With 2,000 miles of serpentine coast full of inlets, side canyons, bays, and outcroppings, the shoreline of Lake Powell, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona, is vast. It feels like one person could never explore all the mysteries of this man-made reservoir on the Colorado River—the second largest in the U.S. Its beauty runs deep, too. The sunsets over the water and towering cliffs are like works of art. The water, heated by the desert sun, makes this the biggest and most inviting swimming hole you’ve ever seen.
The lake sees a fair amount of houseboat, motorboat, and fishing traffic, which is all fine and well for those so inclined. But there are also endless opportunities for those who prefer a nice hike or a motor-free boat ride.
Here’s a list of a few of our many favorite ways to enjoy Lake Powell.
Where to Paddle
To get to know Lake Powell’s wandering shoreline intimately is to paddle it. Many of the lake’s watery side canyons are too narrow to fit a motorboat. Lucky for you, a kayak, canoe, or standup paddleboard can shimmy its way right up the narrows and unlock quieter and hidden spaces in the desert. You can plan a multi-day paddling trip, bringing food and camping supplies along, and spend your nights on secluded beaches, far from the crowds, with just the Milky Way for company.
You can rent a touring kayak or canoe in the town of Page, UT if you need one. If you’re planning an overnight trip, you’ll want to study detailed maps, gear checklists, and guidebooks. If you’re relatively new to paddling, be conservative with your estimates of how much mileage you can cover in a day. Pick campsites within reach. You can always drop off your gear at a site, then head back out for a few more hours of water exploration before dinner.
There are several marinas around Lake Powell, and they’re so spread out (hours apart by car) that it makes sense to pick one as your main base camp and explore from there. One favorite starting point is Antelope Point Marina just outside Page. Either east or west from the boat ramp, you can explore peaceful coves and winding canyons for hours or days. Navajo Canyon and Antelope Canyon are both very close and paddleable.
A second wonderful starting point is Wahweap Marina, with many amazing alcoves to explore across the lake from the marina near Castle Rock and Warm Creek Bay.
Where to Hike
One of the great things about this desert landscape is the free-range hiking opportunities; chances to scamper around the red rocks in search of hidden nooks, slots, and oases. (Remember, though, it’s oddly easy to get lost among these twisting turns and hills, so stay firmly oriented.) Paddle up to a sandy beach, pull your boat ashore, and set out on foot. You’ll find endless cliffs and rocks from which to jump into the water—just be absolutely certain that the water below is sufficiently deep.
And while there are countless such “unofficial” hikes you can approach by water, there are many official hikes as well. One amazing classic is Moki Canyon, which can be paddled to from the Hall’s Crossing Marina. There are old Anasazi ruins in the canyon, which you can hike to and explore. And farther up canyon, you’ll find towering sand dunes and rolling slickrock to scamper on.
Where to Drive
Horseshoe Bend, just outside the town of Page, promises expansive, jaw-dropping views after a relatively short walk. It’s well worth setting aside an hour or two to check it out. Maybe pack a lunch, as well as a tasty fermented beverage, and linger, taking it all in from the overlook.
You can drive a little further to check out the famous Buckskin Gulch, one of the longest slot canyons in the world. The trail is along the highway toward Kanab, Utah. You don’t need to hike terribly far in to appreciate its dramatic beauty—although many people make it a proper overnight backpacking trip and hike its full length.
Where to Pull Up a Chair
If you’re in the southwest neighborhood of the lake, you can stock up on groceries and supplies in the town of Page, which boasts a large grocery store with just about everything you could need on your camp menu. There are also a few tasty eating establishments, including the aptly named restaurant Fiesta Mexicana. (There’s something special about margs and burritos at the end of a big day outdoors.)
The Wahweap Marina boasts a more upscale restaurant option, in addition to a café with less fussy fare. One bonus of eating at Wahweap is the huge windows in the restaurant overlooking the lake. It makes the meal worth the splurge.
You can also find restaurants (or at least supply shops) at the other marinas on the lake as well, but you’ll want to call ahead to make sure they’re open when you plan to visit. The safest bet is to always carry more food and water with you than you need, especially in this harsh desert environment.
Where to Snooze
By far, the most beautiful way to sleep at Lake Powell is on a secluded beach or aboard your boat. It brings you up close and personal with the exceptional landscape. If beach or boat camping isn’t your thing, you can easily stay in a simple hotel room either in Page or at one of the major marinas. They all offer easy and quick access to get back into action in the morning, and they boast easy access to rentals like stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and boats.
Given how vast Lake Powell is, a weekend spent exploring its shores and plying its waters won’t be enough. If doing everything suggested here in one trip isn’t possible, dedicate your first visit to paddling the reservoir, for instance, and make a note to return to hike. That way you guarantee yourself not just one but multiple unforgettable trips to Lake Powell.
Originally written by RootsRated for Kelty.
Featured image provided by Beth Lopez