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Visit Lake Powell: Attractions, Tours and Hikes

January 27, 2021 /
things to do at lake powell

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

The beautiful Lake Powell, located in the vast Glen Canyon National Recreation Area between Utah and Arizona, is undoubtedly one of the natural wonders – or almost, since it’s a reservoir, the second largest in the country – that you can’t avoid visiting if you’re traveling in the Southwest. If you are coming from Kanab after visiting Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park, you’ll pass it before arriving in Page, a city that can be a base for your visit to Lake Powell. If you have the possibility to stay in the area for a few days, this vast stretch of water (extending for almost 190 miles) will be a perfect strategic point where you go on several beautiful excursions.

If you’re wondering what to see around Lake Powell and how to get there, make sure you read these tips.

Map of Lake Powell

Things to Do at Lake Powell (Wahweap Marina)

lake powell things to see

Among the main things to see at Lake Powell, there is Wahweap Bay, which includes a large stretch of the southern part of the lake and is also the area most visited by tourists. The Wahweap Marina is the most interesting and renowned tourist and sporting landmark in the area, both for scenic cruises and for the most daring and exciting water sports, such as waterskiing and wakeboarding.

Wahweap Bay: a curiosity
Wahweap Creek is the name of a dried-up river that once flowed through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and then into the Colorado River. Near Big Water, a small town west of the lake, you can start walking on a long trail that follows the riverbed to Wahweap Hoodoos, an area with many pinnacles, the most famous of which are the White Ghost Hoodoos.

Directions

Both main entrances (North Access and South Access) to the Wahweap Marina area are on US-89. The North Access is the first one you see coming from the west (Kanab), while the South Access is just 3.3 miles further south, very close to the dam and more convenient for those coming from Page. In both cases you will be asked to show your America the Beautiful Park Pass or, if you don’t have one, to pay the entrance fee.

Things to See

Some of the most beautiful attractions South Lake Powell has to offer are not far from Wahweap Marina. In addition to the navigable part of Antelope Canyon and the Rainbow Bridge National Monument, which I’ll talk about shortly, there are lesser-known “treats”, such as Ice Cream Canyon and several bays, canyons and buttes that are located further north, all accessible by boat, which you can rent, but not by land, including Face Canyon, Gunsight Canyon, Navajo Canyon, Warm Creek Bay

I would also like to mention Padre Bay, the largest bay on the lake, where you can enjoy a truly impressive panorama. This bay is also visible on the tourist cruises that I will talk about shortly.

Lake Powell Viewpoints

If you prefer to contemplate the views from the mainland, you can wander around the Lake Powell Resort in Wahweap Marina and you will still be able to see a fascinating natural waterscape of crystal clear waters, contrasting with the red and white rock formations that surround them. Also, on the short stretch of road between South Access and the Wahweap Marina, you can stop at Navajo Mountain Viewpoint and Wahweap Viewpoint, two well-marked overlooks on the right.

Things to See Near the Lake

lake powell attractions

The largest city near the southern part of Lake Powell is Page, which can be reached via US-89. Around Page, there is a myriad of beautiful places to visit. Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are the most famous, but certainly not the only ones. To learn more, read our article about what to see in Page.

Glen Canyon Dam

glen canyon dam lake powell

Glen Canyon Dam is a beautiful dam a few miles from Page. Along the way, you can drive along an impressive series of steep cliffs on the Colorado River. Near the bridge, you’ll find the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, which organizes guided tours inside the dam (we talked about it in our article about Glen Canyon Dam) and provides information on how to visit the entire Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, which includes Lake Powell.

Let’s go back to Lake Powell. Besides the Wahweap Marina, there are other very beautiful places to admire the lake and its meanders. Some of them are easy to reach and are suitable for those who are short on time, while others are definitely more remote. Few people access them, so they remain shrouded in a veil of mystery.

