Wire Pass is a short drainage that joins the much longer Buckskin Gulch slot canyon, and provides a convenient entrance point, enabling hikers to bypass the upper 4 miles of the gulch which are shallow and less interesting than the 12 miles downstream. From the trailhead, the streamway is 1.75 miles long of which about half a mile is through a slot canyon, parts of which are less than 3 feet wide; narrower than Buckskin although not nearly as deep. Because of this, the sun illuminates the curving sandstone walls more extensively, sometimes reaching all the way to the floor and often producing nice reflected effects - so photographs are good and somewhat different to those taken of Buckskin.
See the page for Buckskin Gulch.
As for Buckskin Gulch.
TopoQuest topographic map of Wire Pass.
For the first mile from the trailhead, the walk is along a wide, meandering streambed between low reddish cliffs, over soft sand that makes progress rather difficult. Signs discourage hikers from taking short cuts across the grassy banks inside the bends of the stream, since this can cause erosion. There is not much to see at first, except various lizards - the drainage is home to quite a few examples of the large desert spiny lizard, a species more interesting than most with colorful patches of orange, black and blue.
The surrounding cliffs become gradually higher and closer together, and the last half mile has two good deep stretches of narrows. At the end of the second slot the cliffs open out suddenly at the confluence with Buckskin Gulch; downstream is a deep and enclosed one mile section before the gulch becomes quite wide for a while and so this would be a good target for a half day hike, for those who want just an introduction to the Buckskin canyon system.
Even in the relatively shallow drainage of Wire Pass, flash floods of great force do sometimes occur as demonstrated by a number of logs jammed several yards from the floor in the narrow sections, although they have probably been there for many years - dangerous floods here happen very rarely. It is easy to climb the cliffs above the narrows to the plateau above, from where it is immediately obvious why such slot canyons form - the land is almost all bare rock with little vegetation, just weathered, undulating Navajo sandstone in most directions. There is nowhere for rainwater to go and all soon flows down the one canyon, producing a deluge with great erosive power.
|Short tributary of Buckskin Gulch, used as an entrance route to that canyon, but forming a good, quite deep slot of its own, generally narrower than Buckskin
Length: 1.6 miles, to the Buckskin Gulch confluence
Difficulty: Easy; does not usually contain any major obstacles
Management: BLM - part of Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Rocks: Navajo sandstone
Season: Spring, summer, fall
Trailhead: 8.5 miles down House Rock Valley Road; 37.019,-112.025
Rating (1-5): ★★★★★