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Southern Utah is AMAZING!
We were blown away by the beauty that was everywhere in southern Utah, and you will be too. Our family spent one week there (which was not enough), and we are yearning to go back.
If you are considering where to take your family on an affordable vacation that will be full of adventure and fun, you must consider southern Utah!
Where To Stay
We found an amazing Airbnb to stay in, which was our home base. The Smithsonian Retreat is where we stayed, and it is located in the little town of Apple Valley. You can read about this incredible Airbnb in my post, Amazing Stay at the Smithsonian Retreat, Utah. It is perfect for a large family, and offers so many amenities including tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts. The house is awesome, but its standout features are the location and the views. I can't say enough about it!!
The Smithsonian is the perfect home base to explore many of the highlights of southern Utah. However, if this home is not right for you, there are many other Airbnb's and hotels in the area.
Things To Do In Southern Utah
There are so many options for fun and affordable adventures in Southern Utah! I begin with the cannot miss Zion National Park!
Zion National Park
This area was settled by Mormons in the 1850s and named it Zion which means place of refuge. Today it is visited by more than 4 million people annually, making it one of the most visited national parks. 4 million people can't be wrong..this place is something else.
Endless adventure awaits! Things to do at the park include: hiking, biking, rock climbing, camping, canyoneering, and backpacking. Our visit to Zion only lasted a couple of days, so we decided to spend them hiking.
We hiked the Lower Emerald Pools Trail, the Archaeology Trail, Weeping Rock Trail, and THE NARROWS.
The Narrows Hike
The Narrows Hike in Zion is one of the most amazing hikes you will ever do in your life! You start off hiking the Riverside Walk trail, which follows the Virgin River along a paved path, for approximately 1.5 miles. You must hike this in order to get to The Narrows.
Once at the Narrows, you can hike up as far as you want, but most hike up to a section called Wall Street and then hike back (this took us around 5 hrs). Imagine hiking this narrow gorge through water, and craning your neck up to gaze at sheer cliff walls towering hundreds of feet high on either side of you. This is The Narrows experience.
I do not recommend hiking The Narrows without researching it first and preparing in advance. This is an advanced hike! You will be walking through water, may not be able to see what you are stepping on, the water may be cold and current fast, etc. However, with preparation and some beautiful Utah weather, you will experience one of the most amazing hikes in your life. Here is a great article "Hike the Zion Narrows to Wall Street" with excellent information and tips on this hike.
The fee to get into Zion is $35.00 per week for a private vehicle and all its occupants (15 passenger capacity or less). I call that an incredible bargain!
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
If you love animals, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is the place for you. Located in Kanab, Utah, it is a sanctuary for hundreds of animals, and is located between Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks.
If you have seen the series called DogTown on The National Geographic Channel, then you will be familiar with The Sanctuary. Not only do they offer dogs a safe haven, they also offer refuge for cats, horses, pigs, bunnies, feathered friends, and even a few wild friends!
This is an incredible place. They offer free guided tours, and you can also volunteer with them. We both took the tour and volunteered in the Bunny House!
During our volunteer session, they had us clean out their cages, feed them, and just offer them some love. This was so much fun, and I would have loved to take one home with us, however our dog Toby wouldn't have agreed with this so we weren't able to adopt a bunny.
You can schedule volunteer sessions to help out at most of the animal areas, including Dogtown, Cat World, Horse Haven, Marshall's Piggy Paradise, and of course the Bunny House! Please be aware though that these volunteer sessions book up quickly so you must book in advance to volunteer.
The Sanctuary also has a beautiful place called Angel's Rest, which is a final resting place for Sanctuary animals and beloved companions of Best Friends members and staff. It is peaceful and sacred, and replete with wind chimes that ring with the breeze.
You will never forget a visit to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. The guided tours and volunteering are free, however you can make a donation in support of the amazing work that the incredible staff does each day to take care of these beautiful creatures.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Toby loved the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park! The sand does have a pink hue, and he loved running down the tall sand dunes with the feel of the sand in his paws!
At the park you can walk around and just enjoy the beauty of the area. Be warned that walking up the dunes is hard work and great exercise! Also be aware that 90 percent of the dunes are open for riders of ATVs (very popular at this state park), so hikers need to be cautious while exploring.
The entrance fee is $10 per vehicle; $5 for Utah seniors 65 and older. It's my understanding that sometimes the staff at Best Friends take the dogs from Dogtown on hikes at Coral Sands. It's an awesome dog friendly place!
St. George and Kanab, Utah
St. George is a beautiful town in southern Utah. I confess we did not spend much time in St. George, but we were able to visit the St. George Temple Visitors Center. The staff in the Visitor Center can answer your questions about the Temple and give you the history of this building, which is quite amazing.
After visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, we were able to spend some time walking around Kanab. We discovered that Kanab is called "Utah's Little Hollywood," and we saw these signs with the stars who had filmed in Kanab everywhere! In addition to John Wayne, we also found one for Maureen O'Hara, and even Sidney Poitier. It's not difficult to see why Kanab was chosen as a place to film westerns. It is a very beautiful town and definitely worth a visit when traveling to southern Utah.
Explore Southern Utah - An Incredible Place Full of Adventure and Beauty
I have only scratched the surface of what awaits you in southern Utah. There is also Bryce Canyon National Park to explore, and so many other incredible opportunities for outdoor adventure.
I hope that you will consider a visit to Explore Southern Utah soon!
Never stop exploring!
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