Looking for the best things to do in Kanab Utah? These are the things you don’t want to miss.
My knuckles turned white as I tightly gripped the rebar. I nervously looked down and saw only my feet, a metal bar, and a long drop below. Then I carefully lifted my right foot and stretched it to the next rung. In one more step, I’d be home free!
That, my friends, felt like an accomplishment getting through the scariest part of our Via Ferrata.
A big thank you to ROAM Outdoor Adventure Co for hosting our Via Ferrata & UTV adventures. All opinions are always our own. This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.
Last Updated: June 10, 2021
Kanab, Utah has been the perfect home base for many of our outdoor adventures. Not only is it located in the middle of several amazing National Parks, but there are also plenty of off-the-beaten-path adventures.
You can try your luck at the Wave, one of the hardest permits to get, visit the largest and most beautiful animal sanctuary, hike through caves and tunnels, or get a taste of the old western movies shot in the area.
To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Kanab outside of the major National Parks like Zion and Bryce. If you plan on exploring the parks, skip to the guides here.
11 Best Things to Do in Kanab UT
Ever since we saw photos of the Great Chamber, we knew we wanted to see it in person. After doing some initial research, we saw that the drive out there isn’t easy. You take sandy roads to get there, so having experience and the right vehicle is important.
Since we didn’t want to stress out about getting there, we went on a tour with Roam Outdoor. Not only did they get us out there quickly, but our guide also snapped photos of us, gave us suggestions on how to avoid messing up the sand, and even pointed out fun photo spots we would have missed.
Local Tip: Most tours start around 9 am, so arrive earlier to get the space to yourself. The sand will also have fewer footprints. It usually gets “reset” by the next day from the strong afternoon winds.
Photography Tip: Bring a wide lens! We brought our 5D Mark IV (full-frame) and our 16-35mm and 14mm. Although both worked, we didn’t have room to move around with the 16mm. We highly recommend the 14mm or you’ll be stuck stitching photos together in post.
Be careful with your gear. The sand is very fine and can seep into every nook and cranny.
The Wave is one of the hardest hiking permits to get in the US but well worth the effort. Since you have to go through a lottery, you should try your luck each morning you’re in Kanab.
If you’re unable to get the permit, there are still plenty of great excursions in the area.
Local Tip: If you win a permit, it will be for the following day, so you should still have a plan for that day.
3. Belly of The Dragon
This was a fun and quick excursion and perfect for a hot day. You can see the tunnel from the parking lot, and the hike through the tunnel is short. If you want to hike longer, you can extend it up through the wash for approximately 4 miles, but the tunnel is the highlight.
If you plan on going later in the evening when it’s getting dark out, bring a headlamp with you. Some of our friends told us it’s much more fun trying to navigate the cave in the dark.
Note: It’s used as drainage for the upper canyons, so if it’s rainy at all, don’t try to do this hike.
We’ve done a few Via Ferratas before, but this one felt like a true adventure.
There are portions of this Via Ferrata that had us sweating, especially the area where you traverse using your hands on the rock. But it made it much more memorable. On top of that, after we finished, we rappeled off a 180 ft rock face back to home base. This made it a UTV, Via Ferrata, and Rappeling experience all packaged into one.
If you’ve never heard of a Via Ferrata before, it’s basically a metal course scaling up a sheer wall. You are safely harnessed and locked in and the guide is there to help you along the way.
Pro Tip: Since you’ll be stepping on thin metal rungs to make your way up, it helps to have shoes with good traction, like hiking boots. You can still make it through safely without them, but it’s more for peace of mind.
We first visited White Pocket years ago when our photographer friend told us he liked it better than the Wave. After having been to both, we can attest to the beauty of both. The Wave formation itself is unlike anything else we’ve seen, but the entire White Pocket area was more fun to shoot.
The road to get to White Pocket is very sandy and a lot of people get stuck. You either need a high-clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle or go with a guide, which we tend to prefer.
