The Nautilus Hike | Kanab

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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.

The Nautilus is a unique rock formation.

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.

white house trailhead road
This was the big dip that we worried about for cars. It looks so tiny in my photo!

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.

hiking trail through muddy wash
The trail walks right through the wash.
Hikers walking in the wash
Follow the wash until you get to the fence.
Walk around the fence.
Continue down the wash. The rocks are beautiful here.

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.

white rocks along the trail
Soon you will see these white rocks along the side of the wash with orange stripes.

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.

Once you see the white rocks, look for a dead tree that marks the entrance.
Leave the wash and walk toward the dead tree.
This is the entrance to the Nautilus.

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.

The nautilus kanab
This is what it looks like when you enter.
The nautilus is like a big slide
Then you can climb up and slide down.
another look at the nautilus kanab
This is a look at the Nautilus from the other side.

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.

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  1. Jonathan Nielsen

    Cool, may check this out next year – we have a Kanab trip planned.