Bluejohn Canyon is a slot canyon situated in the eastern part of Wayne County, Utah, near the southern edge of the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park.

Despite its proximity to Canyonlands, Bluejohn Canyon is not a part of the park. It is located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

red walls of slot canyon
Slot canyon in Bluejohn Canyon

This canyon is within the secluded Robbers Roost area.

“Blue John” Namesake

Bluejohn Canyon is likely named after John Griffith, a 19th-century outlaw known as “Blue John” due to his distinctive blue and brown eyes.

Griffith, who reportedly used the area to hide stolen horses, was recognized both for his unique physical trait and his criminal activities.

curvy red walls of slot canyon in utah
Red sandstone slot canyon in Bluejohn Canyon
slot canyon in Bluejohn Canyon
Sandstone walls of slot canyon

Aron Ralston

In 2003, Bluejohn Canyon was thrust into the international spotlight due to an incident involving Aron Ralston.

While exploring a slot canyon in Bluejohn Canyon, Ralston was trapped by a dislodged boulder. He was forced to amputate his own right forearm to survive.

Man walking in Bluejohn Canyon
Open area in canyon
Red wall of slot canyon in Bluejohn Canyon
Winding path in Bluejohn Canyon

Ralston’s remarkable survival story was chronicled in his autobiography, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” and later portrayed in the 2010 film “127 Hours.”

We went into the Ralston slot canyon, but it was filled with about a foot of water when we were there in October. We didn’t go to the exact boulder where Ralston was stuck, but encountered other similar ones, such as the one below.

Rock or boulder wedged near Aron Ralston slot canyon
Rock wedged in area near Aron Ralston’s famous slot canyon

Geology of Bluejohn Canyon

Bluejohn Canyon is famous for its narrow, winding paths and sandstone formations, making it a classic example of a slot canyon, which is much deeper than it is wide.

red sandstone walls in slot canyon
Dirt between slot canyon walls

Slot Canyon Formation

These slot canyons are formed mainly through water erosion.

It starts with small cracks in the flat surfaces of plateaus.

red walls shaped by water
Cracks in walls that form slot canyons

Over time, as water rushes into these cracks during rain, especially during sudden and heavy rainstorms called flash floods, the cracks begin to deepen into canyons.

The force of the water, carrying dirt and small rocks, sculpts the sandstone as it flows. Tree logs often get wedged in between the walls of slot canyons.

log stuck between walls of slot canyon
Log wedged between two walls of slot canyon

Since the water doesn’t flow straight, it twists and turns, gradually carving out the rock into the tight, curving paths we see today.

rocks on ground in slot canyon
Wavy paths in slot canyon in Bluejohn Canyon

Sandstone, which is quite soft and common in Utah, is especially easy for water to shape.

red sandstone cliff walls in utah
Red sandstone walls of canyon

This process creates the deep, narrow slot canyons that are so striking in this region.

Antelope Canyon Similarity

Some of the slot canyons we went through resemble the popular Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona.

walls similar to antelope canyon
Colors similar to Antelope Canyon
light coming through slot canyon walls
Light shining through slot canyon walls
Bluejohn Canyon walls
Path through slot canyon

Access to Bluejohn Canyon

Accessing the canyon can be challenging as it involves remote, rough roads. It requires good road navigational skills.

Desert above Bluejohn Canyon
Area above the canyon

If it has rained recently, the dirt roads may turn to deep mud, and become impassable. Be sure to plan ahead.

The video below shows us driving in the Robbers Roost Area where Bluejohn Canyon is located. The video shows the road conditions, so you’ll know what to expect.

YouTube video


No permits are required to enter Bluejohn Canyon as of the latest information.

Navigation in Bluejohn Canyon

It can be very easy to get lost in this area. We went with friends who had been here many times, but we still needed the help of maps to find our way.

bluejohn Canyon paths
Rocks and walls in undefined paths

Be sure to have downloaded maps that will work without cell service. Also be sure to bring printed backup maps in case you run out of battery power.


The area can experience extreme weather conditions, with extremely hot summers and cold winters. It can get really cold at night.

Be sure to check the weather before your trip for temperatures and rain forecast.

water in slot canyon
Water pooled in slot canyon in Bluejohn Canyon

You do not want to get caught in a rainstorm as slot canyons can be deadly then. We got caught in a flash flood in a slot canyon near here at the Little Wild Horse Canyon, but thankfully, we were okay.

Shallow water with footprints in mud

We went through several slot canyons that still had water in them from rains a few days earlier, including a few slot canyons that we had to wade through.

We had been hiking in a nearby canyon in the Robbers Roost canyon area (where Bluejohn Canyon is) and got caught in a thunderstorm. The amount of water falling off the sandstone cliffs shows just how quickly things can turn. Luckily we were in an open area and not in a slot canyon, or this could have turned deadly. See the video below.

YouTube video

Dispersed Camping

Since Bluejohn Canyon is in a remote BLM location, camping is generally permitted, though it’s encouraged to use established sites or areas that have been previously disturbed to minimize impact on the land.

Desert area near Bluejohn Canyon
Desert area near Bluejohn Canyon

Most people camp up near the parking area on the rim of the canyon, but this is unsheltered and can be very windy.

If you’re camping in a vehicle like we did, you’ll be fine, but tent campers may want to find a more protected area.

tree in desert with dark skies
Desert tree

The BLM typically allows camping in the same spot for up to 14 days within a 28-day period. Check with the BLM for the most current regulations before you plan your trip.


There are no reliable water sources in or near Bluejohn Canyon.

Bring all the water you need for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. You will likely need a lot more than you think, as the area is incredibly dry.

red slot canyon walls of Bluejohn Canyon
Red sandstone slot canyon


Because of the dry conditions and high risk of wildfires in the area, there are often restrictions on campfires, particularly during the summer months.

It’s best to use portable stoves for cooking, and if fires are permitted, they should be kept small and entirely put out before you go to sleep.

slot canyon walls
Dark red slot canyon walls


The Bluejohn Canyon area is home to a range of desert wildlife that have adapted to the harsh, arid conditions.

burro in desert
Burro near Bluejohn Canyon

During our visit, we encountered a burro up on the mesa and observed a pack rat within one of the slot canyons.

Final Thoughts on Bluejohn Canyon

Exploring Bluejohn Canyon is really an amazing experience.

You will need to go with someone who knows what they are doing, as this is not similar to hiking in the woods. There are no established paths and it is extremely easy to get lost and disoriented, something you never want to do in a desert environment.

You will also need to do some scrambling up and down rocks and in slot canyons, so a reasonable level of physical fitness is required.