is the prominent attraction here, you will be amazed by the millions of years-old cliffs, desert gardens, and wooded regions.

Avoid hiking here during monsoon months as the canyons are prone to flash floods and water levels are usually higher.

PUMPHOUSE WASH

  • Location: Near West Fork of Oak Creek
  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Moderate

One of the popular attractions near Sedona and Flagstaff is Pumphouse wash, one of the famous hikes in Sedona on the West Fork of Oak Creek.

It is one of Arizona’s easily accessible slot canyons ideal for family hikes, which is 3 miles round trip. You will pass through the beautiful landscapes comprising red sandstone rock formations and mountains running along Oak Creek. 

The slot canyon gets its name from an old pump house nearby used by the pioneers in the late 1800s to bring fresh water uphill.

A tributary of Oak Creek runs through the deep forested Pumphouse Wash year-round. On this trail, you will encounter narrow passes and ancient rock formations, including rugged Coconino sandstone. 

You may need additional hiking equipment to navigate narrow paths and cliffs. The trail is under the bridge in Oak Creek, and you have parking north of the bridge near mile marker 388.

Avoid Pumphouse Wash during monsoon as the areas are prone to dangerous flash floods.

MOUNTAIN SHEEP CANYON

  • Location: Sipsey Wilderness Area 
  • Distance: 1.5 miles one way
  • Hiking Difficulty: Difficult

Mountain Sheep Canyon is another slot canyon inside the immense Antelope Canyon near Page in Arizona. The slot canyon gets its name due to its strenuous trail through the unique rock formations.

If you are looking for a challenging adventure near Antelope, Mountain Sheep Canyon, located in Arizona’s Sipsey Wilderness Area, offers the perfect playground, comprising dramatic sandstone slot canyons rising hundreds of feet above the deep canyon floor with many twists and turns, which gives it a quirky name. 

You will be using many ladders to navigate the trail, which is about 1.5 miles long one way, making it a challenging hike compared to the others around but worth checking out for the fantastic landscapes.

SALOME JUG

  • Location: Near Roosevelt Lake in the Salome Wilderness Area
  • Distance: 5.5 miles round trip
  • Hiking Difficulty: Difficult

If you are game for adventurous hikes involving rappelling hiking, the Salome Jug, one of the best offbeat slot canyons in Arizona, should be on your list.

The hike will lead you through beautiful crystal pools, natural waterslides, and giant saguaro cacti-filled magnificent desert landscapes.

The name comes from the sudden drop down into “The Jug”, an impressive canyon formed by Salome Creek over millennia, which will lead to a fantastic waterfall in the end, which is the best part of hiking this trail.

Exploring Salome via a guided tour to tackle the trail amidst water and narrow passageways is best.

To access this waterfall, you’ll need to jump from 30 feet if the water is deep enough or rappel with your gear. Since the rocks around the waterfall can be slippery, do not attempt to go down without ropes.

If you don’t want to jump or rappel, you can turn around and make your trip an out and back instead of a loop after admiring the views of the waterfalls and the surrounding landscapes.

You can also access the waterfall to arrive at the base of the falls, which will let you enjoy cascading pools below, a popular trail for most tourists. But on this route, you will not witness any slot canyon formations.

ARIZONA SLOT CANYONS MAP

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SLOT CANYONS IN ARIZONA

How Are Slot Canyons Formed?

Slot Canyons are created by a simple yet very long-drawn process taking thousands to millions of years. 

They are formed when flowing water gushes through cracked points in rocks, eroding the layers by the powerful flash floods and creeks, which carve through softer rock like sandstone and limestone, forming deep crevices of various shapes and sizes.

Depending on the season, you may find water at the bottom of the slot canyons, or they may be dry.

Are Slot Canyons Dangerous?

The only significant danger for tourists exploring slot canyons in Arizona is sudden and powerful flash floods. Check the weather forecast before entering any Arizona slot canyon. 

Avoid visiting during monsoons. For safer trips, it is best to book guided tours as the expert locals are very knowledgeable about flash floods’ occurrence and safety precautions.

How Many Slot Canyons Are There in Arizona?

Although there are hundreds of slot canyons hidden in the wilderness across the state, about fifteen to twenty slot canyons in Arizona are accessible and easily explored.

Are any Slot Canyons in Arizona open?

Most Arizona slot canyons in this post are open but may get closed depending on the seasons. 

Before starting your trip, check the official websites for current opening hours and permits.

Are There Any Slot Canyons Near Sedona?

Most of the slot canyons in Arizona can be explored by basing in Page, which is close to the most easily accessible ones on the Colorado Plateau. 

Apache Trail Canyon is the nearest slot canyon near Phoenix, less than an hour away. Pumphouse Wash is a slot canyon near Sedona, located off 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff.

Is Antelope Canyon and Slot Canyon the same?

Antelope Canyon is within the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, located 10 minutes east of Page, near the Arizona-Utah border.  

Antelope Canyon is divided into two points within the park – Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon that you can access individually.

Can you Hike Slot Canyon?

On hikes, you can access many famous slot canyons in Arizona, and most of them need a guided hiking tour.

Do You Need A Permit Or Tour At Arizona Slot Canyons?

Since many slot canyons in Arizona are located on private Native American Navajo land, you require a permit to access them. You can sign up for a guided tour organized by licensed tour companies.

The guided tours are excellent and informative. You get an insider’s view into the best slot canyons in Arizona.

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