With three of the most popular United States national parks within an easy drive, a massive national monument at its doorstep, and at least a half dozen state parks clustered nearby, Kanab, Utah, has almost an embarrassment of natural riches.
Drive a half hour to an hour and a half from Kanab, and you could be exploring the massive red sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park, gazing into the vast abyss of the Grand Canyon, or being awed by the colorful hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park.
And that’s not even to mention the fun restaurants and charming inns that call Kanab home.
In short, with a population of less than 5,000 people, Kanab punches well above its weight when it comes to notable attractions. And that makes the town a perfect base for exploring the wonderland that is southwestern Utah.
The bustling little canyon town is perfect for a long weekend visit to take in a few of the nearby attractions, or a stay of a week or two to fully explore the region.
Here are some of the best things to do, places to dine, and accommodation choices in Kanab.
Best Things To Do In Kanab
The dilemma in Kanab won’t be finding things to do, but rather prioritizing which of the many activities to check out. Because of its great location, Kanab offers everything from hiking in slot canyons to taking scenic drives to touring a sprawling natural animal sanctuary. Here are some of Kanab’s best experiences.
In a region known for its slot canyons, Buckskin Gulch manages to stand out. Meandering through sheer walls of sandstone rock for nearly 15 miles along the Utah-Arizona border, Buckskin Gulch is the longest slot canyon in the Southwestern U.S. and could well be the longest and deepest in the world, according to the Utah tourism website.
Although some people choose to hike the entire length (note that a permit is needed for overnight trips), a day hike is sufficient to experience the towering walls, the softly glowing light, and the utter silence of the canyon. The hike is mostly level but is rated as moderate to strenuous for its length and rocky obstacles.
The easiest way to access Buckskin Gulch is to head to the Wire Pass Trailhead, where a hike of a little more than a mile along the Coyote Wash will get you to the start of the narrow slot canyon. The drive from Kanab to the Wire Pass Trailhead takes about an hour and concludes with an 8-mile drive over a rough but passable road.
Pro Tip: Slot canyons are extremely prone to flash flooding, and hikers should never venture into Buckskin Gulch when rain is in the forecast.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
There, shifting red sands are straddled by Navajo sandstone cliffs. The rolling waves of red are open to walkers and hikers, although there are few established trails. Much of the park’s territory is also open to ATVs, and you’re likely to see the all-terrain vehicles zipping up and down the dunes.
Kodachrome Basin State Park
At just under 2 hours away from Kanab to the northeast, the photogenic Kodachrome Basin State Park is definitely worth a day trip or overnight stay if you have the time.
Winding through the park’s 67 multicolored monolithic stone spires is a network of hiking trails of various levels of difficulty, as well as opportunities for horseback riding and three scenic campgrounds.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
At nearly a million acres, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument features three distinctive units, each with its own unique characteristics. Kanab sits near the southwestern border of the monument, and many of the popular features are within a drive of an hour or two.
It would be virtually impossible to explore the entire national monument on a single visit, but there are a few standout spots to consider, including the Calf Creek Recreation Area with its beautiful desert waterfall, the Toadstool Trail with its Flintstone-like rock formations, and Devil’s Garden along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
Zion National Park
Regularly ranking in the top five most-visited national parks in the U.S., Zion National Park is a must-see in southern Utah.
The park’s signature red sandstone cliffs bracket the flow of the Virgin River, which cuts a green, leafy swath through the Zion Canyon. Adventurers from around the world regularly travel to Zion for two of the park’s most iconic hikes, Angels Landing and The Narrows.
Note that some Zion trails have been temporarily closed or restricted because of a toxic bloom in the Virgin River, so be sure to check ahead for availability.
Bryce Canyon National Park
With the largest concentration of hoodoos on Earth, Bryce Canyon National Park can feel like a veritable forest of the narrow rock columns. They seem to be everywhere in the spectacular park located about an hour and a half northeast of Kanab.
