If you are like most people, you have no clue what or where Page, Arizona is. As I recount our recent road trip through Arizona and Utah all I see are blank stares when I get to our time in Page. Turns out most people have never heard of Page. It’s not too surprising considering Page is a small town (Pop. less than 8,000) sitting on the edge of Navajo Nation and Lake Powell a few miles from the border of Utah. The few travelers who have heard of it, know it as only the place they drive through on their way to/from the Grand Canyon and/or as quick stop over point to view Horseshoe Bend.
I am here to tell you that you are missing out. There is so much on offer in Page that visitors really should, no scratch that, need to give it a bit more time. This was one of our favorite stops on our road trip through some incredibly beautiful states.
Without further ado, our top 7 things to do in Page, Arizona (with or without kids).
1. Go Down Under at Antelope Canyon (Lower and Upper)
This is a must do. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon formed by the erosion of the soft ever present Navajo sandstone. During the rainy season, rainwater runs into the canyons picking up speed and sand, re-shaping and smoothing the narrow passageways into the curving stones you see today. It is absolutely surreal to be surrounded by curving walls, made entirely by natural processes.
The canyons are divided into Lower Antelope Canyon and Upper Antelope Canyon. The main difference between the canyons is the ease of getting in/out. Upper Anteleope Canyon, the most visited, is at ground level and does not require any climbing. Lower Antelope Canyon requires a certain level of mobility as you are required to descend into the canyon on very steep stairs/ladders and move between the levels of canyons on various types of steps. For adventurous families, the Lower Canyon provides a great obstacle course for your little ones (4 and up). Our kids enjoyed the circle formations of the rocks and running their hands and feet through the sandy floor, but they LOVED the adventure and challenge of climbing up and down steep staircases!
The canyons are very busy in the summer. If you know when you will be in town, book your tour as early as possible to ensure you get a time slot during the best light of the day. During the summer, this time is between 11-2. Don’t worry if you didn’t book in advance, there seems to always be space for small parties on the morning and afternoon tours. For the Lower Canyon, we recommend Ken’s Tours and Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours for the Upper Canyon. Be warned, during the busy summer season, the canyons are jam packed with people, which does take away from the meditative quality of the experience, but not the awe and wonderment.
2. Stand on the Edge at Horseshoe Bend
If you are one of the few who know of Page because of Horseshoe Bend, you will have seen the amazing photos. If you aren’t, Horseshoe bend is exactly that, a horseshoe meander of the Colorado River. Standing high on the cliffs above the river, you get a great view of the bend…way way down below! See if you can spot a tent or kayak on the bank of the river – they are the size of an ant. Seriously. However, if you visit during the day you will likely see plenty of blue boats dotting the river below.
Visiting Horseshoe bend can be a bit scary to be honest (with or without children). There are no guard rails, just a very steep drop off from a very high cliff. And of course to get the perfect photo, you have to stand right on the edge with your wide angle lens. I jokingly (kind of?!) said I was going to tie my son up to a pole if he went with us. Unfortunately, there were no poles, so he didn’t go with us.
If you are nervous about how your little ones will act, it might be best to take turns taking in the view as adults only. Kids will enjoy playing further back on the trail in the sand or looking for wild animals. We saw lizards and rabbits during our early morning visit.
Sunset and late afternoon are the busiest times, but also the most beautiful times to take photos. The viewpoint is a short 15 minute walk up a sandy rolling hill. If you visit during the summer, expect high temperatures. There is no shade, water or bathroom facilities, so plan in advance.
3. Get Chilly (in 110°F) on the Colorado River
Being out on the water is a true highlight and a unique way to see the Glen Canyon Dam and Horseshoe Bend. There are an abundance of tours for both Lake Powell and the Colorado River. Tours range from 1.5 hours on the lake to half day or full day rafting excursions on the Colorado River including opportunities to get out and hike to Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
A great option with kids is the half day rafting adventure which starts with a drive through a pitch black 2 mile tunnel. Here you will cruise towards Horseshoe Bend to see ancient petroglyphs, spot wildlife and stop for a break to dip your toes (feet and body if you are brave) in year round 47°F ice cold water.
