Merwin Slot Canyon, Merwin Arch Trail
Merwin Slot Canyon Trail

Merwin slot canyon is on BLM land near Kanab, Utah. It is a side canyon of Bay Bill Canyon which is a side canyon of Parunuweap Canyon which is the east fork of the Virgin River. Merwin slot canyon is an easy to navigate non-technical slot canyon. We walked about 1.6 miles up a dry, sandy river bottom from the last possible parking spot to get to the entrance (see directions at the below). Despite being mostly level, the loose sand made the hike more tiring than normal.

Merwin Arch

Merwin Arch, Merwin Slot Canyon, Kanab Utah
Merwin Arch

The entrance to Merwin slot canyon began abruptly, almost like a large rabbit hole. A surprise awaited us when we walked within. Merwin Arch sits just inside, and wraps right over our head. It might be the best start to a slot canyon I’ve ever seen.

The canyon continued on from there, with narrow walls coming early and often. The canyon seemed deeper than the nearby Bay Bill slot canyon and was a dramatic experience. The walls of the slot were often in shadow and we didn’t see any piercing beams of light while we were there like we saw in Antelope Canyon and Spooky Canyon.

The bottom was sandy with occasional large rocks, but the hiking wasn’t too difficult. The walls are of sandstone, and water has carved the canyon into a fun house worthy of exploration. We took our time, enjoying the undulating walls, eager to see what was around each narrow corner. Picture opportunities were abundant. We have spent much of our vacations over the years visiting national parks, but here, off the beaten path, we have the slot to ourselves. It added so much to the experience.

Powerful Water

Merwin Slot Canyon

Occasionally, we saw large boulders wedged between the walls above and were reminded of the erosive power displayed here. It wasn’t hard to imagine what a ferocious torrent must happen here whenever a heavy rain drives angry water into this narrow slot canyon. I fear for anyone trapped in this canyon when a flash flood rushes through. This happens very rarely, but make sure to check the weather forecast before venturing in any slot canyon. Remember that rain up-canyon from a slot can travel quite a distance, so the risk is not just limited to when it is raining in your immediate vicinity.

Eventually we came to a decent size rock fall that we stopped at. We could have scrambled up and continued on, but we had seen the best of the canyon and we had to walk back to the truck and make our way to another slot, the inestimable Peek-a-boo slot canyon.

Merwin is a nice slot canyon, and I would recommend visiting the nearby Bay Bill slot canyon on any visit here. Bay Bill is an extra mile each way up Bay Bill Canyon from the turn-off to Merwin Canyon.

Careful

Merwin slot canyon is not a technical slot canyon, so no canyoneering, repelling or climbing is required to experience it. You will have to walk over 4 miles round trip to see most of it, and another 3 miles or so to add Bay Bill slot canyon. This is desert country, so it gets very hot in the late spring to late autumn. Take care to prepare for the heat by bringing plenty of water and use hats and sunscreen to lesson the sun’s impact. There are no facilities of any kind along the way and you will have to take care of yourself.

Guided Tour

Merwin Slot Canyon

For our trip, 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. The trip is a little on the expensive side, but they provided us with a nice guide, 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.

Directions

To get to Merwin slot canyon and also Bay Bill slot canyon, begin at the Mount Carmel Junction (with hwy 9) on hwy 89. 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. 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 and you’ll need to walk .6 miles in a sandy wash to get to the slot entrance.  If you continue about 1 mile up Bay Bill canyon, you’ll get to the entrance to Bay Bill slot, so doing both in the same hike is recommended.

Merwin Slot Canyon

If you’d like to see hi-res pictures of Merwin slot canyon, go here.

Read about the nearby Bay Bill slot canyon here.

See my list of the slot canyons I’ve visited with descriptions of each here.

Author

IT pro by day, avid traveler and photographer by night.

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