Our main inspiration on our trip to Kanab, Utah was to experience The Wave in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. It’s a very famous example of the incredible landscape and geological structures found all over Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.
We stayed in Page, Arizona for five days around Valentine’s Day because the hotel that we picked had an expansive view of Lake Powell. There is never enough time to see everything in the American Southwest and there is always another canyon or vista to be found around the next corner.
To get to many of those places, you will need to have a 4×4 with good tires and high clearance. The reason is that the ground in most of the canyons and trails outside of the main road is like soft clay. In winter, when the ground is wet, cars can get stuck due to the greasy consistency of the mud.
We didn’t know that fact and we were unable to rent a proper vehicle, so we had to pick hiking trails that were accessible with a regular rental car. Our main destinations to visit on this trip that didn’t require a 4WD were:
- The Wave: Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a permit as it was very busy.
- Sand Cave: This was one of our favorite spots from the trip. It’s hard to find without help from a local though, located right next to Moqui Cave (seven minutes drive from Kanab downtown). It’s a small cave that is about 50 feet up the cliffs. This is the best spot for a photoshoot!
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park: A scenic area with pink sand.
- Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: Not just a home for 1,600+ animals, it’s also a scenic drive with a bunch of stops and spectacular views.
- Toadstool Hoodoos: An underrated place with these amazing dark rocks resting on pillars of sandstone that look like mushrooms!
From Kanab you can also take day trips to other famous places:
- Zion National Park: Often listed as one of the top 5 national parks.
- Bryce Canyon National Park: This was our second time in Bryce, we love it even more than Zion. We weren’t originally planning on visiting Bryce as it’s a little far (over an hour from Kanab), but it had snowed the night before and we wanted to see the canyon with snow. It was epic!
- Antelope Canyon: An absolute must-see slot canyon in Arizona bordering Lake Powell (an hour and a half drive away from Kanab).
- Horseshoe Bend: Probably the most recognizable location around the Grand Canyon (an hour and a half drive away from Kanab).
Why Kanab is such a Special Place
Kanab is a wonderous small town with a lot of history. The town itself is very accommodating to tourists. It’s a great place to stay that gives you access to tons of hikes, canyons, national and state parks, and desert off-roading.
The town of Kanab has a population under 5,000 people, so it’s very small. It’s geared toward tourism and hospitality for everyone that passes through while they explore the canyons and deserts that surround the area. Kanab is the headquarters for the federal rangers that give out permits for hikes.
There are some surprisingly nice restaurants and shops with homemade goods that are so often fixtures in such small communities. There are many local guides in the area that will take you on 4×4 trips through the desert, they are also great people to ask for recommendations on where to go.
Our favorite attraction in town was the Moqui Cave: a museum built inside an ancient home of the natives. The selling point though is its proximity to the vast desert that surrounds it. Kanab is a perfect middle point between famous spots of Arizona and Utah, in case you want to see it all!
As mentioned before, The Wave is one of the main drawcards of Kanab. It’s a very unique and very fragile canyon that attracts all kinds of tourists to the area. You need to win the lottery to get a permit to hike here though.
You can enter the lottery online four months in advance or try your luck in Kanab the day before you go. The probability of winning the lottery is very low, so we decided to try it in person which was still a 1 in 40 chance. The harder it is to visit a place the more you want to go there, right?!
Favorite Places on our Kanab Trip
The place that really blew us away in Kanab was the Sand Caves, as they are unique. Once you find the location, the hike is about one mile out-and-back. If you are lucky enough to get caves to yourself, you can explore and take a bunch of beautiful shots. Also, you can hide there from the rain!
Our favorite place in the surrounding areas was Bryce Canyon National Park. We were lucky enough that it snowed while we were there, and this gave us a chance to see the contrast of the white snow with the red rock.
This was an unforgettable sight. It was special for us because we had visited Bryce Canyon about a year and a half earlier on our first planned trip together. It was great to return after so many new experiences.
