Imagine epic landscape, a red rock wonderland, wide-open skies, and places that take your breath away. That’s southwest Utah. Now imagine having a sleepover at Utah’s newest hotel with a rescue dog. Most everyone visiting southern Utah heads directly to Zion National Park but we’ll catch it on the way back—after a date with Best Friends Animal Rescue just outside Kanab. 

Kanab is known as a base camp for hikers: 80 miles south is the Grand Canyon, 70 miles east is Lake Powell, and 30 miles west is Zion. And five miles south is Best Friends. This extraordinary animal sanctuary—on 3,700 acres at stunning Angel Canyon—is so much more than an animal shelter. Best Friends rescues animals in crisis and nurses them back to health. Many end up being adopted, but if not, they are loved and provided for here in their forever home. 

It’s a haven and healing oasis to about 1,600 rescue animals, including dogs, cats, horses, and pigs. A few months ago we signed up to volunteer for the day at Dogtown, the area of the sanctuary that is dedicated to dogs. After a tour, you can make a dog happy by taking them for a walk on designated trails and help at feeding time. We were assigned to Steve Lee who quit his tech job of 20 years in 2013 and volunteered at Dogtown. Now employed by Best Friends, Steve’s job description includes making sure all his “kids” get along with group living. “For the first seven days, we put a dog in a run with another dog and if it doesn’t work we try another match. Sometimes a week or two later things deteriorate so I’m always observing their behaviour.”


I took Clyde, a big Pit Bull-cross, for a stroll. Then another. Then it was dinnertime—some dogs like Clyde are hand-fed, otherwise they will gulp down their food too fast. “Fur-kids come here from all walks of life,” said Lee. “Some people think this place is Doggie Disneyland but technically it’s an orphanage. Some dogs are depressed and others happy-go-lucky…” 

Bring tissues to Angels Rest and Angels Overlook. Beautiful and bittersweet, wind chimes serenade us as we visit the pet memorial and walk the meditation labyrinth. Amongst thousands of pet markers there’s a memorial to the dogs of Katrina (hundreds were rescued by Best Friends) and another to the dogs rescued from disgraced NFL player Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, remembered as Victory Dogs. 

Most everywhere in Kanab is pet-friendly. And late this summer, Utah’s newest hotel opened for the dogs. “Best Friends Roadhouse & Mercantile” offers 40 rooms and 10 suites for guests—both human and canine. Services with sleepovers include built-in cubbies to snuggle, washing stations, pet walking areas, and a fenced-in water play park. Wait, there’s more! Guest rooms are outfitted with special fabrics and materials, pet introduction doors (a two-door entry that ensures the pet will not slip out),
room furnishings built 18 inches or higher to avoid pet entrapment or accidents, and pet mattresses in sleeping nooks. And should you wish to adopt your sleepover buddy, Best Friends will transport pets eligible for adoption to their new home in the US or Canada.

“Every year more than 30,000 travelers visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary,” said Brooks Bradbury, Best Friends Animal Society’s Director of Hospitality, in a press release. “These visitors need a lodging complex that will cater not only to them, but pets, too, including those who travel with their own furry companions and others who might be considering adopting from our Sanctuary.”


“Sleepovers are incredibly valuable, giving animals and humans that one-on-one experience. They are not strictly about adoption; they are also an [enriching experience] because we learn more about the animal in a home-like setting,” said Barbara Williamson of Best Friends. Sure, the dogs would love to continue their sleepover experience indefinitely, but Barbara reassures that when dogs are brought back to their current home at Best Friends and the caregivers and volunteers who love them, they aren’t traumatized. “It gives the dogs a break from group living and helps our adoption team find the right family for them. And many people want a sleepover before making the adoption decision.”

Before you consider a sleepover with a Best Friends dog, make sure your hotel room or vacation rental is onboard and animal-friendly. Next up, you need to have volunteered at least a half-day in Dogtown. Everyone in your group, including kids 10 and older can volunteer. As for dining, dogs are not eligible for patios, so go for delivery or take-out. 

The Roadhouse is also set to offer musical performances, videos, lectures and discussions, art fairs, farmers markets, yoga classes, and more, for both guests and the community. Revenue from the Roadhouse will support Best Friends’ efforts to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. For reservations and further information, call 435.644.3400 or visit