Sunrise in Kanab Utah
Utah

A Thorough Guide to Adventure in Kanab Utah

Kanab Utah is a small town of about 5000 people located along the Utah-Arizona border. Its location makes it ideal for exploring some of the best sites that Southern Utah and Northern Arizona have to offer.  In fact, for the adventure lover, it has to be one of the best-positioned towns in the United States. Within 1.5 hours in every direction you can find three National Parks, two National Monuments, spectacular slot canyons, sand dunes, and several of the most-photographed geologic features in the United States. Let me show you how awesome Kanab Utah is.

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So Many Things to Do Near Kanab Utah

I visited Kanab Utah for the first time a few months ago, and was blown away with the sheer number of things to do.  We spent 3 full days in Kanab.  This was not nearly enough.  You could easily spend a week in Kanab and still not see everything the area has to offer.  Here are some of the top sights to see while visiting the Kanab area….and this list is not exhaustive.  Some of these I saw during our trip to Kanab, some during other nearby trips, and some will have to wait until next time.

Trip map created using Wanderlog, a travel planner on iOS and Android

National Parks

Zion National Park

The east entrance to Zion National Park is only 30 minutes north of Kanab.  Zion is Utah’s most popular National Park, AllTrails.com rates it as the best National Park in the US, and it’s also the third most visited National Park in the country.

In a word, Zion is simply Majestic.  It features towering sandstone walls, four different scenic drives, and famous hikes like Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. I have been to Zion many times, so we didn’t visit during our trip to Kanab.  But spending at least a full day in Zion is a must for first-time Kanab visitors, especially since it’s so close. 

In fact, one of my personal favorite trails in Zion – the Canyon Overlook trail – is the first trail you come across when entering from the Kanab-side entrance.  You can click here to read more about the Canyon Overlook Trail. 

And you can click here to read my more detailed accounting of all that Zion National Park has to offer. 

Court of the Patriarchs at Zion National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is located 1.5 hours south of Kanab Utah.  We did take a day trip to the North Rim during our Kanab stay.  The 80 mile drive itself is beautiful. You drive southeast through high desert with views of the vermillion-colored cliffs of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the north, before turning south and climbing up through high mountain valleys surrounded by pine forests.  

The North Rim offers great views into the Grand Canyon from multiple viewpoints and several hiking trails too. We visited in October and we were greeted with unexpected snow. This made for an interesting day at the Park. You can click here to read more about that Snowy Visit to the North Rim.  

Snow covers the North Rim Grand Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park

Utah’s second most-visited National Park – Bryce Canyon NP – is located about 1.5 hours north of Kanab.  And as with the drive to the North Rim, the 76 mile route to Bryce is beautiful and worthy of the trip alone.  Driving north along highway 89, you’ll pass through high desert with views of the Grand Staircase to the east and the sandstone peaks of Zion National Park to the west.  Then you’ll drive through a long canyon of pines and eroded cliffs, before entering the beautiful Sevier River Valley near Hatch.  You’ll then turn onto Scenic Byway 12 and pass through the hoodoos of Red Canyon before reaching Bryce. 

I’ve said before on this Blog that I consider the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater to be Utah’s most spectacular site and it is a must-visit.  Plus, in addition to all the scenic views from the edge of the Amphitheater, Bryce features some great hiking, including the Queens/Navajo Combo hike down through all the hoodoos.  Click here for my more detailed accounting of Bryce Canyon National Park.

The Bryce Canyon Amphitheater from Inspiration Point

Slot Canyons

Southern Utah has approximately 1000 slot canyons – more than anywhere else in the world.  Many can be found in Northern Arizona as well.  Kanab is the perfect base for exploring many of these.  And who does’t love a slot canyon? The sheer sandstone walls, the narrow passageways, the natural light peaking through….

Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon near Kanab Utah

Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon

Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon is located just 8 miles north of Kanab.  It’s a popular local site and has its own parking lot directly off the side of Highway 89. But the actual canyon is not easily accessed.  The road to the canyon’s mouth requires a high clearance 4X4.  Several local tour companies provide transportation and guided hikes through the canyon.  

