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Trendy desert towns like St. George and Moab get all the accolades in the Beehive State, but another southern Utah paradise is fast rising to acclaim: Kanab. Tucked along the Utah-Arizona state line, this American West classic offers homegrown hospitality that harkens back to its cowboy roots. Long a filming site for Western films, today Kanab is famous for its thriving arts scene, inventive cuisine, and outdoor adventures.
From soaring vermillion cliffs to sandy dunes and winding slot canyons, Kanab’s otherworldly landscapes draw explorers from around the globe. While its remote desert location feels away from it all, Kanab is close to Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Coral Pink Sand Dunes, making it an ideal basecamp for southwestern Utah exploration.
Outstanding cuisine makes Kanab truly special. Fast food and chains are few and far between. Instead, expect acclaimed eateries run by local Utahns—many who’ve worked at famed restaurants around the world, but have chosen to make this adventure town their homebase.
Vegan-founded Best Friends Animal Sanctuary makes its home here, and its influence means vegan and vegetarian offerings on every menu—a boon for visitors on special diets. Be wowed by Kanab’s fancy fare and equally dazzled by budget options in this Utah foodie hotspot.
Taste Paris with old-world–style pastries at Kanab Creek Bakery. Stop in for a quick croissant or linger on the outdoor patio over a Croque Monsieur or frittata. Duringthe coronavirus pandemic, the bakery’s menu issmallerthanusual yet still satisfies.
Photo Credit: Ted Hesser
When you don’t have time for sit-down breakfast, order drive-thru at Sunny Creek Coffee. This in-town cart pours top-notch coffee plus apple cider and Thieves Drop Tea—especially soothing if you happen to have a sore throat. Pair with baseball-sized cinnamon rolls or custom breakfast sandwiches. Unlike many Kanab cafés, Sunny Creek is open daily.
Reserve sit-down dining in Kanab for evenings, not brilliant sunny days when you could be exploring. Stop by Moqui Cave to order a healthy grab-and-go meal from The Cave Cafe. Choose from hearty paninis, strawberry and banana-topped açai bowls, and fresh fruit smoothies. When visiting May through October, step inside the ancient cave to see a natural history museum filled with Native American artifacts.
Find Kanab’s best lunch deal served with epic red rock vistas at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s Angel Village Cafe. The all-vegan lunch is just $5, and you don’t need to be a strict vegan to enjoy the deal and meal. During the pandemic, guests must pre-order online to enjoy to-go, on the patio, or indoors (seating limited). Expect an ever-changing menu featuring diverse, delicious fare, including black bean burgers, Thai curry, zesty ‘meatballs,’ and pasta primavera. The Cafe is open daily from 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Desert Town Dinners
Photo Credit: Rachael Smith
Once the sun sets, reserve a table at award-winning Sego Restaurant. Launched by Kanab native Shon Foster, Sego was one of the town’s first culinary leaps and rivals any big-city dining destination. Foster honors America’s melting pot with New American fare sourced in the Four Corners region. His goal is to create food that connects to a place and supports small, independent producers. Don’t miss the elotefritters stuffed with fire-roasted corn and cotija cheese or toast topped with seasoned foraged mushrooms.
Experience another new wave eatery transforming Kanab at Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen, an artisanal restaurant with an all-vegetarian and vegan menu. Don’t be put off if you’re a meat lover; Peekaboo’s hearty, wood-fired pizzas and burgers will delight any palate. My go-to is the Hot Mess: a marinara-based pie topped with vegan sausage, shishito and serrano peppers, chevre and smoked gouda cheese, and a bourbon reduction. The Kitchen is open Tuesdays through Saturdays for limited indoor and outdoor dining or takeout.
Photo Credit: Ted Hesser
Where To Stay
At just 5,000 residents, Kanab is small enough that most hotels are within easy walking distance to local restaurants. Whether you love modern boutiques or chain lodging options, there’s a Kanab hotel for you: Find options on Tripadvisor.
The Best Friends Roadhouse & Mercantileis a personal favorite. Owned by the famous animal sanctuary, this newly opened, retro-style lodge includes a vegan breakfast and is Kanab’s only pet-centric lodging. Best Friends Roadhouse rolls out the red carpet for canine and feline guests with built-in pet beds, a fenced dog park, and a pet washing area—just in case Fido gets dirty playing in the desert.
What To Do
While Kanab’s refined culinary scene is a huge draw, the natural wonders bring most visitors to this desert outpost. See red rock stones and spires on the in-town Squaw Trail, or head to Wire Pass Trailhead to reach Buckskin Gulch. This 12.5-mileNavajo sandstone slot canyon is one of the world’s most renowned, and this trail provides access to its winding, narrow passages.
Visit Kanab’s Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to volunteer with 1,600 homeless animals saved by this no-kill refuge. Just complete the volunteer registration online to sign up. You may fall in love with an adoptable animal and go home with a new best friend.
Plan A Trip
Make Kanab your basecamp to access three national parks, five national monuments, and two state parks. Be aware that summer is peak season in this charming western town; many restaurants take a winter hiatus. Contact Visit Southern Utah or Visit Utah for help creating your southern Utah travel itinerary.
Jenny Willden is a freelance writer based in her hometowns of Salt Lake City, Utah and Sacramento, California. She studied journalism at Seattle University and is the editor ofOutdoor Sports Guideand Sensi NorCalmagazines. Her work appears in Women’s Running, Marriott Traveler, SNEWS, Get Out There, TripSavvy, Trivagomagazine, and countless other publications. Read more of her stories at jennywilden.com.