Survive the dangerous and unparalleled Buckskin Gulch Trail

Tom’s Experience exploring Buckskin Gulch:

Buckskin Gulch is a narrow slot canyon that lasts about 13.1 miles. Almost the entire time the walls are about 6 feet apart and rise high above your head. It has been called the longest slot canyon in the world, and while I’m not sure if that is true or not,  it is definitely a magical place. Buckskin was ranked by Backpacker magazine as one of America’s 10 most dangerous hikes.

Wire Pass

Overnight camping in Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon is limited and you must be lucky enough to get a permit for camping from this site. They limit the people in the canyon and give you poop bags as well to carry out your human waste. Otherwise, without a permit you are free to explore the canyon and return to your car at Wire Pass or try to make a through hike and exit out of White House Trailhead. Wire Pass to White house is 21 miles and is a long day, but doable.

Longest Slot Canyons

It is a lot more popular to try to get a permit and break the hike into 2 or more days. The downside of spending the night in the canyon is that you have to take all of your gear, and it may be difficult keeping it all dry through the slot canyon. An unlimited amount of day permits are available at the trailhead for a small fee. We were able to get permits for two nights, so we decided to start at Wire Pass, hike through Buckskin Gulch and then hike down the Paria to Lee’s Ferry.

Nontechnical Slot Canyons

Starting out at the Wire Pass Trailhead (the same trailhead for The Wave), follow the well marked trail as it takes you through a wash into the Wire Pass slot canyon. There were a couple of challenging sections in Wire Pass, but nothing super difficult. After 1.75 miles, Wire Pass leads into Buckskin Gulch. There are some petroglyphs right before Buckskin on the right side of the canyon wall.

Backpacking Buckskin Gulch

Normally, Buckskin is a fairly dry canyon with a couple of spots where you are wading in ankle-deep water, with a few knee deep sections. Swims are not unheard of in Buckskin so be sure that anything you pack is either in a dry bag or can get wet.

Buckskin Gulch Flash Flood

When we entered the confluence for Wire Pass and Buckskin there was actually water flowing from a storm that had ended about an hour before we started our hike. It probably wasn’t the smartest decision we made, but we decided to move on through the flowing water and enjoy our journey.

Paria River Confluence

The canyon was spectacular and the walls rose clear above our heads. Eventually, we were able to catch up to the “flash flood,” which was where the flowing water was ending as it was being drained into the sand. We also saw a baby rattlesnake in the canyon; it was the only rattlesnake we saw the whole trip, probably because of all the rain. I have heard that rattlesnakes are very common in this area so be careful.

Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon

Most of the morning was good weather but around lunch time another storm rolled in and it started to rain again with some thunder. We were crossing through a section that had water about up to our knees and a white owl flew down into the canyon, probably trying to escape the rain. He flew by most of our heads and tried to land on my dad’s backpack. My dad ended up dodging as the owl came towards his head and ended up falling into the water we were wading through. We were able to use our hiking poles to lead him to a dry part of the canyon behind us and he just stood there stunned as we continued on.

Owl in Slot Canyon

As we would walk through the cold stagnant water we were able to see our breath. Eventually we made it to the Middle Trail, which is the only exit out of the canyon and isn’t really a trail but more of a scramble out of the canyon. We decided to keep on going since it wasn’t raining incredibly hard. There are a few petroglyph panels at Middle Trail but they are high above and really only visible if you exit out of the Middle Trail.

Utah Slot Canyons

We continued on and finally made it to the rock fall. There was a fairly easy way down for us but it took a few minutes to find. Most ways looked pretty difficult and I have heard some people recommend bringing a rope for this section as a hand line or to lower backpacks. We didn’t bring a rope nor did we need one but I’m sure every time it floods the rock falls is a little different.

Best Slot Canyons

From there, it was a straight shot onto the Paria River. We never had to get in above our knees in the water through the river while we were there (even with the recent rain), but I think we were lucky. Dogs are allowed in Buckskin Gulch but you must clean up after them and purchase a permit for them as well.

Tom’s Rating:

Trail Info: From Kanab, drive east on Highway 89 for 31.1 miles to a dirt road, the turn-off is on the right. The dirt road is called House Rock Road and is fairly well maintained but can be impassable when wet. After about 4.5 miles you will see a sign for Buckskin Gulch trailhead, do not stop here. Continue on another 4 miles to the signed Wire Pass Trailhead and park here. There is a lot of parking and an outhouse.


