Earlier this year, my sister, Beth, and I took a road trip to Page Arizona. We broke up the drive with a one night stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, on the way there, and a stop in Cottonwood, Arizona, on our way home. Along the way we passed through Utah, just skirting the border of Zion National Park. For much of the drive we were in awe of the natural beauty. Living in California we are used to beach and mountain scenes, and occasionally the desert. But Southern Utah and Northern Arizona are so different, offering a rugged, rocky and colorful landscape.
The town of Page is pretty plain looking, and in itself isn’t much of a destination. In fact as I was telling friends and family about my upcoming trip, many asked why I was going? What Page really has to offer is proximity to dozens of natural wonders. The beauty of this area is it’s endless dramatic cliffs and colorful rock formations, many carved out by the powerful Colorado River. Hidden amongst all the rocks are all kinds of surprises. So I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the plethora of things to do in Page Arizona.
Start At The Glen Canyon Conservancy Visitors Center
I was really surprised that nothing I read before our trip had recommended a stop at the Glen Canyon Conservancy Visitors Center. You don’t need much time here, maybe 30 minutes, but the large, 3D relief map of the entire area is worth it. If a volunteer is available to give some background on the map and the area, that’s even better.
We often think of all the natural wonders in the area as isolated and unconnected. But it turns out that all of the area’s national parks and monuments--Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, etc.--are part of one very large interconnected ecosystem. The map really helped Beth and I put the geology of all these places in perspective.
The Visitors Center is also a pretty nice place to grab some souvenirs that benefit an important conservation organization as well. I came home with a t-shirt for me and a baseball cap for Jason.
Head To Glen Canyon Dam Overlook
Right before entering Page, we crossed a bridge over the Glen Canyon Dam--the second-highest concrete-arch dam in the U.S., second only to the Hoover Dam. The Glen Canyon Powerplant produces around 5 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power annually, which is distributed to Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Nebraska.
Beth and I drove directly to the Glen Canyon Dam overlook to get a better view of this man-made feat. We walked down the short, but steep trail to look down on the mighty Colorado River which powers this dam. This is a great spot to appreciate the contrast between the red rock of the canyon walls and the rushing blue-green waters of the river. We were here on a beautiful sunny day, so it was also a great spot for photos.
Explore Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
On our first full day in Page we started with a tour of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument booked with Epic Adventures. We would spend a few hours exploring this vast area in a UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle). Beth decided that I would be the driver, so after a short safety lesson, we took off, following our guide, James.
For two hours we rocked and bounced our way through the rugged landscape. Occasionally James would stop and provide information about the wildlife and flora and fauna. He was especially good at finding small slot canyons to explore which were terrific photo opps.
Towards the end James took us on a wild ride through sand dunes--something I could have done without. I learned that the national monument is a popular spot with adrenaline junkies looking to push their limits on adventure vehicles. I was here to enjoy the scenery and didn’t really care about speed or adrenaline.
At over one million acres, exploring Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument by UTV is ideal and I’m really glad we tried it. It’s a nice opportunity for an overview of this vast land. This would also be a great tour for a family with teens or tweens. Adults are likely to enjoy learning about the region while kids can experience an adrenaline rush as they race along the rocky trails.
Hike Toadstools Trail
I love to research a destination before I travel and have a plan in place. Truth be told, I'm actually a bit obsessive about pre-planning. But I also like to remain flexible in case I learn something new after arriving. Toadstools Trail is a great example of remaining flexible. Beth and I stayed at the Hyatt Place Page and after talking with the General Manager we learned about this short hike nearby. The mostly flat 1.5 mile out and back trail leads to a rock formation that immediately brings mushrooms, or toadstools, to mind. It almost looks like someone moved the rocks into place.
When we first spotted Toadstools, there were two young children playing on the top of the formation and having a blast. I then climbed up as well and loved the view of the surrounding landscape. When I returned home and was doing research for another article I learned that hikers are discouraged from climbing the formation since it’s considered delicate--oops! If you visit, I’ll leave the decision up to you as to whether or not to climb. Nevertheless, this hike is definitely worth it.
