Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, located in a region replete with scenic splendor and world-famous outdoor destinations, has developed into an unusual and absorbing attraction in its own right.
The nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary, Best Friends is a few miles north of Kanab, Utah, and offers free tours daily, except on Christmas Day.
The sanctuary is about 200 miles from Las Vegas, just off U.S. Highway 89 on Angel Canyon Road. It can be reached by traveling either through Zion National Park or across the Arizona Strip past Pipe Spring National Monument.
Drive north on Interstate 15 into Utah. North of St. George, exit onto state Route 9 toward Hurricane. To access U.S. 89 by way of Zion, continue on Route 9 through the park’s eastern entrance to the U.S. 89 junction and turn south toward Kanab.
To approach from the south, turn on state Route 59 in Hurricane, which becomes Arizona Route 389, then turn north on U.S. 89 at Fredonia to reach Kanab.
When you turn at Angel Canyon Road north of Kanab, you will drive on a paved scenic route to the Best Friends Welcome Center.
If the scenery seems familiar, you have probably seen it before. Angel Canyon and many other scenic locations around Kanab provided backgrounds for hundreds of Hollywood productions. Kanab even hosts a festival every August to celebrate its movie history.
Best Friends moved in 1980 from its original location in Arizona to its current one, a former movie ranch and 33,000 adjacent acres.
Visitors may explore short trails to view several kinds of barnyard animals housed near the visitor center. Inside the central building, visitors receive an introduction to the facility, may peruse the gift shop and assemble for one of the four free, hourlong tours offered daily. Since more than 25,000 people annually tour the sanctuary, these popular guided excursions require reservations. Call the sanctuary at 435-644-2001 or make reservations online at bestfriends.org.
For nearly 30 years, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has been promoting more humane treatment of animals, setting an example for preventing animal overpopulation and abuse. The sanctuary leads animal rescues, provides training workshops for animal advocates and partners with other organizations and communities.
The nonprofit sanctuary has a resident population of at least 1,700 domestic and wild animals. They are housed and cared for in several centers geared to specific kinds of animals, such as dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits, reptiles and exotic birds. Wild animals are cared for under federal license. There is always a waiting list for new residents to be selected when other animals are adopted out or pass away. The sanctuary has an animal care staff of 175, including veterinarians and many volunteers. Visitors touring the facility will stop at several centers and meet many of the animals.
The sanctuary treats and rehabilitates animals that can be saved, works toward adoption when possible and provides a caring, lifelong home for animals that cannot go elsewhere. Its adoption rate averages about 75 percent for the rehabilitated animals.
The nonprofit meets its multimillion dollar annual budget through donations, memberships, the sale of advertising in its magazine and gift shop proceeds.
Visiting the sanctuary also provides a good opportunity to tour the region’s many national parks and monuments, national forests, state parks and historical points of interest.
The sanctuary has a limited number of RV sites, cabins and cottages for those who want to stay awhile. Inquire about prices and availability when you make your tour arrangements. Otherwise, seek accommodations in nearby Kanab or investigate camping options.
Margo Bartlett Pesek’s Trip of the Week column appears on Sundays.