Zebra Slot Canyon Utah: The Zebra Canyon Hike In Escalante
The Zebra Slot Canyon is a spectacular passageway in Escalante, Utah, with wild rock colors and wavy zebra striped walls.
It’s one of the best slot canyons in Utah I’ve ever seen, although the tight Zebra Canyon is a bit tricky to navigate compared to other slots.
This guide will explain how to get to the Zebra Slot Canyon trailhead in Escalante, Utah, and everything else you need to know before you go!
- Distance: 5.2 miles (8.4 km) round trip
- Elevation Loss: 150 feet (45 m)
- Difficulty: Moderate / Hard
- Duration: 3 – 4 hours round trip
Zebra Slot Canyon Utah: What To Expect
The initial hike to Zebra canyon is flat and easy, but the slot itself is difficult because it’s so tight and usually has standing water.
You don’t need any special gear or technical skills to do Zebra, but good fitness and prior experience in slots will help a lot, and you can’t be claustrophobic or afraid of wading through dirty water.
The overall difficulty will depend on the water level in the slot.
Hiking To Zebra Canyon Utah
Most of the trail to Zebra Slot Canyon is unmarked except for cairns, so it’s possible to get lost trying to find the mouth of the slot. Here is a trail map you can use.
You start out on a small dirt path that runs alongside a riverwash, but you won’t want to hike in the wash until near the end of the hike. You could get lost in the wash, and it’s harder to walk on it anyway because of all the loose sand.
Instead, you’ll stay on the narrow dirt path alongside the wash for pretty much the entire hike (by following the rock cairns), although you will need to cross the wash a few times to keep the path.
Along the way to Zebra Canyon, you’ll get to see some nice wavy rock walls beside the path that make it more enjoyable.
Near the 1.4 mile mark, you’ll see a long wooden gate that looks like a fence blocking the path, but you can easily push on it and the gate will swing open for you to pass.
Shortly after passing the wooden gate, you’ll have to continue straight on the little dirt path and leave the direction of the wash entirely, which starts to branch off to your right instead.
Continue on the little dirt path until the 2 mile mark, and then the trail finally intersects with the sandy Harris Wash again.
From here you can walk northeast in the wash all the rest of the way to the Zebra slot. You should reach the slot after about 60 – 75 minutes of total hiking.
Entering Zebra Slot Canyon
Now it’s time for the fun part: going inside Zebra Slot Canyon!
When you reach the slot, there will probably be standing water at the entrance, although the depth can range from just one foot to (sometimes) several feet or more.
We did the slot two weeks after a big storm, so the water was unusually deep. I’m 5’11, and at one point I had to wade through water up to my chin, while holding my camera above my head.
Seeing the water this high was a bit scary, and my wife (who’s a shorty) decided to stay behind and watch our backpacks.
In hindsight, I wish I’d also brought a waterproof bag to keep my camera safe, even though a bag might get pretty scuffed up in the narrow sections of the slot.
Thankfully this was a very hot September day and the water was not too cold, but your experience may vary — the water may be too cold and deep to cross, or there may not be much water at all!
Most of the time I was wading through a fairly wide passage, but it increasingly becomes smaller, and near the end I had to squirm sideways through a very tight slot while in knee to waist deep water.
If you’ve done the Spooky Slot Canyon hike in Utah, which is famous for being narrow, this one is smaller and more uncomfortable in almost every way.
The water is dirty, and I got lots of scrapes and cuts (especially on my knees and elbows) while trying to inch through the slot. Overall, it was a messy, difficult, and uncomfortable process.
You might be tempted to leave your shoes, but you have to keep them, because you’ll need proper grip once you reach the narrowest slot sections.
You’ll be walking on the slippery rock walls in just a minute, and it’s very hard to do that if you’re barefoot.
Finally, after what seems like ages, you’ll pass the narrowest section of the slot and it opens up into a dry chamber with more room to move and rest.
The walls start to become increasingly beautiful here, with bright wavy zebra stripes forming on both sides.
When you turn this last corner, the best passageway of Zebra Slot Canyon comes into view, and it’s truly spectacular. I was all alone except for a small snake crawling at the bottom of the slot.
Stay here awhile and enjoy the magic. You can take great pictures of this hallway from both ends. The sunlight inside was a bit too harsh when I first got there, so I did have to wait a little for better lighting.
After you’ve reached this spot, the slot essentially dead ends. Zebra Slot Canyon is only about 100 yards long, but it feels much longer because of how slow it is to get through.
It’s not the longest or the easiest slot by any means, but it’s a unique experience and the payoffs are truly special!
Tunnel Slot Canyon
If you still have energy after the Zebra hike, there’s the option to add on Tunnel Slot Canyon, another nearby slot you can reach by hiking 30 minutes east down the Harris Wash from Zebra.
However, Tunnel Slot is less spectacular, and since the water level was so high at Zebra, we figured Tunnel would be impassable and decided not to do it this time.
Zebra Slot Canyon Trailhead Location
The Zebra Slot Canyon trailhead is located outside the town of Escalante in southern Utah.
GPS coordinates: 37.640780997513424, -111.44592766561833
You can also use the Google map below to navigate you directly to the parking lot, which is a 30 minute drive from the town of Escalante.
The trailhead is right across the road from the car parking.
The last part of the drive to Zebra Slot Canyon trailhead involves 20 minutes on a bumpy back road (BLM200/Hole in the Rock Rd).
It’s an extremely bumpy dirt washboard, but I think you could do it in most vehicles as long as the road is dry. Don’t try to come here after rain unless you have a capable vehicle.
As of 2021, the trailhead is a very basic dirt parking lot, with no toilets, map, or even information signs. The only sign we saw was a desert heat notice.
If you need more info about the hike or to check current water levels in the canyon, you can contact the BLM visitor center in Escalante, Utah.
Slot Canyon Safety Tips
Flash Floods. Always be aware of the weather forecast. Do not enter any slot canyon if rain is in the forecast, even if it's outside of your immediate area. Flash flooding can be very dangerous in a slot canyon.
Sunscreen. Even though it's a slot canyon hike, there are still plenty of parts on the trail where you'll be exposed to direct sun, so you might want sunscreen. A hat helps too.
Water. Try to pack at least 3 liters per person. In Utah, you should always bring more water than you think you need.
Map. It's a good idea to download an offline map of your hiking area on an app like Google Maps, that way you can keep using it to navigate or find your position even when you're out of reception. Getting lost in the desert can be dangerous.
Where To Stay
More Things To See Nearby
Zebra Slot Canyon is part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, so there are lots of great attractions nearby!
Two other great slot canyons to check out in the area are the Peekaboo and Spooky slot canyons, which are located just a 30 minute drive from this one on the same road.
There’s also the Devils Garden nearby, which is a neat family friendly spot where you can see some nice hoodoo rock formations without any hiking.