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The 7 Best Slot Canyons in Arizona That Will Blow Your Mind

You’ve probably seen photos of magnificent sandstone walls and deep crevices that seem to never end in the Southwest United States. This area of the country is famous for its unique landforms carved over millions of years by water and erosion. And Arizona happens to have some amazing slot canyons that you can hike through.

If you’ve never chosen to climb down into the deep to experience the beauty of slot canyons, you’re missing out on taking a step back in time. Many people attempt to capture this surreal experience through photography but just can’t quite grasp it. Let’s look at seven of the best slot canyons in Arizona so you can start planning your trip to the Southwest United States!

What Is a Slot Canyon?

A slot canyon is a narrow gorge that can become treacherous due to flash flooding. Usually, you don’t have many ways out. Slot canyons have steep walls and sometimes offer just a sliver of separation in which visitors can slip through. The height-to-width ratio is at least 10:1, sometimes 100:1.

Antelope Slot Canyon - The Ugly Truth of this Magical Place

Even though they can be dangerous, they’re beautiful illustrations of natural erosion and change over time. Water is powerful, and as it finds its way into rocks, it breaks them. Sometimes it’s a tiny crack that opens, and for millions of years, water chips away at the rock, forming these unique features. You can find slot canyons in Arizona, Utah, and many other places worldwide.

How Many Slot Canyons Are in Arizona?

The Southwest is full of slot canyons because of the dry conditions and ample sandstone. Although Utah is known as the land of slot canyons, Arizona isn’t far behind. These steep gorges call to visitors with their red hues, narrow crevices, and cascading waterfalls.

Even though the exact number of slot canyons in Arizona is unknown, you’ll find plenty to see when touring the state. About 10-15 canyons have tours, while others are still waiting to be discovered and explored. You’ll notice that most of the ones on this list are located in Page, Ariz.

Pro Tip: Heading to Utah after you visit Arizona? Make sure to check out these 10 Best Slot Canyons in Utah That Will Transport You to a New World.

Woman posing at the Grand Canyon in Arizona
Head below the rocks into the depths of the slot canyons in Arizona.

Stay Safe While Exploring Slot Canyons in Arizona

Some people enjoy canyoneering in slot canyons. If you choose to participate in this outdoor activity, make sure to have the right gear: a helmet, harness, and rappel device. Even if you don’t climb the canyons, pack sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit, and plenty of water.

Always know the weather forecast before exploring the slot canyons in Arizona. Even a small amount of water can cause flooding in these narrow, steep gorges. It’s also a good idea to bring along a group of friends. Never go hiking or canyoneering alone due to the treacherous nature of this natural landform.

Do You Need a Permit to Visit Slot Canyons in Arizona?

Not all slot canyons in Arizona are open to the public. For example, Water Holes Canyon and Antelope Canyon lie on Navajo land and require a permit or a tour guide. You can’t just show up and start hiking like you would a trail at a National Park. The Navajo land may have more canyons unavailable to the public, so always pay attention to posted signs.

Woman taking a picture while on a tour of a slot canyon
Exploring certain slot canyons in Arizona will require you to have a permit or guide.

The 7 Best Slot Canyons in Arizona That Will Blow Your Mind

It’s important to plan ahead when exploring these slot canyons in Arizona. Many require reservations for a guided tour or permits; you must book or acquire these before arriving. Do your research to know any other requirements. Once you’re ready to go, the spectacular beauty and sheer depth of these Southwest gorges will stun you.

1. Upper & Lower Antelope Canyon

Location: Page, Arizona

Best for: The Upper Canyon is good for any visitor because it doesn’t require scaling rocks. Families and avid hikers highly traffic it. The Lower Canyon requires more effort.

About: Antelope Canyon is probably the most popular slot canyon in Arizona and perhaps the entire country. You’ll have less tourist traffic in Lower Antelope Canyon if you’d like to stay away from crowds. It involves more climbing and is twice as long as the Upper Antelope Canyon at over 1,300 feet.

The sharp angles and curves of the sandstone walls create a beauty unlike anywhere else. The depth reaches 120 feet, and some places don’t see the sun for six months at a time. The narrowest points are only about 3 feet wide.

2. Deer Creek Narrows

Location: Grand Canyon National Park

Best for: Only experienced canyoneers should attempt to hike and repel the Deer Creek Narrows.

About: Deer Creek Narrows is only about 0.2 miles long, but it’s a 9-mile hike from the rim of the Grand Canyon to Deer Creek. This slot canyon requires repelling and is not suited for the average visitor. If you don’t have canyoneering experience, you’ll need to skip Deer Creek Narrows.

But, if you can climb this slot canyon, you won’t be disappointed. A stunning 120-foot waterfall welcomes you at the end of the climb as it dumps water into the Colorado River.

Woman walking through narrow slot canyon
Keep in mind some of the slot canyons can be challenging to squeeze through.

