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There are so many great things to do in Lake Powell, it can be overwhelming and hard to know what is best.
Most guides out there are generic “boating, fishing, hiking” or just list a couple of things actually on Lake Powell then is all about things to do near Page for the rest of it. Not here!
I’ve broken this down into things to do on North Lake Powell (above former Dangling Rope), South Lake Powell (below former Dangling Rope), and generic things to do anywhere on Lake Powell.
But honestly, the best way to experience Lake Powell is just by renting a boat and going into as many canyons as possible.
I don’t really talk about wakeboarding/tubing in here because I don’t really care about that so this is more of a guide for specific things to see on Lake Powell, not just regular water sports.
I will update and add to this as (if) I go back and do more things.
**A note on fuel and the water level**
The only fuel available on Lake Powell is at Halls Crossing and Bullfrog at the north end of the lake, and Antelope Point and Wahweap at the south end. There is no fuel in the middle of the lake, Dangling Rope is closed!
I mention it below, too, but the accessibility and hiking distances of a lot of things on Lake Powell vary greatly based on water level.
Things to do in Lake Powell (North Lake)
It probably doesn’t look like there’s that much to do on Lake Powell, but there really is. Going into all of the canyons and hiking in the backs of them is the best thing to do.
But I’ve included a few landmarks to see and hikes to do, so if you’re looking for specifics, I’ve still got you.
See Rainbow Bridge
First up is probably the most popular thing to see on Lake Powell: Rainbow Bridge.
Rainbow Bridge is it’s own national monument within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
It’s only accessible by boat or a multi-day hike. It’s pretty much right in the middle of the lake so be sure you have enough gas to get back.
Just going to Rainbow Bridge and back to either marina without going into other canyons will take almost all day and be cutting it close fuel-wise.
The hike is easy but the distance will vary based on the water level. I would expect 1-3 miles round-trip.
Rainbow Bridge is at the back of Forbidding Canyon, just a couple miles from the former Dangling Rope.
Experience Cathedral in the Desert
One of my favorite things to do on Lake Powell is go to Cathedral in the Desert. I’ve been here twice and it was entirely different both times.
This will be a different experience probably every time you visit because it changes so much as the water levels change.
Cathedral in the Desert is at the back of Clear Creek Canyon (second canyon on the left in the Escalante River Arm).
You can get here in a powerboat but it can be hard to turn around. Jet skis, kayaks, or paddleboards will be a lot easier to navigate closer to the back of the canyon.
Climb Hole in the Rock
I haven’t climbed up Hole in the Rock yet but if you’re looking for an adventurous hike with a great view, this is for you.
You do have to be comfortable with rock scrambling to do this and definitely wear better shoes than flip flops.
Hole in the Rock is a path that the Mormon pioneers blew into the canyon wall to BRING THEIR WAGONS DOWN!
Yeah! They navigated dozens of wagons down this crack in the wall. And now you can climb up it!
You’ll find Hole in the Rock just after the Escalante River Arm in the main channel, between miles 63 and 64.
There will be a buoy marking it and it’s on the same side as the Escalante River Arm.
See Defiance House Ruin
Defiance House Ruin is in Forgotten Canyon (the right fork), not far from Bullfrog Marina, and is the namesake for Defiance House Lodge.
I, somehow, have not seen this yet which is a little offensive since I worked at the front desk of the hotel for four summers.
The ruins here have been restored, to what degree, I’m not sure. Some say lightly, others say heavily. Either way, be careful and respectful.
There is also a pictograph that can be seen here. How much work it takes to get to the ruin site varies with the lake level (shocked? I hope not).
If it’s about 3650′ you can boat right up to them, but if it’s lower you could be looking at up to a four mile hike round-trip. The lower the water, the longer the hike.
Go as far north as possible
While this isn’t really a specific thing to do, it’s an interesting thing to do.
