Kanab is perfectly positioned as a base for exploring the southern part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a magical place under threat from the current administration. It was our favorite area on our first Big Trip and we were thrilled to spend some time in the sections close to Kanab, where we hadn’t previously been. Kanab is a cute little town and we enjoyed our time there–especially the time we spent in Grand Staircase!
Kanab RV Corral is a quiet, super friendly campground near the center of Kanab. There’s a small stable across the street for scenery, and we kind of had a view of red cliffs behind our campsite.
Your first stop in town should be at the BLM visitor center–but go to the office east of town on Rt 89, not south of town on Rt 89A. The eastern office has lots more hiking information, and they can help you pick your hikes based on your vehicle (and how much you want to abuse it) and mileage desires.
The eastern BLM office is also where you’ll go to participate in the walk-in lottery for The Wave. (If you can plan four months ahead, enter the lottery online here.) Each day, TEN permits are given out to walk-in hopefuls. We tried both mornings we were in Kanab; on the first morning, 114 people were in the pool for the 10 permits, and on the second, 133. It was no surprise that we didn’t get permits, but we had to try! I am happy to say that dogs are allowed to go with you to The Wave! In fact, the ranger said if you have a permit, you can take an unlimited number of dogs with you. But each dog has to pay $7, same as humans.
So we didn’t do The Wave. Here are the hikes we did:
South – House Rock Valley Road area
L’S FAVORITE: If you don’t get The Wave, this swirly, twirly, rolling candy concoction in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is your consolation prize. I don’t know how amazing an experience The Wave is, but White Pocket was INCREDIBLE. I lay down on the ground and hugged the rock when it was time to go. It’s close to 1.75 hours from Kanab, longer if you are a more careful driver on the rutty dirt roads. So worth the time in the car. The hike itself isn’t strenuous–a short trip through sand from parking, and then whatever scrambling around the formations you feel compelled to do. We covered about two miles.
J’S FAVORITE: Wire Pass is a side canyon to Buckskin Gulch, one of the longest, tallest slot canyons in the world. It’s about two miles from the Wire Pass trailhead to Buckskin Gulch, and then you can explore the Gulch in either direction as far you like. That makes it seem like Wire Pass just serves as a shortcut to Buckskin Gulch, but Wire Pass is an incredible slot canyon in its own right. To quote J as we walked down Wire Pass: “Dude this is f*cking nuts.” Yes, Buckskin Gulch was amazing too, and we wished we’d had more time to explore up and down the canyon.
The Toadstools are a bit farther east on Rt 89 from House Rock Valley Road, but we swung over to see it after leaving Wire Pass. It’s a quick mile jaunt to an array of weird mushroomy rock formations surrounded by cliffs.
North – Johnson Canyon Rd area
Want an arch all to yourself? Borrow someone’s 4×4 vehicle (or decide you don’t care about your own paint job) and drive the challenging dirt road to Inchworm Arch. Look at the pictures–can you tell why it’s called Inchworm? We took a picnic, and after my stomach unknotted from the drive there, we had a delightful time lunching on the rocks and climbing around the arch, and never saw another soul.
The harrowing drive to Peekaboo Canyon would have been fun if we hadn’t just scratched the hell out of my new truck (it now has “desert pinstripes”) going to Inchworm. The sandy road is wider and less scratchy than the road to Inchworm–just remember to keep up your momentum going into the deep sand patches. The roads crisscross and it’s a bit confusing to navigate, but that means nobody else will be there and you’ll have this lovely, convoluted slot canyon all to yourself! We totaled less than a mile hiking.
Lick Wash is a pretty and pleasant hike through a narrow canyon, not quite a slot, a couple miles in to meet another canyon at Park Wash. We had an enjoyable afternoon hiking a total of 4.5 miles, but we didn’t find Park Wash (which we were supposed to hit at mile 2) and we felt that the most impressive section of the canyon was the first mile–so if you were pressed for time you could do a shorter out-and-back.
Eating and Drinking
Dinner and cocktails
Sego is a surprisingly upscale restaurant in this quiet little Western town. The menu is mostly small plates, and we went for dinner twice to sample as many dishes as we could. Duck lo mein was J’s favorite, and mine was the poke. And the cocktails were our favorite, too.
Juniper Ridge is just over the border in Fredonia, Arizona–which means you can drink real beer on draft! And not have to order food! It’s a five-minute drive from the middle of Kanab. We didn’t try the food there, just had a beer and football at the bar.
Willow Canyon Outdoor is an outdoor store/coffeeshop hybrid–one of several we’ve seen in the little outdoorsy towns we’ve stayed in around Utah. I am a fan of this combination. We bought a bunch of stuff, including coffee/tea/snacks, and sat at the single table in the corner to do some work… to find there’s no wifi. But we could grab wifi from the grocery across the street, so, success.
Breakfast burritos for the road
Remember how we stopped at The Hive foodtruck on the way to Zion from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon? To get to Kanab from the Zion area, you have to drop down into Arizona again… and pass The Hive! We had breakfast burritos and fancy coffee there again and it was SO GOOD.
Kanab is the home of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest no-kill sanctuary in the US! We wanted to visit, but (other than wanting to maximize hiking time) we were nervous, since the last time we visited an animal shelter, we went home with a sad beastie. And Bugsy does NOT want a sibling.