Named after the vivid stripes covering its walls, Zebra Slot Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante is perhaps the most unique slot canyon in Southern Utah.
To explore this unique desert wonder, bring your sense of adventure and a willingness to get your feet wet! Parts of Zebra Slot Canyon are filled with murky water, from a few inches to feet deep depending on recent precipitation. To add to the thrill, the canyon walls are extremely narrow and require some tricky maneuvering to navigate.
But the beauty of the canyon’s zebra-striped walls will surely take your breath away! It is a one-of-a-kind canyon in Utah and definitely worth the effort to discover.
This guide compiles all the information you need for a safe and fun adventure to Zebra Slot Canyon.
Article Contents (click to expand)
- Zebra Slot Canyon, Utah
- Zebra Slot Canyon | Trail Guide
- Zebra Slot Canyon | FAQs
- Other Grand Staircase-Escalante Resources
Zebra Slot Canyon, Utah
Zebra Slot Canyon | At a Glance
- Hiking distance | 5.2 miles (+1.4 miles for Tunnel Canyon)
- Elevation gain | 400 feet
- Estimated time | 3 – 4 hours
- Difficulty | Moderate to difficult
- Crowd levels | Low to moderate
- Why you’ll love it | Stunning “zebra” striped slot canyon and fun adventure scrambling and squeezing through the canyon.
- Special Conditions | Scrambling & squeezing through narrow spaces to enter the canyon; canyon may be filled with water (levels vary by time of year and recent precipitation).
- Trailhead & road conditions | Zebra & Tunnel Trailhead. 8 miles down Hole in the Rock Road, a washboard dirt road but typically accessible with low clearance and 2WD.
- Safety | Flash flood risk: do not hike if rain is possible or it has recently rained nearby.
- When to go | Possible year-round; for best weather conditions, go from March to May or September to early November.
- The striped walls are truly spectacular!
- Scrambling through the canyon is a ton of fun if you’re looking for an adventure.
- Typically less crowded than nearby Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyons.
- Squeezing through the super narrow canyon may induce claustrophobia.
- Cold murky water up to several feet deep depending on time of year and recent weather conditions.
- The striped canyon section is short and gets crowded.
Zebra Slot Canyon | Trail Guide
We started our hike around 7:00 AM on a spring Sunday morning, arriving to the entrance of Zebra Slot Canyon by 8:00 AM.
We were the first people in the canyon and had the place entirely to ourselves for a good 30 minutes! By the time we started our return hike, several other groups had arrived at the canyon.
Exploring Zebra Slot Canyon completely alone was one of the coolest (and frankly, terrifying) experiences of my life! We highly recommend getting an early start to best to beat the crowds.
Parking and getting to the trailhead
The parking lot for Zebra Slot Canyon is located about 8 miles down Hole in the Rock Road, a 40 mile bumpy washboard dirt road.
While road conditions get rougher farther down Hole in the Rock road, Zebra Slot Canyon trailhead is typically accessible with 2WD. However, the road can get muddy following heavy rains and may require 4WD.
Be sure to check current conditions before you go, carry a spare tire and know how to change it! Also beware that it will take more time than expected to drive on the the unpaved, washboard road.
The parking lot will be located on the righthand side of the road driving from Escalante, and the trailhead is actually across Hole in the Rock road.
- To view more details about each location, click on the marker on the map.
- To save this map for future use, click the star next to the title. From your phone, open the Google Maps app and click the “saved” tab, followed by the “Maps” icon. From your Gmail account, navigate to Maps –> “Saved” –> “My Maps” –> “Maps” tab.
- To email this map to yourself, click the three dots in the upper right corner.
Hike to Zebra Slot Canyon
The hike to Zebra Slot Canyon starts with a flat walk through an open field of low lying brush and desert sand.
Soon, you’ll make your way into a shallow canyon and come across a large fence between the canyon walls that may appear to block the way. Don’t fret, the fence is meant to keep cattle out of the canyon. It’s attached to a rope, so you can swing it open and continue on your way.
When you exit the canyon, you’ll hike through another section of open field. The trail can be a little difficult to follow here, as it crosses paths with a wash several times. Look out for cairns and keep an eye on your GPS or map.
Entering Zebra Slot Canyon
When you arrive at the entrance to the canyon, we recommend dropping your bags and changing into your water shoes. The canyon gets so narrow that carrying a bag would make maneuvering through very difficult, if not impossible.
