Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: The Complete Guide

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Tony Shi Photography / Getty Images
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Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Address
4304 Bullfrog, Lake Powell, UT 84533, USA
Phone +1 928-608-6200

Stretching from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs in Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area covers more than 1.25 million acres and borders four other national parks as well as 9.3 million acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It also contains the second-largest manmade lake in the United States, Lake Powell, and a section of the Colorado River.

In fact, the recreation area is so large it can be accessed at six entrances, the most popular being Wahweap, Arizona. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area also has five marinas, four visitors centers, and two in-park hotels. Plan to spend several days—if not an entire week or more—exploring the area.

Things to Do

Boating is the most popular activity in the recreation area. While you can bring your own boat to explore Lake Powell, many visitors rent houseboats, powerboats, and other watercraft from Wahweap, Bullfrong, and Antelope Point marinas. You can also kayak the waterways, raft the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend with Wilderness River Adventures, or take a boat tour of the lake. 

Even if you’re not much of a water person, you’ll find plenty to do in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Hikers from around the world come to see the natural arches, slot canyons, and other-worldly landscapes surrounding Lake Powell. Those who want to cover more ground can take off-highway vehicles (OHV) on designated trails or ride road bicycles through the area. If you’re short on time, tour the Glen Canyon Dam near the Wahweap entrance. 

Horseshoe Bend
 4kodiak / Getty Images

Best Hikes & Trails

Because of its massive size, Glen Canyon National Recreation Areas has countless trails to explore, but few are actually maintained. Make sure you are prepared before heading out. Bring more water than you think you’ll need, especially during the summer, and let someone know where you are hiking to and when you intend to be back.

  • Horseshoe Bend: One of the most popular hikes in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, this 1.5-mile round trip trek leads the edge of a horseshoe-shaped canyon cut by the Colorado River, which still flows below. Go early in the day to avoid the inevitable crowds or late in the afternoon to watch the sunset. There is a $10 fee for parking in the lot off Highway 89 at mile marker 545, just outside Page.
  • Hanging Gardens Trail: Another extremely popular trail near the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, this 1.5-mile round trip hike ends at a fern wall and is easy enough for almost anybody.
  • Bucktank Draw and Birthday Arch Trail: You’ll trek 4.2 miles out-and-back on this sandy trail to Birthday Arch with short detours to Mini Arch and a slot canyon. The trail is north of the Arizona-Utah border just before mile marker 10.
  • Lonely Dell Ranch: More of a self-guided tour than a hike, this uneven trail near Lees Ferry passes ranch buildings, a picnic area, and an orchard where you can pick ripe fruit.
  • Devil’s Garden: A relatively easy hike over sandy and rocky terrain, the 1-mile Devil’s Garden Trail off Hole-in-the-Rock Road in Utah features hoodoos and arches.

Scenic Drives

If you don’t have a 4-wheel-drive, Highways 89 and 89A offer spectacular views that won’t disappoint. However, the landscapes become increasingly jaw-dropping once you leave the blacktop behind.

  • Burr Trail: This 67-mile drive begins north of Bullfrog Marina where UT 1668 (Burr Trail Road) intersects UT 276 and continues through Capitol Reef National Park on its way to Boulder, Utah. A mix of paved and dirt roads, it requires four-wheel drive in places and is impassable to all vehicles when wet.
  • Hole-in-the-Rock Road: While most of this 62-mile road runs through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the last 5 miles enter Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where it ends at the Hole-in-the-Rock formation on the western shore of Lake Powell. A high-clearance two-wheel-drive vehicle can make it most of the way, but you’ll need to either walk, bicycle, or transfer to a four-wheel-drive the last few miles.
Glen Canyon NRA
 Chunyao Wei / Getty Images

Where to Camp

Primitive camping is allowed at no charge along Lake Powell in undeveloped areas as long as you have a portable toilet. You can also camp for free in five areas along the Colorado River. If you prefer campgrounds with designated sites, the recreation area manages four campgrounds while concessionaires oversee four additional campgrounds. For more detailed information as well as a full list of campgrounds, visit the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area website.

