Zion’s Hidden Slot Canyons

Along the way, we saw plenty of the area's wildlife

Exploring a hidden slot canyon in Zion National Park

Slot canyon in ZionThe Narrows of Zion National park are probably one of the most popular slot canyons in the country. Other hidden slot canyons in the park are less accessible to the public, as they require a guide and an permit to repel down into to explore.

During our last trip to the park, we were looking for an entrance to a slot canyon near the famous tunnel located on Zion Carmel Highway. Just below the bridge heading into the tunnel, is a deeply carved canyon that can be seen if you look down  from the popular Overlook Trail.

From the bridge, we asked the ranger where the entrance to that canyon was located. While she pointed it out, she also mentioned that no one was allowed past the bridge without a permit. She did however, point out a mini slot canyon we could try, which not too many people know about.

Just a few feet away, the ranger pointed to two large boulders on the right hand side of the highway that leads down into a small slot canyon that doesn’t require any ropes and gear to get to and explore.

The canyon extends only about a quarter mile in length and has some narrow passages that are dark with high walls on each side as you pass through them. The trail cuts around the north west side of the Zion Carmel Highway and then turns east to end up just below the bridge leading into the tunnel.

From the east entrance to the park on Zion Carmel Highway, you approach the tunnel. On the left are two boulders that lead down into our newly discovered canyon.
From the east entrance to the park on Zion Carmel Highway, you approach the tunnel. On the left are two boulders that lead down into our newly discovered canyon.

Along the way is some minor scrambling over large boulders and walking over what appeared to be an ocean of pine cones and twigs, that are collected there from the many flash floods that occur in the area. As you wind through the canyon and admire the high sandstone walls a micro meadow appears just around a corner that makes a great place to stop and take in the beauty of the area.

We respected the ranger’s wishes and didn’t pass the bridge, but the only way out was to head back the way we came, or scramble up the side of the cliff to end up along side the bridge at the north end of the restroom parking lot. It’s an easy scramble and we met up with a tarantula along the way who casually walked by on his search for food.

While this mini-canyon trail is not well known to hikers visiting the area, it is a great way to experience the park’s canyons in a short and easy 30-45 minute hike. Some scrambling is required and if there’s a chance of rain, stay out.

Text and photos by Dan Sanchez

The mini-slot canyon loops north west along the highway for about a quarter mile.

A floor of pine cones built up from constant flash floods covers one section of this canyon.

The canyon loops back east to end up just under the bridge that leads into the tunnel.

Along the way, we saw plenty of the area's wildlife

We also got to see a tarantula as we scrambled up the side of the bridge, back to the top of the highway.

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