What kind of weather can I expect during my trip to Kanab, Utah?
Understanding Southern Utah weather
Many consider spring and fall the best times to visit the American Southwest. Kanab averages 256 days of sunshine each year, so chances are good that you will see several days of blue skies and sunshine on a week-long trip to southern Utah, no matter which time of year you will be traveling. During any season, the dry desert environment allows for wide temperature swings in a given day. A 40-degree temperature spread in a 12-hour period is not uncommon. The best way to prepare for your trip to the Southwest any time of year is to pack layers of clothing that can be taken off or put on as the weather changes. Also, carry plenty of water. Even in the winter, most visitors are surprised by how easy it is to become dehydrated here. Obviously, the desert is a dry place. Kanab averages 15 inches of rain per year, and this is fairly evenly spread throughout the year with June being the driest month and March being the wettest.
Spring in Southern Utah
By mid to late February, Kanab’s weather, as well as its tourist season, is already starting to warm up. (Check out the hot air balloon festival held annually in mid-February in Kanab. http://www.visitsouthernutah.com/Kanab-Balloons-Tunes-Roundup-site ) The average high temperature in February in Kanab is 53 Fahrenheit, with a low of 28 overnight. Hiking with a jacket can be quite comfortable, unless it’s a particularly windy or cloudy day. March averages a high of 59F and the April average high temperature is 68. While 68 degrees is beautiful hiking weather, it would not be unusual to still see temperatures just below freezing overnight. May is starting to feel more like summer. The average high is 78, but there are typically several days in May with temperatures in the high 80s, hovering right around 90 degrees. The average low in May is 44, which is comfortable for camping. Springtime does tend to have more windy days than other seasons, and this can make cool temperatures feel colder.
Visiting the desert in summer
There’s no way around it. The Utah/Arizona desert is hot in the summer. The average high in Kanab, Utah in June is 88, but you can expect temperatures to hit 100 degrees on many days by late June. July and August also see many days in the high 90s, or right around 100. The sun also heats up the ground, which makes it feel even hotter as heat radiates from below as well as above. There is little shade on many of our tours to places such as White Pocket, Toroweap, South Coyote Buttes or the Wave. The average low in summer is about 55 degrees. Many Kanab locals will tell you June is the hottest month of the summer because monsoon season hasn’t started yet. June is the driest month of the year with an average rainfall of only .35 inches. Monsoon season kicks in at the start of July and runs into early September. Average rainfall in July and August is only 1.5 inches or less per month, but when it decides to rain in a given spot, the rain can be torrential. Clouds build up in the hot, summer sun and erupt into heavy, unpredictable thunderstorms in Utah or Arizona. These storms bring refreshing rain and clouds that block the sun and cool the landscape. Some of the most stellar photographs of Southern Utah are taken during monsoon season. There are obviously some safety concerns that accompany the unpredictable storms. Flash floods, especially in slot canyons can be deadly. But that’s why you hire a tour guide. We understand the risks, topography, drainages, weather forecasts and check radar reports often to keep our guests safe.
Fall in the Southwest
Fall is a popular time for Utah travelers. The season brings perfect hiking weather with cooler temperatures, clear skies and incredible fall foliage, especially in mountain areas. September still sees some hot afternoons with an average high of 83 for the month, but right around Labor day, summer breaks and more comfortable fall weather sets in. The average high for October is 71, and November is 57. Even in November, there are plenty of comfortable hiking days with daytime temps in the 50s. There are some windy days that make it feel cooler outside. And by November, it dips below freezing most nights. The days are also getting shorter, so be sure you’re back inside at sunset. Once the sun is down, temperatures drop fast.
Winter comes to Kanab
Compared to many areas of the U.S., the weather in Kanab, Utah, could be called mild or temperate, with temperatures rarely falling below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Weather is more variable in the winter than other months, it’s possible to have a cold, cloudy day when the temperature hovers in the 30s. Throw in some wind and it’s pretty uncomfortable to be outside for a long time. There are also plenty of nice days for hiking and exploring the incredible desert landscape. It’s possible, even in December or January, to have a high in the mid 50s with sunshine. This can be pretty ideal for a hike to the Wave. Kanab averages 21 inches of snow per year. But most winter days rise above freezing and the sun likes to shine here, so snow usually melts within a couple of days and it does not accumulate in Kanab. Snow does remain longer in shadows, and some roads and trails can contain patches of ice for longer periods where the snow has been packed by hikers and drivers. So watch out for slippery trails.
Elevation greatly affects weather
Don’t underestimate the affect elevation has on weather. As a general rule of thumb, temperatures drop 3 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet in elevation gain. But sometimes, the temperature varies much more than that as you change elevation. There have been summer days when it is 95 in Kanab and 80 at Jacob Lake, 7,900 feet, which is on the Kaibab Plateau on the way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Also, Jacob Lake averages 105 inches of snow, vs. 21 in Kanab. As the Kaibab Plateau climbs toward the Grand Canyon, snowfall increases. That’s why Highway 67 to the Grand Canyon north rim closes in October and doesn’t reopen until May. It’s covered in snow.
The basic weather principle is the higher up you go, the cooler and wetter the weather gets. This essentially allows travelers to pick their weather while visiting Southern Utah. Is it hot? Head to high ground and visit Cedar Breaks, the Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon National Park or the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Are you cold? Head to lower ground. Try our Photographer’s Dream Tour through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, check out the incredible views at Toroweap, go take a dip in Lake Powell and see what Page, Arizona has to offer, or head further down the hill near Hurricane, Utah or St. George, Utah, where palm trees grow. These areas are all a reasonable day’s drive from Kanab.
Below is a list of elevations for Southern Utah and Northern Arizona destinations that our guests commonly visit:
- 3,652 feet – Lake Powell
- 4,000 feet – Zion National Park Visitors Center
- 4,000 feet – upper Antelope Canyon
- 4,117 feet – Page, Arizona
- 4,600 feet – Toroweap Overlook
- 4,970 feet – Kanab, Utah
- 5,200 feet – the Wave, North Coyote Buttes
- 5,500 feet – Marble Canyon overlook
- 5,700 feet – White Pocket, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
- 5,709 feet – top of Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park
- 5,800 feet – Cottonwood Cove, South Coyote Buttes
- 5,800 feet – Kodachrome Basin State Park
- 6,100 feet – Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
- 8,000-9,000 feet – Bryce Canyon National Park
- 8,297 feet – north rim, Grand Canyon
- 9,200 feet – Kaibab Plateau Peak
- 10,000 feet – Cedar Breaks National Monument
*Information from U.S. Climate Data, Wikipedia and other local and Internet sources.