With a lifetime’s worth of outdoor adventures in southern Utah, it can be tough to know which activities to pack into a three-day vacation. We’ve handpicked some of the region’s best attractions, lodging, and dining options for an action-packed and unforgettable three days in Kane County.
Kick off the adventure right with a full-day excursion in Zion National Park before spending the night in the quiet town of Mount Carmel. On Day 2, make your way from Mount Carmel to Kanab—which will become your basecamp for two nights—and prepare for a day of exploring the nearby natural wonders in Grand Staircase-Escalante and Vermilion Cliffs. Then, rest up for an action-packed Day 3, which includes a trip up north to Bryce Canyon National Park and Kodachrome Basin State Park before taking a scenic drive back to Kanab. A lot to fit in? Sure, but you’ll be glad you did.
Here are the details.
– Day 1 –
What to Do
Day Trip Through Zion National Park Get the most out of a day trip to Zion National Park by leaving the car at the visitor center and hopping on the free shuttle. About halfway through Zion Canyon, take the shuttle stop for Zion Lodge, where you’ll find the Emerald Pools trailhead. A comfortable, 1.2-mile round-trip hike leads to the waterfalls cascading down the red rocks into the glistening Lower Pools. Longer, more strenuous hikes continue to the Middle and Upper Pools for those who want to explore a bit more.
Take the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, one of the best drives in the country. Ken Lund
Returning to Zion Lodge, hop back on the shuttle to Weeping Rock, where an easy, 0.4-mile walk leads right beneath the overhanging walls where water trickles through the rock. Ride the shuttle once more to the final stop in Zion Canyon, the Temple of Sinawava. Bring a picnic lunch from Springdale or the Lodge to enjoy in this incredible setting, where the canyon’s sheer sandstone walls jut up to 2,000 feet from the valley floor, carving the horizon on either side.
After lunch, ride the shuttle back to your car and drive up Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. The road switchbacks as it ascends to the top of the canyon, offering up spectacular views around each bend. Two tunnels carve their way through the sandstone walls (vehicle size restrictions apply) before the road summits the east rim. To enjoy this lesser-visited part of the park, pull over at some of the roadside scenic vistas: Canyon Overlook and Checkerboard Mesa are two must-dos.
Where to Eat
Thunderbird Restaurant in Mount Carmel Leaving Zion through the park’s east entrance, a 15-minute drive on UT-9 takes you to Mount Carmel. The unfussy Thunderbird Restaurant fills hungry bellies with all the American classics you crave after a day of hiking. Remember to save room for Thunderbird’s famous homemade pies—you won’t be disappointed.
The Zion Mountain Ranch is known for its roaming buffalo. Bryan Dougherty
Where to Stay
Zion Mountain Ranch in Mount Carmel For a unique, outdoor-oriented accommodation, book a private cabin at Zion Mountain Ranch, just four miles from Zion’s east entrance. Set on the hillside amongst sprawling plains, the cabins are rustic yet undeniably elegant, offering guests the chance to end the day with uninterrupted sunset views. You can expect to see the ranch’s roaming buffalo herd, and those who decide to eat here will treasure a memorable dining experience featuring a sustainable, farm-to-table menu.
– Day 2 –
Kanab Creek Bakery in Kanab The aroma of freshly baked breads and pastries intermingled with roasting coffee draws people to this artisanal bakery, which also features a full breakfast menu of omelets, sandwiches, quiches, salads, crepes and more.
What to Do
Explore Grand Staircase-Escalante & Vermillion Cliffs Start the day with a scenic drive to the trailhead for Buckskin Gulch—one of the longest and most impressive slot canyons in the Southwest—about 45 miles from Kanab via US-89 south and House Rock Valley Road. Hike through this narrow labyrinth of swirling sandstone as far as time and your abilities allow, knowing that the trail in its entirety stretches 16 miles from one end of the canyon to the other.