Or, you can do as we did, and drive RZR UTVs to the canyon. We spent an afternoon with Kanab Tour Company driving RZRs along nearby trails, finishing with a hike through the canyon.  Click here to read more about exploring Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon with Kanab Tour Company.

Driving UTVs through the desert near Kanab Utah

Orderville Slot Canyons

We also spent a day during our Kanab trip canyoneering through a slot canyon.  22 miles north of Kanab, in the town of Orderville, East Zion Experiences will take you on the ultimate slot canyon adventure.  They offer tours through various slot canyons located just east of town.  These tours require a combination of hiking, rappelling, sliding, and jumping….and are great fun!  Click here for my account of our day exploring Ladder Slot Canyon with East Zion Experiences.  

Canyoneering with East Zion Experiences near Orderville Utah

Wire Pass Canyon and Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the world (13 miles long). Wire Pass Canyon is a smaller slot canyon and offers the easiest access to  Buckskin Gulch.   These are popular slot canyon hikes because they don’t require canyoneering equipment and the dirt access road to the Wire Pass parking area – located 1 hour from Kanab –  doesn’t necessarily require a 4×4.  I haven’t hiked either yet, but here’s a nice overview of Wire Pass from another blogger. 

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is certainly the most photographed slot canyon in the world.  It’s located just south of Page Arizona, 80 miles from Kanab.  Antelope Canyon sits on Navajo land and a guided tour is required.  Tours vary by length and by location within the canyon.  Click here for more details

Other Geologic Wonders

The Wave

Whereas Antelope Canyon is the most photographed slot canyon in the world, the Wave is probably the world’s most photographed sandstone formation. Striped sandstone chutes and undulations make for a visual feast.  The hike to the Wave is 6.8 miles round trip and starts at the Wire Pass canyon parking area.  But, The Wave became so popular over the years that conservation became a big concern.  The BLM now limits the number of people that are able to visit each day to 64 total.  Hiking permits are obtained through a lottery system – and can be very difficult to obtain.  

I thought about trying for a permit during our visit to Kanab,  My Instagram was aching for pictures from The Wave.  48 daily permits are granted through an online lottery months in advance. But, for the remaining 12, the BLM office in Kanab holds a lottery every Monday-Friday at 9am.  If you are lucky enough to win the daily lottery, then you can hike the Wave on the following day.   But, depending on the time of year, a hundred people or more can show up to the daily lottery. Since our time in Kanab was short, and since I wanted to book some sure-thing (but non-refundable) adventures too, I decided to save The Wave for another time.   

You can click here to learn more about the lottery process.  Rumor has it that the lottery process will be changing to online-only at some point this year.

Horseshoe Bend

One more iconic southwest US landmark is within reasonable driving distance from Kanab – Horseshoe Bend.  This is where the Colorado River makes a tight-horseshoe shaped bend underneath 1000 foot high cliffs.  Like Antelope Canyon, it’s located just south of Page Arizona, and takes just 75 minutes to reach from Kanab.  Once there, it’s fairly easy to access the viewpoint along a flat 1.5 mile round trip walking path. 

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, located 30 minutes west of Kanab, is comprised of several thousand acres of pink sand dunes.  This pink-hued sand comes from the surrounding sandstone cliffs.  It’s a favorite recreation area for local ATV enthusiasts, but tourists can enjoy the area as well.  Several local companies offer ATV tours out across the dunes, and sand sledding is also a popular activity at the Park.  You can rent sleds in Kanab from various outfitters or rent them at the Park (first come, first serve).

I tried to schedule an ATV tour with Coral Pink ATV Tours but our trip was last-minute and they were already completely booked.  We then never found the time to make it out to see the dunes this trip. Next time….  

Tour Companies in Kanab Utah

You can see that Kanab offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor recreation. Consequently, you’ll find several tour companies in the Kanab area to help you have a great time. We loved our experiences with East Zion Experiences and Kanab Tour Company. I’m sad I missed out exploring the dunes with Coral Pink ATV Tours. Other highly-rated tour companies in Kanab include ROAM Outdoor Adventure Company and Dreamland Safari Tours. You can also find plenty of Kanab area adventures online with Viator

Lodging in Kanab Utah

Main Street Kanab Utah

Kanab’s economy is based on tourism.  Consequently, there are lots of lodging options. In fact, it seems that every other business along the main thoroughfare is a motel. Vacation rentals – my personal preference – are also popular in the area.  But, as I mentioned already, our trip was last-minute, and so my options were limited. We ended up staying at this new La Quinta, and it turned out to be pretty nice.  Its high ranking on Booking.com was deserved.  Booking.com is one of my favorite resources for finding lodging.  This map will give you a great idea of what’s available in Kanab. 



