When you go to Southern Utah, you have to go on at least one hike while you are there, it is a rule I think. Those red rock mountains are just too beautiful to pass by without making a stop. Having gone to college in Cedar City, we’ve done tons of hiking around the area and the Kanarraville Falls hike was always a good one. I love Angel’s Landing and The Subway and some of the big ones in Zion National Park, but this one is a little shorter and less of an undertaking with kids in tow, is just as breathtakingly photogenic, and is outside the official park, so you don’t have to pay to get in (although you do have to pay to park, depending on how close you want to get).
We put the little kids (10 months, 1 ½ years and 3 years) in carriers and started up, but the three-year-old didn’t last long in the carrier before asking to get out and explore. He did fine walking on his own too, so just know your kid and plan accordingly.
The trail starts out long, steep and hot but once you get pass the dirt road and up to the water tower there is more shade cover, you start hiking alongside the creek, and the scenery becomes more appealing. The kids were energetic and ran around pointing out cool plants, racing along the path and stopping at every little sign of wildlife. My 1 ½ year old had to get out of his carrier a few times to chase lizards, horny toads (which are apparently really called horned lizards, but for the sake of preserving my childhood memories, we’ll continue to call them horny toads) and follow ant trails.
The older kids’ (ages 6-10) favorite thing was the fact that the trail splits multiple times and actually runs along both sides of the creek in some spots so they thought they were pretty cool crossing the creek and walking on their own trail separate from the adults (but still within a paranoid mother’s view). We did end up lost on a side trail after following a lizard once, but you should follow pretty close to the creek the entire time so as it splits just make sure you stay near the water and you’ll be fine.
We don’t own separate shoes specifically made for hiking for the kids so at first we were trying to keep their play shoes dry by carrying them over the creek every time we had to cross, but that was pointless and soon proved to be futile. They end up full on walking down the creek once you hit the slot canyon section, so just plan on getting your feet wet and dress the kids accordingly.
My husband and I each had hiking sandals that strap onto our feet and stay in place well, so I thought we were good, but on the way down my sandals broke and I had to hike all the way back down in bare feet. Which was pretty awful. Note to self… don’t rely on cheap knock-offs. If anyone has good recommendations for hiking shoes, I’d love some advice, I need something durable, comfortable and that can hold up to wet and dry hikes without rubbing and causing blisters. Leave me a recommendation in the comments if you know of anything, I’m officially on the hunt. (Apparently, Chacos are Harmony's favorite hiking sandal, but you should also check out UnShoes, as he's a local Southern Utah guy who makes hiking sandals in his own shop.)
My favorite part of the hike is when you enter the canyon, it is seriously one of those moments where it really hits you how amazing nature is. No man-made creation will ever rival the creative power of Mother Nature. We showed the kids all the layers with the rock formation in the canyon walls and explained how a mere stream of flowing water carved out the entire canyon. It really does get me every time.
Not long into hiking the canyon you come to the first waterfall along the trail. I first did this hike about 13 years ago as a freshman in college and over the years the support system has changed slightly every now and then but there has always been a permanent climbing structure of some sort in place to help you get up the waterfall.
As of Spring 2015 there was a log ladder with metal rungs securely fastened in place and a rope anchored alongside the ladder. The 3-year-old had ditched his carrier at this point and climbed up just fine, albeit with a helicopter mother hovering a single step behind ready to catch him should he slip. There really was no need though, he even climbed back down on his own, a little slower than his siblings, but ultimately did fine.
Slightly further along the trail you’ll hit what is commonly referred to as ‘The Waterslide.’ This is highlight and pinnacle moment of the hike for young kids. It is basically a small waterfall flowing over smooth, moss covered rocks that creates a natural water slide into a little pool at the bottom. There is something so cool about sliding down a waterfall that you have to do it at least once… bucket list item checked!
We were there the first weekend in May, and as such I am pretty sure that water had been snow mere minutes before running past us. To say is was cold would be an understatement. It was seriously FREEZING!
But the kids and Stephanie were brave and wanted to be able to say they had done it, so down they each went. It really is so fun and, typically, quite refreshing after a nice long hike.
This is a busier hike, but it's always super fun watching others go down the slides.
We sat and played for a while, ate a snack and then headed home for lunch. It was getting late in the day for babies needing naps, but if you have the time you can actually continue on hiking further up to a second waterfall that, again, usually has something fixed in place to help you climb up.
It is one of those in-and-out hikes, so you just turn around whenever you decide and head back the way you came.
We went slow stopping along the way and letting the kids climb on every rock or tree they passed as we were heading up and from the church to the waterslide took us about 2 ½ hours. On the way back down the kids were promised pizza at the bottom and so although they didn’t run the whole time, they did sprint short stretches here and there and we ended up getting back down in about an hour. I’d say plan 3-5 hours depending on how far you go up and how leisure your pace is.
- 3.5 miles round trip (or however long you want to go.) Most people go to the Waterslide.
- There are ‘No Parking’ signs everywhere along the streets in Kanarraville, and, according to some locals we met at the park the night before, they really do patrol it, so heed their advice and either pay $10 to park or we parked at the local church about a half mile away and walked through town to the trailhead.
- Take shoes that you can wear and get wet. You'll be going in and out of the water constantly.
- Dogs are not allowed.
- Take water and snacks
- Plan on getting wet
Follow 100 North as it winds east, becomes 250 North and enters the mouth of the canyon.
This is going on out to do list for sure!
Be sure to tag #thesaltproject! We'd love to see your photos!
Oh my goodness! Looking for things to do with friends in the summer, we just might have to make a weekend trip to the St. George area!! (We are in UT county) I saw another post about the Diamond hills or Mountain or something along those lines. That would be so fun! About how close are the Diamond Mountain and This hike to each other?
You for sure need to do this hike. Glitter Mountain (Diamond Hills) is probably a good 1.5 hours away if not more. Here's the link to that http://www.saltproject.co/blog/glitter-mountain-st-george-roadtrippin. But you could for sure do it over the course of a few days. Be sure to search by "Southern Utah" to find all our posts!
#thesaltproject we want to see your photos!
How long/far do you think it takes to get to the log ladder?
Shoot, I wish we knew. The trail is longer than it used to be, so I'm not sure.
Hiking shoes- Keen. I have about 6 pairs and love them. Won't hike in anything else. The Newport H2 are great for hiking when they are going to get wet. I wore them on this very hike!
Do you think the water would be too cold for spring break, April1-5th?
cant wait to go
We are planning to do this hike this summer and looking up information on it we found out that in May of this year they did change the entrance fees. You must get a permit either online (which they recommend) or at the kiosk at the beginning of the hike (credit or debit card only - NO CASH) and it now costs $8 per person to hike. They will check your permits at the trailhead. As of right now there is no limit on permits, but there is talk of doing so if it stays as busy as it has been.