Destinations

What to do in Kanab, Utah: The Campspot Guide

by Kendra Clapp OlguínNov 4, 2021

Located just north of the Utah-Arizona border, Kanab and its central location among southern Utah’s most popular outdoor destinations attract adventurers of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to its prime location, the town of Kanab is a destination worth visiting on its own! With endless options, here are several of my favorite things to do and see in and around Kanab, Utah.

Hot air balloons from the Balloons and Tunes Roundup in Kanab, Utah, float in sky against the Vermillion cliffs.

About Kanab, Utah

People have inhabited southern Utah for thousands of years, with different Native communities that have come, gone, and remained, such as the Kaibab Paiutes, Hopi Tribe, and the Puebloans. Spanish explorers went through the area in 1776, and in the 1850s, Mormon Pioneers attempted to lay claim to the land but faced attacks from the area’s Native tribes that were already occupying the land.

Eventually, the town and area were re-established in the 1870s by the Mormon pioneers and remained isolated for decades.

During the Golden Age of American cinema, the city and area became the destination for filming Old Western movies and television shows. To this day, western fans and film buffs flock here to experience the wild, wild west for themselves.

A tent lit up at Dark Sky RV Campground in Kanab, Utah.

Today, the little town near Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has become a beloved destination for travelers and adventurists looking for that grand Utah experience.

Visit the Sand Caves | What to do in Kanab, Utah

Just five miles north of the city on Highway 89 are Kanab’s Sand Caves. Also known as the Moqui Sand Caves or Moqui Caverns, miners carved them while harvesting sand for glass and cast-iron moldings.

A hiker climbs the sandstone with Sand Caves in the background near Kanab, Utah.

Kanab Sand Caves Location

You’ll see them high up on your right after passing the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary if you’re driving north from Kanab. Across from them, on the left, you’ll see an area to pull out and park. There will most likely be some cars already parked there as it’s become a popular destination. It’s a quick hike to the large caves. Chances are, even if there are several parties already there, you’ll each have plenty of space to wander and explore.

Visitors approach sand caves made out of sandstone. The sand coves are one of the most popular things to do when visiting Kanab, Utah.

Getting to the Caves

Without trail markers, you’ll have to make your way through the foothill pines and shrubs before ascending the sandstone incline. Since it’s a pretty steep incline, I’ll encourage you to go as far left as you can. Then, zig-zag a bit until you reach the point to which you can walk over to the caves. When it comes to footwear, I recommend a hiking boot or shoe with good traction.

The inside of the sand caves located near Kanab, Utah.
The inside of the sand caves near Kanab, Utah. Hiking up to the caves is one of the best things to do in Kanab, Utah.

Best Time to Visit the Sand Caves

The best time to visit the caves is a couple of hours before sunset, right when the sun is shining into its openings. Most of these openings, especially those directly looking out to Highway 89, have cliff-like drops. Be careful around the edges and keep a close watch on your kids or pets.

As you see from the images, the cave is completely covered with graffiti. Please refrain from making your mark on the sandstone. So much lecturing, I know! But, because it’s such a wild west type of spot, it calls for some self-regulation and respect of the land.

A woman looks out from the sand caves located near Kanab, Utah.

Moqui Cave | What to do in Kanab, Utah

Once a dance hall and bar, Moqui Cave is now a museum showcasing life in remote southern Utah, then and now.

The exterior of Moqui Cave near Kanab, Utah.
The exterior of Moqui Cave that's located outside of the town of Kanab, Utah.

Just around the corner from Kanab’s Sand Caves, Moqui Cave displays everything relevant to the area. The museum emphasizes just how much history Kanab has, from the dinosaur tracks (below) to Native American artifacts.

Additionally, Moqui Cave has a shop with various items such as rocks and art from local Native artists.

Dinosaur tracks on display at Moqui cave, located outside of Kanab, Utah.

Go Off-Roading to Peek A Boo Slot Canyon |What to do Near Kanab, Utah

One of my favorite activities we did in Kanab was off-roading. Dark Sky RV Campground offers its guests exclusive access to its two ROXOR rentals.