Merely entering Buckskin Gulch for a mile or two will give you the memorable experience of exploring a Southwest slot canyon. Pack a picnic lunch in Kanab (grocery stores in town pack lunches or pick one up at Kanab Creek Bakery during breakfast) to refuel before carrying on to your next stop.
The Toadstool hoodoos in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are a must-see in the region. pspechtenhauser
Back on US-89, continue south to the trailhead for The Toadstools, yet another one-of-a-kind landscape that defines southern Utah. This untaxing, 1.8-mile trail winds through the otherworldly red and white striped hoodoos and cliffs that one simply has to see to believe. Wrap up the day by driving up to Paria, the ghost town and famous Western film location situated along the Paria River in Grand Staircase-Escalante. Take in the sprawling vistas at sunset, when the dramatic cliffs are known for their dazzling array of white, vermilion, red, and aquamarine stripes take on their most vibrant hues.
Where to Eat
Sego in Kanab While Kanab may be small (population 4,500), it has earned itself a reputation as an ambitious foodie destination, and restaurants like Sego make it easy to see why. Inspired New American cuisine highlights the diversity of regional flavors from across the country, with dishes like Hawaiian red crab stir-fry, chorizo oil avocado toast, and Malaysian BBQ wings. Relax with a house-made craft cocktail, a local microbrew or a quality glass of vino to end your day.
Where to Stay
Parry Lodge or Basecamp 37° in Kanab Settle in for a two-night stay in Kanab, the most convenient and lively town to make your basecamp in Kane County. The historic Parry Lodge stands out thanks to its colonial architecture—complete with white clapboard exterior and royal blue window shutters—and its ties to the Western movie legends who frequented the establishment during Kanab’s film industry boom.
Basecamp 37° invites guests to revel in the ultimate desert glamping experience. Set in the hillside eight miles east of Kanab, this off-the-grid glampground features five luxurious Safari-style tents complete with comfortable beds, hot showers, solar power, and a shared outdoor kitchen.
– Day 3 –
Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen in Kanab Weekend brunch (or weekday breakfast) on Peekaboo’s outdoor patio is a Kanab dining experience not to be missed. Peekaboo has a flair for adding their desert signature on the classics, like a breakfast burrito served with black bean and corn salsa, the hearty whole wheat “canyoneering” pancakes topped with two eggs, and the house-made French toast layered with cinnamon cream cheese.
Bryce Canyon National Park offers more spectacular views in southern Utah. DON PUGH
What to Do
Hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and Kodachrome Basin State Park Enjoy the scenic drive from Kanab to Bryce Canyon National Park by heading north on US-89 and east on UT-12 (about an hour and a half total). Feast your eyes on the seemingly impossible landscape of Bryce Canyon, where bizarre hoodoos of cream- and orange-colored rocks carve out the mountainside. Don’t miss the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop combination trail, dubbed the “best 3-mile hike in the world.” Starting and ending at Sunset Point, this loop takes you down into the heart of the canyon’s curious rock formations.
After getting your fill at Bryce, continue east on UT-12 to Kodachrome Basin State Park (22 miles from one park entrance to the other). Prized as one of Utah’s most impressive state parks, Kodachrome Basin is home to multi-colored sandstone spires and jagged cliffs that can be easily explored on short hikes like Angel’s Palace Trail, Grand Parade Trail, or Kodachrome Nature Trail. Bring a lunch from Kanab to refuel at one of the park’s easy-to-access picnic spots.
Wrap up the day by taking the scenic route back to Kanab via Cottonwood Canyon Road. At the end of Cottonwood Canyon Road turn onto US-89 heading north back to Kanab for a well-deserved dinner and night of relaxation.
Where to Eat
Rocking V Café in Kanab The personality- and art-filled Rocking V Café takes up residence in Kanab’s old mercantile building. This inviting and eclectic eatery specializes in Southwest-fusion creations sporting local ingredients, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.
Where to Stay
Basecamp 37 or Parry Lodge again Come back to Kanab with the comfort of knowing you’ve already checked in and unpacked at your cozy home-away-from-home at Parry Lodge or Basecamp 37. You’ve earned your rest tonight.