Base out of Kanab, Utah, to enjoy magical landscapes, fantastic food and local charm on the doorstep of Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon national parks. Here are four reasons to stay.
Some of the world’s most magical landscapes are just a quick drive from downtown Kanab. While it’s worth applying for the permit lottery (www.recreation.gov/permits/4251909) for the famous, candy-striped rock formation known as the Wave, don’t get your hopes up. Instead, head to White Pocket, an equally beautiful formation made up of deep red rock splashed with contrasting white. You won’t need a permit to explore White Pocket, but you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Read more about The Wave vs. White Pocket.
To feel like a kid again, bring the family to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, where a gorgeous field of pink sand dunes offer opportunities for hiking, riding ATVs and sand-sledding. You can rent sand sleds and sand boards at the state park office.
“It’s like a giant sandbox,” says Camille Johnson Taylor of Kane County Office of Tourism. “It brings out the kid in all of us.”
Southwestern Utah is home to Buckskin Slot Canyon, one of the longest continuous slot canyons in the world, as well. Of course, you’ll also find easy access to nearby national parks, monuments and recreation areas. Zion is just over 30 minutes away, Lake Powell is just over an hour drive, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim are just under 1.5 hours and Grand Staircase-Escalante and Vermillion Cliffs national monuments are right on Kanab’s doorstep.
For small-town Utah, Kanab has a truly incredible culinary scene. You’d be missing out if you didn’t start your day at Kanab Creek Bakery for coffee, pastries and other delicious European-style breakfast and lunch dishes featuring local ingredients. Another Kanab favorite is Sego, where Chef Shon Foster cooks up an upscale and eclectic small plates menu. Think foraged mushrooms with butter and sage, duck lo mein and elote fritters, all sharing the same menu.
“Something about a great meal here just resonates more in the soul,” says Johnson Taylor. “Everything tastes better after a day spent in the fresh air with incredible scenery.”
Explore Like a Kanab Local
There are near infinite places to explore in this corner of the world and trying to plan your own excursions can be daunting. Instead, book everything from slot canyoneering to horseback riding to hiking with a local guide. With a guide, you won’t have to worry if your vehicle will make it down a sandy four-wheel-drive road, if you have the proper gear, or if you know how to navigate often-confusing desert terrain. Not only is exploring with a guide often safer and less of a planning headache, but you’ll get to see parts of Utah you wouldn’t have stumbled upon on your own.
Local guides can share everything from the history of the area to the botany and geology while they take you out for the day. Check out East Zion Experiences for canyoneering and slot canyon tours, Kanab Tour Company for ATV and hiking tours and Roam Outdoor Adventure for a wide range of tours including the area’s only Via Ferrata. You can also combine your Roam tour with a glamping stay at Cave Lakes Canyon Ranch.
Don’t forget, most guides heavily depend on tips. Be sure to factor in at least a 20% cash tip for a job well done for each of your guides.
Kanab’s Small Town Charm
While Kanab is a great place to visit, it’s also full of wonderful locals who call the town home. Take the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest no-kill shelter in the country. This large sanctuary nestled among red rocks houses up to 1,600 dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, pigs and more. Take a tour to see their work or volunteer for the day. You might just end up bringing home your new best friend. If you have your pet with you, be sure to stay at Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile Hotel in Kanab. It’s a super pet-friendly experience with modern built-in cubbies for pet sleeping, dog-washing stations and a gorgeous, light-filled gift shop where complimentary breakfast and coffee are served. Your stay helps support the sanctuary.
Kanab is the biggest town in the county, but this area of southwestern Utah is full of other charming small towns to explore. Stay at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch in the small hamlet of Mt. Carmel, right on the doorstep to Zion National Park. You’ll find glamping along with cabins and RV sites. Or head to Big Water which is Lake Powell’s quieter gateway town. For a mountain escape, Duck Creek Village is situated amongst the pines with access to plentiful ATV trails.
Learn more at Kane County, Utah – Visitor Information Center in downtown Kanab or go to VisitSouthernUtah.com.