Wahweap Overlook

wahweap-overlook lake powell

A quick stop at the Wahweap Overlook is recommended for those who have little time and a limited budget, but still want to enjoy a beautiful view of the lake without going all the way to the port and venturing into the bay. Access to this elevated point with ample parking is free and easily accessible by making a turn off of US-89. Coming from Page, you have to turn right after just over 3 miles from Glen Canyon Dam.

The Chains

lake powell secret spots

This is another interesting place near the Wahweap Marina. You have the possibility to reach the water level of the lake on sandstone slabs very close to the dam. Since you can reach it by car, The Chains is a comfortable and fast way to see a meander of the lake and the dam from a different perspective. Also, here you can put on your swimsuit and take a swim in the lake.

To get to The Chains coming from Page or Glen Canyon Dam you have to turn here following the signs for the Hanging Garden Trail. When you arrive at the trailhead by car, you will find yourself at a fork in the road. Turn left and continue driving for a few minutes. You will find two adjacent parking areas that give access to several points. I recommend you reach the very end of the road, because by going down the beautiful striped rock slabs, you will reach a small natural pool. Here are the coordinates of the parking lot and those of the natural pool.

Antelope Island Marina
Not far from Page, at the end of Indian Rte 222 (which leads to Lower Antelope Canyon), you will find Antelope Island Marina, another marina that is very popular among the locals. The reason behind the name is that it overlooks Antelope Island and because the navigable part of the famous Antelope Canyon starts right there.

However, unless you want to rent a boat or have found a river tour there, it’s not worth the trip, because the views of the lake are much less scenic than Wahweap Marina, since it is a point where the lake narrows quite a bit.

Lone Rock

lone rock lake powell

If you are on the road west of Wahweap Marina, you will have the opportunity to make a small detour to visit Lone Rock. This imposing red rock massif near the shore of the lake is easily accessible just off the main road Hwy 89. After a mile or so, you will find yourself on a beautiful lake beach where you can swim or camp (for a fee) just a short distance from this imposing red rock. Take advantage of the fact that it is a lesser-known part of the lake where you can enjoy some peace and quiet.

Reflection Canyon

Reflection Canyon lake powell
Reflection Canyon

There are many of you who ask us: “How do you get to the vista point in the picture? Where is this place so scenic and is one of the most famous views of the lake?” The photo depicts Reflection Canyon, a narrow bend in the river even further north past the Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Unfortunately, the bad news is that this canyon can only be reached by renting a boat from Bullfrog Marina (Huh? Bullfrog Marina? Where is it? Read the next point).

No cruise departing from any port of Lake Powell allows you to get to Reflection Canyon, and even to reach it on foot is very difficult and not recommended for those who do not have time, adequate experience, a GPS and a good sense of direction, since the long trail is located in an extremely remote area of the lake. To get to the trailhead, you must go down the infamous Hole in the Rock Road at Escalante, a long and bumpy road full of natural beauty, which can only be accessed with a 4×4.  Yes, it is the same one that connects to UT-12 in Utah, far from Page! If you’re still curious to know the exact spot on the lake where this canyon is located, click here.

Bullfrog Marina and Other Ports in Utah

As you may have understood from our descriptions, Lake Powell is boundless and for the most part difficult to visit except by river. In fact, in addition to Wahweap and Antelope Island Marina, there are three other ports along the lake north of Arizona’s borders. All three are in Utah and far away from Page. From these ports, you can rent a boat or take water tours to more remote areas of the northern part of the lake. They are the following:

  • Dangling Rope Marina
  • Halls Crossing Marina
  • Bullfrog Marina

Dangling Rope is not accessible by car, while the other two (Bullfrog and Halls Crossing) are on opposite sides of the lake along UT-276, a road that cuts through the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. For those driving around here, you can still use the Charles Hall Ferry, which will take you from one side of the lake to the other in 25 minutes (more info here).

