The Inner Light: Inside 3 Slot Canyons

Continued (page 4 of 4)

As he expertly navigates the yellow Hummer through sandy washes and down slick rock ledges, guide Jathan Truman, who was raised in Page, talks about riding motorcycles in and around Waterholes Canyon without ever knowing the three slot canyons existed. “From the air it doesn’t look like anything, either,” he says. “There must be many slots in this area that have never been discovered.” The ride is bumpy in spots and several people on our tour gasped at the extreme angles along the trail but the Hummer is comfy and air-conditioned – a big deal at certain times of year. We chose the three-hour tour of Secret Canyon ($69 per person); the company also offers a five-hour tour of all three canyons ($139 per person, lunch included) and a five-hour photo tour ($139 per person, lunch included).

After a short, flat hike, 450-ft.-long Secret Canyon begins with narrow but relatively short walls. The walls get taller as you go further into the canyon until they soar 100 feet above and close in around you, with the narrowest section measuring about three feet across. The strata along the walls changes from one angle to the next – first the grooves are horizontal and pink but within a few inches they become vertical in shades of gray and brown, the result of thousands of years of wind and water erosion. Green moss and lichen grow in shady spots and piles of small rocks and tumbleweeds left over from flash floods rest in pockets in the walls. Unlike Antelope, there are no chambers here – just one long, narrow canyon requiring some minor rock scrambling. Jathan says he’s seen owls, bobcats, roadrunners, lizards, coyotes, hawks and snakes. He pulls out his cell phone to show us a picture of a wicked spider he’d taken the previous day. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for some of us), the same spider, the size of a child’s hand, was just a few yards ahead, sunning itself on a rock wall.

The light in the canyon changes drastically in a short time – we saw a brilliant orange glow fade to peach in moments. Photographers who hesitate are lost. Jathan recommends Secret Canyon in the morning and says the summer months provide the warmest colors; though it gets hot, summer is the busiest time of the year. Jathan recommends making reservations two weeks to one month in advance.

“Page’s population triples or quadruples during the summer,” Jathan says. “Everyone knows about Antelope [Canyon] but we are starting to get very busy. When we started, we offered free rides to the staff working in the bars, restaurants, and hotels and they loved it because it’s a more intimate experience. Now they recommend us to visitors.”

Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures
Hiking and photo tours of Secret Canyon, Staircase Canyon, and Passage Canyon
All tours include off-roading. Scenic bike rides also available
12 N. Lake Powell Blvd.; 928-645-2266;

MORE SEDONA ROAD TRIPS: Lake Powell, Havasu Canyon, photographing Arizona, 10 places to go to beat the Arizona heat, Acoma Pueblo, Grand Canyon, The Wave, Oak Creek Canyon, Crown King, Jerome, Sunset Crater Volcano, Wupatki National Monument, Arizona animal parks, Monument Valley, Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum, Navajo National Monument, Mormon Lake, Canyon de Chelly

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