If you’re based in Bullfrog, just head as far north as possible! You definitely won’t be able to go to Hite, and the distance beyond Good Hope Bay will vary based on water levels, like everything else.
AND! The further north you go the fewer people you’ll see which is always a plus.
See Lost Eden
Lost Eden is really close to Bullfrog and is a cool cavernous alcove and canyon with some hiking at the back.
It’s in Lost Eden Canyon which is right after Halls Creek Bay, on the same side, and pretty much across and slightly south of Halls Crossing.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about this stop and honestly, I think it’s just OK but I know a lot of people really love it. Like, a lot.
It’s not too far back in the canyon and won’t take much extra time to see so it’s still worth the stop.
Things to do in Lake Powell (South Lake)
Next up is things to do in South Lake Powell. I feel like there aren’t as many things to do in this area but I also haven’t seen as much of it. And by that I mean almost any.
This is a really popular area, especially for wakeboarding and tubing. It helps that there are a lot of bays and wide open areas in South Lake.
Also, a note, you CANNOT get to Horseshoe Bend from Lake Powell! I’m 100% sure of this (I’ve had people question me on it) because there is, in fact, a dam in the way.
Kayak Antelope Canyon
First up is kayaking Antelope Canyon. There are tours you can join to do this in addition to renting them or bringing your own via boat.
If you’re renting kayaks and going on your own, it’s best to do this from Antelope Point Marina since it’s right next to Antelope Canyon.
You can park your kayaks at the back of the canyon and hike into into it, too. And yes, this is the same Antelope Canyon!
Antelope Canyon is right next to Antelope Point Marina which are right by Antelope Island.
This is probably the most popular thing to do near Wahweap and will likely be very busy.
See Glen Canyon Dam
Next up is Glen Canyon Dam. This isn’t super exciting to see since it’s just sort of a big concrete wall at the end of the lake but I know people like to go see it on private tours.
I would personally probably skip this but it’s not way out of the way if you really want to see it.
Glen Canyon Dam is at the end of Lake Powell, mile marker 0. It’s as far south as you can go and the Colorado River is on the other side.
Join a boat tour
If you don’t feel comfortable renting a boat and driving yourself, you can join a boat tour!
There are large boat tours to the main sights of south Lake Powell (the dam, Antelope, and Navajo Canyons), and sunset cruises. These are more affordable.
Another option is a private boat tour. This is a great option if there are a few people in your group.
It’s at least $265 per hour (as of 2021) and can accommodate up to six people including children.
These are really great because of how flexible they are. You can literally go anywhere (within reason) and just relax and enjoy as you’ll have a captain driving you.
If you have a boat and kayaks or paddleboards, hiking Labyrinth Canyon will be easy. If not, it’s a little harder because you need to find a way to get there.
But first, Labyrinth Canyon is a canyon on Lake Powell with a slot canyon hike at the back of the canyon. Could I possibly say canyon more times in one sentence?
If you want a slot canyon hike that looks like Antelope Canyon, this is a great choice but will take some effort to get to.
Option one is to rent a boat and paddleboards and get there yourself, parking outside of the canyon and paddling to the back. This is probably the easiest.
Option two is to get dropped off there which can be done through the main marina at Wahweap. They can drop you off and pick you up later or wait for you while you hike.
This option is probably going to be more expensive but between rentals and fuel, it could be close. Renting would be more flexible.
Labyrinth Canyon opposite to Padre Bay, right near the mouth of the bay on the marina end of it.
General Things to do in Lake Powell
Now onto the general things to do on Lake Powell, things that can be done no matter where you are on the lake.
Some of these things (like looking for dino tracks) you’ll need to know where they are ahead of time because that’s not something you’ll probably just happen to see.
But most of this can be done anywhere on the lake with a little planning on the areas you would want to see.
I’ll let it be known that I highly recommend North Lake because I think it’s a lot prettier than South Lake.
You can’t go wrong either way, but making the trek to Bullfrog is 100% worth it.
