Just a couple hours north of the Grand Canyon lies the city of Page, Arizona which encompasses the Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation areas. The drive to page had many remarkable views along the way. As you arrive in page you begin to see large power lines along the road. This area is also home to the Glen Canyon Dam which is a major hydroelectric power source for this region of Arizona and Utah.
Coming into page we didn’t have lodging set up yet. While we ate lunch, I found one Campground that had a reservation available for the next few days so we booked that. Many of the campgrounds here are first come first serve so we had a list of places to check for openings. The first place we stopped was at Lone Rock Campground which is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This area is maintained by BLM and dispersed camping is available right on the beach of Lake Powell. The camping here is $7 per night for seniors or people with access passes, and $14 regular price. As we drove down, the dirt road gets a little rough, but even with our low clearance we were able to make it with no issues at all. We found our spot on the beach right across from the huge Rock known as Lone Rock. The campsite does have restrooms available, but no showers or electric. The sunset was one of the most beautiful we’ve seen so far on this trip. Keep in mind, this campground is about a mile into Utah so the time zone changes. Most activities you will do here will be in Arizona, so make sure you plan accordingly. Phones often get confused in this are so we suggest keeping your vehicle clock on Arizona time. Fortunately, the Navajo tour companies seem to use Arizona time to avoid confusion even though their reservation is on a whole other time zone!
The next morning, after a gorgeous sunrise on the beach, we headed to lower Antelope Canyon for our guided tour with Ken's Tours. Antelope Canyon is one of the most toured slot canyons in the world. While some people prefer the lighting of the upper Canyon, the Lower Canyon offers smaller crowds, more affordable tours, a longer tour, and if you can catch the 10am tour, the lighting was also very good. We saw several sunbeams pierce through the canyon for some beautiful photo opportunities.
Our tour guide was Sylvan and he was friendly, professional, knowledgeable, and he made sure we had plenty of time to get the photos we all wanted. Sylvan not only pointed out great places for photos, but also took the time to take pictures each of us in a few key spots and even gave us photo tips. Our group of 15 was able to get through the canyon in about 45 minutes. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon and floods quickly in heavy rains, sometimes all the way to the top. Many people have died hiking these canyons which is why the Navajo now require a guided tour. These tours book up fast so book it early, especially if you want the key times when sunlight is t it’s best. We cannot say enough about this Bucket List stop other than we think everyone should see the beauty of this canyon. Every turn was just jaw dropping beautiful. Nature is constantly amazing us.
After the canyon, we headed to Horseshoe Bend. This scenic spot is a National Monument and is only a few minutes from Antelope Canyon. Parking and entry are free and there is about a 15 minute hike to the canyon to see the bend. The hike is not paved and there is a hill to climb, but is fairly easy. The bend is where the Colorado River bend around the canyon en route to the Grand Canyon. Boat tours are available to go around the bend, but once again, they book up fast so you need to plan in advance. The last stop for the day was at the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook. This area has a great view of the dam and the river, and the rocks here have thin layers and had interesting patterns.
We checked into our new camp at Wahweap, which is in Glen Canyon National Rec Center, just up the street from Lone Rock. This is now run by Aramark, a private company and approved vendor in the park. Entrance into the park is $25 if you don't have an access pass, and they do not honor the half of price for camping to access pass holders, even though it's a campground in the National Park system. They gave us a AAA discount, which brought our camping down to $27 per night. The site did not have electric, showers were pay showers, and the 4G here was not very good (4G at Lone Rock was excellent). There really was nothing about this campground that justified paying $20 more per night so we canceled the other two nights and decided we would stay in Lone Rock those nights. Tip: If you do have an access pass, or you pay for a pass at Lone Rock, you can enter Wahweap for free and use the showers there since Lone Rock has none.
