The secret is out on Kanab, Utah


Southern Utah’s basecamp for journey boasts sand dunes, slot canyons and geology galore

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From the highest of the tallest dune it regarded like an impossibly lengthy descent to the sandy flat beneath. I edged the rental sandboard out from the dune’s dusky pink lip and cautiously “snow plowed” down on my heel edge — nervous about wiping out on laborious quartz crystals.

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The daunting geography of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park didn’t part my teenage daughter, nevertheless. She pointed her board downhill and plunged down the seven-story-high dune as if she was on a ski hill again dwelling.

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My husband and son adopted after her, gliding down the seated on a sand sled.

Boarding and sledding on the ever-changing sand dunes are simply two actions at this state park, a 30-minute drive from Kanab in southern Utah. Guests can even experience ATVs into the dunes, or hike trails that result in Native American pictographs.

Sand boarding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
Sand boarding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Picture by Courtesy Kane County Workplace of Tourism

It was a promising begin to our journey. Good factor, too — my husband and I endured loads of eye rolls after we instructed our teenagers we had been travelling to the American Southwest for spring break. Evidently, Utah simply doesn’t have the Gen-Zed cachet loved by Southern California, Mexico or Hawaii. However what it lacks in palm timber and seashores, it makes up for in pink rocks, slim slots and adrenaline-fuelled actions.

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After 4 days exploring the beautiful coyote-and-roadrunner surroundings round Kanab, positioned three hours northeast of Las Vegas, with late-March temperatures starting from the excessive teenagers to mid-20s, the youngsters had modified their tune.

Wedged between Zion and Bryce Canyon nationwide parks, Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument, and The Wave (the well-known sandstone formation in northern Arizona, accessible solely by lottery), you’d be forgiven for pondering Kanab’s panorama of pink cliffs and water-sculpted canyons is itself a nationwide park. As a substitute, it has all of the eye-candy surroundings and outside actions of close by protected lands, with out the crowds.

The small city of 5,000 is usually described as “the following Moab” (a touristy city in jap Utah that’s a mountain biking Mecca). It’s nonetheless sleepy although, and the city needs to maintain it that method.

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Sandboards can be rented from the visitors centre.
Sandboards will be rented from the guests centre. Picture by Blake Ford

To keep away from the over-tourism plaguing Moab, Kanab has been strategic in its efforts to go after high quality guests somewhat than sheer amount — friends like us who keep longer than an evening or two, spend extra, and hopefully interact extra meaningfully with the neighborhood, says Camille Taylor, govt director for the Kane County Workplace of Tourism.

“We all the time take into account our locals in all of our efforts in order that we defend native high quality of life and sense of place,” she says.

The encircling buttes and canyons are laced with the Purple Rock Rim Trails, a 40-kilometre community of paths for mountain climbing, mountain biking and horseback using. The paths, a lot of which begin on the town are a way of life perk for locals and an Instagram-post bonus for guests.

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The subsequent day we joined Dreamland Safari Excursions on a bumpy 4-wheel-drive journey over sandy backroads to Peekaboo Slot Canyon. This slot is as lovely as Arizona’s well-known Antelope Canyon, however our small group was simply one in every of a pair excursions wending its method between the graceful sandstone partitions marbled reddish-orange-pink from iron oxide.

Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon tour.
Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon tour. Picture by Lisa Kadane

Like Utah’s different slot canyons, Peekaboo was fashioned over hundreds of thousands of years from water eroding softer layers of rock because it poured by way of cracks within the Navajo sandstone.

“Our purpose is to get individuals out in a good looking place they wouldn’t in any other case be capable to entry,” stated information Nicolas Healey. He identified petrified coral that was as soon as a part of an historic reef, in addition to Moqui steps – notched steps carved into the sandstone by Pueblo peoples at the very least 800 years in the past.

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Horseback riding to Red Hollow Canyon.
Horseback using to Purple Hole Canyon. Picture by Lisa Kadane

Utah’s Hollywood

This spectacular southwest surroundings additionally earned Kanab the nickname “Utah’s Hollywood” through the Nineteen Forties as a result of greater than 200 westerns had been filmed across the city.

In that spirit, we saddled up with East Zion Adventures in close by Orderville and rode horses to a slot referred to as Purple Hole Canyon. Our path information confirmed us piñon pines and junipers, plenty of fearsome cactus species and, fittingly, the plant that gives Mormon tea, (the area was settled by Mormon pioneers within the 1850s).

Perched on my trusty steed, I stored on the lookout for Wile E. Coyote and his retailer of ACME provides, to no avail.

Hiking one of the trails just outside of town.
Mountaineering one of many trails simply outdoors of city. Picture by Lisa Kadane

However we did see canine on our most stunning Kanab journey — a day spent volunteering on the Finest Mates Animal Sanctuary. Headquartered simply 10 minutes from downtown Kanab, the no-kill sanctuary homes about 1,600 stray and surrendered animals on a 3,700-acre parcel of land adjoining to Kanab Creek.

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The sanctuary depends on volunteers to assist groom horses, stroll canine, play with cats and rabbits, and bathe and make enrichment toys for parrots. We helped out within the Parrot Backyard and had been quickly spritzing cockatoos with water and hiding shredded paper and different objects amongst hen pellets to problem parrots to forage for his or her kibble.

Surrendered dog Scott enjoys a ride tho the hotel for a sleepover.
Surrendered canine Scott enjoys a experience tho the lodge for a sleepover. Picture by Lisa Kadane

Many guests to Kanab embrace a volunteer shift as a part of their vacation, stated volunteer engagement supervisor Kira Ikeda. The sanctuary is itself a vacation spot, providing excursions, mountain climbing trails and an on-site café.

After our shift we headed to Dogtown to select up Scott, a lovable, two-year-old German shepherd cross, for a doggie sleepover (guests can even join kitty and bunny sleepovers). We introduced him again to our pet-friendly lodge, the Finest Mates Roadhouse, the place he settled proper in.

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After 4 days in Kanab we had been torn between eager to spend extra time mountain climbing and soaking within the surroundings and solar, and an urge to undertake Scott and convey him again to Canada. In the long run, we settled for heat fuzzy emotions from volunteering, fond recollections of our adventures, and the information that we skilled Kanab earlier than it was cool.

If you happen to go:

The pet-friendly Finest Mates Roadhouse & Mercantile contains breakfast, has two fenced canine parks and affords suites with kitchenettes. Travellers wishing to volunteer at Finest Mates Animal Sanctuary ought to join at

There are a stunning variety of good eating places on the town. Strive Escobar’s for Mexican meals, Peekaboo Canyon Wooden Fired Kitchen for pizza, or Sego Restaurant for impressed small plates.


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