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Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

  • Weather: Isolated Rain Showers, 66F
Overview: This is an excellent easy hike through Wire Pass into the famous gorge of Buckskin Gulch. You can extend the day hike as far as you wish by exploring Buckskin’s narrows either up- or downcanyon.

Start: Wire Pass Trailhead

Note: there are multiple trailheads that provide access to Buckskin Gulch. Wire Pass Trailhead offers the most direct access for a day hike. This is not to be confused with the Buckskin Trailhead, which follows a wash for several miles before intersecting with Wire Pass Trail and then the confluence with the Paria River.

Distance: 3.4 miles, round-trip

Approximate hiking time: 1.5 to 2 hours, round-trip

Difficulty: Easy

Trail surface: Wash route

Trailhead access: 4WD advised when the road is wet

Best seasons: April through early June; September through October

Canine compatibility: Dogs permitted (navigating boulder jam with dogs can be difficult)

Water availability: None available; bring your own

Hazards: Flash-flood danger

Permits: Reservations for permits for overnight use required; permits are also required for day-use and can be purchased in advance at recreation.gov or digitally at the trailhead; no fee required for children age twelve and under

Topo maps: Pine Hollow Canyon (Utah-Arizona) USGS quad; BLM: Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness map, Hiker’s Guide to Paria Canyon, or Kanab

Finding the trailhead: Follow U.S. 89 to an unsigned southbound dirt road that branches off the highway at the west end of a 50 mph right-angle curve just west of The Cockscomb. Find the turnoff 0.8 mile west of milepost 25 and 34 miles northwest of Page, Arizona, or 0.2 mile south of milepost 26 and 37.5 miles east of Kanab, Utah.

This dirt road (known as House Rock Valley Road) is passable to cars in dry weather, barring severe runoff damage, and steadily ascends for 2.5 miles to a saddle separating The Cockscomb and Buckskin Mountain. Ignore the right fork to Fivemile Mountain at the saddle, then descend to a crossing of the Buckskin Gulch wash after 4.4 miles, where the road is subject to flood damage. The signed turnoff to Buckskin Gulch Trailhead (located 0.2 mile east of the road), which you avoid, is located a short distance south of the wash.

You reach the spacious Wire Pass Trailhead, located on the west side of the road, 8.4 miles south of US 89. Several undeveloped camping areas can be found en route to the trailhead. Pit toilets are in place at both Buckskin Gulch and Wire Pass Trailheads.

Hike Information

Buckskin Gulch is the ultimate in canyon-country slot canyons. For 12.5 miles the gulch is enveloped in a very narrow gorge 100 to 200 feet deep, flanked by vaulting convoluted walls of Navajo Sandstone. Buckskin Gulch is renowned not only because of its continuous challenging narrows, but also because there is no other canyon like it in the world. Wire Pass, a gorge carved through The Cockscomb by Coyote Wash, is the most popular entry route into Buckskin Gulch. Wire Pass is short, but its narrows are even more confined than those in Buckskin. This is an excellent easy hike through Wire Pass into the famous gorge of Buckskin Gulch. You can extend the day hike as far as you wish by exploring Buckskin’s narrows either up- or downcanyon.

As in any slot canyon, do not enter Wire Pass or Buckskin Gulch if there is the slightest chance of rainfall. In these canyons, as little as .25 inch of rain can run off the slickrock landscape and turn the slots into inescapable death traps. Save this memorable trip for fair weather only.

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