When you think of Utah's stunning landscapes, the five national parks of Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyon Lands, Capital Reef, and Zion spring to mind. Each park has its unique beauty, and visiting each location is highly recommended; however, each park is a victim of their success, with each receiving over 2 million visitors per year, with Zion peaking at 4.7 million in 2022. If you are in the southern Utah area and need a break from the crowd, I highly recommend a hidden gem that enchants all who discover it—the mesmerizing Kanarra Falls.
Located on the edge of the small Utah town of Kanarra, the trail begins just beyond the Permit Kiosk. Accessing the trail is managed by a permit system that only accepts 150 visitors daily. This limit makes the hike even more spectacular, as you can get the sense that you have the place to yourself.
Past the kiosk, the trail follows a road up a steady climb and continues for almost .0.8 miles. At this point, you turn off the road and begin following a primitive trail into the stunning Kanarra Creek Canyon. Here, the canyon starts to narrow, and you find yourself alternating between hiking along the creek edge or in the creek itself. The canyon unveils a world of colorful rock formations, the soothing sound of water flowing over smooth rocks, and bird songs. I chose to hike the canyon in mid-October, and the fall colors were starting, making the hike even more stunning.
The trail continues to climb up the canyon, with the canyon walls getting narrower as you progress. After traveling a mile and a half, the path makes a hard left turn, and you find yourself at the entrance to a slot canyon. Entering the slot, you enter another world. The narrowness of the slot canyon enhances the immersive nature of the environment, drawing you into a world sculpted by the patient forces of erosion. Gone is the sun's warmth, the trees' color, and the bird songs. The warmth of the sun is replaced by a steady, chilled breeze, and the only sound you can hear is the sound of water echoing off the steep walls that surround you.
As you continue, you are fully immersed in the slot canyon with its towering sandstone walls and water rushing over the rocks of the creek bed; with each turn, the sound of water increases, urging you to push forward. This canyon section reminds me of hiking the Narrows within Zion National Park; only here, thanks to the limited access, you can experience the slot canyon in solitude.
Rounding the last turn, you are rewarded with the captivating spectacle of Kanarra Falls. The water crashes down from above, creating a mist that hangs in the air like a delicate veil. Combined with the sounds of the waterfall echoing off the canyon walls, it creates a symphony of nature that is both invigorating and calming, resulting in an awe-inspiring and transformative experience.
Before You Go:
As mentioned, you will need a permit to take this hike, and as there are only 150 permits per day, it is highly recommended that you book in advance via their website.
Also, the water in the creek is COLD; on my trip, the temperature was 37 degrees F, and you will spend a significant amount of time in the water throughout the hike. Water shoes and neoprene socks are a must.