For proximity to the great outdoors, the small southwestern Utah town of Kanab (pop. 5,400) can’t be beat. At the heart of the “Grand Circle,” Kanab is central to major outdoor attractions such as Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, plus a host of lesser-known scenic wonders. The Kanab area’s unparalleled beauty and Old West heritage have long served as a backdrop for western films and television. Kanab is also home to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest in the United States.
Serving as a gateway to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Kanab is a day trip away from major parks and monuments: Zion National Park (40 miles west), Bryce Canyon National Park (70 miles north), the Grand Canyon North Rim (80 miles south), and Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (60 miles east). Kanab also offers easy access to smaller parks and recreation areas such as Cedar Breaks National Monument, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Grosvenor Arch, Cottonwood Canyon, Bull Valley Gorge, Buckskin Gulch, and Pipe Springs National Monument in Arizona. Camping, hiking, mountain biking, mule and deer hunting, photography, and sightseeing are just some of the endless recreational possibilities near Kanab.
Unique to Kanab are two popular tourist attractions: Moqui Cave, a natural history museum featuring Native American artifacts and the largest collection of dinosaur tracks in southern Utah; and the Frontier Movie Town Museum, a display of western movie sets and film memorabilia. The infamous Parry Lodge where celebrities stayed while shooting films locally is also a popular tourist stop. Tours can be arranged at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary just a few minutes north of Kanab.
Kanab hosts a variety of restaurants for every taste, from Mexican and Southwestern to Italian and American. Shopping for gifts and souvenirs, as well as necessities like food and camping gear, is available. If exploring Kanab’s outdoor attractions isn’t physical enough, visitors can purchase day passes to the Adobe Fitness Center. Kanab is also home to the full-service Kane County Office of Tourism and the BLM’s Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Visitor Center. There is a small airport nearby.
Climate and Geography
Kanab’s central location and temperate climate (an average 250 sunny days per year) make it an ideal base camp for year-round exploration of canyon country. Visitors will be awed by the geologic wonders and rugged beauty of the Kanab area: the multi-hued cliffs of the Grand Staircase, majestic mountain views, scenic slot canyons, rivers, eroded sandstone formations, coral sand dunes, and untamed wilderness. Cottonwood, pinion pine, juniper, and sage brush accent the various landscapes.
Kanab, which means “place of the willows” in Paiute, was first settled in 1864 but Indian attacks forced early explorers to abandon the area in just two years. The area was revisited and established by Mormon pioneers in 1870, under the supervision of Brigham Young. It remained an isolated southwestern town for many years but now attracts millions of visitors annually.
During the twentieth century Hollywood fell in love with the authentic Old West flavor of Kanab and the surrounding area. If you’ve ever seen an old western, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of “Little Hollywood,” where more than 100 movies and TV shows have been filmed. Movie buffs visiting Kanab will enjoy visiting Frontier Movie Town on West Center Street, as well as the nearby Paria, Johnson Canyon, and Kanab Canyon movie sets.
Notable Kanab residents include Mormon pioneers Jacob Hamblin, Levi Stewart, and William Thomas Stewart, famed western novelist Zane Gray, and contemporary jazz musician Kelly Sweet.