Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. We are definitely an animal family! We have five rescue cats and two dogs, and have been fostering locally for over three years. So a family trip to an animal sanctuary was the perfect spot for us!
A few years ago, I learned about Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah and have always wanted to go visit. As a nurse on a cancer ward, I recently had the chance to take my patient to pet therapy, and I had quite an overwhelming experience as I realized the joy and love that these dogs give to our cancer patients. As we walked back to our unit, the patient shared that he and his wife had just spent a few days volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and I knew I wanted to take the family to visit as soon as possible.
Approximately 1,600 animals live at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary on any given day. The sanctuary is spread throughout the beautiful Angel Canyon, even spanning to the rim, which allows for beautiful canyon lookouts. The whole area is magical and really instills a feeling of peace. The plan for our trip was to explore the sanctuary, do a few tours, and spend some time volunteering.
When we arrived, we went straight to the Welcome Center and visited with the staff, checked in for our tours and looked through the awesome gift store. We were then able to play with some adoptable animals that were spread throughout the welcome center! Then we were off for some exploring of the sanctuary!
Our first tour was of Horse Haven. We learned about the extraordinary vet care and horse-friendly training sessions they give to the animals; and met dozens of beautiful rescue horses on their gorgeous, spacious pastures. We learned about some of the rescue horses’ history, which was definitely eye-opening and even quite sad. Many of the horses come from troubled backgrounds and have problems trusting humans. The caretakers spend time every day working with these horses in a positive manner, helping rebuild trust. This experience allowed me to educate my young children about our bond with animals such as horses, how horses worked alongside us as we became a modern society, and how we should respect and cherish these beautiful animals.
After our tour, we got to experience one of my favorite parts of the entire trip! The Angel Village cafe! Every day from 11:30-1, this cafe opens and serves a vegan buffet lunch (and coffee/tea bar) with a rotating menu. It is only $5 and absolutely delicious (and I am not vegan). The cafe overlooks the canyon, and allows the staff a chance to refuel while chatting with visitors who have come to see this beautiful sanctuary.
My son and I then spent the afternoon volunteering at Cat World! There is an age limit for volunteering, with the youngest age being eight, so my younger daughter went to explore with my husband, while my son and I volunteered! Cat World is made up of multiple houses that include indoor cat havens and outdoor catios! There are houses specifically for cats with disabilities, cats with FeLV, shy cats, and just cats waiting for their forever home! There are approximately 700 cats that live at Cat World at any time and they represent more than 40% of the animals at Best Friends! For about three hours, we played with the kitties, took them on stroller walks, and helped clean up their little kitty paradises. Although I would say these are very happy cats, they would be happier in their own home, but until they are adopted, they are safe in Cat World.
After our volunteer shift ended, we went and explored some of the sanctuary’s grounds. The sanctuary offers a very special area, known as Angel’s Rest and Angel’s Landing. These serene spots serve as the final resting spot for many beloved animals, as well as a place to meditate and remember a loved pet in your life. Prior to our trip, we lost a rescue puppy, and our family took the time to sit among the beautiful wind chimes in honor of our recent loss and for all of the animals that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
The sanctuary closes at 5:00 pm, so we spent our evenings exploring the rest of Kanab.
Our second day at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary started with a tour of Marshall’s Piggy Paradise, where we got to love some pot belly pigs and pet some cute goats! Again, these animals are so well taken care of! Our next tour was Wild Friends, where we got to see the enclosures of the wild animals that cannot safely be released, and now to get to live in a forever paradise. We saw various wild birds – seagulls, hawks, owls, ravens, and even pigeons. Best Friends also rehabilitates wild animals that are then released. Our last tour was in The Parrot Garden, where we got to meet different rescued parrots and other companion birds. Again, we learned why parrots are hard to own and some of their behavior problems that lead them to being surrendered by their owners.
We made sure to go back to the Angel Village cafe for lunch, and the rest of the day we spent exploring some of the animal meet and greet locations – Puppy Preschool, Club Sinjins, and then back at the Welcome Center. That wrapped up our trip, but with proper planning, someone could spend several days at Best Friends and really soak in all the sanctuary has to offer.
What all you can do:
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has an awesome app available that shows all of the different activities every day. There are guided tours of almost every location on property. They also offer volunteer sessions twice a day at all of the animal care areas: Cat World, Dogtown, Horse Haven, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, Marshall’s Piggy Paradise, and Wild Friends. Our barrier was our daughter’s age, as she is not old enough to volunteer yet. You also can take a dog, cat, or bunny on a sleepover if you are staying at one of Best Friend’s accommodations or at a local spot that allows pets! There are also a few hiking trails in the sanctuary that lead to some unique hidden Utah treasures! My biggest tip is to book your volunteer and tour times as far in advance as you can! Time slots can fill up quickly, and I really think the magic of Best Friends is experienced by volunteering and touring the sanctuary!
Where to stay:
Besides the hotels in Kanab, there are unique offers to staying at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile is located on the main road in Kanab and offers a unique, pet-friendly place to stay (perfect for hosting a sleepover)! This hotel offers a complimentary vegan breakfast, and lunch passes for the Angel Village cafe in the sanctuary. If just one or two people are visiting, the cabins located on the sanctuary’s grounds make a great place to stay! For families, the cottages would be a better fit. The cottages overlook the horse pastures, have a deck/patio, and provide full amenities for a small family. There are also RV sites available on property! All of the accommodation choices sponsored by Best Friends are animal friendly! You cannot bring your own animal and host a sleepover, for safety reasons! You can see all of the options here. These accommodations can book quickly, so it’s better to plan ahead if you want to stay in the cottages!
Visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab is a unique and very peaceful destination. It is the largest animal sanctuary in the United States. Out of all of the travels we did this summer, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is really what stands out in my heart. I felt so much peace and relaxation. I am in awe of what this organization does for animals and the goals that are being set- They live by their words of “Save Them All” and “We will reach no-kill in this country by 2025.” A trip here is one to remember and always cherish!
Although there isn’t a sanctuary as grand as Best Friends in Arizona, there are so many animal rescues that could use volunteers- a quick Google search will lead to dozens of options!