Kanab, UT

"Magically unspoiled"

In addition to being full of nice humans, Kanab is home to one of the largest animal shelters in the country. (Credit: Camille Johnson)

Kanab is an authentic, Western community located in the heart of Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon national parks and world-famous Lake Powell. This tiny town of less than 5,000 people hosts nearly 4 million visitors from around the world annually and yet, the people, the town and the landscape remain magically unspoiled. Visitors come here for the national parks and attractions, but they come back because of the connection that they feel here with the locals. There is no other place where you can immediately feel like you belong, other than Kanab. The locals are the most down-to-earth, kind and helpful people you will ever meet! They are tough because you have to be to live in this remote and rugged landscape, but they are soft because they know it’s easier when we’re in it together.

Stories About Kanab

There is no shortage of stories to share because they are demonstrated every day in regular interactions. I just had a friend return to Kanab after visiting family in Boston and she said that she’d forgotten how exceptionally nice everyone is here in Kanab until she was traveling and back home.

Some of the small things seem the most significant to me. I had a lady from Montreal come to town because she is a tour operator and was here on a familiarization tour. She went to our cute little local movie theater but, at the time, they didn’t accept credit cards (just cash or check) so she began to step out of line figuring that she couldn’t go. The local that was behind her in line told her they’d like to pay for her and her husband. This is typical Kanab, but she said that she was so touched as she’d forgotten what it felt like to have a stranger do something so kind.

Local grocery store owner Susan Honey dresses as a clown every 4th of July and walks in the parade handing out candy and making people smile. (Credit: Camille Johnson)

One time I had a job interview here in town and someone came in and told me my tire was flat. As I was wrapping up the interview and thinking that I’d have to call someone to help, one of the employees came in and said he’d taken care of it. He had gone to the local car repair place and borrowed (they didn’t charge him) for their mobile air pump. It was awesome! I ended up getting the job and it endeared me to the organization and the employees.

There are so many people that visit the area from all over the U.S. and the world. Often they are ill-prepared for the road conditions to our back-country and the fact that we don’t have cell service in a lot of the area and they often get stuck and can’t call for help. Our locals are always SO amazing at assisting stranded visitors and helping them out. There are countless stories about this! Not to mention that our Search & Rescue operates with volunteer members who take time out of their busy schedules to train and to perform and actual rescue. The hours donated are extensive!

This town has over 40 annual events that are primarily done through volunteer efforts. I just called the Event/Volunteer Center Director and she said that last year they had over 32,000 volunteer hours! This is a town of less than 5,000 people and those volunteer hours are just those logged by the Volunteer Center. There are thousands more of volunteer hours donated without record.

Chef Shon is a local chef who donates endless hours for community projects, committees and activities to give back to our community. (Credit: Camille Johnson)

In this small town, when someone has a crisis or tragedy, you can bet that people will step in and help. My sister-in-law had just bought a salon and, just days after, the building caught fire and it was destroyed. She had several stylists that rely on the salon revenue to support their families. She had to quickly find another location and get everyone moved and set up to not disrupt the business. She had tons of locals volunteer to help her go through and save what they could and get things cleaned up and moved swiftly. The fire destroyed the building, but it built friendships and gratitude.

There have been some heartbreaking stories of members of our community that have been diagnosed with cancer and have needed help to stay on top of life while they got treatments as well as financial help. This town has rocked fundraising! Whether it’s selling t-shirts, baked goods, activities, a special dinner event or some raffle prize, this town is clever, kind and resourceful. No one has to suffer alone here. Our town has a long-history of service from the tough pioneers that settled this town, to the modern-day pioneers that started Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. It is the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the nation and on any given day has around 1,600 rescue animals. They are the most compassionate, passionate people you’ll ever meet! The kindness they show animals permeates every part of their lives as they intertwine with this community and serve on boards, committees and donate endless hours of service.

I promote the physical landmarks around Kanab, but I can tell you that the best things about this town have nothing to do with scenery!

The only thing nicer than the natural beauty that makes Kanab famous is the people who live there. (Credit: Camille Johnson)