Our last day in Lake Powell we rented a kayak from Lake Powell Paddleboards. They were friendly, affordable, and gave us great advice on kayaks and bikes. Brock even put the kayak up and strapped it down for us. They recommend the Antelope Canyon paddle, which is a flooded part of the canyon, but it was more than we were looking to do that day, so we opted for the Lone Rock Canyon tour our camping neighbors told us about. It’s about a 60-90 minute paddle and then we explored the lake some more. The canyon is also a slot canyon and was very narrow in spots. The white rock can be seen beneath the clear green river and makes some cool formations underneath. The water slowly pulls you through the canyon for a fairly easy paddle. The return paddle was just as easy. It's a perfect paddle if you are just looking for an easy or short paddle, but if you want to be out for the day, definitely take the Antelope Canyon paddle with the recommended hike. When we return, and we will, we will be renting from them again for the Antelope paddle.
As awesome as the Grand Canyon is, we would recommend driving to Lake Powell and spending more time exploring this area. There are so many things to see and to do here. You could easily spend an entire week here and not run out of things to do. It's definitely a destination worth checking out.
The Grand Canyon, the only one of the seven natural wonders of the world that can be found in the United States. After seeing so many amazing Canyons and red rock formations these last few months, we were a little worried that we would be underwhelmed when we got to see the Grand Canyon. Upon entering the park, the lines are very long. Once you enter, the first stop is usually the visitor center which has limited parking considering the number of people that are there to visit. Visiting in March, the park was definitely not as busy as we heard it could be, but also the temperatures were fairly mild. At night, temperatures were in the 20s so if you intend on camping, make sure you pack enough to stay warm and bring your patience to deal with the crowds. Once you find parking, you can relax and enjoy the park. Like most parks, we would recommend going in early to avoid the lines.
The south rim of the canyon is the most visited section of the canyon. You are able to rent bikes to ride the road along the rim, there is a walkway you can walk, or you can shuttle from one point to another. We opted to walk to The Village, which is where the lodge and restaurant are located. It’s about a 7 mile walk from The Visitor Center and fairly easy and accessible. Near the visitor center, we saw several elk, and they we’ll come up pretty close to the walkway where people are. As you turn the corner and get your first glimpse of the canyon , it is anything but underwhelming. Though the formations were quite similar to what we had been seeing, the sheer size of the canyon is remarkable. There are several points along the way that you can stop and take in different views of the canyon. It's a nice walk so take your time and stop off for pictures and to take in the views at each point. Once in the village, definitely stop at the El Tolvar Restaurant. There may be a long wait since it’s the only restaurant and a train stops there for lunch as well, but it was worth the wait. The lunch menu has a small variety of options including some vegetarian options. We tried the Navajo Fry Bread Taco and the Prime Rib Sandwich and both were excellent. Make sure you save room for dessert as well because they have several options to satisfy your sweet tooth!
There are several elk, rock squirrels, and mule deer in this area too. The shuttles actually had to stop a few times for herds of animals crossing the road. From The Village area, hop the bus towards Herman’s rest. You are able to walk this section, but it’s about another three miles. Bikes are not allowed in this section at all, but if you decided to rent bikes, you are able to put the bike on the shuttle. There are approximately 7 stops along the way but Hopi he is one of the most popular for watching the sunset.
Depending on the time, the bus drivers May recommend getting off at one of the first couple of stops to ensure you will be able to catch a shuttle back to the visitors center, unless you want to walk the nine miles back. We explored around the Hopi stop and then walked to the Powell stop. From there, we were able to catch a shuttle back to the Village and then a transfer shuttle back to the visitor center where we watched the sun go down from. We enjoyed a beautiful but chilly sunset from one of the points behind the visitor center, and we didn’t have to worry about competing with hundreds of people for the few shuttles that come back after sunset.
