Buckskin Gulch is widely known as the longest slot canyon in the world.  It is located in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area of southern Utah.  My own hike into Buckskin Gulch had been in the planning stages for over a year.  In June of 2012, I finally had the chance to carry out my plan and hike Buckskin Gulch firsthand.  And it did not disappoint.  In fact, it far exceeded all of my expectations, even overtaking the Zion Narrows as my lifetime favorite hike.  Being that canyon hiking and canyon narrows are at the top of my list of scenery that I appreciate, it's easy to see why I found Buckskin Gulch to be so enjoyable.  Buckskin Gulch also holds another distinction-- Backpacker Magazine rated it as 1 of the 10 most dangerous hikes in America.  The reason for this is obvious.  Buckskin Gulch is basically a never-ending set of slot narrows which run about 15 miles in length, with very few ways in and out of the canyon should a flash flood hit.  Rain that falls as far as 50+ miles away near Bryce Canyon can end up draining into Buckskin Gulch and creating a flash flood that will sweep any hikers in the canyon away to their death.  As Backpacker Magazine put it, "should thunderstorm-bloated flood waters come charging down the tunnel, you're no better than a bug in a firehose."  With these things in mind, we kept a close eye on the weather forecast in the week leading up to our trip.  On the day of our hike, the forecast called for a 20% chance of scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon.  Not an ideal forecast, but it was good enough for us to head out on our hike, being that we had a limited amount of time in Utah and other places to visit.  We got dropped off at Wire Pass by others in our group who were not hiking, and set out on our hike at 8:30AM.  Our plan was to dayhike from Wire Pass to White House, which would allow us to see most of Buckskin Gulch and a good portion of Paria Canyon.  The hike would be about 20 1/4 miles long.  From our research, we had learned that the hike breaks down like this...

Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch Junction-- 1 3/4 miles / 45 mins
Buckskin Gulch Junction to Middle Route-- 6 1/2 miles / 4 hours 15 mins
Middle Route to Rock Fall-- 3 miles / 2 hours
Rock Fall to Campground-- 1 1/4 miles / 1 hour
Campground to Paria Canyon Confluence-- 1/4 mile / 15 mins
Paria Canyon Confluence to White House-- 7 1/2 miles / 3 hours 45 mins

Adding up all that time, we knew that it would take us approximately 12 hours to complete the entire hike, not including breaks.  And we needed to be back before dark, since we had heard that it was a bit tricky finding the exit from Paria Canyon to White House trailhead in the dark.  But more about that in the second part of this report, under the link for Paria Canyon.  For this report, I will cover our route from Wire Pass to Middle Route, which covers the first 8 1/4 miles and 5 hours of our day.  Our morning started out at Wire Pass, where we signed into the trail register, paid for our dayhike permits, and began hiking down the wash toward the Wire Pass narrows.  It wasn't long before we entered the Wire Pass narrows, which proved to be spectacular.  It was worth the trip even just to see this part of the hike.  Soon we reached the junction with Buckskin Gulch.  To our left, we could see more narrows heading up canyon.  We skipped over these, as using the Wire Pass trailhead ends up bypassing about 3 miles or so of upper Buckskin Gulch.  After checking out some well-known petroglyphs, we turned right and headed down Buckskin Gulch.  Right from the start, Buckskin Gulch stunned us with its amazing canyon scenery and never ending towering narrows.  Simply put, the beauty never stopped.  That's why I ended up taking 539 photos on the day, which is a personal record for any hike I have ever done.  For the next 6 1/2 miles, we were snapping one photo after another.  Due to the occasional dark passages and ever-changing light in the canyon, most of the pictures turned out, while some did not.  With so many good pictures to choose from, it wasn't easy to select a little over 100 for Part 1 of this report.  But after hours of debate, I made my choices and you can see those pictures below.  One of the nice things about our hike, was that we did it when Buckskin Gulch was bone dry.  That meant hotter temperatures outside, but it also meant that we avoided having to wade through the infamous Cesspools of quicksand, water, and wet mud.  We certainly didn't miss The Cesspools, which can be seen in other hiking reports posted online.  Upon arriving at Middle Route, we checked out the challenging escape route from the canyon and then enjoyed our lunch there.  After that, it was time to continue on in our journey.  You can read about that in Part 2 of this report by clicking on the red arrow at the bottom of the page.
