Kanab – Hub for the National Parks + Gorgeous Canyons Nearby!

November 2017 – Southern Utah is loaded with eye-popping scenic drives. From the stunning and famous Scenic Highway 12 to the little known Burr Trail to the dramatic Bicentennial Highway (Utah Route 95) and Scenic Byway 24 through Capitol Reef Country, almost every road in southern Utah is impossible to drive without stopping every few miles to take a photo!

RV trip to Zion National Park Utah-min

There are loads of gorgeous scenic drives in southern Utah!

Driving through the red rocks near Kanab Utah-min

Whether it’s a freeway or a back country byway, almost every road in southern Utah is a stunner!

Scenic drive on the way to Zion National Park Utah-min

Typical southern Utah scenery at dusk.

Scenic road near Kanab Utah-min

Southern Utah inspires us every time we visit!

We’ve loved our travels in southern Utah so much that I’ve had to split our Utah travel page to list southwestern Utah and southeastern Utah blog posts separately. Looking them over, it’s impossible to say which area we love most!

But our travels this year focused on the area around Kanab, a little town that is within easy striking distance of the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon, three of America’s most popular and awe-inspiring National Parks.

Like many western towns, a hillside on the edge of town sports Kanab’s first initial.

Red rock mountain in Kanab Utah-min

The letter “K” for “Kanab” on a nearby hillside.

Kanab, Utah, has a long history of hosting Hollywood movie crews whenever they descended on the area to film scenes set in the dramatic landscapes nearby.

Not only are there movie sets to visit, both renovated and dilapidated, but there’s a historic motel in the center of town that has lots of photos of the various celebrities who have used their facilities as a home base while making their films.

Sign at Historic Parry Lodge in Kanab Utah-min

Historic Parry Lodge was the motel of choice for visiting Hollywood stars.

But our favorite aspect of Kanab is getting out into those landscapes and exploring. The amazing thing is that simply driving towards the big name destinations automatically becomes a trip through gorgeous scenery.

Taking Route 89 a few miles north of town in the direction of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon, we found a stunning red rock wall that was throwing fabulous reflections across the water.

We’ve driven this road dozens of times and barely noticed this gem passing by at 60 mph. This time we stopped to take photos!

Red rock reflections Kanab Utah RV trip-min

Just north of town on Route 89 thousands of people zip past this beautiful spot!

Red rock reflections Kanab Utah RV trip-min


Heading east of Kanab we drove into Johnson Canyon where, again, the views were breathtaking.

Johnson Canyon scenery Kanab Utah RV trip-min

Johnson Canyon offers some gorgeous views.

We spotted an exotic looking rig camping among the towering rocks. At first we thought it was an EarthRoamer, a very expensive go-anywhere type of ultra rugged motorhome. But it turned out to be a work truck front end with a small travel trailer perched in the bed! Now there’s a creative way to go…!!

Unusual RV near Kanab Utah-min

An EarthRoamer? No, a utility truck with a travel trailer on the back!

Johnson Canyon Road veers off onto various dirt roads that can take you on a very long back country adventure through Grand Staircase Escalante before returning you to one of the distant highways. There isn’t a whole lot back there, but we were thrilled when we spotted a roadrunner that wasn’t sprinting away as they usually do.

Roadrunner Kanab Utah-min

This roadrunner stopped running just long enough for a portrait.

This little guy wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere.

Roadrunner Kanab Utah-min

He wasn’t too worried about ut.

He sat on his perch and looked this way and that, letting us get incredibly close.

Roadrunner in Kanab Utah_-2-min

“Here’s my better side.”

Roadrunner in Kanab Utah-min

Did you know roadrunners have that cool patch of bright orange behind their eyes?

Then he hopped to face the other way, and after showing off his tail, he took off.

Roadrunner's tail Kanab Utah-min

A final tail shot gave us a view of the color patches almost meeting in the back of his head.

This is ranching country, and cattle grazed peacefully in the fields. We noticed a crowd of cows and a huge flock of mockingbirds were grouped in one spot. We slowed to get a closer look and were floored to see a lone coyote standing over a dead deer in the middle of them all.

As we approached, all but a few mockingbirds (which look like flying saddle shoes) scattered to the winds. The cows swayed and turned their attention to us. But the coyote didn’t budge. He stood over his kill and even licked his chops.

Coyote protects deer kill Kanab Utah-min


We often hear coyotes yipping at night. They hunt in groups and let out a whoop and holler of excitement when they get a kill. But this guy appeared to have taken down the deer by himself, as there were no other coyotes around. It is astonishing that a coyote could take down a deer, but we did a little research later and found that it is not that unusual, although several friends think he was just an opportunist who came along at the right moment!

It was strange, though, to look at the big herd of cows standing around and realize that they had witnessed the whole thing. What did they think as they watched the coyote chasing that deer down?

Coyote and cow Kanab Utah RV trip-min

What did the cows think of the grisly slaughter that became a banquet feast for dozens of creatures?
Five days later we drove by again and only a few bare bones were left.

There are some red rock walls in Johnson Canyon that sport petroglyphs left by the ancients. Not far from the familiar rock art images of hundreds of years ago there are also some scratchings that were left more recently.

Kids from the class of 1941 made a few etchings, and a “Store and Garage” owned by Jensen and a partner which sold Eastman Kodak film had something of an advertisement pecked out on one rock wall.

We saw this funny kind of antique advertising at Montezuma’s Well in Arizona too. Those wily proprietors knew that tourists were out searching the landscape for petroglyphs. What better way to lure them to your store back in town than to put an ad right alongside?!