Rent a boat or jet skis
First up, and probably the most obvious, is to rent a boat or jet skis. A powerboat is the easiest way to see Lake Powell, as long as you’re comfortable driving it.
Once you have your boat, just head out and go into all the canyons to see whats out there.
If you’re just visiting Lake Powell for one day, this is definitely your best bet on how to see and experience what the lake has to offer.
**Be careful (particularly further back in canyons, near canyon walls, in bays, and near the shore in bays) and watch for rocks under the water but close to the surface.**
Look for dinosaur tracks
This is one of the cool things to do on Lake Powell that will require some research and planning.
I have only seen two dinosaur track sites on Lake Powell: at Rainbow Bridge and waaaaay up on Tapestry Wall.
The ones at Rainbow Bridge are on the ground in the sandstone area near the base of the Bridge, just the main area you look at the Bridge from.
The ones on Tapestry Wall are kind of in the middle of the wall on the bottom of an overhang. They’re hard to see but they are there.
Instead of being indentations like most you would see, you’re looking at the part that would fill the indentations if that makes sense. Like the indentations fell away.
Track site locations aren’t shared too often because people want to protect them (totally understand) and these are the only two I know of.
A lot have unfortunately been covered by the water when Lake Powell was made but you’ll still find some.
Do some of the best stargazing ever
While Glen Canyon isn’t a dark sky park, it is a fantastic place for stargazing in southern Utah.
It will be better in Bullfrog or just on the lake compared to Wahweap, but it’s still better in Wahweap than a lot of other places.
Even after working in Bullfrog for four years, my mind was absolutely blown by how dark it gets there, especially with no moon.
It is SO DARK and the stargazing is phenomenal. Like, I could stand directly under a light in Bullfrog and still see the Milky Way.
Whether you’re spending the night out on the lake or just in the marina, make sure you get outside at night to see the stars. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Do some kayaking or paddle boarding
If you want to experience the lake but don’t want to rent a boat or only have a couple of hours and don’t mind staying close to the marina, kayaks and paddleboards are perfect!
Unless you’re an experienced speed paddler, you probably won’t be able to see any of the main sights, but you can relax on beaches in Wahweap and Bullfrog Bays that you can’t otherwise get to.
You can also kayak to Antelope Canyon easily from Antelope Point Marina.
They’re a fun way to see the lake even if you can’t go quite as far as with a boat. Just be careful of boat traffic in the bays and main channel.
I would not recommend this at all on a windy day. If there is wind in the forecast, call it a loss and do something else.
It gets hard to paddle and the water gets very rough. We had to rescue a few kayakers caught in storms when I worked at Wahweap.
Splurge on a houseboat trip
If you’ve got more time and a bigger budget, and especially a group of people, renting a houseboat is a must-do.
I know I said renting a boat is the best way to see the lake, but houseboating is truly the best way to experience it if you can swing it.
I would say 3-5 days would be best and be sure to also rent a power boat. That way you can anchor the houseboat once and scoot around in the powerboat each day.
By renting a houseboat, you’re able to enjoy the lake in solitude and can see even more of it. Plus it’s perfect for lots of stargazing and a slightly more connected camping experience.
Get off-grid and camp on the lake
Can’t/don’t want to rent a houseboat but still want more than one day out on the lake? Rent a powerboat, find a beach, and do some tent camping!
You can camp on any Lake Powell beach as long as it’s not in a developed marina.
If you’re leaving from Bullfrog, head north and see if the little beach on the left in Cedar Canyon is open. It’s the perfect little beach and a great canyon.
There are tons of beaches to choose from though and it really is hard to pick a bad one. This would definitely be fun to do.
Hike any of the canyons
Finally, the best thing to do on Lake Powell, hike any and all of the canyons. Obviously you can’t hike all of them but you can hike some.
I’ve listed some of the best canyons to hike in from north to south. Hiking accessibility will, like everything else, depend on the water level.
