Hiking a Slot Canyon with Friends

Last week, I took the best hike ever! First off, the hike involved a slot canyon, and second the experience was shared with friends. Yes sirree, it was an awesome morning filled with amazing scenery and lots of laughter.

Up until we started RVing full-time five years ago, I had never heard of a slot canyon. I had no clue what folks were talking about, but by reading blogs, I was introduced to Antelope Canyon. The photographs intrigued me to the point that I had to see and experience this magical sight for myself.

What is a slot canyon?

The first time I heard the term slot canyon, I remember asking myself, “What is a slot canyon?” I was totally clueless. So what exactly is it? A slot canyon is a narrow canyon formed by rock wearing away by water rushing through it. The split rock crevasses are polished by water and time and are a photograper’s delight. A slot canyon is much deeper than it is wide and many slots are formed in sandstone and limestone rock …. the perfect conditions here in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Water Holes Canyon slot

The most popular and world-renowned slot canyon in the United States is Antelope Canyon which is located in northern Arizona near the town of Page. Folks come from around the world to see this unique and stunning red rock slot.

Since Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Indian land, the only way to experience these canyons is via a paid tour. Tours are usually not my thing, but ever since I hiked my first slot canyon at Kasha-Katuwe, I was eager to hike one of these red rock wonders. I pondered the thought of a tour …. but then ….

Friends plan a hike together

Mona Liza on the left, Faye in the middle and me on the right

So let me set the stage for you ….. A couple of months ago, these three RV blogging pals began discussions on a potential rendezvous.  You see, Mona Liza and I met online via our blogs over five years ago. A couple of years later, I introduced Mona Liza to Faye, another friend I met via blogging.

friends made via bloggingOver the past few years, the three of us have crossed paths rather happenstance. I’ve bumped into these ladies separately in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and even Idaho.

The three of us have serendipitously  found ourselves camped in Texas and Arizona while Faye and Mona Liza have stumbled upon each other in Utah and Canada.

This past winter, Faye and I spent a month camped at the same RV park in Phoenix, Arizona, but it had been quite a while since either one of us had seen Mona Liza. Thus, a little planning was in order. Since Mona Liza (and her honey bunch, Steve) had a well planned RV travel itinerary scheduled with firm reservations, Faye and I did a little rearranging of our own schedules so the three of us could meet up.

After comparing notes, it was decided Page, Arizona, would be the best place for us to connect even though we’d have less than 48 hours to hang out together. With that said, we didn’t waste any time. During our first happy hour, we discussed potential hikes for the following day.

We all love hiking slot canyons and our first consideration was the Wire Pass Trail, but that would require at least an hours drive north into Utah and the group didn’t want to waste our short time together driving. Plus, Mona Liza and Steve would be heading out-of-town and traveling the next day anyway.

hiking near Page, Arizona
Our group – me center front, Mona Liza on the left, my hubby Al in the red, then Faye, Steve, and Dave

Unanimous decision

After a short discussion over drinks, we agreed on Water Holes Canyon for the hike of the day. Since this self-guided slot canyon trail is located on Navajo land, a permit is required. Obtaining the permits turned into a little laughable fiasco since much of the info we found online seemed to be outdated.

As of this writing, the only place to purchase a permit to hike Waterholes Canyon is at the  Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park Office located on Coppermine Road, 3 miles south of Page and next to the LeChee Chapter House. The cost is $12 per person and the office is closed on weekends.

Note: The state of Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time. We never change our clocks. BUT the Navajo Nation does. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll want to verify and double check the time so you arrive at the appropriate time for any tours or stopping by a Navajo business. Nothing like keeping tourists on their toes!

the trail from the parking lot to the canyon

With permits in hand, we hit the trail around 9:00 a.m. (Arizona time). The trail is clearly marked with rocks leading from the tiny parking area down into the canyon. Once we navigated the steep descend into the canyon, we took a left heading east.

The trail also goes to the right, but once you pass under the highway bridge, you’ll need some serious Canyoneering skills…. as in ropes, ladders, strong upper body strength, rappelling, experience – I think you get the picture. So take my advice and go left, east of the highway.

Once you pass under the Hwy 89 bridge, the trail is for experienced hikers with canyoneering skills.

The trail starts out wide and sandy. Our group ooh’s and ah’s at the unique red sculpted sandstone. It was a beautiful morning with few other people on the trail …  just yet.

