- Have you been following our Dog Friendly Tour of America? We are running through the highlights (and lowlights) of each day to help you plan your own pet friendly vacation!
If there is one theme that seems to be reoccurring on this vacation, it’s a lot of late nights and early mornings. Day 7 was no exception. When the alarm rang at 7am, my first feelings were a mix of dread, I was SO tired, and excitement, we were headed on a tour of Best Friends Animal Society.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Tucked into Angel Canyon, just north of Kanab, Utah, is the headquarters for Best Friends Animal Society – an organization that works to build no-kill programs and partnerships throughout the country. Best Friends believes that through advocacy and education we can “Save Them All®” – a mission that I’m sure all of our readers can get behind.
Their Utah Sanctuary is the nation’s largest no-kill shelter. As many of you know, I have been working/ volunteering at our local humane society over the past year. Hearing first hand the respect and esteem that these folks hold for Best Friends, I was very eager to visit and learn a little more about the organization.
Best Friends offers free tours of their facility daily, as well as private tours of individual areas. Kevin signed us up for the 8:30 AM general tour and called ahead to let them know that we would have the boys with us.
Not surprisingly, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary welcomes people traveling with pets – with only a few restrictions. For the comfort of the other passengers you cannot bring your dog onto the tour van, and must instead follow behind in your own vehicle. Worried about missing out on valuable info? Don’t, because they provide a CD which narrates the entire tour as you drive along.
There are several stops along the way to visit the dog and cat habitats. Your pet must remain in the car (supervised) and isn’t allowed to meet animal residents or enter the shelter buildings. This is for the safety and well being of all the animals, many of whom are in the process of being trained for adoption! Since we were traveling as a couple, Kevin and I took turns entering the various buildings to see the facilities (and get a little animal lovin’ as well!)
The entire tour took about an hour and a half and we were blown away by the beauty and serenity of the campus. We would love be to return someday, to check out even more of the sanctuary and sign up for a Volunteer Vacation! Stay tuned for our full post about our Best Friends Animal Sanctuary visit!
After our tour we stopped in Kanab to grab some lunch and get some gas. We had a great cheeseburger at Big Al’s Burgers and the boys enjoyed a snack courtesy of Jones Natural Chews.
Next on the agenda was Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. We were very excited to spend the afternoon exploring this area because we had read that dogs are allowed almost everywhere in the park! Not the case for most of the other National Parks on our agenda!
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
After lunch, we used TripAdvisor to research a few dog friendly trails that might be worth checking out. It sounded like most originate from scenic highway 12, which passes right through the heart of Grand Staircase, so we figured we would pick out a trail or two to hike that looked good along the way.
Boy were we wrong! This is the most poorly labeled park or forest that I have ever been to. You will not find signs for trailheads or big attractions as you drive through the park.
Even after stopping at a forest ranger station for some help we were told that there are very few marked trails in the park. Instead we were only given some vague directions like “try heading up this dirt road for x miles, to another dirt road and look for a small shed. You can hike near there leading into a canyon.”
Hiking on unmarked “trails”, in 100 weather with no cell service is not exactly something I feel comfortable with! Instead we ended up driving on a huge mountain road called “Devils Backbone” for several hours hoping to find some sort of trafficked path to hike, but no such luck. We did end up stopping at one point when we saw a creek to let the boys cool off.
Harley was so warm he decided the best way to cool off was to lie down in the creek! Why walk when you can lay and let the cool mountain water run over you?!
The views at the top were absolutely stunning, but after 4 hours in the car I was not in a particularly great mood . While driving through national parks is the only reasonable way of seeing all of them, I was stir crazy and disappointed that I couldn’t experience more of it on foot! Of course, Charlie always has a smile to share, no matter how long he has been in the car!
Finally, we reached Route 12 again and headed North into central Utah.
As we left Grand Staircase we traveled through the gorgeous Dixie National Forest. Here we found mountain lakes and tons of marked trails to explore – unfortunately it was too late in the day and we needed to keep moving! We did however make a few stops, to take in some amazing panoramic views of Grand Staircase and beyond.
Another fun surprise on this part of the drive was the open ranges. Be cautious and keep your eyes peeled because RT. 12 heads right through ranges where large herds of cattle graze (without fencing)! On more than one occasion we had to stop due to cows in the road, but also to admire all of the sweet calves that were mooing and playing near the road.
Pushing Onward to Provo, Utah
When we returned to cell reception I found another great deal on Priceline Express, but we still had almost 4 hours to drive! Thankfully we ran into our first 80 mph zones on this leg of the trip!
The drive up to Provo was filled with gorgeous country including plains, mountains and dramatic rock formations. We also ended up going right by Capital Reef National Park which we would love to return and visit some day.
What We Learned
Buy a Detailed Trail Map to explore Grand Staircase Escalante
We assumed that this park would be similar to any other we have visited – clear signs to the major hikes and attractions. NOPE!!! There are practically no signs in this 2 million acre park. Although we spent 8 hours driving through, we never once saw a trail marker. Even after asking for a dog friendly hike at a visitors center, we were directed down a 62 mile gravel road looking for a path that we never found! This day was a bit of a disappointment to say the least. Grand Staircase was described as being one of the most dog friendly parks on our trip. Although they do allow dogs almost everywhere, we had a heck of a time finding anywhere that was marked as a trail, and we weren’t about to just wander into a canyon on our own accord!
- Miles traveled: 397
- States passed through: 1 – Utah
- Gas fill ups: 1