Adventure travel is my passion and I have to say Southern Utah is my “go to” location for an awesome outdoor itinerary suitable for any weekend warrior looking to get out of their comfort zone.
In January 2022, I quickly threw together a jam-packed 6 day journey that exceeded even my own expectations. FYI, I consistently use the All Trails app for directions to trailheads and routes, as well as downloaded the Kanab Trails app for this specific adventure.
Here are my recommendations and even a few additions I didn’t have time to squeeze in (but did all the research for):
Day 1 – being a National Park junkie, I had never made time prior to hit up the remote Great Basin in eastern Nevada so that was my launching point. Winter season does limit some trail availability especially to Wheeler Peak (13k feet the highest point in the state) but I thoroughly enjoyed trying out crampons for the first time ever along portions of the Lehman Creek, Mountain View & Grey Cliffs trails. The highlight was without question the Lehman Cave tour (pic #1) at 200 ft underground and the formations were stunning! (As an alternative, I would highly recommend Zion NP which is closer and my favorite NP – hiking the Narrows or Angel’s Landing are must dos).
Day 2 – basing out of Kanab is highly recommended, as every day I opted to take my chances in the daily lottery for The Wave (9am at the Kanab Civic Center). Thereafter, I would break off in a different direction every day. First on my list, being a National Park junkie, was the Pipe Spring National Monument. The ridge trail was only .5 mi but it got the blood pumping and had amazing views towards the Grand Canyon to the south (pic #2). I then made my way west/north to Kanarraville Falls, which you need to secure a permit online prior (easy to get). Winter hikes can be hit or miss with icy conditions even though I had crampons, as I was only able to access ~ half of the 6 mile trek, but it was a beautiful hike that I would definitely return to conquer. I then continued my loop back to Kanab and squeezed in the 1.9 mile Red Hollow Slot Canyon in Orderville. So much fun!!!
Day 3 – I headed east to an awesome 2 mile jaunt to the Toadstools (pic #3). Right off the highway, you follow a wash to otherworldly hoodoos and a playground to explore all morning. Be sure to venture both directions past the “big hammer” hoodoo. Just a few miles down a dirt road, I also added in a spontaneous 1 mile walk to The Nautilus. You have to see it to believe it…. a natural “swirl” formation in the middle of nowhere. Finally I took a chance to see if my rented Versa could make the treacherous 8 mile or 30 min drive to the trailhead of Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch (which is the longest slot canyon in the world). And oohhh it was a blessing to spend 5 miles wandering through this stunning terrain (pic #4). One of the highlights of my trip! Bring lunch and take every chute to explore to your hearts content.
Day 4 – I made the quick drive north to Belly of the Dragon (pic #5), a man-made tunnel that is worth a quick visit, and you can even continue on for a few more miles through the wash to another small slot canyon if you desire. Then hit up the Moqui Caves for a touristy cave experience. Take a left immediately outside and climb up the sandstone cliff side to be delighted by another fun diversion at the Kanab Sand Caves (pic #6). On your way back to town, stop by the amazing Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to volunteer or take a tour of this beautiful property. When back in town, check out the big “K” adorning the cliff side and trek the easy 1.5 mile K-hill trail for great views of the city. I chose to end my day with a big 4.5 mile sunset hike up the Bunting trail (pic #7). Very doable, but this trek is at a 45% angle and the last stretch has you scaling very narrow ridges (in the snow it is very sketchy). But the views are tremendous and incredibly satisfying!
Day 5 – miraculously I WON the Wave lottery for tomorrow, so today I changed my plan to not go so strenuous. First hike was 3 miles into Tom’s Canyon, which is accessible easily from the east side of town. Next I scheduled an ATV tour with Kanab Tour Co. to one of my bucket list spots at Peekaboo Slot Canyon (pic #8). It was pricey but I didn’t want to take any chances getting stuck in the VERY deep sand on the access roads. Definitely no regrets, as we had a blast flying through the backcountry single track and up ridiculous sand hills en route to the canyon. The slot was awe inspiring and downright surreal to traverse (pic #9). Nearby is another gem and an easy .25 mile trek to Sand Dune Arch. I finished my day wanting to take in my last Kanab sunset, so opted to do the first part of the K-hill trail again to sit on one of the many benches and just enjoy my surroundings.
Day 6 – Wave day! I am fortunate I had already accessed the Wire Pass trailhead, so I knew the condition of the dirt road in and also where this trail bisected. Therefore, I chose to beat the crowds and start my trek just prior to twilight. The NPS gives you a good map and pictures to follow, but I recommend a headlamp and GPS as well. This 6.4 mile hike was one of my favorite hikes EVER (pic #10) – varied terrain, wildlife peeking out everywhere, sunrise glow was unparalleled and the colors were unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed!
A few alternatives if you have a rugged SUV and have time to drive a little further to the outskirts:
- Zebra slot canyon
- Spooky slot canyon
- Coyote gulch 2.5 miles
- Bull valley gorge .9 mile
- Willis creek 5.8 miles
- Devils garden 1 mile in Grand Staircase Escalante
- White pocket – Coyote Buttes south
- Cottonwood wash narrows 1.5 miles
- Cedar Breaks NM ridge line trail
- I had already been to Bryce Canyon but I HIGHLY recommend seeing daybreak from Sunrise Point & hiking the Figure 8 full loop!
I miss Utah already! My itinerary map (pic #11) shows a visual of this aggressive plan and how motivated I was to experience as much as I possible could. Enjoy all the varied hikes and outdoor experiences that will definitely have me coming back for more…. sooner rather than later next time!