Zebra Canyon is not a technical canyon, but, technically speaking, it is RAD.
You will drive down a wide rocky road for over 7 miles, so if you're feeling a bit iffy about the state of your tires you may want to hold off on this one. There is a small parking lot where you can leave your car, but don't be surprised if you need to leave it on the side of the road. Apparently poor parking isn't restricted to Trader Joe's considering a lot with space for 20 or so cars had 7 jumbled around when we arrived. I digress.
The trail starts on the opposite side of the road and weaves across flat desert terrain for 2.5 miles to Zebra Canyon. The trail follows a creek that was completely dry at the time of our visit, but we were warned that during the Spring months one must cross flowing water several times. Keep an eye out for cairns, they were easily distinguishable from random rock piles and placed thoughtfully throughout. There were also signs posted warning of heat stroke and hikers are encouraged to bring 4 liters of water per person. Dehydration is no joke- you aren't tougher than the sun. You just aren't.
The landscape was is stunning. Red and white waves ripple across the bulbous rock faces. In my childhood when I heard the word 'desert' I associated it with endless sand dunes and monotony. The Zebra Canyon hike is a glaring example of how very wrong my original assumptions were.
Zebra Canyon itself is pretty indescribable, but the following paragraphs are my best attempt.
When we arrived there was a gathering of people nervously laughing as they rolled up their pants and ditched their electronics. There was a large crack in the sandstone wall that lead to a still pond of water. The walls folded gracefully into each other giving no direct line of sight to whatever lay ahead. No mistaking it, this was the slot we had come to see.
We witnessed several different attire approaches to the frigid water; waders, leggings, undies. We opted for bathing suits. We spent Summers swimming in the waters of the Oregon Coast so we felt confident we could power through whatever Utah had to throw our way.** It is an odd sensation to feel as though you are completely numb from the waist down, but then each brush against the walls of the canyon feels as if a steel wool sponge being dragged across your exposed skin.
If you are wondering how the dogs fared in this unfamiliar environment it's tough for me to speak for them, but I believe they relished the adventure. What I observed was two pups fearlessly powering forward through the canyon, but literally high-tailing it the opposite direction once the opening narrowed tighter than their ribcages. They made a few attempts to dig their claws into the porous canyon wall but I made the decision to end our journey at that point. No matter how much I am enjoying myself the second I hear the unmistakable whine of a concerned malamute, I bail.
After our brief but exhilarating canyon campaign we laid on the sunniest, sandiest dune shoveling vegan jerky into our mouths and guzzling a lime-less Pacifico (blasphemy!). Our return trip to the trailhead was balanced between the excess volume of our excited chatter and the complete silence of reflection.
This was my first slot canyon crusade and certainly won't be my last. In fact, we changed our plans for the following day so I could experience another one of these fascinating monuments to the desert.
**this type of thinking gets a LOT of people in trouble. Know your safety limits and stay far away from them. Pushing yourself outside of a comfort zone is fabulous, trying to 'suck it up' when your body is telling you that you have gone to far is how people lose their lives. A safe game is a fun game, never forget that.