Parking at the Wire Pass trailhead along with others who were hiking either into Buckskin Gulch or The Wave:
The hike started with a sandy wash.  The most interesting thing we saw  through this portion was this rabbit:
At the end of the sandy wash, the Wire Pass slot canyon takes shape in dramatic fashion:
Wire Pass slot canyon has beautiful shades of purple and red:
These narrows are very impressive and worth a visit even if you aren't hiking Buckskin Gulch:
Wire Pass slot consisted of straight sections and a few sharp corners:
Two views through Wire Pass as the walls grew on each side of us:
In the Wire Pass section, we found this lizard biting the neck of a smaller lizard.  As part of its strange behavior, the larger lizard dragged the smaller lizard around by the neck, refusing to let go even as we walked by:
Stunning scenery on display in Wire Pass:
Final section leading out to the junction with Buckskin Gulch:
Upon arriving at Buckskin Gulch, we were greeted by this towering slab with a huge undercut:
Petroglyphs were found in this area.  My policy is to only mention petroglyphs if they are widely known and already covered in other guides:
First view down Buckskin Gulch.  By starting from Wire Pass instead of the head of Buckskin, we did miss a small section of narrows.  But we can only see so much in one day:
It was eerie knowing that we had just walked into a slot canyon that wouldn't be ending for another 11 miles or so:
As you can tell from early on in the canyon, if a flash flood blasts through here, there is no escape:
Light from the sun casts an orange and yellow glow on the canyon walls.  Steve is seen taking a picture here:
Typical view of the wash that we walked on throughout the day, mostly sandy with some scattered rocks:
View of Steve in the early part of Buckskin Gulch:
Mel gazing up at the impressive sculpted walls of Buckskin Gulch:
Fantastic view of how the sunlight filters into the canyon:
Steve looking back as the narrows continued to grow in height:
Taking note of the beautiful texture on the walls as we walked by:
Block-like section of canyon with a sharp left turn:
Notice the very narrow walkway between the canyon walls:
Very pretty section of Buckskin Gulch with shades of pink:
Zooming in on the pink bands high above us in the canyon:
Excellent example of how light and shadows contrasted and made picture taking difficult:
A series of holes on one side of the canyon wall which would show up once in a while, no doubt caused by past flooding:
Walking past a huge overhang on the right side:
Steve continuing through the endless narrows:
Once in a while, the canyon would open up briefly to give a view of the outside world.  Here take note of how the canyon walls create shade, very valuable on a hot day:
Steve and Mel hiking through an open section of canyon:
Steve standing under a massive undercut in the canyon wall:
This view of Mel standing under the undercut shows you how large it really is:
Even in the more open sections of the canyon, there wasn't a lot of space between canyon walls:
In the next three pictures, notice Steve standing very small at the bottom in comparison to the huge walls of Buckskin Gulch:
In this picture, Mel is passing through a narrow passage between towering walls:
Looking high above us at black streaks and patterns on the rock slab:
Back in the narrows of Buckskin Gulch once again:
Most of the time, the walls weren't straight, but twisty and curvy:
Notice the curves rising up the canyon wall to the right:
Even in the darkest of passages, the sun's glow on the walls could usually be seen in the distance:
Unforgettable dramatic scenery in the narrows of Buckskin Gulch:
A perfect place for a break inside a red bowl on the canyon wall:
More block-type scenery in this section of the canyon:
Pretty purple patterns on the canyon wall:
As mentioned earlier, there was a 20% chance of scattered thunderstorms today.  Indeed, the clouds did roll in and a few raindrops fell on us:
More spectacular red patterns on the canyon wall:
The variety of patterns, colors, and textures of the walls kept the scenery interesting from beginning to end:
Entering what is known to be the first minor obstacle in Buckskin Gulch, a section of boulders that have fallen into the canyon.  This section is different from the harder boulder jam later down canyon:
Although it is easy to bypass, this section still does require scrambling over and around some fallen boulders:
Trees taking advantage of every opportunity to grow in Buckskin Gulch.  Notice how they are growing right out of thin cracks in this large boulder:
