Kanab often touts itself as “Your southern Utah adventure basecamp” , “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”, and “The quiet side of Zion National Park” . For those reasons and many more, Kanab is a wonderful destination in it’s own right!
Kanab is 30 miles southeast of the East Entrance to Zion National Park. (Note: The west side of the park is where the Visitor’s Center and the bus are located). We actually stumbled upon Kanab in our search for camping spots, because everything west of the park was full. Kanab also houses the lottery drawing for “The Wave”, which is a highly sought after hike in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. “The Wave” only allows 20 people per day to hike. 10 of these permits are issued through an online lottery, and 10 are issued through an in-person lottery. I thought this could be a perfect opportunity for Chris to have one of those “once in a lifetime” opportunities. Unfortunately, “The Wave” didn’t happen for us, and we only spent one day in Zion. Despite this, Kanab was still one of our favorite stops on the trip!
Caves of Kanab
When we arrived in Kanab, our RV Park suggested that we check out nearby Peek-A-Boo Canyon, a non-techical slot canyon off the beaten path. We were so excited, until our car was nearly swallowed up by the soft sand on the way there (which is why most people just take a guide service to the canyon). Disappointed, we turned back towards our campsite, when we saw some cool looking caves right off the road. We had to explore! While the trail isn’t well marked or even well defined, the “Caves of Kanab” are pretty easy to get to. A few hundred yards of walking through the juniper covered Utah desert leads you to the base of sandstone cliffs. You must climb up and across these cliffs to get to the cave. While they aren’t super steep, and you don’t need technical equipment for the climb, it’s important just to be mindful of your steps (and your children). Calvin had a blast getting up to the caves, and the views inside just couldn’t be beat. This is definitely a “can’t miss” for Kanab!
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
After hiking to the caves, I saw another sign for the “Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park”. At the time, I knew one thing about sand dunes- you can surf on them. I thought to myself, “We can catch sunset there!”, so off we went. The drive was a bit more than I expected- about 30 minutes. The park entrance fee is $8, and you can rent sandboards or sand sleds for an additional $20. (You can always brig your own skis/Snowboard/Sled) We parked in the “Nature Trail” lot, and then had the task of hiking out to the dunes. Let me just say that this is no easy feat! The soft sand tickles your toes before swallowing your foot whole. Just getting to the base of the big dunes is quite a workout, and in order to sled you need to get to the top! We rented one sled and took turns riding with Calvin as the sun set behind us. It was exhilarating. It was exhausting. It was beautiful. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park was the perfect end to the perfect day and well worth every dollar. (Pro Tips: Bring your own sled. Wear sunglasses or ski goggles to protect your eyes. Rent a dune buddy, because going up those dunes is a serious workout!)
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area/Antelope Canyon
We woke up ready for a day at Zion or Grand Staircase-Escalante, but it was raining! Since going into slot canyons or hiking on sandstone isn’t advised in the rain, I looked elsewhere for fun. About an hour to the east of Kanab is Page, AZ, which most people know for beautiful Lake Powell (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area) and Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land, and therefore only accessible by tour with a Navajo guide. At $38 per person for an hour and a half guided tour (that Calvin doesn’t do well on), it was just too rich for us. Instead, I found that you can access the other side of Antelope Canyon by boat! But, since we never do things the easy (or guided) way, we decided to rent a canoe from a local company. As we set our boat in Lake Powell, we noticed the skies changing from blue to black rolling clouds. I asked a nearby park ranger, and he said that the forecast had changed. They were now expecting massive thunderstorms, starting in one to two hours. Well, we had already rented the boat, and we weren’t going to be deterred (at least until absolutely necessary). We put in and Chris and I canoed the mile to the ‘mouth’ of Antelope Canyon through boat rocking waves and winds. Ultimately, we had to turn around when we heard thunder. The two mile trip was cold and wet, and we didn’t get a glimpse of the gorgeous sandstone slot canyon. However, it did provide us with the adventure that we were seeking! Hilariously, the rain never did reach Page, AZ that day. But, considering how sore we were for days after, maybe it was a good thing that we stopped. As a bonus, we got to try authentic Navajo Kneel Down Bread!
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
When we lived in Atlanta, one of our favorite homeschool activities was to go read to the cats at our local animal shelter. When I found out the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was in Kanab, I knew we had to go. Home to over 1,600 dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, horses, and wild animals- it is the largest animal sanctuary of it’s kind in the US. Unfortunately, Calvin was too young for any of the volunteer opportunities that make this place so interesting. However, we were able to visit the kittens at the visitor’s center in town. We played and read to them, just like we did in Atlanta. Calvin was so excited! Less exciting was the guided tour of the wild animal rehabilition habitats… in the rain. It was very informative- albeit cold. If you and your kids are over the age of 6, I definitely recommend visiting and volunteering at the sanctuary! They even have cabins and camping spots there!