mushroom shaped toadstool red rock formation at a site near Kanab Utah

Northern Arizona Southern Utah Road Trip Ideas & Don’t Miss Stops

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Last Updated on May 8, 2024

red sandstone cliffs
Vermilion Cliffs

Discover all that northern Arizona and southern Utah have to offer with these exhilarating southern Utah road trip ideas. These day trip ideas and don’t miss stops should be a part of your southern Utah vacation planning! You can embark on scenic drives to iconic destinations like Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, each offering breathtaking landscapes and unparalleled outdoor adventures. Or stay closer and plan a shorter road trip along the Utah and Arizona border to destinations like Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona.

You should choose a central home base, like Kanab, Utah,. That is the cute nostalgic town that we chose for our own home base for our road trip along the Utah and Arizona border, so I’ll add in the distance from Kanab at each of these stops.

Whether you’re seeking rugged hikes, serene vistas, or captivating geological wonders, these southern Utah Day Trips promise unforgettable experiences. 

If you are planning a Southern Utah vacation, make sure to include these must-see sites!

Utah is home to the Mighty Five National Parks. Most of them are a short drive from your home base in Kanab so you can plan your itinerary and hit these national treasures.

You will need at least a day for each of these trips because the destination is so expansive.  These national parks will take you at least a day to explore, so plan to start early on each of these southern Utah road trips and expect a full day.

If you have more time in your southern Utah itinerary adventure, it would be good to spend SEVERAL DAYS at each National Park!

large mountainous sides of a red canyon in Zion National Park

The first place to put on your list for a day trip from Kanab Utah is Zion National Park.  It is just a short drive from Kanab.  There are many Bucket List hikes in Zion National Park, including the legendary Angel’s Landing and the Narrows.  Zion is an outdoor lover’s paradise!

Even if you aren’t an avid hiker, there are beginner hikes and observation points to enjoy in the red rock canyons on a road trip to Zion National Park.

There are several activities that you should put on your list in Zion National Park.  A Horseback ride through the beautiful scenery is a must-do.  What better way to see the sunset on the horizon in the red canyons than from the back of a trusty horse meandering along a path on the edge of a narrow canyon!

horse back riders looking at the horizon while riding along a narrow pathway near Zion National Park

Use Promo Code: MMOYER for 5% off of your ZION tours

  • Highlight: Bucket List Hikes-  Angel’s Landing, the Narrows
  • Location: MAP southwest Utah. west of Kanab
  • Distance from Kanab: 30 miles, 30 minutes
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red canyons with a sunset in the background

Bryce Canyon National Park is a ‘different’ kind of alpine forest.  It has red rock hoodoos interspersed among the trees making for a very unique landscape. The park has been sculpted by erosion over millions of years into breathtaking vistas, vibrant colors, and intricate rock formations along its many scenic hiking trails.

  • Highlight: Red Rock hoodoos and canyons
  • Location: MAP north of Kanab
  • Distance from Kanab: 77 miles, 1:20 hours
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red rock stone arch with trees illuminated through the arch

Appropriately named, Arches National Park is home to the largest amount of natural arches in the world.  There are over 2,000 arches scattered across the park.  Highlights of this park include hiking trails around the seemingly delicate arches and then ending the day as you watch the glowing sun set upon these geological wondrous structures.

  • Highlight: Many unique sandstone arch formations
  • Location: MAP northeast of Kanab
  • Distance from Kanab: 314 miles, 5 hrs
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Canyonlands is the LARGEST national park in Utah.  It is 527 square miles of incredible canyons, twisted sandstone rock cliffs, and hiking trails.  It is a part of Utah’s Mighty Five, the five National Parks in Utah, but is probably (and undeservedly) the least visited of the five. 

Canyonlands National Park is home to one of the area’s most photographed landform, Mesa Arch.  Put a day-trip on your itinerary to visit the colorful landscape in Canyonlands and you won’t be disappointed!

  • Highlight: Largest National Park in Utah, Mesa Arch
  • Location: MAP southwest of Moab
  • Distance from Kanab: 326 miles, 5 hrs
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Kanarra Falls is a permit-only hike through a stunning slot canyon that takes hikers down steep rocky slopes,  through water-filled canyons, and up 20-foot ladders.  This day trip might not take you a full day, but it is totally worth it.