A ROXOR is a 4×4 off-road utility vehicle that bears a strong resemblance to the original Willy’s Jeep of the 1940s. Dark Sky upgraded their units to be street-legal. This gives you the freedom to bop around the town and visit the remote slot canyons and areas you can only access with a high-clearance, off-road vehicle.

A ROXOR off-road vehicle rental available at Dark Sky RV Campground in Kanab, Utah.
The wheel and inside of a ROXOR off-road vehicle.
A funny warning inside the ROXOR off-road vehicle.

ROXOR Rental Specifics

The ROXOR rental comes with a Bluetooth speaker, binoculars, cooler, satellite communicator for emergencies, first aid kit, and car rescue equipment. Additionally, Dark Sky walks you through the entire vehicle, answering any questions you might have. Finally, after deflating your tires a bit to ride on soft sand, they provide a small air compressor that will get you pumped up and ready to hit the road.

A man deflates the tire on a ROXOR off-road vehicle in the staging area of the Peek-a-boo slot canyon trail.
A map of the Peek-A-Boo canyon trail that's a popular thing to do in Kanab, Utah.

Off-roading to Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon

Our first stop on the ROXOR was Peek-A-Boo slot canyon (also known as Red Canyon), whose trailhead and staging area is off Highway 89. To get to the slot canyon, you have to drive 3.5 miles each way. Be mindful some use the trail as a hiking path, although it’s not recommended, so keep an eye out for hikers. Also, the sand gets THICK in some areas. So build that momentum, and if it’s going to rain or has rained, this trail might not be the best idea.

The thick sandy trail of the Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon trail that's located outside of Kanab, Utah.
A ROXOR off-road vehicle parked outside of Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon that's a popular destination when visiting Kanab, Utah.

Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon Trail Ettiquette

When you reach the end of the 3.5-mile trail, you’ll see the slot opening and a sign about trail etiquette:

  • Do not write, scratch, or apply any substance on rock or walls.
  • No campfires.
  • Keep pets on a leash.
  • Stay on exisiting roads and trails.
  • Pack out what you pack in.
The entrance to Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon, one of the best things to do and see when visiting Kanab, Utah.
The inside of Peek-A-Boo slot canyon, a popular thing to do near Kanab, Utah.

Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon Trail Length

The trail within the slot canyon is a quick 0.7-miles long (out and back). You’ll be surprised at how long you’ll spend walking through the tight sandstone crevices. The glow of the sunlight makes you feel as if you’re in a cathedral of sorts, encouraging you to look at the heavens above.

The interior of Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon, a unique destination outside of Kanab, Utah.
A woman stands at the end of Peek-A-Boo Slot canyon, a unique destination to visit in or near Kanab, Utah.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park | What to do near Kanab, Utah

Just a 30-minute drive from Kanab is Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. This unique geologic destination will transport you to another planet.

The vibrant dunes of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park located outside of Kanab, Utah.

About Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

According to Utah’s State Parks’ website:

The sand comes from Navajo sandstone from the geologic period called Middle Jurassic. The same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country are responsible for this landscape of coral pink sand.

Sand dunes are created by three factors: Sand, high winds, and a unique influence upon the wind. The notch between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains causes this unique influence. The wind is funneled through the notch, increasing wind velocity to a point where it can carry sand grains from the eroding Navajo sandstone.

This phenomenon is known as the Venturi effect. Once the wind passes through the notch and into the open valley, the wind velocity decreases, causing the sand to be deposited. These dunes are estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 years old.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes support a diverse population of insects, including the Coral Pink tiger beetle found only here. Melting snow sometimes creates small ponds in the dunes that support amphibians, such as salamanders and toads.

The park is also a popular destination for ATV riders.  About 90% of the dunes are open for riding, but all dunes are open for hiking and just playing in the sand.

The wind textures in the sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park that's a popular destination outside of Kanab, Utah.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Fees & Regulations

  • $10 entry fee per vehicle
  • $5 entry fee for Utah Seniors 65 and older
  • All OHV or ATVs must have an orange whiptail flag.
  • Utah law requires that all riders under the age of 18 must wear a properly sized and fastened helmut.
  • It is strongly encouraged that adult ATV riders wear a helmet.
  • DUI laws apply to OHV’s. Do not drink and drive.
A jeep drives on the dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, one of the best things to do in see in Kanab, Utah.
A ROXOR off-road vehicle with a sand sled and board leaning against it at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park located in Kanab, Utah.

