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Base Camp Kanab

The best of southwest Utah and Northern Arizona.

Kanab, Utah, claims to be centrally located in the middle of only 10 of America’s greatest scenic wonders — but they’re just being modest. From the vermilion, white and pink cliffs and wide expanses of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, to the twisting sandstone bottlenecks of Buckskin Gulch, even the vertigo-inducing views of Zion National Park if you've never been, this six-day itinerary will show you why Kanab is the perfect base camp for adventure.

Even better? This remote outpost of adventure has one of Southern Utah's best culinary scenes. Watch: It's About the Sizzle.

This whole itinerary is about extreme perspectives. You’ll climb to the top of the world where you’ll see 360-degree panoramas of vast expanses of multi-hued cliffs, plateaus and unspoiled frontier. You’ll scramble through the depths of narrow slot canyons where you can’t even see the top of the massive cliffs that surround you. You’ll stand at the edge of unfathomably deep canyons squinting at the tiny roaring rivers below that have carved this wonder over millions of years. You’ll drive through tracts of untamed land that hearken back to the Old West, as you gaze at rugged cliffs, arches, domes, cones and mountains. You can even step into the silver screen Old West at Kanab’s Little Hollywood, where over 100 movies and TV series have been filmed.

See day-by-day options in Base Camp Kanab below or explore more itineraries.

Day 1 75 Miles
  • Coral Pink Sand Dunes
  • Johnson Canyon Road
  • Best Friends Sanctuary

While Coral Pink Sand Dunes is open for hiking and kid-friendly playing, about 90 percent of the dunes are open for ATV riders. That’s 2,000 acres of adrenaline-pumping riding across the ever-shifting sands of time. Continue to the paved Johnson Canyon Road which is great by car and excellent by motorcycle. You’ll see remnants of the Old West and peer into the colorful cliffs of the Grand Staircase. Save time for a visit to Southern Utah’s beloved no-kill animal shelter in the stunning sanctuary of Angel Canyon.

As your base camp, you can overnight in Kanab throughout this itinerary.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is 3,730 acres, and more than 2,000 acres of sand are open to OHVs. It’s the only major sand dune field on the Colorado Plateau, and great for OHV enthusiasts, hikers, sand boarders, and families in search of a unique site. HBO's "Westworld" has made a stop here, as well.

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Johnson Canyon Road

One of Southern Utah’s great scenic drives, the Johnson Canyon Road showcases remnants of the Old West including the old "Gunsmoke" film set and excellent views into the colorful Grand Staircase. Drive the 18 paved miles or continue down the dirt road to access recreational areas.

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Best Friends Sanctuary

Best Friends Animal Society operates the nation's largest sanctuary for homeless animals and provides adoption, spaying/neutering, and educational programs. Tours and visits with the animals are available daily, year-round. The guided tour is free and takes approximately an hour and a half; there are four throughout the day.

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Day 2 120 Miles
  • Mollie's Nipple
  • Buckskin Gulch
  • Little Hollywood

Today is a good day of desert contrasts. Scramble up to summit the landmark Mollie’s Nipple for a bird’s-eye view of the Grand Staircase section of the vast national monument, then watch the sky reduce to a sliver as you scramble into Buckskin Gulch, the poster child for slot canyons and this geologically fascinating region of Utah. There’s an excellent short option from Wire Pass and a multi-day option, should you come equipped with the right gear or hire a local guide (watch: A Guided Hike Through Nature's Masterworks) and wish to forsake other adventures on this itinerary to further explore Buckskin. Return to Kanab for a trip down movie-memory lane.

Mollie's Nipple

The landmark cone of Mollies Nipple is an anomaly on the sandstone plateau of the Grand Staircase, a mountain-like peak standing alone in a land of mesas, cliffs and canyons. It concludes with an exhilarating 700-foot scramble to the top. Follow in the footsteps of Liam Neeson. Image courtesy Bryant Olsen on Flickr.

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Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch is a premier hike that swerves through a subterranean paradise for the senses. Attempt this visually-arresting walk as a day trip (via Wire Pass), or navigate the entire 20 miles of deep and astonishing slots over the course of four days — with an eye to current conditions.

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Little Hollywood

Movie junkies, lovers of Westerns, and families looking for kid-friendly activities to mix up the vacation: We've found your next stop. More than 100 motion pictures have been shot in Kane County since the 1920s. This free, nonprofit museum is dedicated to preserving movie sets from Kanab’s glory days.

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Day 3 170 Miles
  • Cottonwood Canyon
  • Big Water Visitor Center
  • Lake Powell Trash Boat

Today, you have a choice. Option 1: See the southern hikes of Cottonwood Canyon Road, check out the paleontology of the monument at the Big Water Visitor Center, and then grab a boat tour of Lake Powell from Wahweap Marina. Return to Kanab or overnight in Page, Arizona. Option 2: If you're planning ahead for next year, learn how to finish the itinerary by booking a five or seven-day volunteer stay on the Trash Tracker Boat on Lake Powell. You’ll bring your own gear and explore Glen Canyon National Recreation Area while helping to keep it clean on a trip that will earn you a place in the National Park Service Volunteer-in-Parks Program.