After the first minor boulder jam, the canyon walls close together once again and nearly touch at the top:
One of the features of Buckskin Gulch is the sheer isolation.  Unlike the Zion Narrows, where you are surrounded by other hikers, there is almost nobody here.  It makes for peaceful walking:
In fact, we only saw 3 other hiking groups all day.  We saw a group of three, a solo hiker, and a group of two Polish backpackers who were lost and almost turned around (before we helped them).  But this gives you an idea of the quiet solitude which can be enjoyed here:
One of the things to take note of while hiking through Buckskin is the flash flood debris wedged high above you.  This shows how high flood waters are when they rage through here in a torrent:
The darkest passages are some of the most magnificent in Buckskin:
A picture of Steve in some very tight narrows of Buckskin:
Once again the lighting adds to the beauty of the canyon:
Black streaks lead up to a section of canyon that is glowing yellow:
A small sandy bank with plants growing on it just before the canyon tightens up again:
There truly was one amazing section of narrows after another, as seen in the next four pictures:
This section of canyon was glowing brilliantly red and yellow in color.  This reminded me of shades of the sun and lava:
Narrow passages through the darkness and into the light in the next two pictures:
Flash flood debris on the canyon floor includes large logs that once were trees growing somewhere:
Absolutely huge canyon walls.  Note how small Steve is at the bottom of the picture:
And note how small Mel is at the bottom of this picture:
A sandy path usually winds between the canyon walls, with dirt on each side of it:
Dried and cracked mud on the canyon floor.  Perhaps this is one of the areas where The Cesspools form for weeks or months after flash floods:
Triangular shaped walls slope down as the canyon turns the corner:
It wasn't often that we were walking in the direct sunshine.  Mostly just short sections when we would emerge from long stretches of narrows:
Buckskin Gulch is not a place for those who have problems with claustrophobia.  Once you get in here, you aren't getting out for several hours at the minimum:
Purple colors dominate the canyon in the next three pictures:
Check out this perfectly rounded wall on the left side:
Another dramatic display of light and shadows together:
When both sides of the walls were smooth and straight at the same time, it made for a very long corridor:
Shades of light and dark purple again appeared in the next two pictures:
The way the walls were shaped through this section made us feel like we were walking through a tunnel:
The sandstone walls in the next two pictures reminded me a bit of the sandstone of Antelope Canyon, 30 miles east of here:
Yet another dark passage leading into the light:
In the next three pictures, note how past water flow has sculpted the canyon walls and created stunning curves:
The canyon is ever changing.  Here the curves have given away to polished smooth walls:
Blocks have broken away from the canyon wall and fallen onto the ground:
In the next three pictures, note how the narrows are dramatically different from one section to the next in both lighting and color:
It was around this time when we started wondering if we would ever arrive at Middle Route.  Because GPS doesn't work in the canyon and maps are essentially useless, it's impossible to know exactly where you are at any given time:
All we knew was that the narrows continued non-stop and based on our time guide, we had to be getting somewhat close:
Fortunately the canyon scenery continued to captivate us and made us lose track of time:
What kept our attention was Buckskin Gulch's outstanding scenery:
This is a gorgeous spot in the canyon where the narrows create a circle opening halfway up the walls:
Notice how the wall on the left side creates a pattern of lines as it curves around:
The canyon shades turn back to red once again:
Around this area, the height of the walls started dropping a little bit.  This told us we were getting close to the Middle Route emergency exit:
Sure enough we soon arrived at Middle Route, which is seen here cutting up to the left.  Mel is taking a picture of something interesting we found here.  To see what it is, continue on with us through Buckskin Gulch by visiting the Trip Report for Paria Canyon.  You can read that and continue to Part 2 of this report by clicking on the red arrow button below:
Continue to Part 2 of report
Click here or on the red arrow button to continue reading Part 2 of Buckskin Gulch and Paria Cyn