3 Southern Utah towns featured among best small towns in America to visit in 2023

ST. GEORGE — Epic landscapes are one of the reasons three cities in Southern Utah have been named among the Best Small Towns in the United States to Visit in 2023.

Kanab, St. George and Escalante are the specific cities tabbed by the Utah Office of Tourism for this distinction.

“My first reaction to being on the list is to be selfish and completely deny it and tell everyone it’s a terrible place and all the people are weird, but Kanab truly is an amazing place full of amazing people and places,” Kane County Film Commission representative Kelly Stowell said. 

The Matador Network chose 19 small towns with a year-round population under 100,000 and “offer something special for people who decide to visit.” A team of contributing travel experts put together the list, according to their website.

“It’s great to be included on the list. Kanab is unique and it’s worth a drive from across the state to eat here,” Stowell said. “Adventure abounds in Kanab and we have great internet. The deer are huge. Outdoor experiences and outdoor recreation opportunities are endless. The slot canyons are deep and winding, and the sand is fine and deep.”

Stowell said some of the most “incredible epic landscapes” are in his backyard. He said it’s no wonder people worldwide travel to Kanab to take in the sites and experiences.

Drivers along US Highway 89 can’t miss the Moqui Cave entrance sign, Kanab, Utah, Aug. 15, 2020 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

According to The Matador Network website, Kanab features red rock canyons and sandy desert mountains surrounded by national parks like Bryce Canyon just over an hour north, Capitol Reef further to the northeast and Zion to the northwest. Kanab is also an excellent place to stay before or after exploring Grand Canyon National Park.

Utah Office of Tourism Managing Director Vicki Varela agrees that Utah has impressive locations to enjoy.

“Utahans and visitors alike know that Utah has several incredible places and towns that offer a wide range of unique, transformational experiences,” Varela said. “Matador Network’s recognition of Kanab, Escalante and St. George is a wonderful affirmation of our beautiful towns in Southern Utah.” 

The Interim Director of the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office Brittan McMichael said her office is thrilled to see St. George on this particular list. 

“As every resident knows, Greater Zion is truly a special destination and the article just hits the tip of the iceberg of what our area offers,” McMichael said. “Articles like this continue to raise the profile of our community among destination visitors who are essential to our local economy and high quality of life.

“Taxes collected from tourists visiting from outside the area help keep residential taxes lower while also funding important community projects from bike paths to sports fields and parks.” 

Zion National Park as seen from the Kayenta Trail, Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

The Matador Network website states St. George is a gateway town to Zion National Park, and nearby state parks are rarely crowded. It also points out that the area has some of Utah’s best mountain biking and trailheads through red rock canyons, lava tubes and the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. 

And the final Utah town listed is Escalante. It’s located along Scenic Byway 12, one of the most beautiful byways in the country. Escalante is the jumping-off point to Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument, which features nearly 2 million acres of public land.

Escalante’s location is the perfect base camp headquarters, said Suzanne Catlett, Escalante and Boulder Chamber of Commerce board member. There are many day trips easily accessible from the rural town.

“You can find anything you need here with our local businesses to launch your adventures,” Catlett said. 

Escalante’s art scene is a huge draw, with events such as the Escalante Canyon Art Festival that takes place every September.  

Catlett said the area is also exciting, historically ranging from early Native American petroglyphs to the pioneer settlers of the 1800s.

Additional attractions to visiting Escalante-Grand Staircase include the ease of cost-free, permit-free camping on Bureau of Land Management land. And if camping is not your style, the town is full of rustic yet luxurious lodging and restaurants, according to the website.

“Like its accommodations, Escalante’s restaurants have no business being as delicious and varied as they are,” from artisan pizza and craft beer to smothered burritos to natural groceries. And close by in Boulder, there’s a James Beard Award-winning farm-to-table restaurant called Hell’s Backbone Grill with the freshest ingredients.

Matador Network’s full rundown of the Best Small Towns in the United States to Visit in 2023″ can be found here

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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