Hikes Near Kanab, Utah

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Kanab is an outdoor lovers paradise.  There are several hikes near Kanab through slot canyons on Federal land, in National Parks and in State Parks.  A hiked a handful of trails while in the area.

Easy Hikes Near Kanab

Water Canyon Trail

Water Canyon Trail is located off of Kanab Canyon Road across from the Best Friend Animal Sanctuary’s Welcome Center only about five miles outside of Kanab.  It is available to the public.  The Water Canyon Trail is only 1.5 miles roundtrip.  It starts on a road that descends to Kanab Creek. Before getting to the creek, several roads disperse in different directions past pet cemeteries.  To follow the trail go to the left.

The path crosses the Kanab Creek lined with willow trees for which it is appropriately named (the Paiute word kawnuv means willow).  The trail climbs from the creek up through the desert terrain passing cacti, juniper and sandstone cliffs.  The interpretive signs point out a few cool things like the holes in the sandstone that used to be wasps nests!  Also, the Sacred Datura plant, which blooms a lovely purple and white trumpet flower, is extremely toxic!

In addition to the flora, there is a pueblo ruin.  Only the very bottom with the lighter color stone is original.  The rest was rebuilt in the 50’s by the rancher who previously owned the property.  The trail ends at Water Canyon Spring where a trickling waterfall feeds the creek.  It’s a very easy and delightful hike with lots to see over the short distance.

Hidden Lake

Another hike near Kanab is the Hidden Lake trail. It is located off Angel Canyon Road on BLM land leased by the Best Friend Animal Society.  The walk is up a road that may be driven in good weather conditions.  At the first junction, about a 1/4 mile in, stay to the right.  Walk another 1/4 mile to the bend in the road where it passes a horse pasture.  Continue to a cave.  Hidden lake is water in the cave which it takes a few moments to adjust to the darkness.

Upon returning to the parking area, after the bend in the road, veer to the right to see an Anasazi Ruin before reconnecting to the road at the junction.  The hike is easy (as well as driveable for quick access to the lake).

Moderate Hikes Near Kanab

Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

Wire Pass is located east of Kanab in Paria Canyon in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.  It is located at the same trailhead as the world famous Wave hike which requires driving 8.4 miles down House Rock Valley Road.  The hard packed, clay road is well graded so that any passenger car aside from a few ditches can easily make the trip assuming conditions are dry.  If rain is in the forecast, reconsider visiting the area as the clay is slick, canyons may flood, and cell service is unavailable.

hikes near kanab

The hike to Buckskin Gulch may begin in three locations, the northern or southern terminus, as well as at Wire Pass.  While Wire Pass requires a $6 permit, following this path is many times the preferred route as it provides quicker access into the narrow part of the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwest.  The trail starts in a wash before it reaches Wire Pass.

While the goal is to explore the famous Buckskin Gulch, Wire Pass is no slouch.  The canyon is extremely narrow, in some places only three feet wide, thus it makes for fun exploring.  The 1.7 mile distance to the confluence of Buckskin is extremely easy hiking with the exception of an eight-foot drop that requires scrambling over a boulder via an old, V shaped log as “pseudo ladder”.  Because of this and the possibility of having to wade through stagnant pools of water in Buckskin Gulch, I’d rate this otherwise easy hie as moderate.  Wire Pass Road Block Video.

Upon reaching the confluence of Buckskin Gulch, be sure to inspect the sandstone wall to the right for petroglyphs of bighorn sheep.  Then, decide whether to explore Buckskin Gulch either upstream or downstream.  Most people go downstream (or to the right).  I explored both directions, but hardly made it far as the canyon was filled with stagnant water from a recent storm and I only had one pair of trail shoes with me that I didn’t want soaked for the rest of my endeavors.

The 20 mile slot canyon, the longest in the world and the most famous in the southwest for its narrow and deep passage is also a popular backpacking route as seeing the whole canyon in a day is somewhat challenging.  For a day hike, visitors may pick a distance of choice and return to the parking area.

Caution: Take note of the trailhead as the first part of the hike travels through a wash and it is easy to miss the tiny markers on either side of the wash.

hikes near kanab
look closely for the brown markers (on the right behind bush)

Difficult Hikes Near Kanab

The Narrows

I have heard so much about the Narrows, the most famous hike in Utah, that I was trying to keep my expectations in check.  After all, it requires some logistics and is overrun with crowds, two things I don’t find very compelling in nature.

The Narrows is located in Zion National Park which requires a large entrance fee.  In addition, due to the crowds, a bus system has been designed to take visitors to different stops in the park including the final stop where the Narrows is located.  It takes 40 minutes from the visitor center parking lot to reach the trailhead on the free bus.

