We’ve stopped in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area once on a road trip, but back then, we didn’t realize it was so massive.
It covers 1.25 million acres mostly in Utah but also in northern Arizona near Page. You’ll find endless options for water-based activities, serious backcountry hikes, scenic viewpoints, and unique formations.
During our recent visit, we spent a lot of time on the water but plan on returning for some hikes since we left so much land unexplored.
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Last Updated: October 4, 2019. First Published: Sep 18, 2018
11 Things to Do in Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (AZ + UT)
1. Antelope Canyon Boat Tours
100 Lake Shore Dr, 86040, map
We went on the Canyon Adventure Boat Tour, which took us to Antelope Canyon and Navajo Canyon. Keep in mind that although this is part of the same Antelope Canyon that you can tour on land, this portion of the canyon is filled with water.
Some guests were confused between the two since it didn’t look like the photos they’ve seen. We also got a chance to see Glen Canyon Dam from the water along with other beautiful formations.
When you board, they give you a headset which has pre-recorded info that they play during certain parts of the tour. Otherwise, the captain will point our significant landmarks and the other staff on board can help answer any questions.
Pro Tip: They only allow a certain number of people on the top of the boat, so arrive early if you want to get a seat up there. If you don’t get a seat up top, windows downstairs do open. They also provide water, coffee, and lemonade on all the cruises, but if you think you’ll get hungry, you should pack some snacks.
2. See Rainbow Bridge
Lake Powell, 84533, map
Rainbow Bridge National Monument is only 160 acres, making it one of the smallest National Park units. But within that small piece of land, you can find one of the largest natural bridge in the world a s well as other unique features.
On this trip, we didn’t make it out to Rainbow Bridge, because we didn’t realize how long it takes to boat out there. Luckily, a month later, we were able to rent a boat to do both Rainbow Bridge and Reflection Canyon.
Getting to Rainbow Bridge takes some planning as it can only be accessed by water or long hikes. Here are your options:
- Hike the North Trail (17.5 miles / primarily through Navajo Tribal Lands)
- Hike the South Trail (17.2 miles / primarily through Navajo Trival Lands)
- Take a Rainbow Bridge Tour (tour lasts approximately 6 hours / check rates & availability here)
- Rent or Bring Your Own Boat (check boat rentals here)
A few notes if hiking:
- Contact Navajo Parks for permits if you plan on hiking.
- When hiking, you can do it one way as long as you arrange a pick up through the Wahweap Marina.
- Check the weather – do not hike if rain is in the forecast.
3. Take a Float Trip Down the Colorado RIver
199 Kaibab Rd, 86040, map
Head into Page, AZ and join Wilderness River Adventures for a float tour down the Colorado River. Starting at the Glen Canyon Dam, your expert guide will take you down the Colorado River telling you more about the history of the area and pointing out significant landmarks like the Petroglyphs.
The highlight of this trip was getting to see Horseshoe Bend from inside the canyon. When you looked up, you could see a crowd of tiny humans dotting the edge.
You can even hop in the water, but keep in mind that unlike Lake Powell where the water gets warm in the summer, the river says a cool 47 degrees all year round.
Pro Tip: Do yourself a favor and take the very first tour of the day. The morning will start out chilly on the water, so you’ll want to bring a light jacket, but by the end it will be quite warm. Midday tours can get hot.
2F4X+RH, Utah, map
Boating is by far the most popular activity in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. If you have your own boat, there are four marinas with ramps where you can launch a private vehicle (click here to see the full list)
You can also rent a boat at the Wahweap or Bullfrog Marinas. You have the choice between a Pontoon Boat, Powerboat, Baja Skit Boat, Weekender Boat, or Jetskis. During our visit, we got took a Powerboat out for a half day rental.
Neither of us have much boating experience but they walked through all the basics and we went out to explore some of the canyons on our own.
Lake Powell is also a popular spot to go fishing! Since the lake borders the Utah and Arizona line, be sure you have a fishing license from both states. Click here for more on fishing regulations and conditions.
Pro Tip: Be sure to make reservations ahead of time, especially during the summer. We had a few people ask us if we could take them out for a ride since no boats were left. Also, arrive 20-30 minutes before your reservation to fill out all the appropriate paperwork so you have the maximum time on the water.
5. Tour the Glen Canyon Dam
US-89, 84533, map
The Glen Canyon Dam is the second largest concrete arch dam in the US. Take the 45-minute long tour to learn more about its history and how it functions.
Each tour allows a maximum of 20 people and you can only make reservations in person at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center up to 24 hours in advance. Tickets prices are $5 for adults 17-61, $2.50 for kids 7-16, free for children 0-6, and $4 for anyone 62+.
6. Kayak Lake Powell
2F4X+RH, Utah, map
Glen Canyon is all about the water sports. If you want to see the lake at a slower pace, rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard. We saw a ton of people kayaking in the canyons, and unlike the boats, they were able to get right next to the walls and even pull them up on shore to sit out on the rocks.