Eventually the canyon starts to narrow … hence the term slot canyon. More ooh’s and ah’s were heard!

As the trail narrowed, there were a few obstacles for those of us a tad more vertically challenged. But we all excelled in a our team building efforts.

The most challenging part of the entire hike for me was that first ladder because it wasn’t quite tall enough for my comfort level. Thank goodness I had help at the top. Mona Liza needed help being pulled up as well.  The two ladders strapped together made for a rickety setup and we all took caution climbing it.

Once past the ladder, the slot canyon continued to wow us with her beauty. With three out of the six of us carrying cameras, there was plenty of stopping. With all the stopping to admire the canyon and snap photos, there was no cardio workout for this group.

Dave and I compare camera settings

Photographing a slot canyon can be a challenge due to the light, but that’s also what makes it so interesting. I’ve heard great things about the Indian guides at Antelope Canyon instructing photographers on the best camera settings. Dave said he learned a  lot about his camera and the best settings from his guide when they hiked Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon a couple of years ago. Hmm, I may need to take one of those tours yet.

Depending on the time of day you visit, the colors of the rocks can vary greatly. So I highly recommend taking the time to admire the ever-changing light.

A word of caution …. Be sure to check the weather before embarking on any slot canyon hike. Remember how a slot is formed …. rushing water. You’ll want to avoid a flash flood, which can occur even if the rain is many miles away and upstream. This is not something to be taken lightly and even experienced hikers have lost their battle with a canyon flash flooding.

Once we reached the end of the trail (near the overhead power lines), it was time for us to turn around and view the canyon from a new direction. The hike is just as amazing on the return, but this is also when we starting running into crowds. Seems as the day progresses, it can get busy.

Time to climb back out of the canyon. We need to join Al up there!

The climb back out of the canyon is a bit steep and this was another area where I was glad I wore good hiking shoes for traction. In the above photo, the hike up is around that bend and up to where Al is standing. Seems I failed to photograph the trail back up 😏

But here’s one of Dave’s photos showing us hike down, and showcases the kind of rock we had to walk on. This could get real slick if wet. As it was, the rock is dusted with sand and gets a little slippery in spots.

slot canyonWaterholes Canyon is about a 3 mile (total) out and back hike. I loved it! It was so much fun …. partly due to the stunning scenery but a bigger part due to the wonderful camaraderie.

Yep, this was one great hike … a great hike with great friends. Doesn’t get much better!

I’m so glad we rearranged our travels so we could all connect for this fantastic hike. Unfortunately, as full-time RVers, it’ll be awhile before we bump into each other again. Seems we’re all heading in different directions this year.

Laughter and adventure near Lake Powell – Thanks for the memories!

slot canyons
Hiking a slot canyon with friends

Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment. – Grenville Kleiser

UPDATE – As of May 2018 access to the Waterholes Canyon trail has been changed. Supposedly permits are no longer being issued and a guide is required. The information regarding this trail is ever changing and confusing. Please do your homework for the latest information before embarking on this hike.

(affiliate links) Good hiking shoes are a must for this trail for sure-footed traction. Al and I love our Merrell’s…..



Merrell Men’s hiking BootMerrell Women’s

Compass T-Shirt

91 thoughts on “Hiking a Slot Canyon with Friends

  1. You should give Little Wildhorse Canyon a try! Almost as spectacular and you can do it on your own – no tour-guide or fee! Trailhead here: 38.582935, -110.802893
    I will be posting the story of my hike up LWC with my wife on my blog soon!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ingrid,
    Fabulous post and even better photographs. We booked some campgrounds in AZ for next March and April (thanks for your help) and will certainly put this stop on our itinerary. Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. April is a great time to visit because it’s in between spring break and when the ‘season’ starts (May). Although, weather can be iffy … 80 one day and 60 the next. We’re enjoying ourselves immensely.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was just reading Mona Lisa’s blog on this yesterday (I’m playing blog catch-up at the moment) and was so excited to hear about this place. Your description and pictures have us looking forward to it even more. We’ll definitely go to Antelope Canyon, but we’re expecting it to be pretty frustrating with all the crowds. This place will offer a perfect spot to practice taking photos and get away from the craziness (we’ll go early like you guys did). Would you do this hike with just you and Al, or would you only go with a group?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Now that Al and I have done it with a group, we would definitely hike it with just the two of us. You and Kevin are both tall and should be able to navigate that ladder without to much issue. Mona and I needed help with a little tug at the top (short legs and all 😁). Very fun hike.