  • Wahweap Campground & RV Park: Located at the Wahweap Marina, this campground is the recreation area’s largest with 112 dry campsites (no hook-ups), 90 full hook-ups, and six group camping sites. It has restrooms, laundry facilities, a store, a dump station, and potable water.
  • Bullfrog RV & Campground: Like Wahweap, this campground is managed by Aramark. It has 78 sites plus an RV park with 24 sites with full hook-ups. Both are located near the Bullfrog Marina in Utah and have restrooms, showers, laundry, and a store.
  • Halls Crossing RV & Campground: A ferry ride away from Bullfrog Marina, Halls Crossing has 31 RV sites and 41 tent sites. Amenities include restrooms, showers, and a store.
  • Hite Outpost Adventure Center: Operated by Ticaboo Lodge, this campground has 14 RV sites and 21 tent sites.
  • Lees Ferry Campground: Minutes from Lees Ferry, this campground has 54 sites, restrooms, potable water, and a launch ramp 2 miles away. There are no hookups and open fires are not permitted.
  • Lone Rock Beach Primitive Camping Area: This primitive campground features a mix of flush and vault toilets, outdoor showers, a dump station, and potable water but has no designated sites. Campfires are permitted.
Arch
 Daniel A. Leifheit / Getty Images

Where to Stay

Aramark manages two properties within the recreation area, Lake Powell Resort, and Defiance House Lodge. Outside the park, Page offers the most options with just about every chain hotel you can imagine having at least one hotel in the city. You can find smaller motels in more remote areas, like Marble Canyon near Lees Ferry.

  • Lake Powell Resort: Located next to Wahweap Marina, Lake Powell Resort has 348 rooms ranging from 300-square-foot rooms to a lakeview suite with double the space. The property also has an on-site restaurant, two swimming pools, and marina access.
  • Defiance House Lodge: The much smaller Defiance House Lodge may only have 48 rooms, but it boasts incredible views of the Bullfrog Marina area. Guests enjoy easy access to the marina and hiking trails.
  • Best Western View of Lake Powell: One of the most popular hotels in Page, this Best Western overlooks Lake Powell in the distance and features a complimentary breakfast.

How to Get There

There are six entrances to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Wahweap, Antelope Point, and Lees Ferry in Arizona as well as Lone Rock Beach, Bullfrog, and Halls Crossing in Utah. The most common entrance is Wahweap near Page. To get there from I-40, take exit 201 and follow signs to Highway 89. Turn right and continue approximately 125 miles to Page. 

From Las Vegas, drive north on I-15 for 125 miles. At exit 16, follow UT 9 east to UT 59 and continue to Arizona where the road becomes AZ 389. Turn left at Highway 89A, and take it into Kanab. Turn right on Highway 89, and continue into Page.

Lake Powell
Suzanne Stroeer / Aurora Photos / Getty Images 

Accessibility

The visitors centers, Aramark lodging, and Glen Canyon Dam, including the tour, are fully accessible. However, the docks, marinas, and launch ramps are not. If you need help, Wahweap, Bullfrog, and Antelope Point marinas will provide assistance to your boat. You can also rent a limited number of accessible houseboats at these marinas.

While most trails require hiking over uneven terrain, a new trail that meets Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) standards provides access to Horseshoe Bend. Accessible float trips and boat tours are also available.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Admission is $30 per vehicle and $30 per boat for up to seven days.
  • Make reservations for houseboats and powerboats early, especially if you plan to visit during the summer or over holidays. You’ll also want to book hotel rooms or reserve campground sites early.
  • Weather conditions on Lake Powell can change quickly. Keep an eye on the sky, and follow guidelines issued by the National Weather Service.
  • Pets are allowed in most parts of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area except archeological sites and marinas, docks, and launch ramps (unless they are going directly to or from a vessel). They are also prohibited at Orange Cliffs, parts of Cathedral Wash, and other designated areas.
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Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: The Complete Guide