Pro Tip: Apply lots of sunblock! Since they are sit-on-top kayaks, don’t forget your legs. I’ve gotten some gnarly sunburns from forgetting to reapply when kayaking.
7. Visit Lees Ferry
Spencer Trail, 86036, map
Lees Ferry is the only place where you can drive to the Colorado River within Glen Canyon. It’s where we ended our float tour, and the launching point for Grand Canyon rafting trips.
Fishermen launch from here to head upstream for world class trout fishing, and backpackers end 4-5 day hikes through the Paria Canyon Wilderness Area here as well.
Just upstream from the Lees Ferry launch ramp, you’ll find the historic ferry crossing site and a few historic buildings. It was the spot where pioneers, miners, Indians, and tourists crossed between 1872 to 1928.
8. Hike to Horseshoe Bend
Lake Powell is definitely the main attraction of Glen Canyon National Park, but don’t forget about exploring all the beautiful spots on dry land.
Horseshoe Bend is probably the most popular day hike by far. We stopped by to catch sunset here. Here are some of the day hikes you can explore:
- Dam Overlook (940 feet roundtrip)
- Hanging Garden (1 mile roundtrip)
- Horsehoe Bend (1.5 miles roundtrip)
- Antelope Point (various distances)
- The Chains (various distances)
Hwy 89 North:
- Bucktank Draw and Birthday Arch (4.5 miles roundtrip)
- Wiregrass Canyon (6 miles roundtrip)
- Cottonwood Road (various distances)
- Paria Rimrocks (1.5 miles roaundtrip)
- Pareah Townsite (various distances)
Lees Ferry Area
- Lonely Dell (1 mile roundtrip)
- Paria (various distances)
- RIver Trail/ Lees Fort (2 miles roundtrip)
- Spencer Trail (4.4 miles roadtrip)
- Pedestal Alley (3 miles roundtrip)
- Click here for directions to the hikes and more info.
- There is little to no shade on most hikes and cell phone reception is spotty.
- Bring lots of water and dress appropriately.
- Wear sunscreen and remember to reapply.
- If there is potential for flash floods, do not hike any trails through washes.
Pro Tip: If you prefer exploring on two wheels, there are miles of mountain biking trails. Find more details here.
9. Take a Scenic Drive
There are a couple backcountry roads you can take for a scenic drive. The first is the Burr Trail. You get great views of the Henry Mountains and takes you through Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, and Grand Staircase-Escalate National Monument.
You can also drive along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road which follows the trail of early pioneers from Escalante, Utah to Hole-in-the-Rock.
Distance: 67 miles one-way
Roads: Mix of paved and dirt roads. Impassible when wet. Four-wheel drive required for some sections.
Distance: 62 miles one-way
Roads: High-clearance vehicle required. Last five miles require 4-wheel drive.
- Check with a ranger or call 435.826.5499 for road and weather conditions.
- Cell service is unreliable. It’s always a good pracitce to let someone know your itinerary so you can be found in case something goes wrong.
- Pack out everything you pack in.
- Take plenty of drinking water and snacks.
10. Get a Different Perspective at Muley Point
Muley Point Rd, 84531, map
Muley Point is on the far corner of the San Juan Arm. From here you can get views of Monument Valley, Navajo Mountain, and beautiful canyons of the San Juan River.
Just outside of the park in the Cedar Mesa area, you’ll find well preserved prehistoric archaeological sites in the alcoves and canyons. Be sure not to touch, lean, or climb on any of the remains to help preserve them.
11. Explore the Escalante BackCountry
755 W Main St, 84726, map
The Escalante area is usually overlooked because it doesn’t have a marina or access to Lake Powell, but is has some of the best backcountry hiking and camping in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Pro Tip: The Escalante Interagency Visitor Center will be your best resource for planning trips in this area. You can call them at 435.826.5499 for permit info and road conditions.
Essential Tips for Your Visit
- Best Time to Visit: Summer is the busiest time of year because the water is warmest. If you want to avoid the crowds, come in the Spring or Fall.
- If you plan on visiting multiple National Parks this year, pick up the America the Beautiful Pass.
- Check out the park’s current conditions with these webcams.
- The park is accessible 24 hours year-round, but certain facilities are only open seasonally. Check this page to find all those hours.
- The National Park Service is less prevalent at this park because it’s a recreation area. A lot of the services are run by third party company. If you’re looking for a ranger, head to the visitor centers.