There are a few campgrounds within the National Park, but the only one open during the season was Mather Campground. We were fortunate enough to find one night to stay. The campgrounds are only a few minutes from the canyon and the sites are small, but nice. If you are unable to find camping in the park, or don't want to camp, there are BLM sites available in the Coconino National Forest and on the way in there were some lodges in the town of Tusayan. There are also a few restaurants in this town as well, which is about 15 minutes from the campground.
If you are planning a trip to the canyon, one day is plenty of time to see the South Rim within the park. There are a few hikes that you can take, and you can hire a company to take you down into the canyon with mules, as well as several other outdoor activities in the area that could keep you busy for a few days, but if you are short on time or just want to experience the canyon, one day is all you need.
As we left the next morning, headed towards Lake Powell, our GPS took us East on a road that was marked Scenic Drive when we had entered. The Drive East out of the park had spectacular views of the canyon and as we exited we saw the side gate, which only had two Lane’s to enter as opposed to six or seven, but there was almost no line to get in over there. If you are able to enter from the east side of the park, we would recommend it. Either way, make sure that you take the scenic drive while you are there for more awe inspiring views of the canyon.
Sedona has branded itself as the “most beautiful place in the world”. Well, I don’t know about that, but the Red Rocks that are the backdrop of Sedona certainly make your mouth wide open in awe. It is springtime in Sedona and we found a nice campsite in Cottonwood, called Thousand Trails, just about 30 minutes from Sedona. Hotel prices can get quite expensive, but we did manage to find a place to camp for $19/night, with electric. There was also a pool, hot tub, and a lodge here with several activities you can participate in. We have not come across any rattlesnakes, tarantulas, or scorpions here in the desert, but you can hear the coyotes all night and the birds first thing every morning. If any of these things worry you, then camping in the desert might not be a good option for you. Of course, we had some concerns, but with so many other campers here, and learning more about the bugs and snakes here from Scott and Pat at the Albuquerque Bio Park, many of those concerns were put to rest and we slept quite well in the frigid desert nights. If you are going to camp, bring a good sleeping bag and an air mattress to get off the ground. It does hit the high 30s and low 40s here…..brrrr!
This area has so much to offer. There are several State Parks, the Coconino National Forest, the Red Rocks, a Ghost Town, Pueblo Ruins, and of course Downtown Sedona.
Downtown Sedona is a great place if you like to shop in expensive stores, have a nice meal out at a higher end restaurant, or like to be harassed as you walk down the street. It appears that most of the downtown area was bought out by Diamond International. If you have ever been on a cruise just about anywhere, you know what this means…..sell, sell, sell. Lots of high-end shops including jewelry shops, and people on every corner trying to offer you deals on activities if you listen to their timeshare spiel. It’s a shame because as you enter Sedona from the south, the amazing mountains are the first thing you see, and then there are cute local shops revolved around crystals, yoga, metaphysical wellness, etc. It was a really fun and quirky vibe until we got to the newer area. We did walk around downtown to see the various statues based on Western movies, and we stopped off for lunch, but other than that, we spent most of our time hiking among the beautiful red rocks.
One of the most popular hikes is Cathedral Rock. This formation sets itself apart because it is one of the five main vortices in the area. Unfortunately, parking is very limited at many of the trailheads, so after several attempts, we finally found parking elsewhere and decided to hike Bell Rock, which is also known for its strong vortex. The hike was only a couple of miles with a mild to moderate incline, depending on how far you go up. We opted to climb about half way up. The climb to the top gets more strenuous and involves rock scaling. Unfortunately, neither of us felt the vortex energy, however, how could anyone be in a bad mood with such amazing views??? When we finished Bell Rock, we did climb to the top of Baby Bell, which was a moderate hike involving some climbing. From here you can see almost all of the major formations in the area.
Sedona has so much to offer people who love the outdoors. The scenery is breathtaking, and the vibe still has that new age feeling to it, outside of the new downtown. I don’t know how much power the vortices have on people, but the nature there is truly healing. This was bucket list stop for us, and I hope we inspire you to add it to your list as well.