On, June 25th, day four of our family vacation to Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, we drove to the Grand Staircase Escalante region. Our first stop was to gather information from the Kanab Visitor Center park rangers who made several recommendations of short hikes in the surrounding area. Following their recommendations, we headed to Dinosaur Tracks first, and then hopped back in the car for the short drive to Sand Caves. From our Airbnb in Washington, Utah, Sand Caves was the farthest at 81 miles, a relatively short distance considering the vastness of the Southern Utah desert.
Finding Sand Caves
The trailhead for Sand Caves is 5.8 miles north of Kanab on US Highway 89, just past mile marker 69. Hikers must park on the west side of Mt. Carmel Scenic Byway (Route 89) and cross the busy highways to begin their hike.
How Were the Sand Caves Formed?
Until I researched the formation of Sand Caves, I assumed Mother Nature had had a hand, much like the natural carving out by wind and water of the many slot canyons in the area. These particular caves were actually man-made while mining for sand. For whatever reason, mining was halted and these beautiful sand caves were left behind for visitors to explore.
Making Our Way to the Caves
Once we’d parked and crossed the highway, we made the relatively short and easy hike to the Sand Caves. According to my Garmin (affiliate link), it was 1.3-miles roundtrip with the hardest part of the hike being the steep climb from the dirt trail to the slick rocks. Once up on the slick rocks, it was a matter of leaning upward to stay upright on the slanted terrain as we made our way upwards toward the caves’ entrance at 5,577 feet elevation.
While hiking across the slick rocks we gradually climbed higher until we were up on the same level as the entrance to the caves.
Exploring the Caves
Inside the caves, we marveled at the textured walls and loose sand floors, and love the contrast of the cave openings framing the desert in the distance.
The cave extended for quite a distance with exterior openings allowing light into its long passages.
Deeper in the cave it was completely dark, but our camera flash highlighted the many layers of multi-colored sand.
Back near the front of the Sand Caves, Jess posed for a picture…
While Bill captured me on the outside taking her picture.
There’s been a lot of defacing on the interior of the caves, mostly from carving into the soft sand walls; however sections have been left untouched. Gently touching the walls causes small amounts of sand to fall away so I’m sure it would be very easy to chip away at the sand with a sharp object – even a finger would probably work.
The only non-carved graffiti is this unusual eye painted on the ceiling.
It’s Not Official Until We Take a Family Selfie
One of our favorite family pictures was taken just inside the cave’s entrance when Bill handed me his GoPro (affiliate link).
Making Our Way Back Out
After taking our time exploring the caves and snapping lots of pictures, we hiked back to the car, taking a slightly different course when we hit the dirt trail.
Final Thoughts on Sand Caves
Sand Caves was a fun, relatively easy hike. We spent less than an hour from the time we left our car until we returned to the parking lot. I’d definitely recommend adding it to your list of places to visit if you’re planning a trip to Kanab, Utah.
- • Have you gone spelunking? ~ I’m pretty sure spelunking is not for me. Sand Caves, on the other hand, is above ground, mostly well lit from the outdoor natural light, and there are no tight crevices to fit through.
- • What do you think the graffiti of the eye on the ceiling means?
- • Have you visited Southern Utah?
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