No one who came to Page in the early days planned to stay permanently. The place started out in 1957 as a temporary camp housing construction teams tasked with building the Glen Canyon Dam. But the rest, as they say, is history. Though those workers never intended to settle, they quickly figured out they were onto a good thing—and so will you if you spend your vacation in and around Page. Let’s find out what’s so special about this corner of northeastern Arizona as we explore all your possibilities in Page.
Snap a Photo at the Famous Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is one of Arizona’s most recognizable landforms. Trust us, the hike from the parking lot is so short you’ll barely have time for the sand to gather in the treads of your shoes before you crest the hill for the big reveal. To grab a picture that does justice to this iconic meander, aim to arrive at daybreak. In the still air of the morning, the ultramarine loop accentuates the rose gold tones of the Navajo sandstone. As the sun climbs, the multifaceted cliffs blur to a vibrant terracotta and the river takes on an emerald hue.
By sunset, though expectant crowds gather, much of the landform is in shadow. Pros will pack a wide angle lens and a sturdy tripod—it can get windy up there. A polarizer will help the colors pop. To get a sense of scale, look for something that creates a point of reference, like a lone hiker or a beached dinghy.
Experience the Incredible Geology of Antelope Canyon
Ask any keen hiker to name a slot canyon and chances are they’ll mention Antelope Canyon. This remarkable place has formed part of Navajo Tribal Park since 1997. Access is tightly controlled and a guide’s mandatory, but even though you’ll share the experience with a group, this is still one of the most breathtaking sights on the planet.
Over millennia, periodic flash floods have carved its soft sandstone into a mesmerising tangle of ripples and swirls. A rich color palette of vermilion, burnt orange and soft gold gives the place a transcendent beauty. When the sun is high in the sky, a shaft of light pierces the upper canyon, picking out dust particles in the air and puddling on the floor. The result is nothing short of extraordinary.
Tour the Glen Canyon and Its Dam
The mighty Glen Canyon Dam swallowed up nearly ten million tons of concrete and took seven long years of sweat and toil to complete. A further 17 years passed before Lake Powell, now 186 miles long with a 2000 mile shoreline, reached its maximum height.
Today’s panorama proves the old adage that good things come to those who wait. Over two million visitors descend on the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area each year to swim, water-ski, kayak and fish.
Though it’s possible to do a day tour, we’d suggest you rent a houseboat and take things at a more leisurely pace. Beside the lake, receding water levels are exposing forgotten canyons and enchanting riparian habitats. Nearby, spring-fed colonies of plants cling to the vertical cliffs creating hanging gardens. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a hikers’ paradise.
Spot California Condors at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
Once a rare sight in these parts, there are now more than 200 California condors in this part of the U.S. This impressive bird is the largest found on land in North America, with a 10-foot wingspan. Some roost on the top of the Vermilion Cliffs–updrafts help get these heavy birds airborne—but you’ll probably need binoculars or a spotting scope to see them. Maximize your chances of a sighting by visiting in winter or early spring when there’s still a chill to the air.
Elsewhere in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, hike to White Pocket. There, the red sandstone which characterizes this area is covered with a thin gray rock layer. This curious place is probably the result of what geologists dub ‘soft sediment deformation,’ perhaps caused by a landslide in the ancient past. The rock features numerous bulges and twists which some liken to a human brain, others to mushrooms.
Hike the Wire Pass Trail to Buckskin Gulch
Buckskin Gulch is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the U.S. This 14 mile-long gash in the terracotta rock is jaw-droppingly handsome. There are four routes in. Our favorite is the Wire Pass Trail which is the easiest and most direct, reaching Buckskin Gulch a couple of miles in. There, look out for 800 year old petroglyphs, where images of bighorn sheep are carved into the rock. From there on, it’s a strenuous hike which can require wading through soft, sticky mud or clambering over boulders.
Check the weather forecast before setting out, as arriving vehicles can get bogged down during heavy rain and the rock becomes slick and slippery underfoot. Don’t underestimate the danger: flash floods make Buckskin Gulch a death trap, but pick a dry day and this narrow slit through the convoluted folds of Navajo sandstone will take your breath away.
Frame the View beyond Skylight Arch
It takes a little effort to reach Skylight Arch. Start out on an adventurous drive on an unmarked dirt road through hoodoo-strewn backcountry. Once you reach a wooden cattle corral, park up and follow a sandy trail upwards to the top of a mesa. But the reward for those who follow this adventurous path is the glorious sight of this hidden gem: an inverted rock arch overlooking the fringes of Lake Powell.
Dusty tufts of grass poke from the flaky rock and bake under a hot sun. The view from this narrow ledge is extraordinary, though best-suited to those with a head for heights and a good sense of balance.
Hop in a helicopter to View Alstrom Point, a Lake Powell Lookout
To fully appreciate this breathtaking area, we urge you to take to the air. A helicopter flight will reveal the scale and extent of the Colorado River’s impact as it winds through the region. The dendritic shape of Lake Powell is easy to pick out, as is the overlook at Alstrom Point.
Back on terra firma, it’s a 42-mile drive that includes crossing the river in front of the Glen Canyon Dam before doubling back in a broad loop to reach the lookout. From the viewpoint, Lake Powell glitters green before you, its gnarled rocky promontories a reminder of the awesome power of nature.
Where to Stay in Page
Page offers a range of accommodation. Celebs helicopter in to the swanky Amangiri, 16 miles north east of Page just over the Utah state line, though its eye-wateringly high price tag keeps it out of reach of most of us. No matter: all the major hotel chains are represented in Page itself, including Hyatt, Hilton and Wyndham.
Airbnb also has a good selection of rentals in downtown Page, from spacious retreats to bijou apartments. Numerous campgrounds and RV parks litter the surrounding area. Hook up at the Wahweap RV and Campground overlooking the water or opt to stay in an authentic Navajo hogan at Shash Dine Eco Retreat.
Where to Eat in Page
Start the day with coffee at LP Espresso, a local favourite, or fuel up on crepes at the family-run Canyon Crepes Café. If you’re self-catering, you may wish to dine in, but there are plenty of great options if you want to let someone else take care of the cooking. The fried chicken is good at BirdHouse, while for steaks and burgers try the State 48 Tavern.
Regional chains El Tapatio and Fiesta Mexicana are casual joints serving Mexican dishes, while live country music and varied menu makes the Gone West a homespun favorite.