With so many sweet little towns in South Utah, it can be difficult to know which one to call home base as you explore the slot canyons, the national parks, and all the wonders in this region. Check out these things to do in Kanab, Utah plus its proximity to some of the best day trips in the state. You’re going to be packing your bags any minute.
Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch
Buckskin Gulch is the world’s longest slot canyon, at 13 miles. It’s also the tallest, with parts reaching as high as 500 feet. If you ask me, it’s also the prettiest – at least of the half-dozen or so that we explored.
If you go straight into Buckskin Gulch you need a permit. We took the Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch path to avoid this (per AllTrails). It’s a 1.4 mile hike to the Wire Pass slots, which are beautiful in their own right. The boys especially loved climbing down the ladder into the slots.
After you make your way through the Wire Pass section, you’ll T-bone Buckskin Gulch. Take a right and go for another mile or so through Buckskin Gulch before turning around and following the same path back to your car.
As with every hike in Utah – but especially this one – check the weather before heading out. A flash flood while you are hiking here would be deadly. We double and tripled checked (by calling the local BLM office) before heading out.
Just in town for one day? Of all the things to do in Kanab, this was my favorite. Make it happen!
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
My favorite adventure was Buckskin Gulch, but if you ask my kids they will tell you that their favorite of all the things to do in Kanab was sandboarding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The red-orange dunes here are made for kids (of every age!)
Grab a sandboard or sand sled (or one of each, like we did) from the Visitor’s Center for $25 each. You’ll drive down the road about a half-mile to the overlook, where you park and hike your way out to the park’s two largest sand dunes.
The dunes are mounded in such a way that you can start with a small, beginner-style hill and then work your way up to the tallest section. Our kids went down the mound again and again and again for hours. You just have to have your board back to the VC 30 minutes before they close (closing times vary by season.)
For perspective, we were visiting with Crazy Family Adventure who had just recently sandboarded in White Sands National Park in New Mexico. They said the park was more vast, but the sledding and boarding here was much more fun (and faster!)
Belly of the Dragon
The Belly of the Dragon is quite the adventurous, scenic, little hike. The tunnel goes under Highway 89 in Kanab and is used a as a drainage for the upper canyons that feed into the North Fork River. It’s short and sweet, and not to be missed (kids or no!)
It’s probably not worth a drive *just* for this…but it’s so close to Moqui Caverns (below) that you can visit both at once for a fun afternoon.
Moqui Caverns should not be confused with Moqui Cave museum just down the road. You’ll park about a quarter-mile south of the Moqui Cave Museum (there’s a pull out) and look UP 👀 ⬆️ to see three of the arched entrances to the caves.
It is only about a third-mile hike (maybe 1/4?) each way to get into them…but it’s mostly vertical. Luckily the rock is pretty sticky so it’s not too bad. We even met a few locals up there, proving this is a genuine hidden gem.
Despite the name, the caves are not Anasazi granaries, but man-made caves used to harvest sand for glass production in the 1970s Even still, they are worth exploring! Afterward, head to the food truck at the Moqui Cave museum for a fantastic lunch (More below!)
Chow Down like a Local
We found two great restaurants in the area. The first is a food truck right at the Moqui Cave museum, called The Cave Cafe. There are paninis, acai bowls and delicious smoothies. You can take it to go, or pull up a chair at one of the picnic tables like we did.
The other restaurant we enjoyed was in Kanab – Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen. It’s a vegetarian pizza joint, which may sound weird if you’re not vegetarian (we are not) but it was delish!
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Animal lover in the family? Be sure to stop at Best Friends where you can tour this shelter that is home to rescue dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, goats, and pigs. The residents come from shelters around the country that lack resources, finding love and attention until they are adopted.
Cottonwood Canyon Road to Kodachrome Basin State Park
The best way to get to Kodachrome Basin is via Cottonwood Canyon Road. 47 miles from Kanab to the park, this gravel road will take you through the Paria River Valley for fantastic landscape. (Hint: If you’re moving from Kanab to the Bryce Canyon area then this is a great way to do it.)
At the park you’ll find 67 spires, plus the grand and glorious color on the rock formations here prompted a National Geographic Society expedition to name the area Kodachrome, after the popular color film. There are several short trails here…just don’t be fooled about the Shakespeare Arch Trail. The arch collapsed in 2019.
Southern Utah Day Trips from Kanab
Bryce Canyon National Park
In Kanab, you’re about 1.5 hours from Bryce Canyon National Park making it a great home base for a day trip. There are better restaurants (and more of them), better shopping, and a less touristy “feel” in Kanab, which is why we recommend it.
In a day you can hike the Queen’s Garden Trail and the Navajo Loop, plus visit the overlooks at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point…with enough time to spare for a stop at the Visitor’s Center.
If you can spend a week on Lake Powell, then do it! But if you only have time for a day trip then make that happen, too. From Kanab, it will take you about 2.5 hours to drive to Page. I know — that’s not a short amount of time. But it’s worth it.
If the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon tours are open, then do that! If you visit while they are closed like we did (or you want to do something really unique) then rent a kayak from Lake Powell Paddleboards and kayak into Antelope Canyon, where you can park your boat and hike into the Antelope slots.
Once you’re back on land, grab dinner at Dara Thai Express (so good!) and take it to Horseshoe Bend to watch the sunset. (Two nights in Page? Make sure to watch the sun set at the Lone Rock Beach Campground, too.)
Zion National Park
Kanab to Zion National Park is about 1 hour and 10 minutes, making it another great day trip option. At least for 2021, be sure to get a shuttle ticket for the best hikes. We’re hoping to do this next week in order to hike The Narrows. I’ll be back here to give you the scoop then. In the meantime, we love this Utah Roadtrip post from Crazy Family Adventure with deets about Zion and more.
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
At about 1.5 hours from Kanab to Hole in the Rock Road, you can also take in some of the great places to visit in Escalante. Another 30 min down Hole in the Rock you can hike Peek-a-boo and Spooky Slots (So much fun! One of our favorites!), the Zebra Slots, Devil’s Garden hiking trails and more.
For the full scoop on the best of Escalante, click thru to this post from our friends who have traveled in this area multiple times.
Grand Canyon (North Rim)
Want to visit the Grand Canyon, with all the views and far fewer people? The North Rim is where to be, and it’s about 1.5 hours from Kanab. We didn’t visit this time…but we’ll be back!
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