Belly of the Dragon is one of the most unique attractions in southern Utah. I highly recommend a quick stop if you’re driving through the area.
Let’s jump into this complete guide of everything you need to know about visiting Belly of the Dragon!
What is Belly of the Dragon and where is it located?
Belly of the Dragon is a unique hike in southern Utah. It is actually an old drainage tunnel that runs under Hwy 89. The water flow through this man-made tunnel created an ominous passageway.
It has since been named Belly of the Dragon, presumably because of the ribcage-looking walls and the style of the long passageway.
It is located about 17 miles northwest of Kanab, Utah, just outside Mount Carmel Junction. Three of the most popular national parks and state parks are nearby. The area has plenty of things to do, including Zion National Park and the Kanab sand caves.
The close proximity (0.3 miles) of the parking lot to Hwy 89 makes it a very easy access hike. Many of the most popular hiking trails in southern Utah require long drives down dirt roads, so this is a nice change.
What is the hike like?
Length: 1.8 miles round trip
Type: Out & back
The hiking itself is relatively easy. The hardest part is the 4-5 foot drop down into the drainage ditch at the entrance of the tunnel. A few footholds have been made over time, making it a little easier to scramble up and down the entrance.
Once you go in the tunnel entrance, you’ll find yourself in the Belly of the Dragon! The passageway is fairly straight, but the path that the water has created twists and turns and has varying levels of height.
Make sure to watch your footing. Depending on the time of day you visit, it can also be quite dark in the middle of the tunnel, so you will want to come ready with flashlights. We just used a phone flashlight for a little help.
When you emerge from the other side, you will find yourself in a sandy wash with decent-sized rock wall cliffs on both sides. You can continue your hike through the wash or turn around and return if you’re short on time.
We chose to continue our hike. It dead-ends less than a mile from the beginning of the hike so you will clearly know where to turn around, although you can climb the sandstone walls to reach the upper canyons for a longer adventure.
There are a lot of rocks in the wash area and it’s obvious that many people chose to stay for a while and build fun cairns with them. We passed many sections of the wash filled with rock cairns, especially where the hike reached a dead end.
Overall, this is a very easy and short hike with no elevation gain. The whole family will enjoy this small slot canyon.
How much time should you spend at Belly of the Dragon?
This hike takes an average of 45 minutes for most people to complete, but it takes much less if you’re only walking through to the end of the tunnel.
However, if you are completing the entire hike, stopping for lots of Belly of the Dragon photos (I highly recommend it!), and are not in a rush, I would allow an hour for the hike.
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When should you visit Belly of the Dragon?
The time of day that you visit the Belly of the Dragon tunnel could have a huge impact on how much you enjoy it. This has become quite a popular stop in the area and as a result, can be downright swamped during the middle of the day.
If you are able to, I recommend making this stop either early in the morning, or late in the evening, just before dusk on a weekday.
This is my favorite time to visit because the tunnel is darker and the falling light adds to the fun atmosphere. Plus, you are almost guaranteed to have the tunnel all to yourself!
Is Belly of the Dragon dog-friendly?
Yes! Dogs are allowed at Belly of the Dragon. Both of our dogs loved exploring the tunnel. You don’t have to leash your dogs for this hike, but obviously, that is at your own discretion.
It may be more advisable if it is a busy time and there are a lot of other people and dogs there. I would recommend at least bringing a leash just in case you need it.
When we visited, we had the tunnel all to ourselves and we let the dogs off-leash. They loved leading the hike through the passageway and it was super fun watching them climbing the rocks inside!
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Is there camping near Belly of the Dragon?
There is a free campground conveniently located just outside of the Belly of the Dragon trailhead. You’ll find that there are two sides to Twin Hollows Canyon Campground which are separated by the gravel road you drive in on.
The one side is next to the East Fork Virgin River and is quite sandy. The other side is up against the walls of the canyon and is very rocky.
We actually camped on both sides. The first night, we were down on the river and the dogs had a blast jumping and playing in the water after a hot day. We could camp right on the riverbank and even hung a hammock to enjoy.
One major downside was all of the sand that got tracked in the tent, but it was still a fun spot and we really enjoyed it.
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The second night, we got back from our adventures much later in the day, and not only was dark coming quickly but most of the spots along the river were already taken. We settled for a rocky location tucked back away from the road for a little more privacy.
It wasn’t as grand of a location, but it was still nice and worked perfectly for our needs. The major downside was that we were much closer to the highway and there was a lot of road noise.
You can watch our review of Belly of the Dragon and the campground in our YouTube video below.
Campendium link: Twin Hollows Canyon Dispersed Camping
Are there other things to do near Belly of the Dragon?
There are so many things to do in southern Utah nearby Belly of the Dragon! If you are able, plan to spend multiple days in the area. Here are a few of the other things we enjoyed nearby.
- Zion National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
- ATVing & Canyoneering
- Peekaboo Slot Canyon
- Wire Pass
- Toadstool Hoodoos
- The Moqui Caverns
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As we mentioned, this is just a short drive from Mt. Carmel Junction, where you can find lodging and food. It would be a good idea to map out your drive to the mouth of the tunnel with Google Maps in advance.
I hope you’ve found this guide to visiting the Belly of the Dragon helpful and that you’ll add this hike to your Utah bucket list!
This unique experience could be described as a cave-like tunnel. Would you hike through this manmade tunnel/water culvert hike? Let us know!