Top 5 Adventures around Kanab, Utah
1. Go Kayaking into the Iconic Antelope Canyon
Kayaking to Antelope Canyon is a one-of-a-kind adventure. Rent kayaks at Antelope Point Marina. It takes 45 minutes to paddle to the mouth of the canyon. You get to paddle another 30 to 60 minutes through the canyon (depending on water level) with the cliffs reflected perfectly in the water.
This is quite a lot of paddling, but you can stop and rest as often as you would like. At the end, you can hike through the iconic Antelope Canyon. It’s a dead-end four miles in and you can turn back whenever you wish.
2. Hike The Wave (Pending a Successful Permit)
In Coyote Buttes North, this is an iconic hike and because of that it can be very difficult to get reservations. The red and white sandstone looks like a giant wave crashing in the middle of the desert. It’s a phenomenal photo opportunity and it’s even better because the permits limit overcrowding.
3. Do the Famous Angel’s Landing Hike in Zion
Located in Zion National Park, we need to include this because it’s a bucket list hike for many people – but the crowds tend to be large. We arrived just after sunrise and within an hour it was difficult to find a place to sit down.
The Angel’s Landing hike gives you a commanding view of the valley and the last mile is spent clutching chains on the side of the cliff with nothing but air below you. Just make sure you get there early to avoid the crowds!
4. Take the Queen’s Garden Trail to Sunset Point
This is a fantastic loop trail situated inside Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s about four miles of hiking through the canyon. Bryce is actually quite different from other canyons that surround it – instead of sheer cliffs of sandstone, they look more like melting mud due to the high clay content.
*If you are in the area while there is snow, this canyon will steal your heart.
5. Visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
This is a particularly great place to explore if you like off-roading in the sand. There are miles of dunes nestled in between the mountains. Even without an off-road vehicle, the pink sand dunes are beautiful and great for a walk. It can be easy to get lost so make sure you remember where you parked.
Notable Hidden Gems in the Area
We stumbled across beautiful spots that were barely mentioned online:
- Wahweap Overlook: Probably the most incredible spot for a sunset or sunrise in this particular area of Arizona without a hike. You can see over Lake Powell to the east and across the desert to the west.
- Alstrom Point: More absolutely spectacular views of Lake Powell.
- Red Canyon Slot and Peek-a-Boo Canyon: Two slot canyons. They are not as famous as Antelope Canyon but they are still very unique.
- The White Wave: You don’t need a lottery permit to see the White Wave but you do need a guide or a proper car to get there.
- Dinosaur Tracks: Awesome place to visit to see dinosaur footprints.
- Hidden Lake: An incredible lake that is formed inside a cave!
Where to Stay while Visiting Kanab
In the town of Kanab itself, there are a lot of different hotel options but not very many upscale ones. We stayed in Page, Arizona – about an hour away at Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas. This accommodation was decent, the staff were great and the views looking over the lake were just wonderful.
Shash Dine Eco Retreat has glass eco-houses, glamping and even replicas of native mud/log-houses (hoghaan). They also offer traditional experiences like cooking and fireside storytelling, which will add so much to your stay.
Best Memory from our Southwest Adventure
Our favorite memory from this trip was our experience at Bryce Canyon National Park. The day before was particularly bad because it was a rainy day, we lost the permit raffle for The Wave and it was Dasha’s birthday!
Later in the evening, we realized that Bryce is at a much higher altitude and the rain for us was beautiful snow in Bryce. The hike was beautiful beyond words and completely made up for the struggles of the day before.
Tips for your Visit to Kanab
The most important thing to keep in mind is the weather. In winter, hiking is easier with cooler weather, but it can get down below freezing at night and you will need warm clothes. Winter rains have a huge impact in Kanab.
The desert has a lot of clay, so rain will turn the ground into slick mud that will stick to your tires – even 4×4’s will have trouble because it clogs the tire treads. In summer you need to worry about heat and carry lots of water.
A good option on a hot day is to explore Lake Powell or one of the slot canyons around the area, they are often the only shade in the desert. That is all from us! Thanks for reading and enjoy your adventures around Kanab.