- Ticaboo Canyon
- Smith Fork (this one is great, I know there is a rock in the part where you’re still boating, so watch out)
- Forgotten Canyon (Defiance House)
- Hansen Creek (I think this one has a good beach sometimes?)
- Moki Canyon
- Lost Eden Canyon
- Iceberg Canyon
- The Rincon (not a canyon)
- Bowns Canyon
- Davis Gulch (Escalante River Arm)
- Fifty Mile Canyon (Escalante River Arm)
- Ribbon Canyon
- Llewellyn Gulch
- Piute Canyon (San Juan River Arm)
- Reflection Canyon
- Oak Canyon
- West Canyon
- Face Canyon
A brief safety/etiquette PSA
This is a quick little section on some slot canyon safety and dinosaur track/rock art/ruin etiquette. These things may be obvious if you’re into these things already, but not everyone knows everything so here we are.
Slot Canyon Safety
Flash floods are a huge risk in slot canyons and people die from that far too often. In May 2020 a 7-year-old girl and her 3-year-old sister died in a flash flood in Little Wild Horse Canyon, a popular slot canyon in the San Rafael Swell. This isn’t even a super narrow canyon. And it’s popular. It can happen anywhere.
In 1997, 11 hikers died in a flash flood in Antelope Canyon (the storm was 15 miles away) and that’s a huge reason you need to go with a tour now.
Flash floods are no joke kids. I haven’t seen one in a slot canyon but I did see one right as it was starting in a more open canyon and it really picked up fast. I also saw one in Zion along the Mt. Carmel Highway this summer. It was small but they just happen so fast, please be safe.
- DO NOT ENTER THEM IN THE RAIN
- DO NOT ENTER THEM WITH RAIN IN THE FORECAST
- DO NOT ENTER THEM IF IT’S NOT RAINING IN THEM BUT NEAR THEM TOO
- If you don’t feel comfortable with any climb or narrow squeeze and can turn back, do that! You don’t want to get hurt or stuck and need to be rescued. I linked tons of stories of this below.
- Make sure you’re following the right fork. A lot of slot canyons have multiple forks or are close to other ones and ending up in the wrong one can have dire consequences (especially in the North Wash area of Utah.)
Dinosaur/rock art/ruin etiquette
- Don’t take the bones. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I do because people have dug out some of them. While there aren’t any marked here that I’m aware of, if you do find some, leave them where they are.
- Just look at the tracks, don’t fill them with water. While it makes them easier to see, it can damage the tracks.
- Do not touch the rock art (pictographs or petroglyphs) because the oils on our fingers can degrade them.
- If you find artifacts, do not take them. Leave them where they are and just take pictures.
- If there are structures (rooms, kivas, anything like that) don’t enter them if it says to keep out and if you can go in, be very careful and try not to touch or move things.
- And finally, don’t carve in or write or paint or draw on the rocks! I don’t want to have to say this, but I need to for real.
What to bring to Lake Powell
Sunscreen – You definitely need to wear sunscreen out on the lake. Trust me. I’ve seen plenty of bad burns come through the lobby.
Water – Drink a ton of water, especially if you’re out in the sun a lot or hiking. You don’t want to be the one flying out because of dehydration.
Snacks – My preferred boat snack is Doritos. It’s really almost the only time I eat them. Beef jerky and trail mix might be healthier and more energizing.
Sunglasses – It’s bright an will help with the wind in your face.
Chums – These will keep your glasses from falling off into the lake.
Boaters Guide to Lake Powell – This is a great guide if you’ll be spending a lot of time on the lake and want to get a better idea of what you can do. The print is small and close together but it is very helpful.
Lake Powell map – This is a must for any Lake Powell trip.
Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
America the Beautiful – The national park pass is essential.
Booking.com – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
Enterprise – This is my rental car recommendation.
See all my resources here.
Other posts you may like
Have you been to Lake Powell? What did you think of it? Do you want to go? What is your favorite thing to do on Lake Powell?