This Small Utah Town Is Set Between Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks

You might not have heard of Kanab, Utah, but if you want to visit beautiful national parks in Utah and Arizona, this is the place to be.

Hot air balloons flying over Kanab, Utah

Visit Utah/Olivier Barthez

The tiny town of Kanab, Utah, is perfectly perched within reach of the most iconic sites in the southwest. Three popular national parks — Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon — are one to three hours away by car, and Kanab acts as the gateway to The Wave, a popular red rock formation that resembles a wave in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.

And while Kanab serves as the perfect home base for exploring these famous sites (and more), it's still relatively unheard of — in fact, it’s motto is "Magically Unspoiled." The tiny town of roughly 5,000 people includes athletes and outdoor lovers who can’t get enough of the adventures that await just outside their door. Here’s why they’ve chosen to call Kanab home, and what you, as a visitor, won’t want to miss during your stay. 

Best Things to Do in Kanab

Kanab is a short drive from not one, but three national parks. The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is under a two-hour drive to the south, and Zion National Park is about an hour northwest. The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park are slightly further afield — at an hour and a half from Kanab — though they still make for an easy day trip. 

Those who want to stick closer to Kanab can check out the human-made Sand Caves, a mere five-minute drive out of town, or Belly of the Dragon, a visually stunning tunnel that’s 20 minutes north of Kanab.

Visitors should also put in for a permit to see The Wave. The popular site is limited to just 64 people per day (48 permits are given three months in advance, and 16 are given one day in advance). Those who nab a permit to witness the formation, which resembles a wave carved into red sandstone, will need to come prepared to complete the six-mile round-trip hike. Permit holders can also see attractions like The Second Wave, Melody Arch, and Fatali's Boneyard. 

If you missed out on a permit, head to White Pocket, a similar but less popular site that also sits within the remote Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.

Where to Stay in Kanab

For a complete outdoor experience, book one of the fully outfitted safari tents at BaseCamp 37°, located eight miles east of Kanab. Each glamping tent comes with a California king and deck with desert views. There’s also a communal kitchen, plenty of outdoor seating, and hammocks primed for stargazing.

If you’re traveling with a furry friend, there’s no better place to lay your head than Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile, a pet-centric property with free shuttles to Kanab’s famous pet sanctuary, which just so happens to be the largest animal sanctuary in the U.S.

Best Time to Visit Kanab

If you have your heart set on seeing The Wave, your best bet is to visit between December and February when the demand for permits drops slightly. During the most popular months to visit The Wave — typically April, May, September, and October — there's often around 300 people vying for the 16 daily permits.

The Wave aside, Kanab shines in the spring and fall when the weather is cool and temperate. If you wish to visit Kanab’s neighboring national parks, make sure to research what’s open during your travel window. All three parks are open year-round, but the trails may be limited in the winter and the north entrance to the Grand Canyon (which is the most accessible from Kanab) is typically closed between early December and mid-May

Where to Eat and Drink in Kanab

For freshly baked goods and a cozy vibe, head to Kanab Creek Bakery, which doles out coffee and croissants along with full breakfast options in the heart of downtown. 

For a nice evening meal, book a table at Sego Restaurant. Here, you’ll find a hefty vegetarian menu along with specialties like bone-in prime rib and scallops. Sego also has a great cocktail menu, wines, and beers on draft.

If you’re willing to make the 20-minute drive, head to Thunderbird Restaurant in Mount Carmel Junction, just north of Kanab. It’s hard to miss the restaurant’s bright, neon sign, which sets the tone for its retro interior. Don’t leave without trying a piece of their famous "Ho-Made Pie."

Getting to Kanab

The best way to reach Kanab is by flying into neighboring St. George, home to the St. George Regional Airport (SGU). From this airport, it’s around an hour and a half by car to Kanab. 

Those who want more flight options should consider flying into Las Vegas (LAS), which is a three-hour drive to Kanab, or Salt Lake City (SLC), which is five hours away. Similarly, you can fly into Phoenix (PHX) and make the 5.5-hour drive to Kanab.

If you plan on exploring the nearby national parks and rock formations, make sure to rent a car.

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