Nestled deep in the White Cliffs of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument lies one of Kanab's most remarkable geological features, the Great Chamber. Named by David Swindler, owner of Kanab's Action Photo Tours, the massive windblown cave has become a top spot for photographers and adventure junkies in recent years. The view from inside the cave is nothing short of spectacular, but getting there can be somewhat challenging.
There are two routes to get to the Great Chamber, one from US-89 near world renowned Best Friends Animal Shelter and another from Johnson Canyon Road. Both are OHV routes, not hiking trails, feature deep sand in places, and should only be attempted in a high clearance vehicle. More on vehicle requirements later. The route from US-89 near Best Friends Animal Shelter requires a lifted vehicle and features an incredibly steep climb near the start. The route from Johnson Canyon Rd is somewhat challenging, but avoids the steep climb and the necessity for a lifted vehicle. For this article we'll discuss the easier Johnson Canyon Rd option.
The trailhead can be found roughly twenty minutes from downtown Kanab in a large parking area with a Bureau of Land Management sign that reads Crocodile Staging Area/Hog Canyon OHV Trail System at coordinates 37°08'37.3"N 112°23'38.1"W. The directions for the Cutler Point Trail on AllTrails will also take you to the same spot.
From here you'll want to follow the AllTrails map for Cutler Point. Make sure to have this downloaded to your phone prior to getting to the trailhead as there is no cell service for most of the drive. Along the 8+ mile (one way) drive to the Great Chamber you'll encounter two unlocked gates where you'll have to jump out to open them, closing them behind you after entering and exiting. The first is a steel bar gate that easily swings open, lazily secured to a post with a chain.
The second is an old rickety wood and barbed wire gate secured in the same fashion. Neither are locked and you're free to pass through at any time. You can expect the drive to take about 30 minutes or more each way depending on your off-road driving capabilities. There are tons of intersecting sand roads along the way, so keep an eye on the map to stay on course. The road is very sandy, deep in several spots, and in some spots the road is rutted to the point where a standard vehicle has no chance of clearing. If you get stuck out here you're in a world of shit. Do not attempt the drive after it's recently rained as the road can be impassable.
Once you reach the unmistakable parking area, step over the barbed wire fence and head up the well defined deep sand trail heading east. The trail is pretty easy to spot, but if in doubt just look for where the barbed wire fence has been pressed down. The trail up to the Great Chamber is roughly 0.25 miles long with about 250' of elevation gain through deep sand. Your first impression of the Great Chamber may not be all too jaw-dropping, but once you reach the back wall and turn around to look out it's pretty incredible. One of the best parts of the Great Chamber is that due to it being fairly challenging to get to you'll likely have it all to yourself.
The large sand dune inside was formed over hundreds if not thousands of years from wind eroding the walls of the chamber. It once stood considerably higher, but over the years sandboarders have whittled it down to where it stands today. The photo above was taken about two hours before sunset during our trip out in 2022. A few years prior the dune reached twenty feet or so higher.
The best time to photograph from inside the Great Chamber is late afternoon when the sun is high in the sky and not in your eyes. This will give you the classic silhouette image that most look for. A wide angle lens is a must if you're planning on photographing. Without one you'll not be able to capture the entirety of the cave and sand dune. Wide angle lenses on cell phones work great, so if you don't have a fancy camera you're still in good shape. If you're an astrophotographer, this is an incredible spot for Milky Way photography depending on the time of year.
If you don't have experience driving in sand or don't have an ATV or high clearance vehicle like a Jeep Wrangler or similar you're better off hiring a guide to get you out there.
And that's all you need to know about the Great Chamber. Have a blast, be safe, and make some memories out there! If you're planning a trip to southern Utah be sure to check out our article Ten Days in Southern Utah: The Mighty Five & Beyond for great ideas and a few hidden gems.