Old sign on red rocks near Kanab Utah-min

Petroglyphs from 1941

Kanab is quite a hub for RV travelers, especially international travelers, and rental RVs are as common as privately owned rigs. One year we saw several rental RVs with flags from the tourists’ home countries, and another year, while we were waiting to use the RV dump station in town, we met a couple from Germany who had taken their rig around the world.

South of town lie the mysterious sand dunes of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah-min

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

But without doubt, the most popular destination for folks that swing through Kanab is Zion National Park. Before reaching the incredible scenery that lies in the main canyon or the stunning vistas that lie in the western section of the Park at Kolob Canyon, tourists coming into Zion from the east end up driving one of the most dramatic roads we’ve ever seen.

Welcome to Zion National Park Utah-min

Entering Zion National Park, a world of wonder!

Route 9 between Zion’s hometown of Springdale, Utah, and the intersection with Route 89 travels through a kaleidescope of color and a series of switchbacks that are mind boggling. I will never forget our first trip on this road with a minivan years ago. Unfortunately, part of the road goes through a low and narrow tunnel, and dually trucks and larger vehicles can’t go through the tunnel without paying a fee for a pilot because traffic must be shut down in the opposite direction.

Old truck Zion National Park east entrance Utah RV trip-min

Right next to the entrance sign there’s an old truck. Maybe the owner is waiting for the tunnel to be widened!

We weren’t traveling to the main part of Zion this year, so we didn’t go through the tunnel to the dramatic switchbacks on the other side, but we still enjoyed a glorious few hours exploring the scenic drive east of there.

Driving Route 9 to Zion National Park on Utah RV trip-min

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road!

Airstream trailer drives scenic road to Zion National Park Utah-min

RVs drive this road but must pay a fee at the tunnel.

Since we had plenty of time and just a few miles of distance to cover, we made a point to get out of the truck a bunch of times and wander way back into the exotic landscape, far from the road.

This little excursion was well worth doing because everyone on the road was whipping past at high speeds on their way to the main part of the park, but there was nobody out in the red rocks.

Scenic route 9 to Zion National Park Utah-min

Just a few steps from Route 9 we were enveloped by some of Mother Nature’s best handiwork.

Exotic rock formations Route 9 Zion National Park Utah-min

Exotic swirling patterns in the rocks.

The Fall foliage season was in full swing, and quite a few trees were bursting with yellow, orange and red colors.

Fall foliage Zion National Park scenic drive Route 9-min

Fall color comes to Zion.

The peace and tranquility out on these unique rocks was delicious, and we just soaked it all in.

It was fascinating to run our hands on the exotic swirls of rock and imagine the days eons ago when these exotic mounds were sand dunes. The sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes flies so freely in the wind…

Enjoying the view at Zion National Park-min

Back here, 100 yards from the road, you’d never know there was a road!

Stone dunes Zion National Park RV trip-min

These colorful, striated mounds were once sand dunes, not unlike the ones over at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park a few miles away.

Star burst and stone sand dunes Zion National Park Utah RV trip-min


Looking at the rock patterns up close, it seemed very similar to wood grain. I love the way the different grains intersect and criss-cross each other.

Red rock veins look like wood-min

Up close the rock looks an awful lot like wood!

We made our way back to the road and the traffic had intensified. Zion National Park is extremely popular, and the road leading to it from the east was becoming non-stop cars and RVs.

RV on scenic Route 9 Zion National Park Utah-min

Scenic Route 9 heading into Zion.

if your RV travels take you through Kanab, there are wonders to see in all directions. But some of the greatest beauty and quietest spots can be found along the roads leading to the big name destinations, so take your time getting there!

RV camping under the Milky Way near Kanab Utah-min

I couldn’t resist posting another awesome Milky Way shot with our rig… 🙂

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18 thoughts on “Kanab – Hub for the National Parks + Gorgeous Canyons Nearby!

  1. Definetly one of our favorite areas and still a lot we haven’t seen there. We were just at Lone Rock on Lake Powell and drove the back roads from the lake to Escalante and then back via Hwy 12 and 89.

  2. We love the beautiful state of Utah. We’ve volunteered three times for Deadhorse Point State Park outside of Moab. I can’t say enough about all of the beauty there’s in Utah. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I have just recently discovered this site and so enjoy your pictures and narratives. My husband and I will be heading west in our 5th wheel again this spring. I’m gathering so many ideas of “must see” places from your posts. Thank you so much!

  4. Absolutely stunning pictures. The milky way photograph was just breath taking. I wanted to put a “like” on all of them. We have been to this area many times. In fact, we met up with you when we were in our egg camper a few years back. I never get tired of going there. Thanks for your article and commentary.

    • Thank you, Liz. It’s easy to take great pics in such a spectacular area! We remember meeting up with you at Red Canyon very well. Wonderful memories from a long time ago!! Thank you so much for reading our blog and appreciating our pics!

  5. I’m finally getting a chance to check out this article! I loved all of those photos, but that Milky Way shot always takes the prize in my book!

  6. Great post guys with great pictures, we are headed that way in May and June, is 89 from flagstaff to Cedar City big rig friendly, we are in a 43’ very heavy 5th wheel , I not figured out yet the best way to handle the area

    • Yes it is.

      You can take any route from Flagstaff north and east around the Grand Canyon to wind up at Cedar City as long as you avoid Route 14 north of Kanab running east/west from 89 to I-15 (some steep twisty sections) and also avoid Route 9 north of Kanab running east/west into Zion National Park (there’s a narrow and low tunnel).

      Have fun!


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