And visitors have plenty of places to soak up the views, including Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. For those who want to venture a little deeper, there is a network of more than a dozen hiking trails, rated from easy to strenuous.
The swirling multicolored rock formation known as The Wave is among the most sought-after and toughest-to-access spots in the region because of the limited number of permits issued. Technically, The Wave is in Arizona, but walk-in permits are administered through the Grand Staircase-Escalante Visitor Center in Kanab. Permits for four months ahead are also available online.
If you’re lucky enough to score a permit, be prepared for a mind-blowingly beautiful adventure on The Wave’s 2.6-mile trail.
North Rim Of The Grand Canyon
At an hour and a half southeast of Kanab, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is well within day-trip range. And if you are in the area to take in the big national parks, the North Rim is a not-to-be-missed experience.
Most people familiar with both the South Rim and North Rim of the Grand Canyon agree that while the South Rim is certainly spectacular, the North Rim has the distinction of being both gorgeous and slightly under the radar. The North Rim is visited by just 10 percent of Grand Canyon visitors, and you typically won’t find throngs of tourists there.
And when it comes to views and trails, the North Rim more than holds its own. Be sure to check out the North Rim Scenic Drive and the trail out to Bright Angel Point.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Animal lovers should not miss Kanab’s Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a 3,700-acre haven located just outside town in the scenic red rock of Angel Canyon. The sanctuary is home to some 1,600 homeless dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, pigs, goats, mules, sheep, burros, and other animals. Visitors are welcome, and the sanctuary offers a number of tours.
Best Places To Eat In Kanab
Kanab offers a wide variety of dining options, ranging from fast-food chains to fun midtown pubs to high-end sit-down restaurants. Here are a few of the best.
Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen
Located right in the center of town at the charming Flagstone Boutique Inn & Suites, Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen offers a varied vegetarian menu of wood-fired pizzas, veggie burgers, and salads. Among the outstanding pizza choices is the delicious Angels Landing, topped with house-made olive tapenade, spinach, artichokes, mozzarella, and balsamic. Peekaboo also features several non-meat burger options.
Kanab Creek Bakery
Croissants, baguettes, frittatas, and quiches are just a few of the delectable offerings at the Kanab Creek Bakery, which boasts an atmosphere reminiscent of a European cafe and patisserie right in the middle of Utah’s red rock country. The bakery serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch, as well as grab-and-go choices throughout the afternoon.
Billed as a melting pot of American cuisine, the upscale Sego Restaurant features shareable plates full of everything from charcuterie to duck lo mein to bone-in prime rib. For an appetizer bursting with flavor, try the elote fritter, rich with fire-roasted corn and topped with chipotle aioli, queso cotija, and cilantro. And for an entree bowl with a twist, the Sego noodles dish with curry stir-fry Hawaiian red crab, veggies, cabbage, and rice noodles packs a savory punch.
Best Places To Stay In Kanab
A number of renovated historic motels exist in Kanab, offering stylish rooms and suites. Because the hotel district is largely located along Kanab’s main street, Highway 89, you will be in the middle of the action, but you should also expect a bit of traffic noise. Here are some of the best lodging options.
Flagstone Boutique Inn & Suites
Originally built in 1940, the Flagstone Boutique Inn & Suites recently underwent a full renovation, which converted the historic motel into a stylish motor lodge with 21 suites, many of which are equipped with full kitchens. The excellent Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen is conveniently located on-site.
Canyons Lodge Hotel
With a western log-cabin motif and cool design features, the Canyons Lodge Hotel makes a perfect spot for a long-term Kanab stay. Be sure to check out the lodge’s grassy outdoor areas and its heated outdoor pool.
What To Know Before You Go
At about 5,000 feet elevation, Kanab enjoys a relatively mild climate year-round, with average highs of about 90 degrees in the summer and highs in the low 50s in the winter. The best times to visit are October, when average highs are in the low 70s, and April and May, when average high temperatures hover between 68 and 78 degrees.