There is something special about Kanab, UT. Maybe it’s the red rock desert backdrop or the convenient location to 3 incredible national parks. It could be the fact that it is home to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary or it’s classic old western movie history.
Whatever it is that makes Kanab so special, it is clear that this small Utah town holds a little bit of magic that most small towns just don’t have.
To experience a little of the Kanab magic, check out this two-day family-friendly itinerary that combines hiking, sand dunes, local history, Hollywood movie sets, smores, and furry critters.
Little Hollywood Museum
Lunch at Kanab Creek Bakery
Best Friend Visitor Center
Heritage House Museum
Dinner at Juniper Ridge Restaurant and Saloon
Campfire S’mores and Stargazing Tour
Hiking Kanab Creek at Best Friends
Lunch at Best Friends
Tour of Best Friends
Iron Horse Restaurant and Saloon
Sledding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
No visit to Kanab is complete without stopping by the Kanab Visitor Center. Get everything needed to plan the ultimate stay. Get a lay of the land, ideas for things to do and ask all your questions to one of the knowledgeable front desk guides.
Before the heat sets in start the day by exploring Little Hollywood Museum in the middle of town. This free museum is filled with extensive Kanab movie history and movie sets from many of the old western movies that were filmed in the area.
Grab an artisan sandwich and some french pastries at Kanab Creek Bakery and then head over to the Best Friends Visitor Center. Located in the heart of Kanab, the visitor center is an interactive educational center with opportunities to play with kittens, watch birds, and purchase memorabilia.
Sign up for a sanctuary tour, get information about volunteering opportunities or attend one of the special events like Kittens & Coffee or Paint Your Pet’s Portrait.
After cuddling with kittens step back in time with a tour of the Heritage House Museum. Built in1894, the home has been lovingly restored by the city of Kanab. Get transported back to a simpler time with one of the free daily tours. A knowledgeable tour guide walks visitors through fascinating stories of the history of Kanab and the people who once inhabited the home.
One of the memorable nuggets of history was the story of how Kanab had the first all-female town council in the United States, four years before women could even vote. That is some good stuff!
Head over to Juniper Ridge Restaurant and Saloon for a first-rate Western dining experience. The Roll Away Saloon, located upstairs is named after a saloon with the same name in the early days of Kanab.
Legend has it that the women of Kanab would get upset that their husbands were spending all their money and time at the saloon. They would send over law enforcement, but the saloon was on logs, so when the law would come, they would roll it across the border into Arizona.
End the night with a Campfire S’mores and Stargazing Tour by Adventure Tour Company. Take a drive in a large open-air truck to a private canyon, with the famous Kanab movie fort as a backdrop.
The fort was used for the filming of 25+ movies including the Apple Dumpling Gang and the most recent, HBO’s second season of West World. Spend time getting up close with longhorn cows, playing campfire games, and making s’mores with gourmet homemade marshmallows.
Start the day by hiking along Kanab Creek at Best Friends. The cold creek makes this the perfect summertime activity.
Bring swimsuits to splash and play in the water and for wading through thigh-deep water when the creek goes through a short slot canyon. Hike along Kanab Creek for as long as you want and then turn around and head back.
Continue up the road to Angel Village lunchroom at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Enjoy a $5 vegetarian/vegan buffet and salad bar. The magic of this lunch has everything to do with the stunning views overlooking Angel Canyon.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is home to around 1,600 animals at any given time. Situated on 20,700 acres east of Kanab, Best Friends is the nations largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals. While searching for their forever homes, animals receive love, medical help, and a scenic, healing environment.
While at Angle Village get the full Best Friends experience by attending one of the many free guided tours that are available to visitors. It is highly recommended to sign up in advance because tours regularly fill up. Click here for a list of all the tour options.
The guides are very passionate about what they do and the animals that are in their care. It is a beautiful thing to experience.
For dinner head to Iron Horse Restaraunt and Saloon to enjoy some Southern Utah barbeque. With southwestern props to entertain the kids, adults can sit back and have a drink while listening to live music.
Fill up on barbeque and then drive 30 minutes north-west to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for sand sledding. The drive is beautiful and surprising as the red sand mounds seem to pop up out of nowhere.
Once in the park drive to the ranger station and rent sand boards for the evening at $25 a board. Make sure to get a wax square to help the board go faster.
In the hot southern Utah sun, it seems that the sand might be too hot for play, but towards the end of the day, it is surprisingly perfect.
Ask the ranger for directions to the best spot for sledding, grab your board, and head for the hills. Once your feet hit the sand, kick off your shoes and let the sand slide through your toes. Best feeling ever!
Hike up the red sandhills, jump on the sled, and fly down. Repeat over and over again. The board will go faster or slower depending on the grade of the hill and whether or not it is waxed up properly. Bring goggles just in case it is windy.
About the Author: Arika Bauer is a local southern Utah girl with a passion for helping outdoor lovers get outside, have fun, and enjoy Zion and all of Southern Utah to its fullest. This article originally appeared on ZionAdventurePhotog.com