Perhaps it can be added as a side trip!

  • Highlight: Unique Waterfalls
  • Location: MAP
  • Distance from Kanab: 90 miles, 1:34 hours
neon lights and nightlife on the las Vegas Strip on a first trip to vegas

Las Vegas has so much to do that I can’t possible summarize it in a short paragraph! If you are traveling to Utah and including some of the National Parks in your itinerary, consider starting or ending the trip with a few days in Vegas. It is just a short drive! Here are some of my tips to help you plan your Las Vegas side trip!

Need a quick link to other helpful Las Vegas Guides:

PRO TIP:  When planning your itinerary, take note of the time change when traveling between Arizona and Utah so that you don’t miss the sunset if you are expecting to see it when you arrive in Utah!

large, deep canyon with clouds in the background among the peaks of the mountains of the Grand Canyon

This destination is not in Utah, but it is an easy day from Kanab, so it is worth mentioning to put on your itinerary.  We actually stopped at the north rim of the Grand Canyon on our way TO Kanab.  Instead of making it a day trip, we spent the night in a lodge and did some hiking before we arrived at our home base in Kanab.  It is just a short drive, so we were able to do our hiking, have our picnic lunch, and then still managed to arrive in Kanab before the sunset.

Only 10% of tourists visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon versus the southern rim.  The north rim is just a quick drive to northern Arizona and worth putting on your itinerary for a day trip from Kanab.  We were able to spend a peaceful day exploring the north rim and the ‘road less traveled.’  We enjoyed the spacious hiking trails and felt like we had the whole park to ourselves!

Stop at the visitors center first.  While there, you can fill up your water bottle with free water and catch a glimpse of the canyon from the porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge which was built in the 1920s.

overlooking  deep canyon with trees and in the distance a large rock arch with a hole in it
Angel’s Window at the north rim of the Grand Canyon

Your first hike should be Bright Angel Point, which is a paved, but steep trail that leaves from the Visitors Center.  Although it is the most popular hike at the North Rim, it still isn’t crowded!  Take your time and enjoy this viewpoint –which is 1,000 HIGHER than the south rim.  Another reason to choose the North rim versus the south rim of the Grand Canyon!

There is a driving route along the north rim with several scenic overlooks.  I recommend not missing Cape Royal Trail with Angels window.  It is one of the few overlooks where you can spot the Colorado River winding deep in the canyon below

  • Highlight: Not as busy as the south rim of the Grand Canyon
  • Location: MAP Northern Arizona
  • Distance from Kanab: 80 miles, 1:42 hours
sign welcoming visitors to Page Arizona

Your itinerary has taken you to southwest Utah and really close to the Arizona border.  You only need to travel a short distance on a couple of main roads that lead from southern Utah to Arizona. A southern Utah Northern Arizona road trip is a popular travel itinerary.

Several popular day trips to Arizona sites are definitely worth putting on your Southern Utah itinerary since they are so close to your home base. The city of Page is one of these destinations. There are several don’t miss sites that are located in Page, Arizona!

PRO TIP:  Combine these stops on a multi-stop day trip to Page, Arizona from Kanab.

bright orange and red canyon with sunbeams

Antelope Canyon is an amazing slot canyon in Northern Arizona.  The 660-foot long orange and red sandstone canyon is filled with colors are not to be believed until you see them for yourself.  The hues are even better in person, but then if you wait for the sun to move, the beams of light change the colors at different times of the day.

The Canyon is located in the area of the Navajo Nation, so in order to tour it, you must hire a guide.  There is a one-hour time limit and you can’t video, so take a good camera to quickly snap dozens of photos while you are there.  Preserve the memories!

PRO TIP: Make sure to reserve this tour in advance as tickets to this site sell out due to its extreme popularity. Thanks to Instagram it is one of the most photographed slot canyons in the southwest.

  • Highlight: Most Photogenic Slot Canyon in the southwest
  • Location: MAP Page, Arizona
  • Distance from Kanab: 80 miles, 1:20 hours
large picturesque rock surrounded by horseshoe water reflecting the sky

From some of the most photographed slot canyons, we will now go to the most photographed natural wonder in the southwest!

