The beauty of this slot canyon is so striking that in the meantime a visit of it turned into a real must. Not long ago a hike to the Zebra Slot required good navigation skills, a topographic map, a compass and possibly a GPS. This is not anymore the case as the place receives so many visits that the trail is marked by a well beaten path and some cairns.
Zebra Slot’s name is inspired by its beautifully striated walls. The colors of the narrow walls have rich red, pink, purple and brown colors. Moqui marbles are encrusted in the walls and the whole scenery almost reminds of an over-dimensional milk chocolate spread with hazelnuts.
Getting to Zebra Slot:
The adventure starts in Escalante town. Take UT-12 heading southeast for about 5 miles to enter right onto Hole-in-the-Rock Road. This is a dirt road, but there should not be any problems to get to Zebra’s Slot trailhead, unless there was recent rain. In this case part of the Hole-in-the-Rock Road may turn into an impassable mud disaster.
Take Hole-in-the-Rock Road for 7.5 miles. At that point you will cross a cattle guard, after which there is a dirt patch right hand. This is the parking area and quite often there might be already one to several cars parked there.
The trailhead is to be found right across the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. The path is easily to be identified and leads down the Halfway Hollow for about an hour until you reach Harris Wash. Bear left (northeast) and you will see pretty soon the Zebra drainage to your right and leave the huge upstream Harris Wash to your left (north). The ground will turn progressively sandy until you will be walking through pure sand and reach the Zebra Slot’s entrance (N37 39.39 W111 25.02).
The Zebra Slot is often filled with knee-deep to chest-deep muddy pools. The water does not look necessarily inviting as it might have some very dark to black color with, some vegetation debris floating on its surface and finally a not very appealing smell. It can also be totally dry, but do not bet on it. All my visits to Zebra Slot were so far always “rewarded” with muddy pools. Just take off your hiking shoes in case you are being confronted with water pools and wade through them. Make sure that you photography gear is high enough not to get wet and take your shoes with you as you will need them in the slot for some easy chimneying. All the other not so necessary gear you can just leave them at the slots’ entrance and pick them up later as the entrance to the slot is also its exit.
Once you crossed the water pools take some time to dry the feet and put back on your shoes. This sounds easier than done. The slot narrows very fast and will not give you easy grounds to wear on on your shoes.
While maneuvering through the canyon you should do it carefully as the walls are like fresh sandpaper and abrasions to your knees and elbows is a pretty common experience.
The way back to the car is just tracing back your incoming hike.
The entire round-trip from the car to Zebra Slot and back, with time for photography is about 4 hours.
The best time to photograph the slot is in mid morning or late afternoon when the sun does not strike the walls directly.
My personal favorite shooting time is mid morning. Once you are in the slot you will see that portion is relatively straight while the walls have wavelike formations. Walk to the end of this line and turn around to see a wonderful light bouncing off the wall at the other end of this line.
To the end of the slot you should chimney up a dry-fall to gain an awesome downward view. If you are coming with other people to Zebra Slot, this could be an interesting spot to have one or two people standing at the bottom while you are at the top of the dry-fall.
The slot with is tight and you will need all the depth of field to avoid any out-of-focus from the nearest wall. An additional photographic challenge are the rather dim light conditions. A tripod is absolutely mandatory, even if you have an higher ISO compared to what you normally use. The difficulty is just finding a good and safe ground for the tripod given how tight the place is.
Last update: July 24, 2013