Not the Wave, but Still Winning in Southern Utah

Everyone sat in the BLM office throwing their hands up and down, imitating the classic “wave” formation commonly seen at sporting events. This office is what everyone came to see, right? No way, we were all packed in this small room to win a lottery position to see the incredible Wave formation the following day. If you’re not familiar with the Wave, it’s a rock formation imitating the most perfect surf you’ve ever seen. We didn’t win that lottery, but it turns out that there is an overwhelming number of sights near Kanab. At the end of our trip, we knew we had won big in Southern Utah!
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This article was created in partnership with the Kane County Utah Office of Tourism, Utah. Images by Emily Sierra Photography.

Better than The Wave: ‘Candyland’

Like twisted lollipops, tent-shaped rocks swirl toward the sky with shades of pink, yellow, and orange. As we approached one set of sandstone formations, we saw a herd of big horned sheep staring down at us—reminding us that we were indeed in the wild. In fact, this area in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument known as South Coyote Buttes remains incredibly wild! Access to the “trail” is challenging, and once you’re out exploring, nothing is marked. We were escorted by a guide from Grand Circle Tours that not only drove us safely to the area, but helped us efficiently see some of the most interesting features in South Coyote Buttes. This area made the top of my list for Southern Utah.

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Note: visiting South Coyote Buttes does require a permit. Reserve online in advance, or stick around after the Wave lottery at the BLM office. Nabbing one of these permits is considerably easier than the coveted permits for the Wave, and many believe it’s a far superior region to explore.

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Yellow Rock: Introduction to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Not that this part of Utah necessarily has a “beaten path”, but Yellow Rock is even more off the beaten path. The best way I can describe Yellow Rock is this: a massive dome that ice cream was spilled all over. Indeed yellow in color, the rock has honeycomb-patterned fractures throughout, and swirls of pink, red and white. From the top of the dome—and it’s worth the climb—you can see Castle Rock in the distance, a white multi-tipped mountain. Visiting this odd landmark was the perfect introduction to the vastness and beauty of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

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Buckskin Gulch: Long, deep & Magical

The temperature dropped quickly as we descended into Buckskin Gulch. The walls rose dizzyingly high, and the light danced around every corner of the slot canyon. People passed us with large backpacks, determined to hike the full the 25 miles through the canyon. Though the trailhead was a bit of a trek from Kanab, it was easy to access, which can’t be said for all trails in the area.

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More incredible places, close to Kanab

Red Canyon aka ‘Peek-A-Boo Canyon’

Our Hummer swam through deep sand to reach this trailhead. We were so grateful to Forever Adventure Tours for ushering us out the mouth of the canyon as the roads were quite beachy! Light reflecting in the canyon glowed deep orange, and the blue sky above made me think of Antelope Canyon. What a treat though: we were the only ones in the canyon and had plenty of time to ourselves there.

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Stars & S’mores Tour

We found the best way to take advantage of the dark skies in southern Utah with a Stars & S’mores Tour! We rode out to an old movie set location in a covered wagon and cuddled up around a big bonfire. Gazing at the stars, we talked local folklore and nibbled away on sweet treats.

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Kanab: Southern Utah’s trailhead

It’d be hard not to love this town. Founded nearly 150 years ago (anniversary in 2020!), Kanab boasts the first all-woman town council… in the country! I just love facts like this.
Beyond the politics, I very much loved the traveler amenities. We stayed at the historic Parry Lodge in downtown Kanab, which has hosted hundreds of celebrities over the years. Touches throughout the hotel nod to the region’s “Little Hollywood” and western history, but moreover it’s quaint, cozy, and incredibly convenient to the rest of town.

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We were also impressed by the diverse food options around town, from progressive Asian flavors at Sego and traditional French at Vermillion 45, to the best coffee and croissants at Kanab Creek Bakery. There were endless vegetarian and vegan options at Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen and Rocking V. Needless to say, we were treated every day après adventure! I wouldn’t mind returning to Kanab just to continue my food tour … and maybe try one more time to get that permit for the Wave.

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