Buckskin Gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwest, and while others are narrower, prettier or more challenging to explore, the length and variety of the terrain in the gulch make it the best overall. The canyon is narrow for 12 miles; the cliffs become steadily higher downstream, reaching a height of 500 feet above the streambed at the end, where Buckskin Gulch meets the Paria River which also flows through a deep canyon for several miles either side of the confluence.
The walls of both canyons are rather dark, and the great depth means that the sun rarely illuminates the narrow passages fully, and Buckskin lacks the pretty patterns of light and color as are found in, for example, Water Holes Canyon. Still, the walls of the gulch do show the characteristic swirls and curves worn by countless millennia of floods, and they are eroded into innumerable eerie rock formations which, given a vivid imagination and the right kind of light, can resemble all kinds of distorted creatures and strange objects.
Location: Buckskin Gulch (named on some maps as Kaibab Gulch, or The Dive) is a tributary of the Paria River that drains an area around the Vermilion Cliffs in far south Utah and joins the Paria exactly at the Utah/Arizona border, 20 miles from Lees Ferry next to the Colorado River.
Three trailheads give access to the gulch; Middle, Wire Pass and Buckskin. The Middle Trail leads to the canyon about half way, but involves a 5 mile trip on bad roads and a climb down the cliff walls. The other two entry points are more popular, and are both reached along a reasonable quality dirt track – fine for 2WD cars – that heads due south from US 89 near milepost 26, 4 miles east of the turn off to the Paria ghost town. After 4 miles, a signpost points to the Buckskin Trailhead, where the gulch is unremarkable – wide and meandering, filled with soft sand, and remains similar in appearance for several miles downstream. Most people prefer the Wire Pass Trailhead, 3.5 miles further south since it affords quicker access to the deep, scenic parts of the canyon. Only about 2 miles of the narrows are by-passed, and the start of the route is along the Wire Pass side canyon that is also quite narrow and interesting.