You occasionally hear the saying “the pictures don’t do it justice” in regards to something or somewhere beautiful. Kanarra Falls, just north of St. George, Utah, is one of those places.
It was actually the pictures that drew me to the spot many years ago. This low-to-moderately challenging hike that had stunning views, gorgeous waterfalls and promises to make your boots slightly muddy.
Lets start with booking, because you’ll need to pay $12 to be one of 150 permitted guests to the hike per day. The falls were becoming so well-traveled that the community decided to institute a permitting system. When you take the trip, you’ll greatly appreciate the beauty of the trail being unmarred by countless spectators. It’s quiet, calm and peaceful.
Beginning the hike
I began my journey around 11am. The four-mile round trip hike starts with a “dry mile” or so. Up an incline, down and around until you eventually come across the water you’ve been hearing. While you aren’t in the water for much of this, I considered it the more difficult of the two miles due to the elevation changes. Doable by nearly all, though.
The second mile is the “damp” mile. You’ll be dipping in and out of sometimes ankle-deep water. Eventually you’ll turn a corner and stare down a slot canyon. This is where the fun begins and the jaws drop. You’ll see pictures below, but know that as beautiful as they and the video above are, they do not hold a candle to being there.
Despite it being high-noon, the shadows were plenty in between these towering rocks, water under my feet. As I continued into the mountain, I could hear the distant rumbling of a waterfall. This is the picture I have seen and wanted to experience in person. Around the corner I went and… there it was. Water is incredibly powerful and majestic and seeing it rush past me was awe-inspiring.
The way past the waterfall has gotten an upgrade recently. Formerly a piece of lumber and some metal “steps” with a support rope, the climb is as simple as a step up a metal staircase. If that seems a little too boring, don’t worry. A little further down you’ll pass “the boulder”, which is a quasi-second waterfall. That climb requires stepping on knotty tree trunks to maneuver your way upwards.
Walk a little further and you’ll get to an absolutely stunning amphitheater-like finish point for most. Trees, places to sit down and have yourself a picnic, and all the serenity you could ask for. I planted myself down here for 30 minutes, took pictures (for you to see) and munched on a granola bar, all while taking in the view I had just earned.
There is a second “falls” behind a slot canyon with deeper waters just beyond this point that I didn’t catch but… there’s always next time.
It’s for (mostly) everyone
While I wouldn’t suggest this for younger kids (1st grade or below), it is not a treacherous rapid. It’s the loose or slick rock you may step on that will get you. I had a couple near misses, but mainly due to not paying attention. Otherwise, wow. You’ve got to find a way to see this.
I would gladly take the trip up again this weekend to do it again. If you find yourself with a free day and a sense of adventure, book your required permit and get ready to head west on Interstate 15. It will be one of those experiences you think of fondly for years to come.