An hour north of Zion National Park and just south of Cedar Springs, UT is the small town of Kanarraville. Until recently my only experience with Kanarraville was trying to say the name three times fast as we passed on our way to Zion or St. George.
But tucked in the hills outside of town is one of the best slot canyon hikes I’ve done, and certainly one of the most “family friendly.”
The Kanarra Creek trailhead is located just outside town. We started up the trail in what was going to be a blistering hot day in southern Utah. We continued up the hot trail with the promise of cool water and cool air in the canyon above.
The first mile of the hike follows the stream as it winds its way into the canyon. There are a few short hills (both up and down). The trail crosses the stream many times and then enters an obvious slot canyon and the hot temperatures drop significantly.
Kanarra Creek winds through deep sandstone walls and off short waterfalls for a few miles. You can hike in as far as you want, but I’d encourage you to make it to the first waterfall, which has a tree trunk with boards nailed to it for foot and hand holds, to help gain access to the upper part of the canyon. There is also a simple rope in the falls that people can use to ascend or descend but it promises an exhausting and wet experience!
Getting above the first waterfall is not nearly as scary as it looks, though those with a fear of heights or trouble with balance should take caution. We easily moved above the falls with five kids in our group ages 3-8. But we did have someone accompany them up the log while other adults spotted from below. I am certain the kids thought our over-protective-parenting was a bit overkill…
The hike through the narrows to the second water fall is truly photogenic! The canyon narrows significantly and the water reached our knees (or the waists of our smallest members). The problem was solved easily enough with a piggy back ride. 🙂
We did not pass above the second falls as the rope ladder seemed a bit ambitious for our gaggle of young kids. Simply said, I’d suggest ascending into the canyon as far as you feel comfortable with.
Mileage: 3.5 Out and Back
Be prepared: Your feet are going to get wet! Just embrace it and come prepared. Those of us with insulating water shoes such as water socks, the Columbia Power Drain shoe, or Neoprene socks fared much better than those with Keen Newports or Chacos. Simple sandals will work fine, just remember that the water temperatures are very cold and your feet will hurt until they adjust.
In addition, bring extra layers such as jackets or long sleeve shirts. Temperatures in the slot canyon are often much cooler than the outside temperatures. (A nice treat during the hot summer months.)
Trailhead: Exit I-15 and drive to the center of the small town of Kanarraville. Follow 100 North as it winds east, becomes 250 North and enters the mouth of the canyon. Limited parking is available at the end of the dirt road near the stream. The town of Kanarraville charges $10 per car to park at the trail head for trial maintenance. Try to carpool if you want to save money.