From 1,000 feet high above the Colorado River, there is a spectacular scenic view at an overlook on the canyon walls.  Long ago the mighty Colorado River carved a horseshoe into the rock walls as it gradually turned 270 degrees deep in the canyon. 

The best time to take photographs of Horseshoe Bend is noon time when the shadows are the smallest.  However, it is just as breathtaking to see the sunset over the bend.

PRO TIP:  Take it from us:  bring some water and wear your hiking shoes, since it is still a 1.5-mile walk from the parking lot to see this natural tourist destination.  We were parched by the time we returned to our car!

  • Highlight: Picturesque geological wonder of a canyon in a horse-shoe shape
  • Location: MAP Page, Arizona
  • Distance from Kanab: 77 miles, 1:15 hours
view of the top of a large dam with a reservoir in the backof it and desert landscape stretched out beyond that.

Damn this dam is big!  It is the 4th-tallest dam in the USA.

It is a 710-foot tall concrete arch-gravity dam in northern Arizona.  The Glen Canyon Dam forms Lake Powell (see below) and uses the Colorado River to produce hydroelectric power for a great many people in the surrounding states of the southwestern USA.

It is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which was created in 1972 as a conservation unit of the USA and is now mostly under the water of Lake Powell.  The recreation area is bordered by many other national park service sites including Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on the west, Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park on the north, and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and the Grand Canyon on the southwest. Navajo Nation is on the border in the southeast.

  • Highlight: 4th in height right below the Hoover Damn
  • Location: MAP Page Arizona
  • Distance from Kanab: 72 miles, 1:09 hours
sign for Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam during a southern Utah road trip along the Utah Arizona border

While visiting the Glen Canyon Dam, be sure to stop at the Carl B Hayden Visitor Center.  Not only does it have a variety of educational displays, but it also has a spectacular view of the bridge and the dam from the lookout platform which is 700 feet above the Colorado River.

PRO TIP:  Parking is sparse!  There is a larger parking area on the far side of the bridge.  You can use this area and then take a scenic walk across the bridge to reach the Visitor Center.

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large lake with boats on it

Lake Powell runs along the border of Utah and Arizona in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and there’s a plethora of activities to indulge in amidst its stunning natural beauty.  It is the second largest reservoir lake in the USA, with miles of winding shoreline to go with it!

Adventurers can embark on boating excursions, cruising through the lake’s crystal-clear waters while marveling at the towering sandstone cliffs that rise majestically from the shoreline. Kayaking and paddleboarding offer serene experiences, allowing visitors to explore hidden coves and intricate slot canyons tucked away along the shoreline.

Fishing is another popular activity.  Fishing enthusiasts flock to Lake Powell to reel in a variety of fish species, including bass, catfish, and trout, making it a prime destination for anglers of all levels.

The lake was formed from the Colorado River due to the Gen Canyon Dam and it provides a much-needed storage basin of water for the dry season for all the nearby states in the southwest.

  • Highlight: Second largest reservoir lake in the US
  • Location: MAP Page, Arizona
  • Distance from Kanab: 71 miles, 1:08 hours

What is there to see between Kanab, Utah and Page, Arizona?

The Wave is a photographic destination with amazing wavy sandstone formations along the border of Arizona and Utah. It is no doubt worth the 6-mile round-trip hike.  However, you need a permit to hike the Wave, and winning this lottery is hard to do!  The percentage of permits issued is 5% during peak season and 50% during non-peak season, so most of the people who want to hike the Wave, will not get the opportunity to.

Need a cool substitute if you don’t get a permit to hike the Wave?  See the next vacation idea!!!

  • Highlight: Wavy sandstone formations worthy of Instagram!
  • Location: MAP Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs
  • Distance from Kanab: 49 miles, 1hour
white fossilized rock with a man standing on it looking into the distance

White Pocket is an alternative to the very popular hike: The Wave.  The only differences –which makes it an even better option– are that it is WHITE and you don’t need a permit to hike this one!  SO, if you didn’t get a permit to hike the wave (as more than 50% of applicants discover) then put this amazing destination on your itinerary.

