WIDE
OPEN

RIDE:

Lake Powell to Horseshoe Bend

north-central Arizona

This route features a collection of Arizona stunners: one natural, one human-made and one created by man and Mother Nature. Driving west across the Navajo Nation, AZ 98 reaches Page. The landscape is stark, the sunlight brilliant and hotels and motels plentiful. Page is young. It came into being in 1957 thanks to the construction of the nearby Glen Canyon Dam. The town started as a housing camp for dam workers and has evolved into a major tourist destination. Glen Canyon Dam is one of the area’s marvels. Completed in 1966, it’s the second-highest concrete-arch dam in the U.S., after Hoover Dam. US 89 crosses the Colorado River above the dam. It’s a cool view but it’s definitely worth stopping and marveling on foot from the bridge and overlooks on either side. The dam also gives tours. Glen Canyon Dam generates hydroelectric power for several western states. It also provides crucial water storage, which brings us to the manmade + Mother Nature stunner: Lake Powell. Humans constructed the dam which in turn flooded the area to create Lake Powell. While the southern tip lies in Arizona, most of the immense body of water is in Utah. Lake Powell is America’s second-largest reservoir, after nearby Lake Mead. Lake Powell stretches 186 miles with nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline and took 17 years to completely fill. Part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell has become a bigtime summer draw, humming with watercraft in all sizes and income brackets: jet skis to mansion-style houseboats. There are various places to access Lake Powell but Page offers the most services with the largest and busiest marina. But you don’t have to get on or into the water to gain an understanding of Lake Powell’s magnificence. Driving the southern shore, the huge blue lake sparkles against sandstone. It’s an excellent set-up for the last stunner featured in this ride. Heading south of Page on US 89, it’s just five miles to a parking lot and then another 20-minute walk on a paved pathway. Like a lot of this area, the landscape is fairly ordinary until – boom – it suddenly changes, revealing something remarkable. And that’s definitely the case as you approach a cliff edge and carefully peer over. It’s 1,000 feet to the Colorado River below and directly ahead: Horseshoe Bend, a massive sandstone escarpment. The Colorado created this master work, accentuating the beauty with a wide sweep at the base. Not far away lie the Vermilion Cliffs as this Wide Open Ride through north-central Arizona continues.

Route & Map      

With Page as home base, Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell lie just north of town. And to the south is Horseshoe Bend.

Length & Time

Plan on 20 to 30 miles for driving and exploring. There are several side roads at Lake Powell offering incredible views of the lake and dam. It’s a good half-day to see the dam, lake and Horseshoe Bend. Add a couple more hours if taking a dam tour.

Best Time to Visit

The area is open and beautiful year-round but Lake Powell is obviously a summer destination. The easy, half-mile walk to Horseshoe Bend takes 20 minutes and there are a couple of covered benches to rest. Summer afternoons can get very hot around Page.

Keep in Mind

Currently, Horseshoe Bend (actually, the City of Page) charges a $10 parking fee for vehicles, including RVs. Motorcycles are five bucks. Glen Canyon Dam tours are $5. And if you don’t have an annual pass from the National Park Service, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area costs $30. But you can skip the main entrance to the marina and explore other nearby overlooks for free.

Links

The City of Page, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Conservancy (for dam tour info) and Horseshoe Bend all have websites that should be checked for important updates before visiting.

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