There are many alternatives to the absurdly touristy Antelope Canyon; you just have to know where to look. One of our favorite, easy-to-access slot canyons in the American Southwest is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in Cochiti, New Mexico. It’s 40 miles from Santa Fe and phenomenally beautiful.
Hikers have a choice of two trails: the Cave Trail or the Canyon Trail. We chose the latter, which is longer and more challenging (three miles roundtrip with a 650-foot rise in elevation). All told, we encountered maybe a dozen visitors during our three-hour weekday outing. We wound through slot canyons and climbed ever higher toward a panoramic view of the towering hoodoos and precariously balanced boulder caps. Parts of the trail are steep and narrow and require scrambling; travelers with a fear of heights should consider walking the floor of the canyon and then turning back before the trail begins to rise. Either way, the gorge is a knockout and just $5 per vehicle to visit—or free if you have an America the Beautiful park pass. (Compare that with $28 per person at Antelope.)
Though we cannot vouch for it personally, we’ve heard good things about Water Holes Canyon in Page, Arizona. It’s billed as a “secret” by various Hummer tours, which tells you it’s no secret, but Water Holes still draws fewer visitors than Antelope. The sandstone narrows are located on Navajo land and require a guide to enter.
Elsewhere in AZ, there’s Buckskin Gulch in Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. It’s the longest slot canyon in the world and best tackled by serious hikers. (Many combine it with a visit to The Wave/Coyote Buttes, which requires advance permitting.) In Utah, there’s Kanarra Creek and Sand Wash in Zion National Park; Burro Wash, Sulphur Creek, and Sheets Gulch in Capitol Reef National Park; Davis Gulch, Egypt 3, Harris Wash, Llewellyn Gulch, Neon Canyon, and Little Death Hollow in Escalante; and Baptist Draw/Upper Chute Canyon and Moonshine Wash in the San Rafael Swell. As with any slots, flash flooding is a legit danger and some rappelling may be required!
Cochiti Pueblo, Jemez Springs, NM; 505-331-6259.