We off-road quite a bit, but Jacob still doesn’t have much experience driving through soft sand.
Local Tip: The landscape is delicate so watch where you’re stepping to protect the brittle rocks and vegetation.
This is the perfect way to cool off and take a break from the heat.
It was once a bar where famous actors, like John Wayne, would frequent after filming Westerns. Now it’s a family-run cave and museum with ancient artifacts, dinosaur tracks, and florescent rocks (we love our rocks!).
Although they no longer serve alcohol, you can grab a bevvie and sit where John Wayne used to sit. Also, be sure to ask someone about the huge family wooden carving.
They have a delicious panini food truck outside and plan on converting one of the spaces inside to better host live music, screenings, and events. It was one of our better meals in Kanab (I liked the pesto grilled cheese).
Pro Tip: The inside temperatures never go above 65, so bring a light jacket.
7. Kanab Sand Caves
Just south of Moqui Cave is another interesting cave formation with five openings.
It can be confusing because other bloggers and visitors have called these Moqui Caves as well (google maps also has it mislabeled). The locals know it as the Sand Caves.
These are manmade caves that they used to mine sand back in the day, but the process was short-lived.
You can actually walk to these Sand Caves from Moqui Cave, but it’s slightly shorter if you park in the pullout just south of it (to the right if you’re going south). You will see the caves across the street and sometimes people in them.
The trail starts on the other side of the road as you scramble to the higher ledge on the cliffside and follow it over to the caves.
Local Tip: The hike is only 0.5 miles but can get steep in certain sections. We recommend following the trail to the left where it’s least steep, get up to the main ledge, then traverse across to the caves. We highly recommend shoes with good traction.
Some people say it’s not safe for kids, but we saw families with young kids there too.
8. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
We love our boys and are so happy we got them from a shelter in Atlanta. But ever since we moved to the West Coast, we’ve heard so much about Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
It’s not only the largest no-kill shelter in the US but the grounds are stunning and spans 4,000 acres + 30,000+ acres leased from BLM.
Our tattoo artist that did our ring tattoos first told us about Best Friends. He brings his dogs and stays here often to volunteer and hang out with other dogs. Ever since we’ve been meaning to visit.
We did a general tour and saw the pigs, dogs, cats, and horses, but you can also go on a tour specific to what you’re interested in seeing. Check out the schedule and book your free tour here.
There are also some areas you can explore on your own like Angels Rest, and don’t forget to grab a $5 vegan lunch buffet at the Angel Village (hard to beat that price in the area).
Local Tip: We weren’t able to get cell service at the sanctuary but if you’re near any of the buildings, they should have wifi available.
9. Toadstool Hoodoos
A 1.8 mi out and back hike with really cool photo ops.
We love short and easy hikes that give you a high reward. The Toadstool Hoodoos Trail is one of these great hikes that end with beautiful rock formations. We want to head back here for some astrophotography – who wants to join?
10. Little Hollywood Museum
We didn’t have time to check out the Little Hollywood Museum, but we have friends that have done photoshoots here. Admission is free and you’ll find a gift shop and movie sets on the backlot.
Kanab was once home to some of the most iconic westerns, which earned them the name Little Hollywood.
When you walk around town, you’ll see plaques commemorating different key people in the industry.
Local Tip: They also hold Dutch-oven dinners with western entertainment served at their Chuck wagon cookout.
11. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a local favorite. You can hike and bike to explore the dunes, or rent a sandboard or sled and fly down the hills. You can even zoom throug the dunes on an OHV.
Local Tip: The sand didn’t look super pink to us but it helps to go around sunset.
Map of the Best Things to Do in Kanab Utah
More Things to Do in Kanab Utah
- Buckskin Gulch – longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwest
- Disc Golfing
- Dixie National Forest – check out the sunset at Strawberry Point Overlook
- Horseback Ride
- Jackson Flat Reservoir – play on the water
- Kanab Heritage House – originally completed in 1894
- Kaibab National Forest – great for hiking, biking, and camping
- Kanab Heritage Museum – learn about Kanab’s history and ancestry
- Maynard Dixon Home – historic home in Mount Carmel
- Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyons – local favorite slot canyon (looks similar to Antelope Canyon). You can also sandboard here.
