Kanab is a small southern Utah town located just across the border from Arizona. The town is surrounded by lots of natural beauty, and the entire area is an adventure wonderland. We had an unexpected long weekend pop up in mid-October and I jumped at the chance to spend it in Kanab. It was one of the last areas we hadn’t yet visited during our many southern Utah road trips during the pandemic. While tripping Kanab, I discovered a plethora of tours and activities to choose from. One adventure I booked was a Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon ATV Tour with the Kanab Tour Company. We spent an afternoon driving Polaris RZR Side-by-Sides across remote sandy trails to spectacular viewpoints, culminating in a hike through one of the area’s favorite slot canyons…Peek-A-Boo.
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So Many Slot Canyons, Not Enough Names
A slot canyon is a long narrow passageway eroded through sandstone with tall, sheer rock walls often reaching 100 feet or higher. Utah has the highest concentration of slot canyons in the world with an estimated 1000 of them in the southern part of the state. Kanab is a great base for exploring several of the most popular.
I guess when it comes to naming 1000 slot canyons, creativity can become an issue. There are two Peek-A-Boo slot canyons in Utah. One is located in the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument, and the other is 8 miles north of Kanab on BLM land. Adding to the confusion, the Kanab Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon is also known by its original name Red Canyon. This not to be confused with Utah’s other Red Canyon located near Bryce Canyon National Park. Canyon confusion!
(I’ve also written about the other Red Canyon on this blog)
We were later told that no one knows exactly why the Canyon’s name was changed from Red to Peek-A-Boo. But some locals believe it’s named for a tiny “window” in the canyon’s wall that allows for photos like this….
Kanab Tour Company
Most of the popular slot canyons near Kanab are not easy to access. Many are at the end of dirt roads that absolutely require high clearance 4×4 vehicles, as is the case with Peek-A-Boo slot canyon. I looked into renting a high-clearance 4×4 while in Kanab, so we could see many of the area’s off-road sites. We had done something similar at Capitol Reef National Park last year, spending a day exploring the remote Cathedral Valley Loop in a rented Jeep. However, because it was a last minute trip (during Utah’s busy Fall Break weekend no less) rentals were booked.
So I sought out alternative ways to explore slot canyons, ultimately discovering Kanab Tour Company and their Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon ATV Tour. We could drive one of their Polaris RZR UTVs along the rough access road, while also having fun exploring the surrounding trails. Plus we could drive the RZR ourselves. Many other tour companies located in Kanab insist on doing the driving for you. I definitely wanted to drive, and thinking that this sounded like a great afternoon, signed us up.
The Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon Tour starts at the Kanab Tour Company office in Kanab. Here we were fitted with helmets and protective eyewear, signed the usual waivers, and watched a quick video explaining a little bit about the day ahead. We then drove the 8 miles in our own car to the Peek-A-Boo trailhead parking area.
Upon arrival at the dirt parking area, we found our group of 4 RZRs already lined up, and met Jason – our guide for the afternoon.
I’ve never driven a RZR Side-by-Side (or any other kind of ATV/UTV) before. Jason gave us a quick lesson in everything we needed to know. It seemed pretty straight-forward. Standard steering wheel, no clutch, high and low gear. Jason would give us hand-signals along the way directing us which gear to choose. He did mention that if any of us rolled, we would likely be protected by the roll bars, but that rolling tended to be a buzzkill for the rest of the afternoon. He encouraged us to avoid turning sharply at high speed to prevent being buzzkills.
And we were off…
A View from the Knoll
Since the drive to Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon is only a few miles from the parking area, Jason took us in the opposite direction for an hour of off-road adventures first. I was immediately surprised at how rutted, sandy, and uneven the road was, and at how fun it was to drive through it all – at speeds up to 35 mph. Despite the shocks and suspensions on the RZR, it was still really bumpy, and at times even bone-rattling. But it was undeniably fun. And I never felt, at any time, that we were at risk of rolling.
Our first destination was Red Knoll – an isolated hill in the area. We took the RZRs along a rocky road to the top. Here we were greeted with an amazing 360 degree view. We could see Zion National Park to the north, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park to the west, and the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument to the east. We could even spot the southern edge Bryce Canyon National Park in the distance
Hiking Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon
After descending from Red Knoll, we followed Jason across more sandy, rutted trails to Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon. We parked our RZRs in the ravine near the canyon’s mouth and headed in for the 0.7 mile round trip hike.
The hike through Peek-A-Boo is relatively flat and sandy. Large rocks do protrude from the pathway at times, and a small ladder is set along the way to help hikers get past one particular elevated break in the mostly flat path. The hike ends in a rock alleyway with a high end wall too difficult to climb.
The canyon features many opportunities for those classic slot canyon photos of beautiful low-lit spaces between narrow irregular sandstone walls….
A 0.7 mile hike through a slot canyon takes a lot longer than the average 0.7 mile hike. It requires time to take in all the beauty….. and stop for multiple photos. Plus the canyon was fairly crowded. Several tour groups had made their way to the canyon along with private vehicles too. So, many extra stops were required to let others pass, or wait for the perfect photo spot to clear out.
After 45 minutes or so in the canyon, we hopped back on the RZRs and headed back the few remaining miles to the parking lot.
Final Thoughts and Tips
We arrived at the Kanab Tour Company office at 12:30 and finished our tour just before 4pm. The cost for this full afternoon activity varies according to the size of UTV required by your group. Our 2-seater cost $269 plus tax.
Our guide Jason grew up in Kanab, riding all of these trails and exploring all the canyons. His insight was a great addition to the afternoon.
While hiking through a slot canyon, it’s easy to forget to watch your step as you gawk at the towering rock walls. A member of our group tripped over a rock and hit his head firmly against a sandstone wall (fortunately, he was OK).
Some visitors to Peek-A-Boo Canyon hike from the parking area. AllTrails.com lists the round trip distance at 8.7 miles.
It was unseasonably cool during our October visit with afternoon temperatures in the mid 50s. Layers are important at this time of year when exploring slot canyons anyway. The canyon itself is much cooler with those high walls blocking out most of the sun. And never enter a slot canyon when there are thunderstorms in the the area. Flash flooding is a life-threatening risk through slot canyons in rainy weather.
The following day, we went canyoneering through another area slot canyon called Ladder Canyon. This slot canyon’s floor wasn’t so flat, and required us to rappel (from 7 different heights), slide, and spider walk our way from the beginning to the end. Click here to read my post about canyoneering through Ladder Slot Canyon.
And here are some alternative options through Viator for seeing Peek-A-Boo canyon without needing to drive a UTV yourself.