We arrived at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park just an hour before closing. Otherwise, we would have loved to take the ROXOR out for a ride on the dunes. Instead, we opted for a sand board and sled rental. We hiked our way up to the nearest dune and let it rip. On my very first attempt, I face-planted into the sand. I’m sparing you from the scorpion-like position that my partner Tyler so graciously captured of me. Even though my pride was injured, I loved my time at this geologic phenomenon.

The bright dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park during sunset. The park is located just outside of Kanab, Utah.

Sand Boarding and Sledding the Coral Pink Sand Dunes

  • Sand board and sled rentals are $25 per board/sled
  • Rentals must be returned 30 minutes prior to the visitor center closing.
A person hikes out to the dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park with a sand sled atop her head. Visiting Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is one of the best things to do in Kanab, Utah.
The sun setting against the cliffs behind the dunes at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park located just outside of Kanab, Utah.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary | What to do in Kanab, Utah

In 1984, a group of friends created a sanctuary for abandoned and abused animals. Fast-forward to today, it’s grown to become the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the world and transformed into a national movement to end the killing of companion animals. Through their work and partnership with other animal activists, the number of animals being killed in shelters has dropped 91% since Best Friends’ creation in the 1980s. In addition to the sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, Best Friends has no-kill communities and locations in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Northwest Arkansas, Houston, Florida’s Polk County, and Pennsylvania’s Waynesboro.

The welcome sign at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary located in Kanab, Utah.

As animal lovers, we wanted to experience the largest sanctuary for companion animals in the country. Roughly 1,600 animals call the refuge their home, and visitors are welcome to tour the facilities, volunteer with the animals, and, of course, adopt a new best friend!

A cat resident at Cat World in Best Friends Animal Sanctuary located in Kanab, Utah. Visiting the sanctuary is one of the most unique things to do in Kanab, Utah.

We signed up for and toured Cat World, home to more than 600 rescued cats placed into one of eleven buildings that best meets their needs and personalities. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we stuck to touring the outside areas of Cat World, but it was a sunny day, so many of the furry occupants said hello.

A cat rubs against its cage at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary located in Kanab, Utah.

The tour was led by a volunteer who walked us around various buildings, answering questions and introducing us to some of Cat World’s residents, sharing their stories of accomplishments and growth since they’ve been in the sanctuary.

A volunteer explains how they take are of the over 600 cats at Cat World in Best Friends Animal Sanctuary located in Kanab, Utah.

Best Friends Roadhouse & Mercantile | What to do in Kanab, Utah

An extension of the Best Friends empire, Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile is located in the heart of downtown Kanab. As the organization has transformed the culture of the Kanab with its sanctuary, it made sense to then have a physical presence downtown. Open to both humans and pets, the Roadhouse comprises 40 rooms with various dog-and-cat-friendly amenities and services.

The exterior of Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile located in downtown Kanab, Utah.
Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile located in downtown Kanab, Utah.

Open to the public, the Mercantile provides a community area where visitors can purchase food, pet items, and Best Friends merchandise. All food and beverages served at the Mercantile follow a vegan, plant-based diet. Additionally, a complimentary shuttle to and from Best Friends Sanctuary can be arranged through the front desk.

Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile located in downtown Kanab, Utah.

Utah’s Little Hollywood | What to do in Kanab, Utah

Since 1924, over 100 films and shows have been filmed in or around Kanab. Due to its popularity in western movie production, the area became known as “Little Hollywood.” Walking through downtown, you’ll see plaques dedicated to actors and artists. They called the area home while filming some of America’s classic films like Planet of the Apes and Mission Impossible 2.

A Utah's Little Hollywood Plaque in downtown Kanab, Utah.

Kanab Balloons & Tunes Roundup | What to do in Kanab, Utah

Every year in February, Kanab hosts Balloons and Tunes Roundup, an event that brings dozens of hot air balloon pilots to float above the red horizon.

Friday Night: Balloons and Tunes Roundup

Balloons and Tunes roundup begins Friday night, with the town transforming the Main street into a vendor fair and concert venue with various bands playing throughout the evening.

