Belly of the Dragon is a unique and unmissable stop on a road trip through Kanab in Southern Utah. A water drainage tunnel carved through rock underneath a highway has transformed into a strangely photogenic and popular instagram spot on the classic Utah road trip route.
You are spoiled for choice for fun things to do near Kanab Utah, but many require 4×4 off-roading vehicles or hiking permits. Belly of the dragon is easy to access, very quick to see and you can take home unexpectedly awesome photos from your trip.
Let’s get you inside the belly of the dragon in Kanab, Utah!
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What Is Belly Of The Dragon?
Belly of the dragon in Utah is man-mad, it is not a cave or a natural result of erosion. It was originally carved to serve as a water culvert under US-89. The purpose for this large tunnel is to provide a drainage system for the upper canyons that feed into the North Fork River.
Constant water running from the upper canyons over time has intricately carved the interior sandstone walls of belly of the dragon. The walls and floor are uneven, oddly shaped and light pouring inside the tunnel creates excellent photo ops.
It is important to note here that you should not enter the belly of the dragon if there is significant rain in the forecast due to a very high chance of flash flooding.
Where Is Belly Of The Dragon In Utah?
Belly of the dragon is around 16 miles north of Kanab along US-89. Pay attention to the mile markers as you drive north because you will turn left onto a dirt road at mile marker 80, across from a small brown Zion National Park sign. If you make it to Mount Carmel Junction, you have gone too far.
Once you make the left turn across from the Zion National Park sign, the parking lot and trailhead for belly of the dragon are about 0.3 miles up a well-maintained gravel road. Cars should be okay on this road but watch for potholes.
You will be able to see the opening for the belly of the dragon from the road on your left side so keep your eyes peeled. Twin Hallows Campground is beyond belly of the dragon so turn around if you end up at the campground.
Where Do You Park For Belly Of The Dragon?
Parking for belly of the dragon is 0.3 miles along a dirt road off US-89 near Kanab Utah. There are no designated spots or even an obvious ‘parking lot’. It is roadside parking on gravel, but you will find plenty of room and it is completely free to park at belly of the dragon trailhead.
When we visited, there were two cars parked directly in front of the trailhead and we could see the huge opening for belly of the dragon.
But if you don’t see any cars on the side of the road, just keep an eye out for the opening of the tunnel on the left side of the road.
Search for or type “Belly of the Dragon Trail Head” into your Google Maps app for directions from Kanab or nearby.
How Long Does It Take To Hike Belly Of The Dragon?
Belly of the dragon refers to the tunnel itself, which runs for around 150 feet and takes 20 minutes roundtrip to hike. But beyond the tunnel you will find yourself in a dry bed creek which runs upstream and you can follow this for up to 5 miles as far as a small slot canyon, which would mean you need to plan for much longer.
You will run into what seems like a dead end not long after exiting the belly of the dragon tunnel. You can climb a bank to the side and that allows you to continue hiking upstream.
Belly of the dragon is an out and back hike no matter whether you only do the tunnel or you decide to continue. You can turn around anytime along the trail and walk back on yourself.
Most people turn around after the tunnel or at the dead end, so we would recommend allowing for an hour to hike the belly of the dragon.
- Difficulty: Easy (moderate if continue beyond the tunnel)
- Trail Distance: 0.5-10 miles roundtrip (out and back, but turn around anytime)
- Required Time: About an hour (plan for long if you go past the dead end after the tunnel)
- Perfect For: Families, cool views
- Open: Year-Round
- Dogs Allowed: Yes
- Recent Comments: AllTrails
Accessing The Tunnel
From the makeshift roadside parking area, it is a very short walk to the entrance of the tunnel.
However, once you arrive at the tunnel entrance, you are also at the most difficult part of the trail to navigate. There is a 5 foot drop from cement abutments you must scale in order to enter the tunnel.
Loose sand can make climbing around the concrete slab very slippery.
We found the easiest way to enter the tunnel was from the left side as you look at belly of the dragon. Do not try to climb up from the bottom of this drop. It is vertical and there is not much to hold onto.
What To Expect On The Trail
The tunnel itself is not very long once you make it inside belly of the dragon. Take time to explore the all the nooks and crannies around the eroded sandstone tunnel.