Lake Powell Boat Tours

Lake Powell Boat Tours

As I have already mentioned, there are boat tours that depart from Wahweap Marina and venture into the most hidden corners of Lake Powell. Click on the link below to book either a 90-minute cruise or a longer one, which lasts from 2.5 to 3 hours (the price does not include the entrance to the park, however, the national parks annual pass is accepted here). You will notice that in both cases that Antelope Canyon is mentioned as one of the stops of the cruise. This is because, after taking you to the Navajo Sandstone formations and the Glen Canyon Dam, the boat sails a few miles inside the famous canyon in the section right before it narrows. The boat then turns back, but you can book the walking tour to Antelope Canyon from Page, which will take you down into the canyon.

Book the scenic cruise on Lake Powell

In the next point you’ll find some more information about the 90-minute Antelope Canyon Tour, the shortest, cheapest and most popular tour.

Antelope Canyon Tour: What You Can Expect

lake powell cruises

The first stop after leaving the pier is the Glen Canyon Dam, which you can see close up in all its grandeur. From here, the ferry heads towards Antelope Canyon. As you snake through the narrowing and winding canyon, you can almost touch the rocks streaked with a thousand colours. It is certainly not as impressive as walking in the dry part of Antelope Canyon, but even sailing through this area of the canyon filled with water has its own charm. The boat stops here and turns back to return to its starting point.

If you choose the 90-minute cruise, don’t assume that you will visit all of Lake Powell. This boat tour allows you to see only a small part of it, although it is still very interesting. The highlight of the cruise is hearing the guide tell the story of the lake, its canyons and many anecdotes about this part of Utah and Arizona. In fact, this large and jagged artificial lake has many secrets and interesting facts to discover. Here’s one piece of trivia for you.

Navajo Generating Station
Did you know that almost 25 million families rely on this giant water reservoir to survive? Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles are just some of the cities that depend on the reservoir. The main purpose of the lake is to serve as a water supply.

From the boat, you’ll also clearly see the cooling towers of the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that rises above Page’s landscape and ruins it a little bit. This power plant, which closed in November 2019, was powered by the coal of the Kayenta Mine generated more electricity than the Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam combined for many years, using water from Lake Powell for the cooling process.

UPDATE: on December 18th, 2020 the power plant has been demolished. Navajo Generating Station no longer dominates Page horizon.

lake powell utah

Tips to enjoy the tour

First of all, arrive on time. You are expected to be there 30 minutes before departure and boarding is scheduled 15 minutes before the tour begins. If you arrive late, you risk being stranded. The meeting point is in the lobby of the Lake Powell Resort, where you will see a line of people waiting for the tour guide, who will accompany the group to the ferry. Try to be among the first in line, because the boats are very large and some seats (especially outdoor seats) are better than others for taking pictures and videos along the way. The earlier you arrive the better, that way you will choose a good seat and you will have a better chance of bringing home memorable pictures!

Book the panoramic cruise on Lake Powell

Rainbow Bridge National Monument Boat Tour

Rainbow Bridge National Monument Boat Tour

A little further north on the lake, there is an excellent excursion to the Rainbow Bridge National Monument, one of the largest “natural bridges” in the world. Unless you want to hike more than 30 miles (round trip) or rent a private boat, you can only reach the bridge by boat from Wahweap Marina or other ports in the area. It will be spectacular to enter the Forbidding Canyon and sail through the cliffs. After a couple of miles, you will reach the bridge. When you get there, enjoy the view, but be respectful, because Native Americans consider this place sacred.

Book a cruise to the Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Air Tours of Lake Powell and the Surrounding Area

lake powell air tours

While it is true that many people visit the lake by boat, there are other types of equally fascinating tours, particularly helicopter and airplane tours, which can offer a totally new perspective of Lake Powell. Many of these also allow you to fly over the beautiful surroundings of the lake, offering a unique view of, for example, Horseshoe Bend. Others include access to Antelope Canyon in the price.

