Wet and dreary weather locally this week has me dreaming about quick getaways to warmer climates in the coming weekends. May is one of my favorite times to get outdoors, especially in Southern Utah where temperatures are mild all day. When you think about Southern Utah getaways, the more popular national parks tend to be the first to come to mind. Arches and Canyonlands near Moab and Zion and Bryce Canyon a little further west all see an increase in visitors from around the world at this time of year. But if you’re itching for an escape from the cold as well as the crowds, I’d like to suggest you head towards the town of Kanab down in Kane County, Utah.
Kanab is an old western town on the Utah-Arizona border and offers access to some of Utah’s most scenic landscapes. If you’ve ever visited Wahweap Marina at Lake Powell or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, chances are you passed through this picturesque little town on your way. And while all of the hotspots nearby are worth the trip south, a lesser known favorite of mine is the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, just off Highway 89.
Coral Pink is a toy-hauler’s dream playground with nearly 4000 acres of salmon pink sand dunes to entertain any kind of ATV. Not only are there endless dunes to play on, you have access to slot canyons, ponderosa forests and caves to explore. The park itself has a 22 unit campground with hot showers, clean restrooms and a sewage disposal system making it even more desirable for us RV folks. Whether you love mountain biking, hiking, jumping the dune buggy or rolling down sand hills with your eyes and mouth squeezed shut, there is something at the Coral Pinks for you and your whole family.
While you’re down there, you might as well stop at Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon. Peek-A-Boo is part of Red Canyon and is easily accessible off of Highway 89 as well. You can access it by riding along a very sandy 4 wheel-drive track or by hiking cross-country over dune hills and open landscape. The hike itself is on a relatively flat and firm surface and easy for the whole family, at just under 3 miles. If you decide to ATV up to it, you can ride along the streambed all the way up to the start of the narrows. The narrows here are a dark red sandstone with varying degrees of slot depths. The floor is sandy and easily traversed by visitors of all ages and is sure to wow even your littlest campers.
Ever heard the story of Montezuma’s lost treasure? It is said that the ancient Aztec emperor Montezuma II was killed and his treasures were stolen by Spanish conquistadors. However, the Aztecs rose up against the conquistadors and the conquistadors were forced to flee. Folklore states that Montezuma’s treasure eventually made it up to Utah and is buried in an underwater cave. That underwater cave happens to be just outside of Kanab along Highway 89 as well. The tale is so well known, the History Channel actually did a segment on it back in 2014 and said there is good reason to believe the treasure is hidden there, though they’ve been unable to prove it due to a series of misfortunes and weird experiences that inevitably hindered every investigative attempt ever made. You can watch the episode by clicking http://www.history.com/shows/america-unearthed/season-3/episode-4 and then be sure to swing past the lake and decide for yourself if treasures reside at the bottom.
Want a chance to volunteer while you’re exploring the area? Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is a world famous sanctuary that houses nearly 1700 homeless pets. They are always looking for volunteers and will put you and your family to work in Dogtown, Cat World, Horse Haven, Piggy Paradise or any of the other animal “kingdoms” they run. There are chores and activities for people of all ages and will no doubt put a smile on any animal lovers face. Be sure to visit http://volunteers.bestfriends.org and register as a volunteer before heading down to make sure you get the most out of your experience.
Need another place to stop along Highway 89? Don’t forget Moqui Cave. Now a museum and gift shop, this cave has a large collection of dinosaur tracks and fossil minerals, as well as over 1000 arrowheads and pottery pieces from ancient Native American tribes. The cave is open Monday-Saturday from 9am-7pm and offers lots of fun souvenirs and knickknacks to remember your trip by.
Kanab itself offers a couple of attractions for the old western fans too. Little Hollywood Land allows you to explore movies sets from old western films and TV shows. Entrance is free but you can also reserve a spot at one of their Chuck Wagon Cookouts where a dutch-oven dinner and western entertainment is provided. Remember Gunsmoke? The TV series ran from 1955-1975 and had many of the outdoor scenes shot in Johnson Canyon, just outside of Kanab. The movie set is still visible from the road, though not accessible due to its general state of disrepair.
Regardless of what you’re after, there is no doubt you will find a little something for everyone if you decide to make a weekend out of the Kanab area, especially in your RV. This is the perfect time of year to head south and you’ll love the quiet getaway this little area offers. I know I do!