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Way back in 2016 some people invited me to hike Leprechaun Canyon with them. I worked 3-11 then so I couldn’t and I was bummed, but everyone made it sound so easy to find and do that we ended up going later that summer. Well, we didn’t even think we were in the right spot.
Nothing seemed right but it was a cool hike anyways. Flash forward to 2020 and we were invited to go again, so we did! Turns out, it was the right spot! I was just too afraid to go through the really dark part of it the first time.
From the parking area here, there is a fairly clear trail leading into the canyon. You’ll be walking along a lot of reedy plants and bushy things in the beginning and you can walk on the right or left side. I’ve done both. It seemed to be easier getting through this earlier in the year before everything really gets green and full.
Eventually you’ll come to a little fork, stay to the right here. I mean, you can go left, but you won’t be able to go very far, so you can check it out, but right is the way to go. There may be a rope (there may not) hanging in that first left fork, I would advise not using it because you have no idea how long it’s been there and you really don’t want it to break.
The next obstacle is my favorite part about the Leprechaun Canyon hike. You can go to the right around this tiny little slot canyon section or you can go through it. I went around it the first time and it’s super easy. I also took my parents to this in 2016 and they made it around just fine.
All of the wavy sandstone pictures in this post that look like Antelope Canyon are from this first little section. It may take a bit of squeezing to get into but once you’re in, it’s actually fairly spacious. This is a short section but I really do love it. And from the top it looks like no one could fit in there, it’s wild.
So to get out of this you have a couple options. The first is to turn around and go out the way you came in then just walk over/around it. The second is to do a little chimney climb up and out before the end of it. The third is to go all the way to the end and sort of wedge yourself between the walls with your knees and back (this is why pants and at least a t-shirt are a good idea.
This was a little tough but I managed it pretty well. My shoulder blades did get a little bruised from this adventure, but the whole thing just kind of beat me up since I’m still not very experienced with canyoneering.
From here, the shrubbery starts to disappear and the canyon walls start to climb. The canyon here sort of glows and I love it. Even just making it to this part is worth it and is still impressive.
Now it starts to get dark. And very narrow. And is where I turned around the first time. On the right is a little fork I guess where we set our backpacks since we knew it wasn’t too far left and it would be veery difficult to get through the next part with one.
There is a drk section that’s fine to walk through first, you just may need some light, then there is the slightly less dark but very narrow section. The backpacks go between these two sections.
We didn’t go over the part where we left the backpacks (there are some big rocks there but I don’t think you can go past it much) and went into the squeezy part.
This is also the part where real shoes (not sandals) is beneficial because the ground itself between the canyon walls is really narrow. Your feet will kind of be squished in sideways and they’ll get scraped up in sandals.
In this section its not perfectly straight up so you’re kind of leaning along the wall you’re facing and doing push ups the whole way through so your arms will get tired. You’ll have to go over/under a couple of chockstones (boulders wedged in the canyon) but they’re not too bad. They’re small boulders.
This is the narrowest part of the non-technical section and you’ll definitely see why you want to leave those backpacks before this part.
Once you’re past those boulders, you can either chimney your way up (then back down) a few feet here or you can turn back. I turned back since I wasn’t confident in my chimneying/Mae Westing abilities. I can kind of do it, but I’m not great at it.
Now you just head back out the way you came, gather your things and go back through the wavy narrow section or just go over it. I went back through it but that’s just because I love it. Once we got back to the car, the gnats were SO BAD, but we didn’t have to linger long.
I really enjoyed this hike, especially since I finally got to experience the actual slot and narrow sections of it. This bottom section is great for an afternoon hike, just remember, don’t get yourself into (or up on or down from) anything you can’t get yourself out of.
Things to know about hiking in slot canyons:
Flash floods are a huge risk in slot canyons and people die from that far too often. In May 2020 a 7-year-old girl and her 3-year-old sister died in a flash flood in Little Wild Horse Canyon, a popular slot canyon in the San Rafael Swell. This isn’t even a super narrow canyon. And it’s popular. It can happen anywhere.
In 1997, 11 hikers died in a flash flood in Antelope Canyon (the storm was 15 miles away) and that’s a huge reason you need to go with a tour now.
Flash floods are no joke kids. I haven’t seen one in a slot canyon but I did see one right as it was starting in a more open canyon and it really picked up fast. I also saw one in Zion along the Mt. Carmel Highway this summer. It was small but they just happen so fast, please be safe.