      When will you be traveling through Page? Be sure and read my next post this Sunday for another great idea!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesome. We will be there the last 2 weeks of May. I expect we’ll know some other folks in the area so it’s no big deal to get a group together, but it will be nice to have the flexibility to go by ourselves as well. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for your next post. I think we’re gonna have plenty to keep us occupied in Page!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It’ll probably be pretty warm by the end of May and might be fun to get a group together and rent a boat. I’m working on a couple more posts sharing other sights and things to do.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s hope it’ll stay self-guided for a while, but I’m afraid they’ll have to do some sort of crowd control eventually considering it’s just down the road a short way from Horseshoe Bend, which has gotten ridiculous 😕 with tour buses.


    1. Thanks Tim, appreciate the compliment. I was playing around with camera settings the whole time. That light can be tricky to shoot.


  4. What a great day it was with great friends, so glad we made it happen. We will certainly miss AZ and all the beauty it holds. Thanks again for all the great memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was indeed a fun adventure and glad we got to share it together. Enjoy your summer in Colorado. Oh, how I miss those mountain wildflowers!


      1. It seems like it’s getting harder and harder to find places less traveled. Now that the two month spring break season is over, perhaps the crowds will thin until at least Memorial Day.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always wanted to hike a slot canyon! What an amazingly beautiful work of nature! You’ve provided some really valuable information (including the info about Daylight Saving Time) for my future hike. I understand your reluctance to take a tour but it appears it worked out really well – you received a lot of great information from the guide and it keeps anyone who would do the canyon harm (it’s mind-boggling that anyone would) out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The tour guides also offer a wealth of information. So although crowded, it’s not bad to do once. Slot canyons are a perplexing and amazing sight – Mother Natures handy work.


  6. Faaaaaannnnntasic! The photos are prefect! It looks like y’all Had such a fun time. What gorgeous beauty surrounded you on all sides.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had a great time exploring this magical and beautiful canyon. Now I’m researching more slots but much to my chagrin, most are beyond my hiking abilities 🤔


  7. This is so AMAZING!!! Your photos are “coffee table” photo book worthy. Have you made any photo books?
    It was so worthwhile to have a group! What fun. We’re getting closer to feeling we need to get out west one winter. Especially after how cold this one was in Florida and lower Alabama. Brrrr

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awe thank you Debbie, and no I haven’t made any photo books yet. One day! As to weather, one never knows. In Jan of ’17, the weather was nasty in AZ and a delight in TX and this year it was the opposite. But there’s a unique beauty to explore in the desert southwest. It certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Aww, we feel very special for rearranging your schedules so we can get together! What can I say, these group can handle a challenging slot canyon hike and make it looks so easy. We had a great time even only for a couple of days. Your slot photos are great as well but mostly it expressed the wonderful time the gang had. Hope our path will cross again sooner!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you guys are special! What a fun day. I don’t think Al and I would’ve hiked the whole canyon if we had been alone. The team effort was fantastic. Funny how you and I both posted photos of each other peeking around in the slot.

      Have a wonderful year filled with travel and hope our paths cross sooner rather than later 😊


  9. I too had never heard of a slot canyon Ingrid. After reading your post I had a look to see if there are any in Australia, and it seems there’s a few in the Blue Mountains, NSW. I gather mountaineering skills are needed for most though ( not something I’m planning on getting). Your photos are amazing – almost surreal. It sounded like a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the majority of slot canyons are for experienced hikers. There are some more moderate and even if you can only hike a small section, it is worth it. It would be interesting to see how similar or different the slots are in Australia compared to the U.S. Always fun exploring!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So many unique and interesting sights around Page. Unfortunately, it has become very crowded with International tour buses stopping to visit the slots and Horseshoe Bend. But head out early, and you’ll beat the masses and it is still worth seeing.


    1. I haven’t heard a bad thing about the photographers tour other than they felt a little rushed. The result is amazing photographs. BUT do note, if you plan to sell any of the images, you’ll need a separate permit obtained ahead of time.


        1. And he shot that photo in “Lower” Antelope Canyon, the less popular one. Less than 10 years ago, these slots were self-guided. Just pay a parking/entry fee and off you went… no permit necessary for any photography.


