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.
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
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.
Over 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Waterholes 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!
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…..