While hiking White Pocket, you will see gorgeous views and white fossilized rock formations in the heart of the desert landscape, a photographer’s dream!

Where is White Pocket?

PRO TIP: There is not much cell service throughout the route to White Pocket so make sure you have a map and know where you are headed.

Take a look at my driving guide!  It is worth the stressful drive to get to White Pocket since it is filled with amazing scenery after a quick and easy hike.

It is worth the stressful drive to get to White Pocket since it is filled with amazing scenery with easy hiking to view it. It requires some pre-planning to visit White Pocket because access involves at least 2 hours of driving on bumpy dirt roads that require 4-wheel drive and a high clearance to drive through all the sand.  All-wheel drive vehicles are not permitted and will get stuck! 

The best time to visit White Pocket is when it is dry out with no forecasted precipitation.  Any amount of rain makes the roads impassable and dangerous, so you should definitely not attempt going to White Pocket in bad weather.

  • Highlight: White fossilized rock formations (great substitute for the WAVE)
  • Location: MAP Arizona / Utah border near the Vermillion Cliffs
  • Distance from Kanab: 76 miles, 2:08 hours
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Sign for Grand Staircase Escalante - great sites to see on a southern Utah road trip

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is another great experience between Kanab and Page.  It is an almost 1.9 million acre area of vast and pristine backcountry in Utah with colorful sandstone cliffs, slot canyons, waterfalls, and numerous remote hiking destinations.  Much of this area is so remote that very few trails can be reached by paved roads, so make sure you are well-prepared with a vehicle that can handle the primitive terrain.

It is a hidden gem and often overshadowed by Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks, but the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument has its fair share of adventure and natural beauty.

  • Highlight: Zebra Slot Canyon and Hole in the Rock
  • Location: MAP To find your way to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, it is better to put in the exact trail or site you are interested in since the area is so massive.
  • Distance from Kanab: Depends which site you are headed to
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The next few sites are all really close to Kanab and can be combined altogether or added to the end of a longer day trip from Kanab. I have a lengthy guide for everything to do in Kanab that you can click on and read for more info, but I will also give you a quick list below of some of the don’t miss stops near Kanab.

If you are still planning your trip to Kanab, use this handy guide for a list of Things to do in Kanab, Utah.

red balanced rock formations in the sand near Kanab Utah

The Toadstool Hoo Doos are in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  They are mushroom-shaped rock formations that were formed millions of decades ago because of the erosion of the softer bottom layers of sandstone.  The erosion left the top mushroom cap ‘balancing’ on dozens of these hoodoos!

The trail to get there –if you call it a trail —  is a roundtrip of 1.6 miles of sand and clay.  There is little signage and absolutely no shade so as you wander around following the vague pathway, plan for the hot sun beating down on your head the whole time.  Do I sound like I speak from experience here?

Once you arrive at the hoodoos you will be able to get close-up photos –just don’t touch the fragile formations.  There are a many of them spread around, so leave time to explore a little bit before you head back.

  • Highlight: Balanced rock formations that look like mushroom
  • Location: MAP Near Kanab in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Distance from Kanab: 45 miles, 41 mins
Coral Colored sand dunes at Coral Pink Sands National Park

We explored Coral Pink Sand Dunes Park to see the vibrant colors. This park has sandboarding too, but we did this in another location (see the idea below!!)

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Kanab, Utah, is a natural wonderland with an otherworldly landscape of vibrant, coral-colored sand dunes. You can embark on thrilling adventures, from exhilarating ATV rides or sandboarding down the steep slopes to serene hikes that reveal stunning panoramic views.

Photographers and nature lovers are drawn to the dunes, especially during sunset when the sands are a mesmerizing hue, creating a picture-perfect scene against the backdrop of the surrounding red rock formations.

  • Highlight: Large coral-colored sand dunes
  • Location: MAP Kanab
  • Distance from Kanab: 28 miles, 20 mins
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red sandstone sides of a canyon in Kanab Utah

The Peekaboo Slot Canyon is amazing.  I will compare it to Antelope Canyon, but less traveled!  The best part of our canyon tour was that we had it to ourselves.  Our guide let us snap as many photos and record as many videos as we wanted and we weren’t rushed through it! No crowds, no other people at all, just us and the outdoors!  The beautiful array of colors and shades of red and orange is just as good!

