The 10 Best Outdoor Activities to Do with the Kids in Kanab

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is home to 1,600 critters—not just dogs and cats, but birds, rabbits, horses, farm animals, and wildlife as well.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is home to 1,600 critters—not just dogs and cats, but birds, rabbits, horses, farm animals, and wildlife as well. Visit Southern Utah
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Kanab is a small town with big appeal. Outdoors adventures abound in this natural playground of ancient rock formations, mysterious desert scrubland, and dreamy, star-filled nights. Despite strong tourist appeal, it remains a family-friendly destination with old ranch charm and wild west spirit. Kanab is inviting for both families and visitors of all ages. Here are 10 of the best outdoor activities in and around Kanab to plan for your next Utah vacation.

1. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

You may not expect to find the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary in Southern Utah. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is tucked quietly away in Angel Canyon, just north of Kanab. It is a haven for nearly 1,600 animals: dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, farm animals, and wildlife as well. It was one of the nation’s first no-kill shelter and the movement has been going strong since 1984. You can meet the animals on free guided tours that include optional hiking in the canyon, and of course, if you make a best friend, adoption is available.

2. Zion National Park

The East Entrance of Zion is a short distance from Kanab for an easy day visit.
The East Entrance of Zion is a short distance from Kanab for an easy day visit. Jeff Weissman

Perhaps the most well-known destination in the region is Zion National Park, famous for its towering sandstone bluffs and deep slot canyons. The East Entrance is a short distance from Kanab, making an easy day trip that offers adventures like wading in the water of The Narrows, reaching a stunning vista on Canyon Overlook Trail, or simply enjoying views from the car on a scenic drive.

3. Zion Ponderosa Ranch

Zion Ponderosa Ranch near Zion National Park offers something for every member of the family. Whether coming for a half-day horseback ride or a week-long stay, you and your kids will find more fun than you have time for. Wagon rides, zip lines, a swimming pool, a climbing wall, mini golf, shooting, guided hikes, and canyoneering trips are some of the activities available, along with comfortable lodging and dining.

4. Lake Powell

Take a dip at peaceful Lake Powell.
Take a dip at peaceful Lake Powell. Bernard Spragg. NZ

In summer, beat the heat by swimming or paddling in Lake Powell. This calm, expansive reservoir sits below red and yellow canyon walls. It is the subject of countless photographs and a top destination for fun on the water. Enjoy the wide sand beach at Lone Rock, paddle among the many side canyons and alcoves, take a guided boat tour, or view the Glen Canyon Dam.

5. The Wave and Buckskin Gulch

If your car is fit for rough roads, rumble out to Wire Pass Trailhead, the starting point for adventures in Buckskin Gulch and The Wave. Buckskin is a slot canyon that cuts deep into solid rock and travels for miles, but the first narrows are easy to reach in a 2-mile round trip hike. (Although it’s still probably a bit intense for younger kids.) To reach The Wave requires a more strenuous hike and a permit from the lottery held daily at the Grand Staircase Visitor Center office. The reward for lucky winners is passage to the orange, zebra-striped rocks shaped into water-worn folds that resemble waves. Using a local guide can make a big difference in the success of the trip. Most local guides will actually attend the lottery on your behalf, and if you don’t win a trip to the Wave, they can take you on a guided tour of Buckskin.

6. Toadstool Hoodoos

This fun geological playground is just off the highway east of Kanab. It is a forest of hoodoos—tall, thin, rock spires formed by erosion. Many of the hoodoos here are left with large cap stones that resemble mushrooms, hence the name Toadstools. Kids will love exploring nooks and crannies among the rocks and the easy hiking trail.

7. Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Kids will love running through the sand.
Kids will love running through the sand. Rob Lee

Coral Pink Sand Dunes (add "State Park") contains one of the region’s most fascinating landforms. As the surrounding red rock erodes by wind and water, it breaks down into colored sand. Peculiar wind patterns have caused drifting at this location on the plateau and created one giant, colorful, sandbox. The dunes are also home to unique amphibians, reptiles, and insects that are specially adapted to this environment.

8. Moqui Cave

This museum and gift shop is built into a real cave in the red cliffs just north of Kanab. Moqui Cave makes a fun roadside stop to learn about southern Utah’s history and take home a souvenir or two. On display are Native American artifacts including artwork, pottery, and arrowheads. There are also colorful rocks and minerals from Utah and around the world—and even fossilized dinosaur tracks. The shop sells fluorescent stones, gems, and handmade Native American jewelry, clothing, rugs, toys, and more.

9. Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon’s North Rim is one of the most amazing places on the planet.
Grand Canyon’s North Rim is one of the most amazing places on the planet. Gerd Plewka

When visiting southern Utah during the summer, Grand Canyon’s North Rim is a trip not to be missed. Open from May-October (and very remote from just about anywhere other than Kanab), this side of the park sees far fewer visitors than the South Rim. From atop the rim, high elevation forests offer summer shade. There are easy trails to take in the incredible views, making this trip a relaxing, beautiful getaway on the edge of the world’s most dramatic gorge

10. Little Hollywood

During the heyday of Westerns, big-time productions and silver-screen stars came to Kanab, drawn by its cinematic desert setting. Thus, Kanab became the quintessential backdrop of cowboys and outlaws. Celebrating this movie history is Little Hollywood, a museum of Western filmmaking. There is an outdoor movie set, gift shop, restaurant, and live show to entertain the whole family.

Originally written for Utah Office of Tourism.

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