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KANAB — Few things are as mysterious as an Anasazi petroglyph panel, and the Mansard Panel, located a few miles east of Kanab, is even more enigmatic than most. It might take two or three life times to explore the deserts, mountains and hidden canyons that surround Kanab but for starters, here are five easy, family-friendly adventures that are each less than half an hour from Kanab.
Take a half day hike in Peekaboo Canyon
Peekaboo Canyon, located just a few miles north of Kanab, is a classic red rock slot canyon with sculpted, fluted walls draped in soft, refracted, orange-yellow light. In most places, the cliff walls are close enough together to touch both walls at the same time. The canyon has a flat, easily traversable sand floor.
Peekaboo is less than a half mile long, making it a perfect half-day adventure for families with kids or anyone who wants to get in one more afternoon adventure before calling it a day.
Getting to Peekaboo Canyon can be difficult, as the road leading to it is comprised of sand too deep for passenger cars to traverse. A vehicle with high clearance and four wheel drive is needed. If you don’t have such a vehicle, several Kanab-based tour companies are available to guide you through the canyon. They’ll even help you adjust the settings on your camera to capture Peekaboo’s perfect light.
Play at Coral Pink Sand Dunes
It has been said that you never step into the same river twice. The same could be said about Coral Pink Sand Dunes, with its wind-blown dunes shifting as much as 50 feet per year.
Located just a few miles west of Kanab, Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a great stop for ATV enthusiasts, photographers and families with kids who will enjoy playing in the sand and rolling down the dunes.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes, which is Navajo Sandstone that’s eroded back to its original, sandy state, gets its orange-pink color from oxidized iron.
The park is divided into two sections: one that allows visitors to ride motorcycles and ATVs and a section reserved for hikers and foot traffic only. The best time to photograph the dunes is an hour and a half before sunset or an hour and a half after sunrise as the low sun brings out the ripples and textures of the dunes. Camping is available.
Explore Kanab’s hard-to-reach backcountry via ATV
Kanab is an island surrounded by BLM land. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument borders its north side and the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is just an hour east. A lot of its most amazing discoveries and destinations are kind of hard to get to — unless you have an ATV.
Kanab Western Adventures offers its clients a menu of adventure options and will custom-fit an adventure just for you. Your guide can take you to see a row of dinosaur tracks embedded in some Jurassic Sandstone millions of years ago, Anasazi ruins and rock art set deep in a hidden side canyon or numerous other options.
You can crawl up and down slick rock and sand dunes, passing numerous majestic overlooks along the way. This is definitely one of those it’s-the-journey-not-the-destination type of trips. Make sure your camera’s memory card has lots of room left on it.
Examine a treasure trove of Anasazi artifacts at Red Pueblo Museum
During your trip to Kanab be sure to include the Red Pueblo Museum, located just a few miles south of Kanab in Fredonia, Arizona.
The Red Pueblo Museum has a large, highly impressive display of Anasazi artifacts. Some of its most interesting items include a shaman bundle from the Basketmaker period, cradleboards, a fireboard and spindle that still have burn marks, Yucca-fiber sandals and a 9-inch tall stone mortar and pestle for grinding medicinal plants into pastes and potions.
The display also includes thousands of arrowheads, dozens of stone axe heads and mauls, numerous manos and metates (used for grinding corn and other seeds,) arrows, clay pots, fiber baskets and dozens of lance points and full-tang knives.
Most of the Anasazi artifacts that are now on display were originally found by early Kanab and Fredonia ranchers who happened upon them while they were out looking for their lost cattle. The Antiquities Act of 1906 made it illegal to gather such artifacts, but prior to that, when most of the items now on display were found, it was neither illegal nor uncommon to keep an item you found while out wandering the desert.
The Red Pueblo Museum is open seasonally from March 1 to Oct. 31, Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Star gaze from inside a dark canyon
Astronomers have created an index that measures the darkness of a night sky on a nine-level numerical scale called the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, with Class 1 skies being the darkest (Africa’s Serengeti, the Australian Outback) and Class 9 skies being the most light polluted with only about 100 stars visible (New York, Las Vegas).
Kanab is rated a Class 3 dark sky and the dark canyons outside town are even darker. On a moonless night, star gazers can see between 10,000 and 12,000 stars.
Rick and Gayle Lewis, owners of Stargazing Tonight, offer stargazing classes in their private canyon. They point out the planets and constellations with high-powered laser pointers and you’ll have several opportunities to take a closer look at celestial objects with their powerful telescopes.
What other activities do you enjoy doing in the Kanab area? Let us know on the comment boards.
Steven Law has been writing for KSL.com since 2011. He writes about exploration and science.