Just outside of Kanab is a short hike to an interesting geological feature that has been dubbed “The Nautilus.” A nautilus is a mollusk with a perfectly spiral shell, and this land feature was named after the sea creature. The hike ends at a white twisted rock formation that will hopefully remind you of a nautilus.
To find The Nautilus in Kanab requires a short hike through a wide wash. The distance for the hike is only about a 1.0 mile roundtrip, but the desert outside of Kanab can be mercilessly hot. Make sure to take plenty of water and wear a hat. There is no shade anywhere near this hike.
Directions to The Nautilus Trailhead
Start by driving out White House Trailhead Road, which is about 44 miles east of Kanab. Watch for a sign for the Paria Ranger Station, and turn into the station. Stay left onto White House Trailhead road. This road was easy for our van, but under the wrong conditions, it could be sandy or even washed out. Most vehicles should easily make it. There was only one big dip that might be tricky for cars with low clearance.
Follow the White House Trailhead road for about 1.5 miles. Here you will cross a few paved washes. As you drive up out of the second wash, the road turns slightly left. Instead of making the turn, pull straight ahead into a small parking area that can accommodate about four vehicles. If you get to the White House Campground, then you have gone too far.
Hike to the Nautilus
After parking, walk back to the wash you just drove through and turn right (east) up the wash. (Don’t get confused. It’s a right turn after you park and walk back down the road. So it’s on the left side of the road as you approach in your vehicle). The wash is wide and sandy, and there is a small fence made of wire and pallets that you can see from the road. This hike is flat and easy, but don’t attempt it in wet weather where the water will rush down the wash. Once you arrive at the fence, cross it and continue up the wash for around a half mile.
Eventually, a large white dome of rocks appears on the right side of the wash in front of you. The Nautilus is in those rocks. It is easy to walk right past it, so be careful. Use the pictures below to help guide you.
How to find The Nautilus in Kanab
Keep going until you are nearly parallel to the rocks and you see a large dead juniper tree. This tree marks the opening of The Nautilus. You will also notice the white rocks have some orangish lines in them. Keep an eye out for the orange lines and the dead tree. Then, turn right out of the wash, and as you venture into the rocks you’ll find a spiral slide.
This small feature in the perfectly white sand is known as The Nautilus. It doesn’t take long to explore, but be careful, because it is slippery! Our boys loved sliding down the rock. And we took pictures from both sides of the Nautilus. It looks different from both angles.
One thing to look for along the way is the iron concretions that litter the trail. Especially near the opening to the Nautilus in Kanab, you can find some cool natural iron chunks. As always, take a good look, but leave them as you found them. Enjoy!
If you are in the area, make sure to use our Things to do near Kanab list to find almost 20 adventures to fill your day in the area.