- Red Pueblo Museum – artifacts from ancient and pioneer inhabitants in the area
National Parks Near Kanab Utah
- Bryce Canyon National Park – Small National Park known for its hoodoos. Easy to explore in 1 day.
- Grand Canyon National Park – The North Rim is closest to Kanab, but the South Rim has the best and most iconic views.
- Zion National Park – Zion gets extremely busy now so plan ahead. Don’t miss Angels Landing, Canyon Overlook, and The Narrows.
National Monuments Near Kanab Utah
- Cedar Breaks National Monument – Offering views similar to Bryce Canyon but with fewer crowds. They also have star parties at Point Supreme Overlook.
- Grand Staircase National Monument – A playground for canyoneers, hikers, and off-roaders. The Archaeological/Geological Center is in Kanab with three other visitor centers spread throughout.
- Lake Powell – One of the best spots for water recreation.
- Pipe Spring National Monument – Explore a pioneer fort built in the 1870s.
- Vermilion Cliffs National Monument – Covers a massive amount of land with no visitor centers or developed campsites. Find huge cliffs, beautiful slot canyons, and amazing rock formations.
State Parks Near Kanab Utah
- Kodachrome Basin State Park – 67 huge monolithic stone spires standing from 6 to 170 feet tall.
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes – Play in the dunes with off-road vehicles or sandboards.
Scenic Drives Around Kanab UT
- Angel Canyon – Drive through Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and take in the beautiful surroundings.
- Utah Scenic Byway 12 – Utah’s first “All American Highway”
- Highway 14 to Duck Creek – A beautiful high mountain drive.
- Johnson Canyon – A scenic drive that takes you through areas where pioneer families homesteaded.
- Marble Canyon Loop – 190-mile loop with views of sandstone cliffs, desert, ridges, and more.
- Kanab is a small town, so hours might be limited at stores and restaurants. Plan accordingly, so you’re not forced to skip meals.
- On busy weekends and holidays, restaurants get filled quickly. Make reservations as early as you can. Sego was booked a few days out.
- Bring lots of sunblock and water, especially if you visit in the summer.
- Layers are always smart to protect you from the sun and keep you warm in the evenings.
- Temperatures can change drastically from day to night.
- Bring solid hiking shoes with good traction. These are our favorites.
Where to Eat in Kanab UT
- Angel Village Cafe – $5 vegan buffet with a rotating menu and beautiful views.
- The Cave Cafe – Delicious paninis and smoothies.
- Kanab Creek Bakery – We didn’t get a chance to try their hot food, but their croissants were good.
- Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen – Started by one of the co-founders of Best Friends, this Vegetarian restaurant has yummy pizzas and more.
- Sego Restaurant – One of the nicer restaurants in town. Make a reservation as early as you can.
- Wild Thyme Cafe – Our favorite meal in town. The Tropical Piggy is delicious!
Best Places to Stay in Kanab Utah
We stayed at the Best Friend Roadhouse and Mercantile in town, and it’s easily our favorite pet-friendly hotel. There are multiple room options, from a standard room to a two-level suite. Each room is comfortable and beautifully designed for both you and your pets in mind.
When we walked into our room, we were pleasantly surprised to find a cat tree, food bowls, and litter box laid out. There’s an additional pet bed that pulls out from under the human bed.
You’ll also find a beautiful dog park in the back and self-service pet washing facilities with cleaning products.
Our two boys have traveled with us to multiple places, and we’ve never seen them so happy at a hotel. If you don’t have your own pets with you, you can even have a sleepover with an adoptable pet.
Any more things to do in Kanab Utah that we missed? What is an absolute must-do for you?
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Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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