3. Water Holes Canyon 

Location: Page, Arizona

Best for: Adventurous families and hikers can explore Water Holes Canyon. However, you’ll need to do a little work. And the lower part is only for experienced repellers.

About: Water Holes Canyon is only a few miles from Antelope Canyon on Navajo land. This means you need to have a reservation to visit. It has several different forks that branch off in various directions, but the overall length of this slot canyon is about 13 miles.

The upper section is more easily accessible, although it still requires some bouldering. The lower section will require some repelling equipment at times. One area is so deep that the sun never reaches the bottom of the gorge. This makes the slot canyons in Arizona fascinating to explore.

4. Cathedral Canyon

Location: Page, Arizona

Best for: As long as you can squeeze through the narrow section at the beginning, climb down a ladder, and maneuver under and around large boulders, the walk through Cathedral Canyon won’t be too difficult. You don’t have to have canyoneering experience, but you do have to be nimble.

About: If you want to avoid the crowds of Antelope Canyon, Cathedral Canyon is a great alternative. You’ll have to squeeze through a narrow section and climb down a 10-foot ladder to reach the slot canyon.

But after that work at the beginning, it’s an easy hike. It’s only about half a mile but offers visitors a step back in time. Remember, these rock walls are millions of years old.

Two people canyoneering
Some slot canyons may require some canyoneering skills.

5. Rattlesnake Canyon

Location: Page, Arizona

Best for: As long as you can climb up the ladder at the end of the hike, the walk through Rattlesnake Canyon isn’t difficult. You don’t need any repelling equipment. Even families with smaller children can enjoy this hike.

About: Rattlesnake Canyon is another slot canyon in Arizona worth visiting. When hiking the Upper Antelope Canyon, you pass by Rattlesnake Canyon.

Known for its twisted, snake-like track, this part of the canyon rightly earned the “rattlesnake” name. It is more secluded and empty than Antelope. You’ll have a one-way hike to a ladder you have to climb to exit the slot canyon. It’s much smaller than its neighbors but still offers the stunning sandstone experience deep inside the steep gorge walls.

6. Mountain Sheep Canyon

Location: Page, Arizona

Best for: Although you don’t need repelling gear, you need to climb up and down numerous ladders along this journey. Families with small children probably want to avoid Mountain Sheep Canyon and opt for an easier trek at Rattlesnake.

About: This out-and-back hike is about 1.5 miles long and drops down about 100 feet. Mountain Sheep Canyon is known for its rugged feel. You’ll immediately notice the difference with the jagged walls, and it features a less graceful flow than its neighboring slot canyons.

It’s also a more strenuous hike than Antelope or Rattlesnake Canyon. It requires scaling several ladders along the way. This slot canyon in Arizona is another one you can only experience with a guide.

Man walking in slot canyon
Head to the Arizona slot canyons in either spring or fall.

7. Cardiac Canyon

Location: Page, Arizona

Best for: The Navajo guides have set up repelling equipment, so you don’t have to bring your own. However, Cardiac Canyon is not a slot canyon for everyone. You don’t necessarily have to have experience canyoneering, but you want to be in good shape and physically able to meet the demands of this hike. This is not an experience for families.

About: Cardiac Canyon has a daily visitor restriction, and the hike is pretty strenuous. It’s one of the least-visited slot canyons in Arizona due to the difficulty of getting inside.

It’s also one of the newest canyons open to the public as the Navajo people started welcoming visitors in 2017. The guides have pre-set ropes to help people get into the slot canyon and traverse it. Like Rattlesnake Canyon, it’s a twisted trail and one of the longest as it covers several miles.

Pro Tip: Need somewhere to stay in Arizona? Go glamping at one of these 7 Unforgettable Getaways.

First Look at Unexplored Slot Canyons ~ Cardiac Canyon in 4K

When’s the Best Time to Visit Slot Canyons in Arizona?

If you want to experience the slot canyons of Arizona, visit during the spring or fall when the risk of flash flooding is lower. You still want to always check the weather before venturing out, but these times of the year have less heavy rainfall.

These seasons also have the most comfortable weather. Temperatures in the summer can get extremely hot. Even though you’ll explore deep canyons where the sunlight may not hit for months at a time, the air will be very hot when you come out. 

The opposite is true for the winter season. The temperatures can get uncomfortably cold. Remember, these slot canyons in Arizona have higher elevations near the Utah-Arizona border.

Regardless of when you visit, plan ahead to get your reservation booked with a Navajo guide. Respect the Navajo lands and don’t disturb any rock formations. It’s an incredible experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Bring your camera to capture the beauty of these stunning slot canyons in Arizona.

person hiking through narrow canyon in Arizona

Need a lightweight bag for your hiking gear? Check out the 10 Best Daypacks: Lightweight Hiking Packs for Your Essentials.

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Alley Keosheyan

Monday 27th of June 2022

Hi folks, thank you for linking to our site, www.antelopecanyon.az Hope you were able to visit Horseshoe Bend, The New Wave, and the Hanging Garden Trail during your vacation to Page, Arizona!

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