  10. What a fantastic hike! The colors and the canyon are amazing. I could use some advice about camera settings in this environment as well. The light is tough. Like you, I was impressed with my first slot canyon in Tent Rocks, here in New Mexico. But, the hike you did (and I’m sure Antelope Canyon as well) appear more impressive. Add it to the list. 🙂

    Especially here in the desert and on trails with rocky terrain, I have realize how important hiking shoes are. Sandals just don’t cut it. After three years of heavy use, I’m due for another pair soon, but Merrells don’t cut it for Mark and I. We used to have them while living/traveling in the tropics and the soles detached after one year in the humid climate. They seem to hold up better in dry climates.


    1. When we started off RVing full-time, I didn’t own a pair of hiking shoes. I thought tennies would be fine. Boy, was I wrong. Good hiking shoes make the world of difference. You just have to find ones that work for you.

      If you’re travels have you passing by northern AZ, you must explore the trails around here. You’ll love it.


  11. I wanted to do Antelope but the cost and the crowds stopped me. This sounds like a great alternative and will definitely be on our itinerary next time we head that way. ThankU!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear ya on Antelope Canyon and totally agree. Hopefully this one will remain self-guided, but I doubt it. By the time we exited the canyon, it became really busy, unfortunately. I’m glad I got to experience it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Debbie! I keep toying with doing one of the Antelope Canyon tours but the crowds are crazy and I don’t think I’d enjoy it. (I don’t mesh well with crowds 😌). We’ll be back in Phx next fall. Give me a shout out if you’re in the area!


  12. We drove the 400 plus miles from Benson AZ to Wahweep and arrived at sunset. Because of time constraints and Vehicle problems, we could not visit any of the places around Lake Powell. We were at the Wahweep RV park for 2 nights on April 1st and 2nd. We arrived on a late Sunday afternoon, and were going to go touring on Monday When we had a problem with a cover gasket leaking oil at the rear differential on our ford truck. So into Page AZ, and Lucky for us, the only dealership in town was the Ford Garage. Late afternoon and $276 later we were back on the road. To tired and no time to do any sight seeing. Had dinner at the camp site and went to bed early. The next morning we headed out for Ogden Utah up Hwy 89 crossing over to I-15 on Hwy 20 and on into Ogden that late afternoon. We will be going back sometime this summer. it is a very beautiful place.
    Mel & Bev

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s some extreme driving for a RVer. Sorry to hear about the truck but glad you got it all fixed up and heading home. Too bad we miss you guys!


  13. By far the most beautiful slot canyons we have ever hikes and the camping at Lone Rock one of the coolest places we have stayed as well. What a fiasco trying to get that permit, glad it worked out for you and were able to get out with good friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Although the high winds and blowing sand have had most campers moving on, Al and I aren’t tired of the scenery at Lone Rock just yet. Hoping to get in a few more exploratory adventures before heading to Prescott.


  14. Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing. We enjoyed Antelope Canyon several years ago also. Safe travels to you guys!


    1. Yep, great hike and I’m glad we did it. May hike it again before heading out of town, but the weather has been crazy windy, keeping us indoors. Fun times!


  15. That’s a nice canyon. There are several very gorgeous slot canyons in Utah, my kids still talk about some of the hikes we have done. If you are still in that area, go to Buckskin gulch. It’s the longest slot canyon in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Buckskin/Wire Pass are on our list … just need to have this wind settle down and Al’s allergies ease up. I love this part of AZ and southern UT and hope to explore more of it.


    1. I’ll admit … if we hadn’t been with our experienced hiking friends, I’m not sure I would’ve gone up that ladder. The team work that day was awesome and enjoyable. Even if you don’t go past the ladder, the hike was still worthwhile.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, that’s beautiful – just as nice as Antelope but with about a thousand fewer people. 😉 Your descriptions of shenanigans with your friends sound like you all had so much fun!


    1. We had a great time with our friends. Yesterday Al and I drove by the parking lots to Antelope Canyon on our way to the Antelope Point Marina and couldn’t believe the hoards of people and traffic waiting to enter the slot canyon. Sheer craziness! Like waiting in line at Disney 😯

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You should check out Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks which isn’t too far from Santa Fe. Very different feel from this hike, but also much closer to you and very unique.

      Liked by 1 person

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