Here are 10 tips for backpacking Buckskin Gulch! Backpacking Buckskin Gulch is a one of a kind adventure – not only do you get to travel through the world’s longest and deepest slot canyon, but you have some of the most amazing views of long hallways with rocks towering 200-300 ft above you, hiking through dark sections of molded rock, climbing over obstacles, but also get to experience camping overnight in this amazing area. While this canyon has been nicknamed the “worlds most dangerous hike” it also often appears as one of the top “must-do hikes” in the world! As long as you go prepared, it’s a trip of a lifetime!
1. Plan on Being Wet
Some years Buckskin Gulch can be totally dry – but that’s not the norm. My friend thought that she would be able to take her waterproof pants on and off for each pool, but in reality, we were walking through water every few hundred feet. It would have taken up too much time to change in and out of other clothes. Just plan on being wet most of the time. Some parts of the year, and depending on recent weather, the pools can be neck deep or even a quick swim. For us, it was never more than hip deep. The water is cold year-round, but if you hike in summer you could get by with regular swim shorts. In Fall/Spring I would highly recommend wearing 3mm thick neoprene pants. It keeps your legs from getting muddy and gross, plus retains warmth.
2. Wear thick neoprene socks and old shoes
3. Bring a large trash bag & ziplock baggies
4. Prepare for the worst case scenario
Don’t plan on there being any ropes in the canyon. We were lucky to find this rope next to the last obstacle with the moqui steps, which made it so much easier to get the dogs down. The BLM regularly goes through the canyon and clears out any human-placed ropes and cairns. Just prepare for any worst-case scenarios like 1) not being able to hike Buckskin Gulch due to flash flood danger 2) having a plan for what to do if you are caught in a flash flood 3) bring a first aid kit for injuries, etc. Anything can happen in a slot canyon, and there’s no quick was to get help or rescue service. Let someone know what time you expect to get out of the canyon, so they can alert the ranger station if they haven’t heard from you.
5. Bring good friends along
Bring friends along that you trust, and can make the trip more enjoyable and fun. There will be times when you feel like you can’t hike anymore, are feeling beat down, or are struggling with something else whether its physical or mental. Having your best buds along will help you get through the tough times, and trust me, some of the best laughs I’ve had come after the hardest hikes!
6. Bring a camera that is good in low-light
7. Start early
Whether you plan on day-hiking or backpacking Buckskin Gulch, get an early start. You’ll be stopping for photos, snack breaks, etc and want to have plenty of time to reach camp before it gets dark. Plus, as you hike throughout the day the light will always be changing inside the canyon and you will be able to get a variety of photos. Start fresh with a good breakfast & coffee, get a good night’s sleep the night before, and you won’t have to feel rushed to hike faster.
8. Bring your own camp chair
9. Pick up your permit the day before you begin hiking
Don’t wait to pick your permit the day of your trip! The ranger station is only open 8:30-4:30pm, and it’s so much easier to pick it up the day before, and get caught up on the current conditions in the canyon. If you wait until 8:30am to get your permit, then drive over to the TH, then get your gear together, you’re at least an 1-1.5 hours or so away from actually hiking. This will give you less time to enjoy the canyon and take photos, plus will get you to camp later at night.
10. Don’t forget to look up (& back)!
A lot of the time in the canyon, you’ll be looking down at the trail making sure you aren’t going to trip over rocks or hike in muddy spots – don’t forget to look up and back! Some of the best views we got were when we would stop and turn around to get a photo of our friends and we’d say, “Whoa! Look at that back there!” Or, “Look how far up the canyon is!” Don’t forget to actually enjoy your views – Buckskin Gulch is really one of the prettiest slot canyons!
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