Peekaboo Canyon Sandboard & ATV Tour

Our Sandboarding and ATV tour was at sunset and included a hike through Peekaboo Canyon near Kanab.  If you haven’t yet visited one of Utah’s amazing slot canyons, then you should definitely include this tour on your Kanab itinerary to introduce yourself to the miraculous colors and formations of a sandstone slot canyon.

How can I book this tour in Kanab?


Make sure you include sandboarding on your southwest Utah itinerary! 

The hill was only medium height and we had to walk back up to the top each time.  This got tiring but each trip down the hill was exhilarating.

ATV Ride

atv vehicle parked in the red sand in kanab utah

Our one-armed driver, Nate, took us up, down, and around all the sand dunes.  He wasn’t happy until we screamed with delight as we took to the air over the peaks and then plummeted into the valleys.

2 people each looking out an overlook in a cave

There are Sand Dune Caves high on the ridge near Kanab.  These are commonly called the Moqui Caverns, not to be confused with the Moqui Cave and Museum.  The Sand Dune Moqui Caverns are free to hike to and explore on your own.  They were man-made decades ago for silica mining during the 1970s short boom in glass production in the Kanab area.

The hike to the caves is tough and requires some climbing, but the cool views of the landscape from high above are worth the effort.  The caves are large and extend pretty far along the ridge.  They are a great spot for selfies and have become a must-see Instagram site for avid photographers!

PRO TIP:  For easy access, head all the way to the far side of the cliff to begin your trek to the caves.  The slope is easier to ascend and descend the further out you start the hike.

  • Highlight: Caverns high on a ledge near the roadway
  • Location: MAP Kanab
  • Distance from Kanab: 5.7 miles, 7 mins
sign on a hill for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary with some cut out animals

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, is one of the largest no-kill animal sanctuaries in the United States, driven by a mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and advocate for animals in need.

Visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab is a heartwarming and transformative experience.  The sanctuary’s picturesque surroundings help to make it a truly enriching visit that leaves you inspired to advocate for the well-being of all creatures.

What can you do at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary?

Visitors to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary can engage in a variety of activities and tours that offer a hands-on and educational experience with the animals. This includes guided tours, volunteering to assist in animal care, interacting with furry residents, and participating in workshops designed to deepen understanding for animals.

  • Highlight: Largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the US
  • Location: MAP Kanab
  • Distance from Kanab: 6.7 miles, 10 mins
man standing illuminated in a dark cavern at Belly of the Dragon in Kanab

There are a lot of hiking options around Kanab Utah.  One of the coolest hikes is through the Belly of the Dragon. It is an exhilarating walk through a canyon-like tunnel that feels exactly like you have been swallowed by a giant dragon!

It is carved into the rock underneath US 89 Highway through Southern Utah about 15 miles north of Kanab and has become a popular photography spot to add to your southwest Utah itinerary.

You will have to do some scrambling to get to the entrance and the loose sand makes it slippery.  Once you have entered the cave, it is an easy walk, but you might want to take a flashlight to help navigate through the darkness.

  • Highlight: Easy and unique cavern
  • Location: MAP Mt Carmel, near Kanab
  • Distance from Kanab: 17 miles, 18 mins
old white nostaglic hotel building in front of red scenic mountains and a neon sign

There are nice accommodations at each of the previous sites, but if you are staying in Kanab, you MUST try out Parry Lodge. It is an old historic inn with great customer service, a great central location, and great food.

Nestled amidst the stunning red rock landscapes in Kanab, Parry Lodge invites guests to step back in time and immerse themselves in the nostalgia of the Old West, boasting a unique collection of comfortable rooms named after the notable western actors who once graced the streets of Kanab.

We truly enjoyed our stay here and definitely recommend you try it out!

I hope you took notes and added some of these ideas to your Southern Utah itinerary and vacation list! There is a lot to do for all types of travelers but especially for outdoor fun adventurers!

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