Bay Bill slot canyon (named after a cowboy) is located east of the world-famous Zion National Park, which contains some equally famous slot canyons. Unlike Zion, when you hike Bay Bill slot, you are likely to have it to yourself. After driving about 5 miles on a 4×4 track that dipped in and out of the shallow river bottom, we reached out parking spot and began our journey upriver.
The hike itself was beautiful. Having been to Zion National Park, the scene was a familiar one to us, only smaller here. Undulating sandstone cliffs line the river – twisted stone of alternating shades of orange, yellow and white. Cliffs rose up hundreds of feet and peered down at us from their haughty heights. We were reminded of just how vast is the American West as we walked for miles with nary a sign of human influence other than an occasional footprint. The dichotomy of the blue sky and puffy white clouds, the multi-hued cliffs and the evergreen trees appealed to the photographers in our family.
We came around a corner and the sandstone reached down to the sandy bottom in a more gradual slope. Looking similar to the famous Wave a hundred miles to the east, we climbed upon the sandstone and enjoyed the view. It feels like we are walking on a petrified sand dune, with streaks of erosion making interesting patterns in the rock.
The hike was two miles long, and while that distance was not a concern to us even in the relatively hot May weather, the loose sand we walked along was tiring. We devised ways of reducing the difficulty in small ways, looking for rockier stretches or simply walked in one another’s footprints. Tired of the drudgery now, we were glad to see the cliff walls visibly close in on us and we knew we were entering the slot.
Narrow, Orange Cliffs
The sandstone walls became a familiar orange shade as we walked up-canyon. The bottom was still mostly sandy, but our earlier fatigue gave way to the excitement of the beauty of the ever-narrowing canyon. The walls towered above us as the walls closed in. Soon we reached spots where we could touch both sides of the canyon at the same time. It was remarkable to stand in a canyon so narrow and so tall. We moved in and out of sunlight depending on which way the canyon faced. There were no beams of light like some slot canyons have, but it was still remarkable.
Bay Bill slot is on public lands and is a nice and easy slot canyon to hike through, but getting there is a bit of a challenge. You’ll need a 4×4 to do it yourself, although if you don’t mind a 15 mile hike you can do both Bay Bill and Merwin slot canyons without a 4×4. If you have a 4×4 or hire a guide who has one, you will only be looking at about 5 miles of walking round trip to get to the entrances of both slot canyons. Each slot can be navigated for quite a ways, so additional hiking in and out of each canyon will raise the total hiking distance.
Bay Bill slot canyon is on BLM land near Kanab, Utah. It is a side canyon of Parunuweap Canyon which is the east fork of the Virgin River. The lower part of Bay Bill canyon is a sandy wash, but 2 miles up from the parking area it becomes an easy to navigate non-technical slot canyon.
To get to Bay Bill Canyon and also Merwin Slot canyon, begin at the Mount Carmel Junction (with hwy 9) on hwy 89 which is about 17 miles north of Kanab, Utah. Go south less than 1 mile and you’ll find a dirt road. Drive on it about one mile to a fence with a cattle guard. Park there and walk down Parunuweap Canyon for 5 miles on a public road that crosses private land to the confluence with Bay Bill Canyon.
If you have a 4×4 you can drive this 5 mile stretch but you’ll be crossing the river bottom several times (the water is usually only ankle deep). From here, hike up the sandy wash of Bay Bill canyon for about 2 miles. The hike is level but the sandy bottom will make it a bit more tiring. After about one mile, Merwin Canyon will open up on the left. If you continue about 1 mile further up Bay Bill canyon, you’ll get to the entrance to Bay Bill slot.
Since we flew to Utah and didn’t have proper 4×4, we hired Dreamland Safari Tours using their Slot Canyon Photog Bonanza Tour, which lasted most of the day and included three slot canyons in order: Bay Bill, Merwin and Red Canyon. I thought these slots got progressively better as we went. They provided us with a nice guide, (Thanks Brett!), who led us into all three slots, drove us about and provided a nice picnic lunch. I recommend them if you are looking for a guided trip in the Kanab area.
If you would like to see a hi-res gallery of pictures from our trip, go here.
To read about the nearby Merwin Slot Canyon, go here.
Read about all the slot canyons I have visited with reviews of each here.