The nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline that wrap around Lake Powell are part of endless itineraries on the water and vast surrounding landscape. Navigate for days, not hours, and never see the same horizon. Inch into slots of sheer canyon walls then step ashore to retrace geologic time across petrified dunes.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers more than 1.2 million acres of unparalleled opportunities for land- and water-based recreation. Lake Powell, 200 miles long and the second largest human-made lake in the United States, is widely recognized as one of the premier boating destinations in the world. Stretching from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is graced with scenic views, unique geology, and evidence of 10,000 years of human history.
Lake Powell is named for Major John Wesley Powell, the most important explorer of the Colorado River Basin. The Glen Canyon Dam, at 710 feet, is the fourth highest dam in the country. The story behind the building of the dam and creation of Lake Powell is one of the more interesting and controversial examples of human’s attempts at controlling nature. Construction on the dam began in 1959 and the project was completed in 1964 (it took three years of round-the-clock work just to pour the concrete). Two years later the power plant began generating electricity from its reservoir.
Boating is the most popular recreational activity at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. A wide variety of watercraft is used to access the deep, turquoise waters and many side canyons; swimming, shoreline camping, and fishing are often a big part of boaters’ plans. And while a boat may be the best way to see Lake Powell and Glen Canyon, there are also several places with vehicle access for scenic driving and great viewpoints. Whether experienced by boat, car, or foot, a visit to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell will make memories to last a lifetime.
Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is one of the premier boating destinations in the world. The turquoise waters and numerous side canyons make Lake Powell a must-see spot for serious boaters. Wahweap is the most active center for boat excursions on Lake Powell, including the popular trip to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, but several other marinas and launch points exist. In addition to power boats and houseboats, kayaks and sailboats also enjoy the waters of Lake Powell. No boat? No problem because boats and other boating equipment are available for rent. See our Boating Guide for more information on the boating opportunities on Lake Powell.
Although Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is perhaps best explored by boat on Lake Powell, there are several roads that traverse the NRA and offer superb scenic driving opportunities.
The most popular, of course, is the drive to the Glen Canyon Dam. As you drive southeast of the town of Big Water on U.S. 89 toward Glen Canyon NRA, the views open up. The landscape here looks like the Monument Valley area of southeastern Utah: flat desert dotted with eroded mesas and spires. It is really quite scenic and much different from the narrow, twisting canyons to the west in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
After 3 or 4 miles you will see the very blue water of Lake Powell off to the left. The Arizona state line is 6 miles beyond Big Water; 2.5 miles farther is Wahweap Marina, the largest marina and lodging in Glen Canyon recreation area. Wahweap is the most active center for boat excursions on Lake Powell, including the popular trip to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. These are half-day excursions at the least, so plan ahead if you want to take a boat tour. It is 5 miles from Wahweap to the Glen Canyon Dam visitor center, next to the dam and the Glen Canyon Bridge. The visitor center is open daily and $5 tours are given daily except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Call (928) 608-6072 for information, including exact hours of operation (they vary seasonally).
If you continue on to Page, Arizona, a good place to orient yourself on Glen Canyon attractions such as Antelope Canyon and the dam construction story is the very fine Powell Memorial Museum, at the corner of North Lake Powell Boulevard and Navajo Drive.
If you have a hankering to get out on the water but do not have a boat and don’t want to rent one or take a tour, consider riding the Halls Crossing/Bullfrog Ferry Service on the upper reaches of the lake. Visit the ferry information page on www.lakepowell.com for information on ferry reservations and times.
Two other scenic drives are off-pavement routes. The Burr Trail is mostly outside Glen Canyon NRA but has several miles inside the boundary as the road nears Bullfrog. In dry weather it is accessible to passenger cars. The Hole in the Rock Road is due north of the lake and mostly within Glen Canyon NRA but requires 4WD and backcountry driving experience. For more information on these drives visit the scenic driving page on the Glen Canyon NRA website.
There are several campgrounds in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area operated by the park service. Lees Ferry Campground has 54 designated sites, an RV dump station but no hookups, modern bathrooms, drinking water, grills but no open fires allowed, no reservations, $12 per site per night. The nearest launch ramp is 2 miles away. Lone Rock Beach primitive camping area offers campers places to set up camp on a sandy beach or in dunes. The campground has flush toilets, an RV dump station, drinking water (seasonal), and a day use area, but no launch ramp. The cost is $10 per vehicle/per night, and reservations are not accepted. The Park Service also operates primitive camping areas at Stanton Creek, Hite, Dirty Devil (on the sandstone shores of the Dirty Devil River) and Farley (awesome views). There are no designated sites and the cost is $6 per person per night (or $12 per vehicle). No reservations.
There are also a number of campgrounds operated by the park concessionaire just a short drive from the lake. Wahweap Campground (112 sites with no hookups, 90 sites with full hookups, 6 group sites, restrooms, laundry, showers, store, dump station and drinking water available) has a nice ampitheater, picnic area and swimming beach nearby. Fees vary by season. Reservations can be made online or by calling 800-528-6154. Bullfrog Campground (78 sites, restrooms, dump station, drinking water, nearby laundry, store, post office, and launch ramp) has a few shade trees and some sites have views of Lake Powell. No reservations. Fees vary. The concessionaire also operates a separate RV park with 24 sites, full hook-ups, restrooms, showers, and nearby laundry, store, post office, and launch ramp. Reservations can be made online or by calling 800-528-6154. Halls Crossing Campground (43 sites, 2 group sites, dump station, drinking water, showers, nearby laundry, store, gas, phones, launch ramp) overlooks Lake Powell and has some shade trees. The concessioner also operates a separate RV park with 32 full hook-up sites, store, laundry, showers, and launch ramp 1/2 mile. Fees vary. Reservations can be made online or by calling 800-528-6154.
In addition to the developed campgrounds, primitive camping is also allowed on the shoreline of Lake Powell everywhere except in the marinas. No permit or fee is required, but a good map is necessary so you know where the side canyons are, the hiking spots, marinas, and other landmarks. All campsites are required to have a portable toilet unless toilets are available on the vessel or are within 200 yards of the campsite. Find more information about primitive camping on the shores of Lake Powell, including useful Glen Canyon maps and fee information.
Fishing in Lake Powell is superb and varied. Numerous species of fish can be pursued (and hopefully caught!), including smallmouth bass, striped bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, green sunfish, black crappie, walleye, channel catfish, bullhead catfish, and northern pike. Fishing supplies can be purchased at local marinas. For a complete description of the fishing opportunities on Lake Powell, including how-to-fish and where-to-fish information for each species, as well as marina locations and regulations, check out our Fishing Guide page.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is not known for developed, maintained hiking trails. However, off-trail hiking is available just about everywhere. Just bring plenty of water and navigation tools and be safe out there!
There are some good day hikes that are on more-or-less established trails. The 1.5-mile round trip to Horseshoe Bend for an amazing view of Glen Canyon and the Colorado River is not to be missed; nor is the 1-mile round trip to Hanging Garden, a lush alcove with springs and ferns. A longer hike can be had to Wiregrass Canyon (6 miles round trip). This hike will take you through a remarkable landscape of slot canyons, hoodoos, and natural bridges.
For more information on hiking, visit the hiking page on the Glen Canyon NRA website. And remember to stop in at a visitor center to discuss your plans with a ranger before venturing cross country.
Lake Powell Boating Guide
How & where to boat as well as tours, fees and other ways to see the lake.Read More