Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is made up rivers, lakes, canyons, rock formations and more. The Glen Canyon Dam helped create what is Lake Powell today. The area was established as a National Recreation Area in 1972 – it is over 1 million acres! This area is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts: boating, fishing, hiking, and climbing. The area is also home to Pueblos, Forts and geology digs. We spent a few days in the Southern area near the Arizona/Utah border and look forward to returning.
Where We Stayed
We camped at Lone Rock Beach, which was fantastic! It is a NPS dispersed campsite and cost $14/night. We didn’t get a spot right off the shore, which was fine by us; it appeared to be RV next to RV 50 in a row. We were a 5-minute walk to the shore and had a view. We ended up having kind neighbors with cute little dogs. The National Recreation Area is massive and could take weeks to explore. Near our campsite were 5-6 hikes, so we felt pretty lucky we didn’t have to drive too far for non-boating activities.
What We Did
Once we left Hovenweep campsite we drove a few hours to Monument Valley. We didn’t stay or do any trails, but did a lot of scenic driving and overlooks. After the drive through and talking with people, we wish we had stayed more than a few hours. We have added it to our list of places to return to.
Nearby is Navajo National Monument. This area is filled with Kayenta formations – made up of sandstone, shale and limestone. The canyons are home to abundant wildlife, plants, and trees. The most popular tree is the Pinyon tree. Many people along the road to the site sold Pinyon nuts from the back of their cars. This National Monument also has preserved cliff dwellings. Steve and I did the Sandal Trail to view the Betatakin village. The Betatakin village was occupied between 1250-1300. The National Park staff offers guided tours, but with Sparky, we weren’t able to partake. There are also several trails leading down into the canyon. We stayed for about an hour before leaving towards the Glen Canyon area.
The first full day in Glen Canyon we hit the road with a goal of doing some trails. Thanks to Instagram, our first trail was quite a popular one – Horseshoe Bend. This sandy trail is 1.2 miles total. Besides dealing with steep hills and deep sand we had to deal with busloads of tourists. There were hundreds of tourists there, and most weren’t dressed to do a hike – flip flops, cigarettes, etc. It is a popular trail for a reason – the view. Looking down the cliffs into the famous bend is very humbling. It’s massive and you can’t help but fill so tiny. If I were to do this again or advise a friend I would get there before 9am if possible. Also, the lighting would probably be better either early in the morning or late in the evening, as it was in partial shade/partial sun when we arrived.
After, we headed to the Dam and the visitor center. The visitor center offers tours of the Dam, which didn’t interest us. The visitor center was packed with bus tourists making parking and maneuvering in the visitor center a bit challenging. We spent some time checking out the Dam before heading to our next trail.
The next trail was Hanging Garden. It is a 1.2 flat and somewhat sandy trail. At the end of the trail is a garden of ferns and orchids growing off the side of the rock. Just stepping into the garden’s shade was 20 degrees cooler than in the sun. The trail was fine, but seeing it once was enough.
At this point, we got a little cocky and decided to do a bigger trail. We opted for the Bucktank Draw & Birthday Arch trail. This trail is 4 miles. We started the trail around 3PM thinking we would be fine. We had NO idea how challenging this trail was. We ended up hiking in the wash 95% of the time, which was deep sand. In addition to the deep sand, we had some minor rocks to scramble and some bigger rocks to climb. We saw plenty of rabbits, lizards and even a rattlesnake. With the heat, lack of shade, and sand – we were pretty tired. What made it a bit more frustrating was the lack of obvious trail. The trail is rarely used and the wind will blow sand to cover previous footprints. Towards the end we couldn’t find the “Birthday Arch”. We finally found a group of stacked rocks that pointed us to the right direction. Once we found it, we took a long break in the shade feeling great. We made it back to the car just before 6PM.
The next morning, we (Steve and I) were incredibly sore. Sparky, however, was not and eager for more. We decided just one more trail before relaxing. The Toadstools trail was just perfect for us. The trail is just over 1.5 miles and gives fantastic views of hoodoos – balanced rocks. At one point we had the whole trail and area to ourselves and let Sparky run around with the crazies. The trail was a moderate trail, with packed sand and a few cliffs.
We decided to head back to camp and let Sparky enjoy the water. We were able to walk to a secluded area of the lake and once again let him off leash to release his crazies. I just love watching Sparky play in the water. He doesn’t swim but watching him bit the waves, run crazy, and dig in the sand fills me with joy!
We ended our time in Glen Canyon with a trip to the Navajo Bridge on our way out of the area. The bridge opened in 1929 once vehicle traffic became more abundant in the area in and out of the Grand Canyon. It is here that we were able to see the California Condor.
Now, having Sparky with us did hold us back from a few things we really wanted to do, and will have to return to do someday. The Rainbow Bridge National Monument hike is a 15-mile hike or accessible by boat cruises. Sadly, Sparky is not allowed on either the cruise (which is $$$$$$’s) or the hiking trail. Looking forward to returning so we can conquer the Rainbow Bridge.
Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Arizona