The opening of the canyon is rather wide with low walls. As you continue into the canyon, the slot becomes progressively taller and narrower. At first, the canyon walls are dull and rough: nothing too spectacular, but don’t be too quick to judge.!
Remember to Leave No Trace. Pack out what you pack in, stay on trail, be well-prepared, leave nothing behind, take only photos and memories with you, treat the area with respect and help preserve this beautiful spot for generations to come.
Zebra Slot Canyon
Only a few minutes after entering Zebra Slot Canyon, the walls start to feel like they’re closing in on you. Eventually, you reach a section of the canyon filled with water (very cold water!!), anywhere from ankle to waist deep. This is where the fun begins!
After wading through a few sections of murky water, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the distinctive stripes that give the canyon its name! To actually get into the “zebra” section of the canyon requires some effort.
At one point, the canyon walls become so narrow that you can’t fit through sideways. To get through, you have to push your body up the wall, using your feet on the opposite wall for support. Then, slowly scoot over a few feet until the canyon is wide enough to fit sideways again.
Once you’ve made it to the “zebra” section, there is enough room to move around reasonably comfortably. When we hiked in mid-April, this section of the canyon was entirely clear of water.
The return hike
The entire slot canyon is only about a quarter mile long. You’ve reached the end when you come upon a tall wall that is clearly not passable.
Optional Detour: Tunnel Canyon
To extend the hike, you can visit another nearby slot canyon via a quick 1.2-mile detour. Tunnel Canyon is not quite as impressive as Zebra Slot Canyon, but still worth a quick visit if you have the time.
Zebra Slot Canyon | FAQs
How hard is the Zebra Slot Canyon hike?
The hike to the entrance of Zebra Slot Canyon is easy, totaling 5 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain. However, the most challenging aspect of the hike is scrambling and squeezing through the slot canyon. If you are very claustrophobic, Zebra Slot Canyon may not be enjoyable for you.
The trail to Zebra Slot Canyon is also difficult to follow in a few spots. We’d recommend investing in AllTrails Pro, which allows you to download the trail map for offline usage.
When is the best time to hike to Zebra Slot Canyon?
- Ideal | March to May or September to early November
- Avoid | June to August, December to February
The best time to hike Zebra Slot Canyon is in the spring (March to May) or fall (September to early November), when temperatures in southern Utah are typically mild. During the summer, temperatures can often reach 100°F and the trail offers little shade, making for a blazing hot hike.
Zebra Slot Canyon, as with all slot canyons in southern Utah, is prone to flash floods that can be dangerous and even life-threatening. For obvious reasons, you don’t want to be caught in a slot canyon during a flash flood!
Important Safety Note | Be sure to check the weather forecast and radars before you depart, and do not hike to Zebra Slot Canyon if rain is expected in the area.
How high is the water in Zebra Slot Canyon?
The amount of water in Zebra Slot Canyon varies throughout the year. Typically, water levels are higher in the spring due to melting snow from the surrounding areas.
When we hiked in early April, the water reached mid-thigh in places. We’ve also hiked Zebra Slot Canyon during late May, and the water levels were significantly lower.
Where should I stay nearby?
The closest town to the Zebra Slot Canyon trailhead is Escalante, Utah, located just 10 minutes from the start of Hole in the Rock Road. Escalante makes for a great place to fill up your gas tank, stock up on last-minute supplies, or get a good night’s rest before starting your hike.
Dispersed camping is also permitted anywhere along Hole-in-the-Rock Road, offering plenty of awesome spots to camp close to the trailhead.
What should I pack?
Try to pack lightly so you don’t have to squeeze through the canyon with a large pack. Here are a few essentials:
- Plenty of water | Even though the hike is short on paper, don’t underestimate the desert heat!
- Sunscreen and chapstick
- Water shoes or sandals with good traction | To change into when you get to the slot canyon.
- Navigation device | A GPS device or trail map downloaded with AllTrails Pro is useful for finding your way to the canyon. The trail disappears and is difficult to follow in a few spots.
Other Grand Staircase-Escalante Resources
Planning a trip to Grand Staircase Escalante? We’ve got a ton of other great resources on hikes in the area you may also like:
What did you think of Zebra Slot Canyon? Questions or comments about this hike? Let us know below!