On your way to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for a vacation? A visit to southern Utah’s colorful Canyonlands wouldn’t be complete without a convenient break in your journey at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary near Kanab, Utah, which lies within a 30- 90-minute drive from any of these locations.
Home to more 1,700 animals, the Sanctuary is a fun and rewarding stop for animal-loving tourists who want to make a difference. Run by the non-profit organization Best Friends Animal Society, the project is a serious effort to enhance animals’ lives, with a straight-forward motto: “Save them all.”
Animal rescue volunteer opportunities abound through the Best Friends four affiliate regional projects and 2,168 network partners, and closest one to Idaho or Montana is the Utah Sanctuary.
“Our hope is people take this work to heart and see how they can help in their local community,” said Barbara Williamson, the Best Friends media relations manager.
The Sanctuary offers several activity options. At the very least, visitors can drive through the property, located 5 miles north of Kanab off Highway 89. Others may want to join a Sanctuary tour. Perhaps volunteering or adopting a pet is a priority of a trip to the Sanctuary.
“You could easily stay here a month and not see it all,” said Williamson. “For people who love the outdoors, this is an amazing place to come.”
The 3,700-acre Sanctuary welcomes thousands of volunteers each year from across the globe for half-day or multi-month stints. “The demand is getting big,” said Williamson. It’s important to register online as soon as you know your dates, because different programs have limited capacities for volunteers.
After volunteers register, the Sanctuary staff coordinates with them to design their upcoming experience. “Everyone is different in what they want to do as a volunteer,” Williamson said. Some prefer to walk dogs, brush cats, or teach parrots a word. Others prefer to work hard by scrubbing floors or maintaining the Sanctuary trails used for dog and cat walking.
“Many people enjoy volunteering with animals they don’t know much about,” she said.
Dog lovers might work with the pot-bellied pigs. Depending on the volunteer’s skill set, they might do executive assistant duties.
Visitors can even opt for a program to take a dog, cat, or bunny on an overnight stay at a partner-hotel in Kanab or take a dog on a day-trip.
“We have some really great local hikes you can do from your Kanab hotel,” said Williamson. After an outing, volunteers turn in a report on how an animal responded to the experience. The information helps inform potential adoptees about their future pet.
On a guided tour, participants start at the Sanctuary’s on-site Welcome Center. The 2-hour Grand Sanctuary Tour gives an overview of the facilities. Other shorter tours focus on a particular animal area, such as Dog Town, Cat World headquarters, Horse Haven, Marshall’s Piggy Paradise, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, or Wild Friends.
Guided hikes in Angel Canyon offer a way to be active while taking in the red-colored rock formations. A walking tour through the Angels Rest overlook and memorial site greets participants with the tinkling sound of 1,400 wind chimes waving in the breeze.
It’s best to reserve your tour in advance, since spots fill up quickly. You can also explore the trail system on your own time or drive the road through the Sanctuary, with a self-guided map that Best Friends provides.
On-site accommodations include cottages, cabins, and RV sites. Peak season is March through October, so make advanced reservations for these limited-availability options at the Sanctuary. Campgrounds, hotels, and private home rentals available in Kanab fill the housing gap.
“If you have ever been here, you will come back,” Williamson said. Other visitors are motivated to go home and do more for animal rescue in their local area.
On your next Canyonlands trip, consider a heart-warming volunteer stint or a tour at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. For your park visits, secure discounted National Park entrance fees with a purchase of the life-long National Park Senior Pass or the annual America the Beautiful Pass. Quickly recoup initial costs with multiple national parks visits near the Sanctuary.
For more info, contact Best Friends Animal Society, 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, Utah 84741, (435) 644-2001, Bestfriends.org