Wire Pass & Buckskin Gulch

April 15 & 16, 2017

In my previous post, I shared my trip and hike to Coyote Buttes South.

After my hike into Coyote Buttes South, I allowed myself a rest day where I just looked at pictures, wrote a blog post, explored around camp, and listened to the huge bumble bees hum and drone around my van. While camped in this spot, there was an incident that astonished me and left me incredulous about the sheer utter stupidity and ignorance of some people. I’m not going to write about it here, if you want to see what happened just watch the video I recorded here: Please Don’t Ever Do This!

I’m not one of those people who can just park in one spot for a week or two, in fact, I have a hard time staying in one spot for a day or two. That’s one of the reasons I have a small van with no desire to pull a trailer or carry rugs to set up outside along with awnings and other stuff. I do have a light-weight reflective tarp I can put up should I need it for shade or rain, but it’s rare that I stay in one spot long enough to warrant the work.

Instead of parking in one location for days or weeks at a time, I prefer to move a few miles each day and explore something new. In this manner, I travel great distances slowly and have a change of view every night or two and a new place to explore, yet still only drive the same distance.

So after my rest day, I drove a few miles back up House Rock Valley Road to the Wire Pass Trailhead and went for a little walk down Wire Pass and up Buckskin Gulch.

The first time I went to this area was in 2008 when I did a backpack trip down Buckskin Gulch to the Paria Canyon and back up to the Whitehouse trailhead. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life as Buckskin Gulch is said to be the longest slot canyon in the world. I made a YouTube Video of that hike back in 2008 and you can watch it here: Backpacking Through Buckskin Gulch on the Utah/Arizona Border.

In 2008 much of Utah was still lightly visited. Places like Wire Pass were visited by a few adventurous sorts, and I seem to recall that people just camped at the trailhead which wasn’t established like it is now. These days it’s a well-known trail and visited by every level of hiker imaginable. It’s in guide books and all over the internet and brochures and the BLM send people there more often, and well… it’s no longer a secret. It’s especially attractive because if the road is dry it’s easy to get to (though it can be rough), and unlike many slot canyons it’s just a short hike from the road.

One thing you need to know about this area is that much of it requires a hiking permit or a pass. This area is close to The Wave and Coyote Buttes, and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has been forced to limit the number of hikers within Coyote Buttes North and South for its protection. Please pay attention to signs posted along trails and visit the BLM website to learn more about where you can and can’t hike. Here is a link to the BLM Website for the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Paria Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Paria Canyon Permit Area (quite a mouthful eh?)

WARNING – Never enter a slot canyon if it has been raining, or rain threatens. Water from tributaries fifty and even a hundred miles away can cause flash floods without any warning. It isn’t worth the risk! Be sure to check the weather forecast and check conditions before entering a slot canyon.

From the trailhead, it’s an easy walk down a wash to Wire Pass, which is a very narrow canyon and in a couple of places, some people might have to turn sideways, especially if they have a backpack on. After a short distance down the narrow slot you’ll come to a drop off which can be down climbed, or if you can’t manage that just go back out to the wash and follow the trail over the top then hike back up Wire Pass until you reach the base of the drop off again. Afterward backtrack again to Buckskin Gulch. Be sure to walk back up Wire Pass because it’s an incredible little slot, and truly beautiful and I promise you don’t want to miss it.

When you reach the end of Wire Pass at the junction of Buckskin Gulch I suggest that you inspect the sandstone walls on your right (south) where you’ll find a huge pictograph panel. This would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it, so be sure to look hard. The first time I passed this way I only saw a small portion of it, it’s much bigger than I thought.

Because I’d hiked down Buckskin Gulch last time, this time I walked up it. Slot canyons totally fascinate me. When I think that this used to be an ancient sea which turned into Navajo Sandstone of the Jurassic Period, and then shaped and carved by the wind, rain, and flash floods, it blows my mind. When walking through a slot canyon, I’m walking through an ancient sea bed! How incredible is that?!!! Buckskin Gulch varies from 40 – 500 ft deep, and is so narrow in places that only a sliver of the sky can be seen above. Please note, overnight camping is not allowed in Buckskin Gulch without a special permit, and there is only one place camping is permitted. This is obviously for the protection of the canyon, as well as hikers.

On your return hike: Below is the spot you will leave Wire Pass in order to go around the up climb in Wire Pass on your way back to the trailhead. Please be respectful of the vegetation when taking this detour and stick to the trail already created and try to only step on the rock. You can find it by following rock cairns (small piles of rocks).

On my walk out along the wash, I noticed all these flowers which had opened up while I was in the canyon.

After my walk, I found a dispersed camping spot for the night on BLM lands, and another day of beauty and wonder ended with the sound of the huge bumblebees dancing around my van, and birds singing in the bushes.

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of my travels during the winter of 2016/2017, and hope you’ll continue the journey with me. Please visit the HOME page to find more articles, and feel free to share, sign up and leave a comment. Also please visit my YouTube Channel. Until next time…remember to step outside of your comfort zone as often as possible and watch it grow.

Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature

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