A family lights a lantern during the Lantern Festival portion of the Balloons and Tunes Roundup in Kanab, Utah.
Lanterns in the sky during the Balloons and Tunes Roundup that takes place every year in Kanab, Utah.

Also, Friday night is the Lantern Festival on North Main Street, when hundreds of biodegradable paper lanterns release into the night sky. The Lantern Festival connects those on the ground with the starry dark skies the area is known for, allowing them to add glitter and shimmer into the night sky.

Children wait for hot air to fill their lanterns during the Lantern Festival during the Balloons and Tunes Roundup that takes place every year in Kanab, Utah.

Saturday Morning: Balloons and Tunes Roundup

The morning begins with the balloon launch and vendor fair on Main street, going through the rest of the day and into the evening.

The Balloon Glow during the Balloons and Tunes Roundup hosted in Kanab, Utah every year.

Saturday Night: Balloon and Tunes Roundup

Then, Saturday night is the Balloon Glow, when the hot air balloon pilots station themselves throughout Center Street, blasting bursts of fire into the air. It’s exciting and not to mention warming on a chilly February night.

Sunday Morning: Balloons and Tunes Roundup

On Sunday morning, the hot air balloons launch for the last time. Both Saturday and Sunday’s balloon launches occur at the former Coral Cliffs Golf Course, weather permitting.

Hot air balloons against the Vermillion cliffs located in Kanab, Utah. The Balloons and Tunes Roundup is a fun thing to do in Kanab, Utah.

It was pretty windy during our Sunday morning launch. However, the balloons still launched, staying in the air for a shorter time, but it was still very epic to see them against the Utah terrain.

A hot air balloon floats above the red rocks of Kanab, Utah during the Balloons and Tunes Roundup.

Camp at Dark Sky RV Campground | Where to stay in Kanab, Utah

You know I’m going to encourage you to camp when visiting Kanab! It’s the best way to visit and experience an area or town. So, when looking for a place to camp, look no further than Dark Sky RV Campground.

The entrance to Dark Sky RV Campground located in Kanab, Utah. Dark Sky RV Campground is one of the best places to stay in Southern Utah.
An aerial view of Dark Sky RV Campground located in Kanab, Utah. The campground has one a handful campground awards and is popular among RVers..

I absolutely love the way they describe how the campground came to be on their website, so I’ll let them do the explaining:

In 2019, three generations of our RV traveling family fell in love with the beauty and heart of Kanab, UT. So we sold everything, took a leap of faith, and bought acreage in Kanab. Then we set out to develop a new kind of RV park – one that we yearned for on the road- where natural beauty meets luxury- inspired by our travels across the globe.

A birds-eye view of Dark Sky RV Campground in Kanab, Utah.

Just three miles from the center of Kanab, 18 premiere pull-through RV sites and 10 tent campsites sit on 40 acres of untouched sagebrush. With unobstructed views in all directions, Dark Sky guests will enjoy the ever-changing vista across the Red Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs, and the Kaibab Plateau. Epic sunrises and sunsets disappear into the darkest skies and brightest stars in Southern Utah.  Dark Sky RV Campground is a new way to RV. 

The shower area within one of two bathrooms at Dark Sky RV Campground in Kanab, Utah. Dark Sky RV Campground is the best campground in Kanab, Utah.
The interior of one of the bathrooms at Dark Sky RV Campground in Kanab Utah, the best place to camp near Kanab.

I agree wholeheartedly agree. We loved staying here, waking up to views of acres of sagebrush against the backdrops of cliffs. We particularly enjoyed the privacy they provide each of their RV sites, making you feel like you’re tucked away somewhere remote, but with full hookups and the amenity of their spa-like bathrooms. With heated floors and outdoor showers, please do yourself a favor and try them out.

The outdoor shower at Dark Sky RV Campground located outside of Kanab, Utah. Dark Sky RV Campground is the best place to camp near Kanab, Utah.

In Conclusion | What to do in Kanab, Utah

Chocked full of history and natural attractions, Kanab ought to be on your travel bucket list. From other-worldly slot canyons to discovering dinosaur prints and petroglyphs, Kanab and its surrounding area have something for every adventurer.

If you’re looking for other Utah travel guides, check out Campspot’s Guide to Moab and Guide to Arches National Park.