You may need a light source (your smartphone torch will be fine) to illuminate the floor inside belly of the dragon as some of the trail is rocky and uneven. Smooth rocks with sand make parts of the walk through the tunnel extremely slippery.
After you hike through the tunnel which bends slightly to the left, you will emerge out on the other side of US-89 into a sandy wash.
Continue walking upstream through the dry river creek and just around a short right curve you will reach a false dead end, which is a dry waterfall.
The dry waterfall is climbable for experienced hikers or anyone who like to climb but we wouldn’t recommend it for the average hiker. Instead, look for a passage to the right side of the creek and follow it up a steep bank.
Eventually you will emerge above the dry waterfall and can continue upstream until you reach a small slot canyon.
We personally turned around after standing at the top of the dry waterfall because we had loads left on our Kanab itinerary and we only came here to see belly of the dragon.
Tips For Hiking To The Belly Of The Dragon
- You may need a flashlight depending on the time of day you visit, but the tunnel is not very long and we were fine using the flashlight on our phones.
- It can be very cold inside the tunnel if you visit outside of Summer. We visited in December and despite the beautiful sunny weather, we were freezing cold in belly of the dragon. Take a light pullover.
- The tunnel itself is very photogenic, we spent a lot of time getting creative and taking some great photos.
- There are no bathrooms and/or water stations near this trail, so plan accordingly.
- Please do not add to the carvings in the sandstone walls during your visit. Always practice the leave no trace principle. You want to leave belly of the dragon exactly how you found it.
- For the best light (a deep orange glow), try to visit around sunset if possible because the entrance is west facing. The only problem is there are plenty of other places around Kanab you want to be for sunset.
Photos Of Belly Of The Dragon
Many people who visit belly of the dragon in Utah are photographers who can’t miss an opportunity to shoot light illuminating the walls of a tunnel.
We saw it on a flyer when applying for (and winning!) a permit to hike The Wave in Kanab. Belly of the dragon looked like a great spot to try out some silhouette photos and it didn’t disappoint.
We didn’t take our tripod, which meant we had to shoot handheld in a dark tunnel. That meant bumping ISO up, opening up aperture to f/2.8 or f/4, and hoping we could get in focus images with shutter speeds of around 1/30s.
If you’re going to photograph belly of the dragon to use for print or blowing up, do not forget your tripod.
Where To Stay In Nearby Kanab
Let’s take a very quick look at the top rated hotels in Kanab based on previous guests ratings out of 10 as per Booking.com:
- La Quinta Kanab – 8.9
- Comfort Suites Kanab – Rated 8.7
- Holiday Inn Express – Rated 8.6
- Hampton Inn – Rated 8.6
- Canyons Boutique Hotel – Rated 9.1
Is Belly Of The Dragon Utah Worth Visiting?
Yes, belly of the dragon is definitely worth visiting if you have the time to spare on your trip to Kanab in Utah. Don’t go out of your way to see the tunnel but if you are already planning to drive through Kanab or southern Utah, include the short hike through belly of the dragon to your plans.
If you’re into photography or social media, you can pick up some cool shots here. We consider Kanab to be one of the best places to visit in Utah because of several fun things to do like photography in Belly of the Dragon.
What Else Can I Do Near Kanab, Utah?
- 25 Best Things To Do In Kanab Southern Utah
- Bucket List Hike To The Wave
- How To Get A Permit For The Wave
- Sandboard On Coral Pink Sand Dunes
- Visit Moqui Cave Museum
- Dinosaur Tracks Trail Hike Kanab
- Explore Moqui Caverns Sand Caves
- Photograph The Toadstool Hoodoos
- Hike Wire Pass To Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
More From The US Southwest…
- Grand Canyon South Rim Itinerary
- How To Spend One Day In Zion National Park
- 20 Best Hiking Trails In Zion
- 9 Utah National Park Road Trip Itineraries
- Zion to Bryce Canyon 3 Day Road Trip
- Arches and Canyonlands One Day Itinerary
- Visit Horseshoe Bend at Sunset
We hope this guide helps with your visit to Belly of the Dragon in Kanab, Utah!
Please let us know if you have any questions about the Belly of the Dragon or surrounding area of Kanab in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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