Photos and words by Dylan H. Brown
Just outside of Escalante, only a short 5-mile drive down the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, tucked in the expansive sedimentary rock of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is one of the most stunning slot canyons around, Zebra Canyon.
Although there is no trailhead marker, the parking lot and trail are fairly easy to find. The parking lot is directly after the second cattle guard down the Hole-in-the-Rock rock at approximately the 5-mile mark. From there, directly across the road, the trail begins.
The first part of the hike goes through undulating rabbit brush covered sand dunes, until the trail drops into a wash. From there, the canyon deepens and about a mile into the hike, the canyon walls begin to display amazing textures. No need to rush straight to Zebra, as these canyon walls are visually appealing.
As the wash begins to widen, follow the trail to the left as it leads onto a bench. A short while later, you will come to Harris Wash (the lower part of Alvey Wash). Walk upstream to the next confluence, which will come in from your right (north). This is Zebra Canyon. Don’t let the extremely wide sandy wash fool you – at the head of this wash the canyon narrows considerably, turning into the slot known as Zebra (as seen on the right).
The first couple hundred yards typically holds water late into the season, so be sure to be prepared to wade. It shouldn’t be any deeper than waist high. As always, consult the visitor center in Escalante for the latest conditions: +1-435-826-5400.
The canyon will make a 90-degree turn to the right not too long after the water. This is where the canyon gets its namesake.
There are a couple pour-offs at the end of the canyon that provide a unique vantage of the canyon, but a series of potholes at the end block the exit.
As with all slot canyons, be courteous to others and leave the big, hulky backpack in the car.
This is an out-and-back hike, so to return, just retrace your steps back to the parking lot.
This is a short day hike into one of the most photogenic canyons around. The initial hike-in is moderately easy and should only take a few hours maximum to reach the slot. Once the slot begins, it quickly narrows to only a couple feet wide, so be prepared to squeeze through a couple tight spots and in occasions, possibly utilizing a second person to pass a backpack. Be sure to bring at least 2 liters of water per person, as water is very scarce.
From Escalante, head east down Highway 12 to the turnoff for Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Drive down Hole-in-the-Rock Road for approximately 5 miles. Park directly after the cattle guard on the right (this is the second one you will cross after turning onto the Hole-in-the-Rock Road). Cross the road and follow the trail to the slot canyon.