Wire Pass Trailhead: 37.018942,-112.0253

Buckskin Gulch Confluence: 37.019734,-112.002769

Middle Trail Exit: 37.031542,-111.927177

Paria Confluence: 37.001364,-111.865652

White House Campground: 37.079676,-111.889757

Similar Adventures:

 Please comment below to share your experience exploring Buckskin Gulch or Wire Pass. Don’t forget to register to receive the Travel Tom’s Newsletter by submitting your email in the bar above. 

Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack Review

Tom’s Review of the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack:

We have a Norwegian Elkhound named Freya that loves to spend time with us in the outdoors. She has a ton more energy than both my wife and I have combined so we decided we should get her a dog backpack so she can start carrying her own weight while on longer hikes. This way I don’t have to carry all of her gear and she uses more of her endless energy.

Purchase the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack on Amazon

Ruffwear Approach


When looking for a dog backpack there were many options. We decided on the Ruffwear Approach for the following reasons.

  1. There is a handle on the top of the backpack that allows us to help our dog over obstacles. This was by far the biggest reason we got the backpack because our dog is too quick to catch unless there is something to grab onto. She also hates being picked up in the air and fights me whenever I try to lift her. With the backpack, she is easy to catch and she doesn’t mind if I lift her completely off the ground to help her over an obstacle.
  2. Comfortable harness system for the dog to carry the pack.
  3. The Approach holds the weight of the pack over the shoulders of the dog, which is where the dog is the strongest. This also helps your dog avoid hip dysplasia.
  4. The pack is attached to the harness. A lot of people have said this is a negative thing but for me it was very important. Our dog spends a lot of time off leash when we are hiking and she runs through all sorts of stuff. If the pack could come off, I’d be worried she would lose it.
  5. I’ve noticed our dog is much better on hikes when she is wearing the backpack with a few pounds in it. I’m not sure if she no longer has energy to misbehave or if she enjoys her new found role of responsibility in carrying her own water, but she stays much closer to us and is less likely to wander around causing problems.
  6. The pack still allows us access to her collar so we can keep her on leash rather than attaching the leash to the backpack.

Purchase the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack on Amazon

Dog Backpack Review

There are a few things about the backpack that I don’t really care for:

  1. The backpack is not waterproof so we need to be careful what we put in her pack and what we carry in ours. Since she is always hitting into trees, rocks and even our legs we need to be careful nothing breakable goes in the pack either.
  2. My dog gets much hotter when she is wearing the pack. We have a winter dog so she is always hot unless it is below freezing, but I need to keep a closer eye on her when she is wearing the pack for signs of heat exhaustion. We also need to be sure the weather is going to be cool enough for her to carry the backpack.
  3. We have probably put about 100 miles or so on this backpack and it is starting to show major signs of wear. I doubt we will get another 100 miles out of the pack. I am not sure if that is due to the material the pack is made out of or our dog’s inability to learn how wide the pack is from her body. We also have taken her through some serious terrain (slot canyons, overgrown trails, deserts and mountains) so that could lead to the backpack wearing faster than normal.
  4. I can’t say my dog enjoys having the backpack put on. I don’t think she hates the pack, I think she just hates that she now has to carry something and will be warmer. She always sits around and pouts when we are still at home after I’ve put the pack on her. However once we get to the trailhead she seems to hardly notice the backpack.
  5. The saddle setup makes it a little difficult to keep the weight evenly distributed. Every time we stop to let our dog take a drink, we have to pull out both water bottles from her pack and make sure we give her about the same amount from each so the pack doesn’t end up lopsided. This is a problem with all saddle type backpacks.

Purchase the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack on Amazon

Reviews of Dog Backpack

Overall, we are very pleased with the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack. When our current one wears out we will definitely get a new one to replace it (I think that is a good sign for a product). The backpack does come in 5 sizes, so be sure to get the right size for your dog. Dogs should not carry more than 25% of their body weight and really, I think they should work up to that, just as you would train for a backpacking trip.

Let us know what you think of the Ruffwear Approach or how your dog carries their gear on hikes. Also, don’t forget to sign up for the Travel Tom’s Newsletter by submitting your e-mail in the bar above.