A Wild West Escape: Travel Guide for Lake Powell, USA

Meandering through the vast bays and narrow canyons of Lake Powell can give you the feeling of being lost in time. 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 impart an old southwestern touch.

Straddling the Arizona-Utah border, surrounded by canyonlands and geological marvels, Lake Powell is a recreational center complete with a timeless landscape. With its classic southwestern backdrop and more than 2,000 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty to do at Lake Powell. 

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

Rainbow Bridge National Monument at Lake Powell
Rainbow Bridge National Monument at Lake Powell

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

One of Lake Powell’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. With 290 feet from the ground to the top of the arch, 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. By boat, it’s about a 50-mile ride from most of the marinas followed by a mile-long hike up to the bridge. 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. Whichever method you choose, Rainbow Bridge is worth the trip.

Play Outside

Lake Powell is a long, thin lake that is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. With miles of open water and shoreline, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy.

Of course, the most popular thing to do is go boating. You could spend days simply exploring the bays and canyons of this lake. 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.

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

Rock formations at Lake Powell
Rock formations at Lake Powell

Make It a Road Trip

Lake Powell is located 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

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.

Lake Powell canyon wall
A towering rock face at Lake Powell

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 3 million visitors from around the world each year.

With its natural wonders, outdoor activities, and plenty of other nearby national parks, an adventure to Lake Powell has all the makings for a classic American road trip. Cheers!


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

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