In order to get a parking spot at the visitor center, hikers must arrive early.  There were plenty of spaces left when I arrived at 7:15am, but upon leaving around 2:30 drivers were circling for spots both at the visitors center as well as in the nearby Town of Springdale which requires an additional bus.

Zion Outfitters is located in Springdale just outside the park entrance, and I highly recommend renting some gear from them or other outfitters in the area.  All the prices are the same, but I believe Zion Outfitters is the only company to allow the pick up of rented gear the night before the hike.  I hiked the narrows in the fall, and I was very happy to have sturdy boots, neoprene socks, dry pants and a hiking stick for $44.  I could have used my own hiking pole, but the wooden stick was included with the rental, and though a little heavy, was worth using over my pole.  Without pants, the rental is only $24.

The water is cold (maybe 50 degrees and there is very little sun that hits the canyon).  The cool breeze kept me in a hat, gloves and three layers which included a puffy for most of my trek.  In the summer, I suppose it is not 100% necessary to rent the boots or socks, but my sensitive feet were spared blisters and the ankle support of the boot kept my joints happy.  I think it is money well spent, but I also know, the more comfortable I am, the more I will spend time exploring (and enjoy it)!

I caught the 7:30 bus.  One departs every 15 minutes or so and was at the trailhead by 8:10 along with a handful of other people.  While a bit chilly today, it was HIGHLY worth going in the morning to avoid the crowds.

The first mile of the hike is along a paved trail, which I could do without, but it gives the less fortunate a way to see the opening of the canyon.  After finishing the mile and stepping down the stairs to the river bed, I just walked into the river and headed upstream into the canyon.  At first, I thought, this seems a little silly.  I can wade through any river while fishing, why am I wading through a river and calling it a hike?

I did feel sorry for the fish.  I can’t imagine there were any living in this area of the canyon.  I certainly didn’t see any despite enjoying CLEAR water because I was one of the select few in the early crowd.  At least I could see where I was wading which isn’t necessarily the case later in the day when the masses arrive.  In fact, from some of the pictures I’d seen, I thought I would be wading through stagnant, murky water, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a moving river.

I was also happy to find the river was running at 39 cfs and usually shin deep.  In addition, many times I zig-zagged across the river to walk on the river banks which is much easier than wading in water, no matter how shallow.  Not to mention, occasionally those river rocks are slippery.  There were a few times I got going a little to fast and without my walking stick, I’m certain I would have paid the price.

Fortunately, I had packed my extra clothes in trash bags and my food in ziplocks, so what was in my pack was protected, but my camera which was hooked to my shoulder strap was at risk.  I certainly wasn’t going to leave it behind and I definitely wanted it handy to snap photos of the lovely canyon.

For the second and third mile of the hike I passed by some of the highlighted (though not signed) features of the canyon such as Mystery Canyon Waterfall, House Rock and Orderville Junction.  According to the pamphlet, this was supposed to take two hours, but it took less than 1.5 hours.  I think I was excited to get to Wall Street and hoped I would have it to myself as hikers spread out along the way.

Much to my surprise, my wish came true!  A few hikers were behind me, but we spread out enough that with the narrow and deep passageways that turned with the river, we were just out of the sight of each other’s camera lenses.  How amazing to feel like I had this place all to myself as the sunlight filtered in giving the high walls a majestic look. Video of Wall Street.

I followed the light to an opening where the canyon widened and ferns grew on its walls.  Boulders peppered the river and soon I reach a pool that was crotch deep and full of drift wood.  I suppose I could have made it through to the next shallow area, but the outfitter suggested I’d be getting to chest deep water and perhaps even swimming if I wanted to see Big Spring, so this seemed like a good place to turn around as the high water became more frequent.

I learned later from a group of backpackers that obtained a top-down permit that the water level never got above their waist, so I guess I could have continued, but I had hiked several miles, still had to return and wanted to explore Orderville Canyon which was a side canyon I had passed before entering Wall Street.

Orderville Canyon was narrow with a shallow river and a handful of small waterfalls to climb. Upon reaching the second waterfall (not very far in), I decided I had explored enough for the day.

The hike, whose first few miles didn’t seem much better than many fishing rivers, turned into wonder upon reaching Wall Street.  Everyone should at least hike the 3-4 miles one-way to and through this section which was by far the most spectacular.

Overall, I expected that walking up the river would be harder and more tiring than it was.  The distance, the slippery rocks, and sometimes the “hidden rocks” is what qualifies the hike for a “difficult” rating.

I really enjoyed these hikes near Kanab, Utah. ETB

Map thanks to Wanderlog, a trip planner app


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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