- DO NOT ENTER THEM IN THE RAIN
- DO NOT ENTER THEM WITH RAIN IN THE FORECAST
- DO NOT ENTER THEM IF IT’S NOT RAINING IN THEM BUT NEAR OF THEM TOO
- If you don’t feel comfortable with any climb or narrow squeeze and can turn back, do that! You don’t want to get hurt or stuck and need to be rescued. I linked tons of stories of this below.
- Make sure you’re following the right fork. A lot of slot canyons have multiple forks or are close to other ones and ending up in the wrong one can have dire consequences (especially in the North Wash area of Utah.)
Where is Leprechaun Canyon?
Leprechaun Canyon is on Highway 95, just a few miles from the junction of Highway 276 and Highway 95. Once you go over the first cattle guard, there is a parking area on the left, that’s it. It’s right after the guard, so keep an eye out for that.
This is all if you’re coming from Hanksville or Bullfrog. You’ll be able to see the trail from there into the canyon. It’s about 30 minutes from Hanksville, 50 from Bullfrog, and 2 hours from Blanding.
How long is the Leprechaun Canyon slot canyon?
2ish miles for the bottom section, more if you’re doing the technical part, of course. It’s a pretty easy hike with some squeezing towards the end if you go to that part. It’s the perfect afternoon hike in the North Wash area. There is about 140 feel of elevation gain, which I’m surprised by, but it feels pretty flat.
There are tons of slot canyons here but most of them are pretty difficult so make sure you don’t pass anything you’re not too sure about.
Do you need technical climbing skills for Leprechaun Canyon?
For parts of it, yes. For this part, no. If you want a guide to the technical section, check out this post from Road Trip Ryan. You can still see some great narrow slot sections from the bottom with no climbing/rapelling/serious technical skill needed. All of these pictures are from the bottom!
What to bring on the Leprechaun Canyon hike
You will definitely want to wear something that covers your knees, even just pants. Possibly a long sleeve shirt, and actual shoes, not sandals. I wore shorts and got all scratched up from the way you have to get through some of this.
I also wore Chacos and it was hard to get through parts of it with how narrow it is on the ground and the angle you have to put your feet. This is why I do these things, to learn what not do.
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too. Snacks are mostly important if you’re doing the whole hike or just in the car for after.
Light Jacket – Because you just never know. Weather can change quickly depending on where you are and if you’ll be in any slot canyons, they can get cool depending on the time of day and season. I usually use my rain jacket for this.
Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking. This could be handy in the really narrow sections though. This isn’t the exact one I have, but it’s similar and if I needed to replace mine, I’d probably get this one.
How long do you need for the Leprechaun Canyon hike?
I would plan 2-3 hours for hiking. It’s not super long but you may get caught up in the excitement of the slot sections and won’t want to leave (me.). Of course you’ll need to add in drive time, too, but I would say 4 hours is good total (probably a little generous even) if you’re going to it from Bullfrog or Hanksville.
Can anyone hike Leprechaun Canyon?
Mmmm, kind of. The non-technical part yes, but the slot section that you get to before it gets technical is very narrow and if you’re over probably 170ish pounds, you may have a tough time with this, especially on the technical parts (according to Road Trip Ryan.) This would also not be great if you’re very claustrophobic as, like I said, it gets super narrow.
If you start this and don’t feel comfortable with the really narrow areas, don’t be afraid to turn back. I waited at the bottom of the small scramble at the end of the narrow part because I just didn’t feel comfortable with my skills to try that. No shame in stopping!
There are TONS of stories of people being trapped in Leprechaun Canyon, nearby Sandtharax Canyon (extremely difficult canyoneering route), and countless other slot canyons in Utah. 127 Hours, anyone? (Apparently some of it was actually filmed here! I haven’t found much official on this, but have seen it mentioned. Let me know if I’m wrong.) Here are some of those articles:
- Chasm of Death – ReadyProject
- Leprechaun Canyon technical canyoneering rescue – Climb Utah (I read this one every time I look up this hike)
- Probably Shouldn’t Have Been in This Canyon – The Washington Post
- Little Wild Horse Body of Hiker Found – Canyon Collective forum (Why it’s important to make sure you can go down what you just went up or up what you just went down if you don’t have technical canyoneering skills, especially)
- Chasm of Doom – Climb Utah
I promise I’m not sharing all of these to scare you and convince you not to hike in slot canyons. I just want you to know what can happen in them if things go wrong, how things can go wrong in them, and why it’s important to not push yourself if you’re not comfortable with something. It’s OK to turn around!
Whether or not I scared you off with this post, this is a really great hike and a good hike for people interested in slot canyons and learning about canyoneering. It’s perfect if you just have a few hours and want to do the bottom section which is still really cool.
Have you done Leprechaun canyon? What did you think of it? What is your favorite slot canyon in Utah?