Classic tours

These 2 tours only fly over Lake Powell and the immediate surroundings, but each has a special feature that makes it unique.

1) Over the Rainbow Tour

In addition to the cruise, the most spectacular way to enjoy the Rainbow Bridge National Monument is to fly over it with the Over the Rainbow Tour, which departs from Page and offers incredible views. This entire tour takes place in flight.

  • Flight Duration: 30-35 minutes

More info on this tour

2) Tower Butte Landing Tour

For those looking for a picturesque tour, we recommend the tour to Tower Butte, an exceptional rock formation at 5,000 feet above sea level, with a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view. A helicopter will transport you to the impressive mesa where you can photograph incredible landscapes from a unique location.

  • Flight Duration: 15-20 minutes

More info about the tour

Panoramic Tours that Include Horseshoe Bend

visit lake powell
Horseshoe Bend

Below I would like instead to mention 3 Papillon air tours that also include the flight over Horseshoe Bend. These long-awaited tours began in 2019. This particular view of the Colorado River can now be seen and immortalized from a really enviable position.

1) Flight to Horseshoe Bend and landing on Tower Butte

This tour includes landing on Tower Butte, but – unlike the one illustrated above – the helicopter not only flies over Lake Powell, but also offers a bird’s-eye view of Horseshoe Bend. The price difference is also minimal (about $10), so if you want to get a good deal I recommend this solution.

  • Flight Duration: 25-30 minutes

More info about the tour

2) Full Panoramic Helicopter Tour

This is one of the most affordable combinations for those not interested in going to Tower Butte, but want to see Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon from above. The scenic flight takes 10 to 12 minutes – Bring your camera and capture the beauty!

  • Flight Duration: 10-12 minutes

More info about the tour

3) Full Panoramic Tour by Plane

If you prefer to fly in a plane instead of a helicopter, this is the tour for you. The view from the two types of aircraft are different, but the plane tour lasts longer and costs a little less. Again, there is no intermediate landing but a simple flight of Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon (including the dam).

  • Flight Duration: About 30 minutes

More info about the tour

Horseshoe Bend + Antelope Canyon Panoramic Tours

lake powell antelope canyon

If you want to have a lasting experience of what Page has to offer, you can also book one of the following combined tours, which include both the flight (with or without Tower Butte) and entry to Antelope Canyon.

1) Air Tour and Antelope Canyon (Helicopter)

This is the most complete package. In addition to the panoramic flight over Horseshoe Bend and the guided tour entrance to Antelope Canyon, it also includes the landing at and exploration of Tower Butte, just like the previous tours described.

  • Flight Duration: 20-25 minutes

More info about the tour

2) Air tour and Antelope Canyon (Plane)

This tour costs less and lasts a bit less than the previous one, because it doesn’t include landing on Tower Butte (too small for planes to land!). On the other hand, as usual, the plane flight lasts longer than a helicopter flight would. Entrance to Antelope Canyon is included, as you can tell from the title.

  • Flight Duration: About 30 minutes

More info about the tour

Where to Stay in Lake Powell (Page)

hotel lake powell
If you want to sleep right on the lake, we recommend the Lake Powell Resort (100 Lake Shore Drive), which is located near the Wahweap Marina. You can imagine that this is a very charming location. The hotel has rooms with a view of the lake and campsites for those who want to be in nature even when they sleep!

Lake Powell Resort: Information and Prices

At Lake Powell Resort, it will be hard to find availability. In any case, it will not be difficult for you to find accommodations in Page or in the immediate vicinity, because there is no shortage of the most popular and reliable American motels and also some accommodations of higher quality. Book in advance, because Page is a very popular place! Below you will find our tips for finding accommodations in the city.

Tips for finding accommodations in Page

Bernardo Pacini
Bernardo Pacini

I am an editor and copywriter and have published some poetry. Besides traveling, my interests include literature, experimental music and good food

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