- If you’re looking to get groceries or pick up extra supplies, head into Page and you’ll find plenty of options on the main drag of Lake Powell Blvd.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Entrance Fees & Passes
- Vehicle Entrance 1-7 Day – $30
- Boating Entrance 1-7 Day – $30
- Boating Entrance additional vessel 1-7 Day – $30
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Annual Pass – $55
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Annual Vessel Sticker – $50
- America the Beautiful Pass – $80
- Free Days 2019
- Jan 21: Birthday of MLK
- April 20: First day of National Park Week / National Junior Ranger Day
- Sept 28: National Public Lands Day
- Nov 11: Veterans Day
- Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam
Location: US-89, Lake Powell, AZ 84533
Hours: 8am-6pm mid-May to mid-Sept, 8am-4pm Nov-Feb, 8am-5pm the rest of the year
Highlights: Bookstore, Tours of the Dam, Interactive Exhibits
- Bullfrog Visitor Center
Location: Highway 276 north of Bullfrog Marina
Hours: 9am-4pm in the Summer
Highlights: Geology, Human, & Natural History Exhibits, Life-Size Model of a Slot Canyon
- Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center
Location: 1000 Us Hwy 89a, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036
Hours: 9am-5pm April to Oct
Highlights: Outdoor Exhibits, Self Guided Walk Across Navajo Bridge, Watch for California Condor
- Escalante Interagency Visitor Center
Location: 755 West Main Street, Escalante, UT 84726
Hours: 7:30am-5:30pm mid-Mar to Oct, 8am-4:30pm Oct to Thanksgiving, 8am-4:30pm Mon-Fri mid-Nov to mid-Mar
Highlights: Trip Planning Exhibits, Ecology Exhibits, Bookstore, Staffed by BLM, NPS, & Forest Service with info on Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and the Dixie National Forest
Lake Powell Marinas
Restaurants + Best Places to Eat in Glen Canyon
- Rainbow Room – Serves a breakfast buffet every morning (with the option to order a la carte as well) and a full menu during dinner. It has a spectacular panoramic view of the lake.
- Driftwood Lounge – A great spot to grab drinks, pub food, and small bites.
- Latitude 37 – A floating restaurant accessible by land or water. They serve sandwiches, burgers, and a few other signature entrees.
- Wahweap Grill – Grab a burger, sandwich, or pizza at this casual spot. It totally hit the spot when we visited for lunch. We also saw people drop by to pick up pizza to go.
- Wind – If you’re looking to kill some time while you wait, grab a coffee, wine, or charcuterie plate here.
Where to Stay in Lake Powell + Glen Canyon NRA
Stay at the Lodge
100 Lakeshore Drive, map
Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas is right in the heart of all the action and is one of the most popular places to stay in the Page Lake Powell area. Located in Wahweap Marina, you have multiple room options, easy access to dining, and activities right outside your door.
Other Housing Options:
- Defiance House Lodge (North Lake Powell)
- Family Units (Bullfrog Marina, Halls Crossing & Hite)
- Find the best deals on Lake Powell hotels and hotels near Page AZ
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, book an Airstream at Lake Powell. They are all set up for you and located right in the campgrounds.
We absolutely loved our 3 months living in an Airstream so when we heard that we could get back in one, we couldn’t resist. It really felt like home.
Camping & RVing
If you’re looking to camp, there are a few different options. The nicest campgrounds allow you to make a reservation, have restrooms, laundry, showers, a store, dump stations and potable water. Fees do apply based on the site, and you can find all the details here.
- Wahweap Developed Camping (112 dry campsites, 90 sites with full hook-ups)
- Bullfrog Developed Camping (78 campsites plus and RV park with 24 sites with full hook-ups)
- Halls Crossing Developed Camping (43 campsites plus and RV park with 32 full hook-up sites)
There are also these other options. Unless noted, they are primitive campsites.
- Lees Ferry Campground (no reservations, 54 designated sites, $20 per site per night)
- Lone Rock Beach Primitive Camping (no reservations, no designated campsites, $14 per vehicle per night)
- Staton Creek, Hite, Dirty Devil, and Farley Primitive Camping Areas (no reservations, no designated campsites, $12 per vehicle per night)
- Colorado River Primitive Camping (six designated areas between Glen Canyon Dam and Lees Ferry)
- Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon (16.4 mi southeast / 30 min, map)
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (23.8 mi northwest / 27 min, map)
- The Wave at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument (40.1 mi west / 1 hr, map)
- White Pocket (66.4 mi west / 2 hr 20 min, map)
- Grand Canyon National Park (142 mi / 2 hr 45 min, map)
- Bryce Canyon National Park (147 mi northwest / 2 hr 35 min, map)
- Hovenweep National Monument (213 mi / 3 hr 40 min, map)
- Natural Bridges National Monument (196 mi / 3 hr 40 min northeast, map)
- Capitol Reef National Park (249 mi / 4 hr 20 min north, map)
- Mesa Verde National Park (254 mi / 4 hr 32 min east, map)
- Arches National Park (287 mi northeast / 4 hr 45 min, map)
What to Pack for a Lake Trip - Our Packing List
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Map (Trails Illustrated)
- Hiking Grand Staircase-Escalante & the Glen Canyon Region
- Boater’s Guide to Lake Powell
- Waterproof Guide Map to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon
- The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon (multiple people recommended this book since it talked about the history of the area)
What’s your favorite water and outdoor activities on a lake trip? Have you been to Glen Canyon?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust