Lake Powell Travel Guide: A Wild West Escape

Lake Powell is located in the states of Arizona and Utah. It’s known for its boating and unique landscape, plus its proximity to other destinations in the Southwestern United States.

Meandering through the vast bays and narrow canyons of Lake Powell can give you the feeling of being lost in time. (And with the multiple time zones on the lake, you might really feel that way.) Sheer, towering rock faces create jagged peaks or flatten into plateaus. Ominous-sounding names such as Last Chance Bay, Dungeon Canyon, and Dangling Rope Marina give it an old west feeling.

Lake Powell is surrounded by canyonlands and geological marvels, like the Rainbow Bridge National Monument. With its classic southwestern backdrop and more than 2,000 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty to do at Lake Powell. The lake’s miles of waterways are perfect for boating, kayaking, and fishing, while nearby hiking trails let you enjoy the view. 

Plus, Lake Powell is within a couple hours of several popular destinations, such as the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.

Here’s your travel guide for what to do on a trip to Lake Powell, USA.

Map of Lake Powell

Outdoor Activities at Lake Powell

When visiting Lake Powell, the top thing to do is play outside.

The lake is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. There are five marinas on the lake, but the two main ones are Bullfrog Marina in Utah and Wahweap Marina in Arizona.

Thanks to the lake’s miles of open water and shoreline, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy.

Boating

Naturally, the most popular thing to do is go boating. You could spend days simply exploring the bays and canyons of this lake. Make sure to spend some time simply exploring the vast, winding waterways. Just don’t forget your map!

Given its size, it’s also a great lake for water sports. Visitors can go water skiing, wake boarding, inner tubing, or ride any kind of device towed behind a ski boat. You can ride a personal watercraft on the lake as well.

To go boating on Lake Powell, you can either bring your own boat or personal watercraft or rent one there. You can rent powerboats and pontoon boats at both Bullfrog Marina and Wahweap Marina.

Four of the lake’s marinas have launch ramps where you can launch your boat or other watercraft. There are launch ramps at Bullfrog Marina, Wahweap Marina, Antelope Point Marina, and Halls Crossing Marina. The fifth marina, Dangling Rope Marina, is only accessible by water and has no launch ramp.

Keep in mind that launch ramps may be closed depending on the lake’s water levels, so check with the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s Lake Powell marina page before your visit.

If speeding around on a jet ski isn’t your style, you can go kayaking, fishing, or hiking as well.

Kayaking

To go kayaking, you can bring your own kayak or rent one. Further, you can go out on the water on your own or with a tour. There are several places to book tours or rent kayaks. You can do this either on the lake or in Page, Arizona, near Wahweap Marina.

Fishing

Fishing is another popular activity at Lake Powell. Several different kinds of fish are found in the lake, such as smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill.

Fishing equipment is not available for rent, but you can purchase equipment at Wahweap and Bullfrog Marinas. You can head out fishing on your own, or you can join an excursion.

Note that you can’t purchase a fishing license at any of the marinas, so you’ll need to get that ahead of time. You will need fishing licenses from both Arizona and Utah, as the lake straddles both states.

Hiking

There are hiking trails at Lake Powell that can be reached by boat and others that can be reached by land. While there aren’t a ton of trails, the ones available provide beautiful views of the rugged local landscape.

In the southern area of the lake, a couple popular trails you can reach by land are Glen Canyon Dam Overlook and Hanging Garden. Both are easy to moderate hikes close to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center.

Trails reachable by boat include Navajo Canyon near Wahweap Marina and Rainbow Bridge, which leads you to the famous monument. Both of these hikes are considered easy.

While these trails, and many others around the lake, are all categorized as easy to moderate, make sure to watch the weather when you plan your hikes and prepare accordingly — it can easily soar well above 100 degrees in this area during the summer.

Here are more trails and information about hiking at Lake Powell

Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Rainbow Bridge National Monument, located in Utah

See Rainbow Bridge National Monument: A “Rainbow Turned to Stone”

One of the area’s greatest attractions is the Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Southern Utah. Its Navajo name is “Nonnezoshi,” which means, “rainbow turned to stone.”

Often referred to as a natural wonder of the world, Rainbow Bridge is a sandstone arch that was created by millions of years of erosion.

Rainbow Bridge is one of the largest natural bridges in the world. The bridge measures 290 feet from the ground to the top of the arch. This makes it is nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

When the lake level is high, water laps up under the arch, which is reflected in the glassy surface below. It was named a national monument by President Taft in 1910.

There are two ways to get to Rainbow Bridge: by boat or on foot. Neither journey is particularly short or easy, but getting the opportunity to see this natural monument is worthwhile. 

How to get to Rainbow Bridge 

The easier and most popular way to reach Rainbow Bridge is by boat.

To get there by boat, you’ll travel to the mouth of Forbidding Canyon (buoy 49), which is about 50 miles from the Glen Canyon Dam. (The closest marina is Dangling Rope, which has fuel, restrooms, and a supply store, but no launch ramp.) Traveling 50 miles by boat does take a while, so make sure to pack some snacks and enjoy the journey.

Once near Forbidding Canyon, you’ll see floating signs directing you toward Rainbow Bridge. There are courtesy docks available, which can either be up under the bridge or a couple miles away, depending on the water level. Typically, the docks will be a couple miles from the bridge.

After you dock your boat, take a hike along the Rainbow Bridge trail to the famous monument. If you don’t want to take your own boat, you can also hop on a tour from Wahweap Marina. 

On foot, hikers can backpack along one of two trails that start near Navajo Mountain and lead to the bridge, which requires permits from the Navajo Nation.

To inquire about this hiking permit, you may write to the Navajo Nation at: Navajo Nation, Parks and Recreation Department, Box 9000, Window Rock, Arizona 86515.

While it’s not exactly the simplest journey, Rainbow Bridge is worth the trip. Don’t miss out on seeing this unique natural wonder.

Lake Powell, USA
A towering rock face at Lake Powell

How to Get to Lake Powell

Lake Powell is located in the Southwestern U.S. and is divided into the North Lake area and the South Lake area. Most of the accommodations are located in the two main marinas, Wahweap and Bullfrog.

How you get to Lake Powell depends on where you plan to stay. However, no matter what, you’ll need a car to get there. Where you plan to stay should be based on where you’re coming from and where else you plan to visit on your trip.

If you’re traveling from California, Arizona, or Nevada, you’ll be closest to Wahweap Marina near Page, Arizona. This means if you plan to also visit Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or the Grand Canyon on your trip, this is the most convenient place to stay.

If you’re traveling from Colorado, New Mexico, or Northern Utah, you’ll be closest to Bullfrog Marina near Bullfrog, Utah. In other words, if you want to pass through Rocky Mountain National Park, Santa Fe, or Salt Lake City, this is the right spot for you.

As it’s near many other attractions of the southwestern United States, this makes Lake Powell a great place to stop on a road trip or a place to use as a home base and take day trips around the area.

If you’re staying in Wahweap, the famed Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River is only about 20 minutes away. In the same direction, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is about two hours away.

Also from Wahweap, it’s just about an hour and a half to drive to Zion National Park. Bryce Canyon National Park is a bit farther away. A trip there would take about two and a half hours.

Where to Stay at Lake Powell

There are three main options for lodging at Lake Powell: camping, houseboating or staying at a resort.

Lakeside hotels can be found at Wahweap Marina and Bullfrog Marina. Campgrounds are located along the lake at Wahweap, Bullfrog and Halls Crossing.

Finally, houseboats can be rented at a few of the marinas, though the largest selection is at Wahweap. Not all houseboats are available at all the marinas, so make sure to check each one to find the best fit for you.

Lake Powell, USA

Arizona and Utah Time Zones

Something to keep in mind while visiting Lake Powell is the time zones. As the lake is located on the border of Arizona and Utah, you may be jumping back and forth between time zones.

Utah is on Mountain Standard Time / Mountain Daylight Time, one hour ahead of the Pacific Time Zone. Utah does observe Daylight Saving Time.

In Arizona, time is a bit more complicated. Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time (GMT-7) all year. This means that Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time. The exception to this is in the Navajo Nation Native American Territory, which does observe Daylight Saving Time.

So, during Daylight Saving Time in the spring and summer, from March through November, Utah’s time is one hour ahead of Arizona. Then, during the late fall and winter, the two states are on the same time.

Most people visit Lake Powell during the warmer spring and summer months, so during this time you’ll be switching time zones as you cruise on the lake.

This is also important to keep in mind if you plan to travel elsewhere around the Southwest, like to the Grand Canyon in Arizona or Zion National Park in Utah.

It sounds complicated, but on the upside, with all this time hopping, who can bother to worry about when it’s an appropriate hour for a drink? You’re on lake time, and that’s all that matters. Cheers to that!

History of Lake Powell

Lake Powell was created in 1963 with the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. It provides a source of power and water for the southwestern region.

The Lake Powell area has served as the backdrop for a number of films as well, including The Greatest Story Ever Told, Planet of the Apes and John Carter, among others.

One of the first big draws to Lake Powell was tours to Rainbow Bridge. Soon, the lake was filled with enough water to begin recreational water sports, like skiing and fishing.

Wildlife agencies stocked the lake with fish during the early 1960s by land and air. During the 1970s, houseboats were introduced and became a popular activity.

During its first year after the completion of the dam, about 44,000 people visited Lake Powell. Today, the lake sees around three million visitors from around the world each year.

Rock formations at Lake Powell, USA
Rock formations at Lake Powell

Lake Powell is a great place to visit because of its natural wonders, outdoor activities, and nearby destinations. Fill out your itinerary with days boating on the lake, a hike to Rainbow Bridge, and trips to nearby national parks for a classic summer trip. Cheers!

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A version of this article has appeared in The Malibu Times newspaper: http://www.malibutimes.com/malibu_life/article_abea21ec-e915-11e2-9e3b-0019bb2963f4.html

Lake Powell USA Travel Guide

Lake Powell USA Travel Guide

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