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Belly of the Dragon

While Visiting the ‘Mighty Five’ of Utah add Belly of the Dragon and Kanab Sand Caves

Chances are if you’re heading to Utah on a hiking trip you’re going to try some of the Mighty Five. The National Parks of Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion are all in the Granite State. So if you’re looking for a close by stop after Zion or Bryce Canyon, take a short drive south and head toward the town of Kanab. It is located just north of the Utah/Arizona border.

The area of Kanab has a lot to offer, but there are stops worth checking out along the way. If you’re in need of some roadside breaks to get out and stretch your legs on your drive down from Zion or Bryce Canyon, be sure to explore the Belly of the Dragon and the Sand Caves.

Belly of the Dragon is located just 16 miles north of Kanab. This cool spot was carved as a tunnel to allow for drainage from the upper canyons above. Because of this, be sure to avoid this hike if there is potential for any rain in the forecast. No matter how light it may seem. There is a parking lot close to the mouth of the Belly of the Dragon tunnel, making it easy to get to. You have to climb down a little to get to the mouth of the tunnel, but that’s the most difficult part of this flat hike. The tunnel itself is only about 0.5 miles round trip, making it great for families and kids.

Walking through this tunnel provides a unique experience as it goes directly under Highway 89. With a cave-like feel, this tunnel can get dark in some parts depending on what time of day you go. That means it’s good to have a flashlight or headlamp on hand, especially if you’ve got little ones with you.

This spot is definitely worth pulling over for.

It is the right distance if you’re simply wanting to walk the extent of the tunnel and back. You can also extend the stay by simply yhiking the trail at the end of the tunnel. This four-mile hike will eventually lead to a small slot canyon to check out. Belly of the Dragon is an interesting little roadside stop that you have to explore—even if it’s only out of curiosity about the name!

If you continue approximately 11 miles south from Belly of the Dragon you’ll find yourself at what is referred to as both the Kanab Sand Caves or Moqui Caverns. This old sand mine is now a cave constructed in the sand that is worth the trip to check out. Driving down from Belly of the Dragon, this spot is right off Highway 89, just five miles north of Kanab. Parking is available on the side of the highway, making it an easy spot to pull over.

The hike itself is only about 0.5 miles round trip. The trek up the caves is steep and requires a good amount of rock scrambling, making it tricky for some to access. Be sure to have shoes with good traction to help grip and avoid slipping. The trail is not well marked throughout, so it can be hard to navigate at times, but the view from the caves makes it all worth it. Since this spot is a little harder to get to, it allows for time in the caves without the large crowds you often encounter at some of the big national parks.

Once inside the sand caves, you can enjoy exploring the different sections.

Insde of the caves you will find that the sand on the floor of the caves is surprisingly soft. You can experience the views from the openings in the caves’ sides. It provides the perfect frame to the landscape of green trees and red-orange rocks below. The short trek to the Kanab Sand Caves provides for a unique and memorable hiking experience. The bit of scrambling and steep hiking to get up to this spot leads to a great pay off.

Spend some time exploring the cave and stopping for a few photos from this amazing viewpoint, before hiking back down. If you have time to check out the artifacts and natural history museum at Moqui Cave.

The Belly of the Dragon and the Kanab Sand Caves are two spots to add for a trip to Utah. Especially, if you are seeing the Mighty Five national parks or driving from Utah to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It is also a perfect mid point to get out of the car and stretch your legs in nature. Suffice it to say, the Belly of the Dragon and Kanab Sand Caves are a nice roadside adventure.

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