As you drive to and from Page, you may experience a one hour time change depending on the time of year. Arizona does recognize daylight savings time, while Utah does. This probably won’t matter unless you have to be somewhere else at a specific time--just be aware of it.
Admire Horseshoe Bend
Even if you’ve never been to Horseshoe Bend, you’ve likely seen photos of it. This section of the Colorado River takes an unusual and sharp turn around an imposing rock formation. Viewing the bend takes place high up on 1000 ft. cliffs making for a very dramatic scene.
While I’m glad I finally got to see this, I was disappointed by the crowds. Not only were there hundreds of people, everyone wanted their picture next to Horseshoe Bend for Instagram. It was obvious to us that many people had come here prepared for the perfect photos with carefully selected outfits and hats. We visited late in the day which may have explained the crowds. If I were to do it again, I might try early in the day instead.
The trail to Horseshoe Bend is 1.5 miles roundtrip and fairly easy. Parking is $10 and fortunately the lot is large.
Walk Navajo Bridge
In stark contrast to Horseshoe Bend, Navajo Bridge was almost empty. This is probably because it's a forty-five minute drive outside Page, so it definitely takes more effort to get here. But both the drive here and the views from the bridge are spectacular making this among the best things to do in Page. While driving to the bridge we could see the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument off in the distance, a large swath of steep red cliffs.
A word of caution however, the drive is through a mostly uninhabited expanse of land, much of it part of the Navajo Nation. There isn’t much signage, and at times Beth and I thought we might be lost since we couldn’t see the Colorado River, much less a bridge. However, about a mile from the bridge the road turned and we could see we were headed in the right direction.
Opened in 1929, the Navajo Bridge was briefly the highest steel-arch bridge in the world. Connecting two remote regions of Arizona and Utah, the bridge ended the need for ferry service across the river. In 1995, a new bridge was opened parallel to the original to accommodate modern vehicles. Today, the original bridge is pedestrian only and offers great views of the Colorado River below. This is also a common spot to see California Condors, but we didn’t spot any during our visit.
Relax At Lee’s Ferry
After walking the Navajo Bridge we drove down to Lee’s Ferry, formerly the spot where Native Americans, pioneers, miners, and tourists crossed the river. There is some hiking in the area, but Beth and I didn’t have much time here. So instead we parked the car and walked to the river’s edge. In fact, Lee’s Ferry is one of the few places along the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead where drive-up access to the river is available. After viewing the river from up high, it was fun to be at the water level. We dipped our toes in the cold water and just sat and enjoyed the view for a while. While we had enjoyed lunch in Page that day, this would be an ideal picnic spot--a nice time to relax during a busy day of sightseeing. There are no services in the area, so if you picnic here, you’ll need to bring everything with you.
Continue On To The National Parks
Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks are all within a three hour drive of Page. So this could be the ideal home base for a longer trip that allows you to explore all of the natural beauty in the area. Or, this could be a stop along a national parks and monuments road trip. I just didn’t realize until we were there how much there was to see.
I’ve written previously about Grand Canyon National Park and what I’d recommend doing at the South Rim. I’ve never been to Zion, so hopefully I’ll write about that in the future. But if you’re headed to Bryce Canyon, here are a few of my recommendations;
- Hike the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Combined Trail--this trail is pretty steep coming back up, but wow, is the scenery worth it. Jason and I packed a lunch for this hike and found a beautiful spot among the hoodoos to enjoy it.
- For something a bit flatter, hike the Rim Trail. The views into the canyon along the way are lovely.
- Look out for Utah Prairie Dogs while driving through the park. Shortly after the park’s south entrance there’s a large, open field where they are commonly spotted. Be sure to drive slowly so no animals are injured.
Page is a hiker's and outdoor enthusiast's dream come true. And while Beth and I managed to see a number of sights in one day, we barely scratched the surface. I will definitely be returning to continue to explore all that this beautiful part of the country has to offer.