Booking.com

Dining in Kanab Utah

Finding good food is an important part of my travels.  And we found some great food in Kanab. In fact, I had my best meal of 2021 in Kanab (more on that below).  But, it seemed that there weren’t enough restaurants in Kanab to accommodate the number of tourists that visit. All the restaurants in town were packed! So my recommendation is to plan ahead and get a reservation if available, or eat at slightly off-peak hours. 

Here’s where we ate some of our best meals in Kanab:

Havana Cabana

I love Cuban food and was happy to find a great Cuban restaurant in Kanab. Full disclosure – my cousin and his wife own Havana Cabana, and I have eaten at a food truck they previously owned in St George.  At the time, I declared their beans the most flavorful I’ve ever eaten.  And I have eaten lots of rice and beans over the years! His wife is Cuban and knows what she is doing.  I could have eaten their Cuban comfort food every day, but I needed to try some of the other local cuisine. 

A Plate of Cuban Food at Havana Cabana in Kanab Utah
Slow roasted chicken, rice & beans, tostones, and maduros

Rockin V Cafe

I loved the colorful decor of Rockin V even though we didn’t get the chance to eat inside.  Due to COVID, lunch was only available for takeout and so we ate outside at their sidewalk tables.  Rockin V has quite the eclectic menu and an art gallery upstairs.  The portobello mushroom sandwich with avocado, bacon, and heirloom tomato was delicious.  Later that day, our ATV tour guide told us that the Rockin V is his personal favorite place in Kanab to get a great steak. 

Interior of Rocking V Cafe in Kanab Utah

Wild Thyme Cafe

Wild Thyme Cafe is the second highest rated restaurant in Kanab on Tripadvisor.  The food was good and they have an organic garden on site. But it was the service that especially stood out here.

Grilled Idaho Trout at Wild Thyme Cafe in Kanab Utah
Fire grilled Idaho trout served with cajun fried rice, cucumber salsa and lemon dill sauce

Sego

I knew that Sego would be good.  It’s #1 on Tripadvisor and I found plenty of glowing reviews elsewhere online.  What I didn’t expect was my best meal of 2021. But, Sego and chef Shon Foster delivered just that.  The flavors in every dish were balanced and bold. I absolutely loved every bite of this unforgettable meal.  My stomach was ready to burst by the time we were finished, but I couldn’t bear to leave anything behind on any plate.  Be sure to make a reservation well in advance for this fantastic restaurant. (And click here to see all my favorite food and travel of 2021).

Artichoke Mushroom Toast at Sego in Kanab Utah
Artichoke and Foraged Mushroom Toast with Goat Cheese, Agave, Pepitas, and Fresh Herbs
Beet and Arugula Salad at Sego
Local Beets with Pistachio, Arugula, Smoked Feta, and Black Pepper Oil
The fantastic scallop dish at Sego restaurant in Kanab Utah
Diver Scallops with Cauliflower-Popcorn Puree, Butter, Foraged Mushrooms, Smoked Pecorino. This was my Favorite Dish of 2021. Spectacular!
Swordfish in Mole Sauce at Kanab's Sego restaurant
Seared Swordfish with Mole Encacahaute, Spanish Saffron Rice, Chorizo Oil, and Sambal
Banana Bread Pudding for Dessert at Sego
Banana Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel and Praline Pecans

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there is so much to do (and eat!) in Kanab Utah.  And I didn’t even cover Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Lake Powell, Coyotte Buttes, Moqui Cave, Kanab Sand Caves, or the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.  Remember when I said you needed at least a week in Kanab?  Better make that two!

If you would like to read more of my Thorough Guides from around the world, then check out:

A Thorough Guide to Atenas Costa Rica

A Thorough Guide to Traveling in Malta

A Thorough Guide to Frederiksted, St Croix, USVI

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