Cottonwood Canyon

This 47-mile backway connects Scenic Byway 12 in the north with Highway 89 on the south, passing by Kodachrome Basin and numerous trailheads to short spurs or backpacking excursions on the monument. Popular destinations include Cottonwood Narrows toward the south and Grosvenor Arch toward the north. 

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Big Water Visitor Center

Located at the southern edge of Grand Staircase National Monument, the educational Big Water Visitor Center has a focus on paleontology and geology, and makes for a great pit stop on your way to other adventures.

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Lake Powell Trash Boat

Have a few extra days? Sign up for the Trash Tracker, a houseboat on Lake Powell, and help clean up the debris that has collected on the lake’s shores. Your reward: Explore some of the 1,960 miles of shoreline in the Glen Canyon while helping to keep it beautiful.

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Day 4 150 Miles
  • Antelope Canyon
  • Horseshoe Bend
  • Coyote Buttes South

Get an early start. If waking up in Kanab, grab your permit and head to Coyote Buttes South for some free-form wandering through a colorful splash of pristine nature. You can spend your whole day between Cottonwood Cove and Paw Hole, and many recommend lingering at Paw Hole for sunset. A morning start in Page better enables stops at the Instagram-friendly Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, two awe-inspiring and extremely popular destinations in northern Arizona. You’d still have time to catch that sunset at Paw Hole then head back late to Kanab.

Antelope Canyon

This gently carved Navajo sandstone has been shaped by wind and water to form a tight slot canyon. You may recognize the unique shapes and curves from photographs. The Navajo Nation has restricted access to this very popular canyon. You’ll need to pay a fee and hire a guide.

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Horseshoe Bend

One of the most photographed natural wonders in the Southwest, travelers easily access Horseshoe Bend on a 1.5-mile, round-trip hike from Highway 89, just a few miles south of Glen Canyon Dam. The overlook soars more than 1,000 feet above the Colorado River.

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Coyote Buttes South

Striped slickrock, painted over time by iron oxide, offers a visual feast of reds, oranges and yellows. Walk among thin fins and arches, as well as the area’s iconic teepees. If you can’t get a permit for The Wave to the North, try the South. It’s pure, unadulterated nature.

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Day 5 195 Miles
  • Pipe Springs National Monument
  • North Rim Grand Canyon
  • Moqui Cave

Now you are perfectly poised to catch the lesser-visited, higher-elevation North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Thanks to the remarkable geology of the Grand Staircase, there’s no shortage of stunning panoramas in this part of the country. The Grand Canyon is the oldest sedimentary layer in the staircase, and from your vantage you can pick out dozens of rock layers. A stop at Pipe Springs folds Native and pioneer history into this fascinating day. If time permits, Moqui Cave brings a bit of folklore to the table. Or head toward Zion for an overnight in the park or Springdale.

Pipe Springs National Monument

Pipe Springs National Monument is abundant in pioneer and Native American history — visit the museum, walk around the historic fort and cabins, stroll through the garden and orchard, and find spectacular views along the Ridge Trail. Photo courtesy teofilo on Flickr.

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North Rim Grand Canyon

The remote North Rim averages 8,000 feet above sea level, rising 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. It is 220 miles by car from the South Rim or a strenuous 21-mile hike across. Your base camp in Kanab is ideal for a stop at the lesser-visited side of Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy John Fowler.

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Moqui Cave

A few miles outside of Kanab you can find a natural history museum situated within a redrock cave. With both Native American artifacts and dinosaur tracks on display, it’s a one-stop shop for a unique dose of human and natural history in a quirky setting.

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Day 6 45 Miles
  • Orderville Canyon
  • Zion Canyon Overlook
  • Observation Point

As the sun rises in the east, it pulls back the curtain of night on Zion Canyon. See the sunrise from the short but scenic Canyon Overlook, which offers commanding vistas of the lower reaches of Zion Canyon. Or meet the rising sun at the top of Observation Point, also excellent at sunset. Often called The Narrow’s little sister, Orderville Canyon is just as (if not more) beautiful, but with an additional technical aspect. It’s one of the easiest technical canyons in the Zion National Park area, but still demands respect. Sunrise to sunset makes for a long day, but you'll love every minute of it.

Orderville Canyon

Canyoneers love this technical day hike through a desert slot canyon that takes you into the heart of Zion. Often called The Narrow’s little sister, Orderville Canyon is just as beautiful, but with an additional technical aspect. It’s one of the easiest technical canyons in the Zion area, but it still demands respect. Photo courtesy Chris M Morris.

Zion Canyon Overlook

This short but scenic trail runs to a high overlook immediately above the Great Arch, commanding vistas of the lower reaches of Zion Canyon. The hike initially climbs a series of stairsteps then traverses the upper walls of deep slot canyon called Pine Creek. A "moderate" hike due to dropoffs and overhangs.

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Observation Point

This trail offers a long and steep climb from the floor of Zion Canyon to the rimrock that soars high above it. Observation Point itself is perched high above Zion Canyon and is the most accessible of the rimrock overlooks that line the canyon wall. This hike is 8 miles round-trip.