The Viral US Hiking Spot You Should Be Extremely Cautious Of

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TikTok can be a great source for learning travel hacks and discovering hidden gems across the globe. For instance, Buckskin Gulch is an outdoor destination that has garnered a lot of attention on social media. However, you should be extremely cautious before you hit the trails at this viral — yet dangerous — hiking spot.

Buckskin Gulch is partly located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah and the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Arizona. Carving over 20 miles through the Southwest U.S. landscape, it is considered one of the longest slot canyons in the world. The deep, layered canyons of Buckskin Gulch are both haunting and awe-inspiring. The hiking spot — which can be accessed from several different trailheads — weaves through the towering red and orange rocks. Along the path, you'll encounter rock jams, boulders, and small pools.

"It is a beautiful part of the country, a beautiful part of the world. But it can turn deadly in the wrong conditions," Kane County Sheriff Tracy Glover told KSL NewsRadio. If you want to explore Buckskin Gulch, there's nothing more important than understanding the landscape and weather that impacts the breathtaking canyons.

Why Buckskin Gulch can be dangerous

The Buckskin Gulch area can experience high temperatures, but the potential for flash floods is the biggest danger to hikers. In 2023 alone, four hikers died from flash flooding in the Buckskin Gulch area. Astoundingly, in March, a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter rescued 18 people from the slot canyons following days of heavy rainfall that ushered in flash floods.

The reason why Buckskin Gulch is so prone to flash flooding is straightforward: Whenever it rains, the water rolls off the smooth mountainous landscape and cliffs right into the slot canyons where everyone hikes. These flash floods are swift, forceful, and often unpredictable, carrying debris as they swiftly move between the slot canyons. During past flash floods in Buckskin, the narrow passages surged with water, reaching over 12 feet deep. These frightening floods can happen any time of year, but chances increase during July and August.

Even thunderstorms off in the distance can be cause for concern. "It doesn't have to rain directly over you. It just has to rain anywhere at a higher elevation than you," Alyssa Baltrus, a former park ranger and the Zion National Park Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, told Outside.

Precautions you should take

That said, successfully hiking through Buckskin Gulch is more than possible when you plan ahead, approach cautiously, and arrive ultra-prepared. Bring along high-quality hiking gear, including reliable boots, multiple pairs of socks, sun-protective clothing, plenty of water, and backpacking necessities if you're hiking to other nearby canyons that allow overnight stays. Dark, rocky sections require climbing in Buckskin Gulch, so reliable trekking poles and a headlamp will also come in handy. Before hitting the trail, you'll have to purchase a day-use permit to access Buckskin.

Moreover, it's crucial to consistently check the weather conditions and monitor any changes that could impact your hike. If you're unsure whether it's safe to hike, reach out to the professionals. Tracy Glover explained to KSL NewsRadio that checking in with guides, elected and public officials, and outfitters who are familiar with the area is a step that visitors should take. Though making the trip to Buckskin is not without risk, you don't have to remove the destination from your bucket list. With the proper preparations, traversing the stunning canyons at Buckskin Gulch can make for an incredible and unforgettable adventure.