Canyons are impressive structures and the continuous process that led to their present forms and shapes are equally amazing. Rivers have a natural tendency to cut through underlying surfaces and over geologic times the rock layers will eventually wear away. A slot canyon is formed the same way only that is significantly deeper than it is wide. It can measure less than one metre across the top but drop more than 30 metre to the floor. Most slot canyons around the world were formed in sandstone and limestone rock, even though slot canyons in rocks like granite and basalt are possible. These impressive naturally-shaped narrow canyons are found in many parts of the world predominantly in areas with low rainfall. South-western United States and Australia are just two of the destinations where you can take this one-of-a-kind trip. Slot canyons are quite impressive to explore when possible and although many of them are no place for the average hiker, some are easy to explore.
The Antelope is one of the most impressive slot canyon in the world and it actually consists of two slot canyons located in northern Arizona, both located on Navajo tribe land. Because of their location the Antelope slot canyons are accessible only through tribal-approved companies. The upper canyon does not require any climbing, while the lower canyon is now accessible via stairs. Antelope canyons were formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone due to flash flooding and sub-aerial processes. The beauty of these two slot canyons is uncontested but they can also be dangerous. They are a popular location for photographers and sightseers and represent a source of income for the Navajo community.
In east of Portland, Oregon, right at Bridal Veil there are four waterfalls that make up the scenic Oneonta Gorge in the Columbia River Gorge. The hike of this slot canyon is more of a swim but the exhausting trip is rewarding once you reach the impressive waterfall at the end. The walls of the canyon expose 25 million year old basalt rock formations that add to the dramatic scenery. First photographed in 1849, the Oneonta Gorge is quite the popular location so you should choose wisely when and if you plan on visiting.
Described as a geologic wonderland with canyon walls reaching 20 stories high, the Coloured Canyon from Sinai Peninsula in Egypt gets its name thanks to the colourful rock formations made out of sandstone, limestone, basalt and granite. This majestic canyon was formed by the erosion of the water upon the rocks leaving deep coloured places that offer a unique and completely natural spectacle adding to the mystery that comes with such an ancient beautiful place. The hike is only half a mile walk and it’s quite the easy task. The end of the canyon meets with a large valley from where you can either head to the Beduin camps to relax and have a traditional lunch or head 10 km north of Dahab to explore the already famous Blue Hole.
Similar with the Coloured Canyon of Sinai, the Siq Canyon from Jordan is like a walk through history mainly because it is the former entrance of the ancient city, Petra. The hike is 1.2 km long at the end of which you will exit the canyon to find Petra’s most famous ruin, the Al Khazneh or The Treasury. Siq Canyon is not unique only because of its ancient past but also due to its unusual formation. Unlike other slot canyons that were formed by rushing water, Siq was formed by tectonic forces. The Siq was used as an entrance into Petra and the recent findings such as baetyli or a group of statues suggest that the place was sacred to the Nabatean people.
Another very colourful canyon is located in Utah’s Zion National Park which begins at the Left Fork of North Creek. These spectacular rock formations welcome visitors with beautiful sights but tackling the terrain may be tricky for the inexperienced. Navigating through the canyon can mean rappelling down boulders or swim in chilly waters so you might consider wearing wetsuits for the long trek. A functional GPS in the canyon could be a lifesaver because there is no actual trail and you might lose your path. A small tip before heading off to explore the Subway Canyon is that you will need a permit for the trip and only 50 a day are issued so you should look into that before making plans.
The Spooky Gulch is a short slot canyon hike in the Grand Staircase Escalante located in southern Utah, United States. Spooky Gulch canyon is well named for how dark it gets deep in the slot and is a real nightmare for people suffering with claustrophobia. The passageways are so narrow in some places that hikers have to squeeze through sideways. These can cause some people to panic so if you know youreself to be anxious you should consider letting this one out. The canyon is wide at the entrance but only a few hundred feet into the walk the passageways become difficult to cross for the average-sized adults.
Another Utah canyon formation is the Buckskin Gulch, one of the world’s longest and deepest slot canyons and also one of the most popular. One of the main tributaries of the Paria River, Buckskin Gulch may actually be the longest slot canyon in the world. The hike through the canyon is 32 km long and is not an easy task. Buckskin Gulch is rarely more than 3 metres wide and the walls reach as far as 150 metres high. Hiking the canyon on one day is possible but it is recommended to take two days to complete it and not during summer because there is danger of flash floods.
Moving on to a different continent the Weano Gorge located in the Karijini National Park, Western Australia is known for its fabulous scenery but it can be quite challenging to conquer. This canyon is best known for the multitude of waterfalls and sheer-sided chasms that reach up to 100 metres high. The access to Handrail Pool is a fairly easy class loop walk but it gets quite challenging when you’ll have to climb to get down into the pool. However, once you get there you will be rewarded with colourful rock formations and an icy-cold pool at the bottom.
Also located in Western Australia is Echidna Chasm. Only 2 kilometres long, this canyon is 200 metres deep and is considered to be one of Pumululu National Park’s highlights and one of Australia’s best hiking destinations. The gorge was formed along a joint in sandstone and conglomerate rocks and the walls of the canyon change colours depending on the angle of the sun beaming into the chasm. The hike is relatively easy with a short climb near the end and the main tourist season runs from May to August.
Located about 10 kilometres from Annecy, France, canyon Gorges du Fier is perhaps one of the easiest canyons to walk through thanks to the railed walkway set about 30 metres high above the river rushing below. This deep, narrow gorge is located at the foot of the medieval castle of Montrottier and is one of the oldest tourist sites of the Alps. Gorge du Fier is so narrow in some spots that visitors can touch both sides and even though the walkway is attached to the wall of the gorge is not as scary as it sounds.