4. Hike to Hanging Garden
Most evenings in the summer (until end of Sept) a ranger from Glen Canyon Recreation Area hosts a guided hike to the Hanging Garden. It is a short 1 mile roundtrip easy walk. This short hike leads you to a lush hanging garden on the underbelly of Navajo sandstone cliffs overlooking the Colorado River and Lake Powell. The trail is lined by rocks on either side to guide you almost the entire way to the hanging garden. A small rock scramble might be required to get up close to the hanging garden depending on how you approach the cliff. This hike offers a surprising view into the astonishingly uniqueness of the desert. While walking, take your time and notice the desert around you. Check out the lizard trails, search for moqui marbles (smooth, round balls of compacted sandstone encased in a “shell” of iron compounds), snake skeletons and a variety of small wildlife.
Turn off is one quarter mile (.4km) east of Glen Canyon Bridge (the opposite side from Carl Hayden Visitor Center) on Hwy 89. Parking is available at the trailhead is off of Hwy 89. Look for a small white sign off the highway advertising the guided hike.
5. Explore Glen Canyon Dam
One of the many skipped tourist attractions here is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Sitting atop the Glen Canyon Dam with expansive views over the dam below and interesting interactive displays inside, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center is a beautiful place to start your explorations. Spend time to explore the visitor center and speak with the staff about what options you have for getting the most out of your visit to the area.
For a hands on look at the dam that is operated here, sign up for the 45 min tours occurring several times a day. Tours are only $5 and well worth the time. You will walk across the dam wall and venture into the factory below.
If you have kids with you, don’t forget to pick up your Junior Park Ranger booklet for the opportunity to get two badges – one for Glen Canyon and one for Rainbow Bridge (even if you didn’t visit it). The Carl Hayden Visitor Center is a great mid-day activity during the sweltering summer months. In the summer months (until end of Sept), rangers are on hand at the center with fun activities for children between 2-4pm daily.
6. Discover Dinosaurs at the Dinosaur Project
Technically this is not in Page or even in Arizona. It’s about 15 miles away from Page, across the border in Utah. The Big Water Visitor Center for Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument is another great activity for the middle of the day when it’s super hot (or on your way to/from Zion National Park or Kanab). The Dinosaur project at the center provides a fun outing for kids (and adults) to learn more about dinosaur fossils found in the area. Grand Staircase-Escalante does not have a Junior Ranger badge program. Instead kids can earn a Junior Scientist badge which is large, gold and according to our kids pretty awesome.
If heat is not a factor during your visit, there are a few hikes you can start from the center that lead to fossils still in the ground. Ask the rangers inside the center for more information on how to find these.
7. Eat & Watch a Live Show at Into the Grand
Into the Grand is a multi-cultural venue serving dinner (and dessert) as well as showcasing a traditional form of Native American dance. The Navajo performers entertain and educate guests on Navajo people and culture. Into the Grand is a family run establishment with the owners taking time to answer your questions and make sure you have a great time. Enjoy a night out riveted by Navajo dance while munching on delicious traditional food.
In addition to the 7 items listed above, there are even more things to do in the area that we didn’t get to experience. One of these is sunset at Studhorse Point. I give this one to you as a bonus with the hopes that you will check it out and report back to me!
Bonus: Sunset at Studhorse Point
A few miles from Page is one of the most extraordinary places, Vermillion-Cliffs Wilderness. Unfortunately most visitors don’t get to see this area as the main sight is available only by (very) limited permit. It’s called The Wave and I am sure you have seen photos of it. For those of us not lucky enough to get a permit, a quick view into some of the amazingness of this area can be seen at sunset at Studhorse Point.
The hoodos of Studhorse point are easily accessible even though they sit a bit below the rim of the cliff. To get here, you will need to go on an adventure. If there has been rain recently, check in with the visitor center at Glen Canyon Dam for more information on the road quality. Click here for a map. The turn off is 0.7 miles east of Greenehaven Drive off Highway 89. Follow the map closely as there are many small roads in the area. If you make it (or have been), let me know how it is.
Rather than just a stop off point, Page makes a great base for families (or anyone) to explore the region at a leisurely pace. If you are in a group, considering renting a house with a pool to keep cool during the hot summer days. Whatever you choose, take the time to explore this beautiful corner of Arizona.
With Page, Arizona only a few miles away from the border of Utah and sitting so close to Navajo Nation, your phone (nor you) will ever have any idea what time it really is! Arizona does not observe Day Light Savings time, however both Utah and Navajo Nation do, which can make it very confusing when your mobile phone bounces between satellites.
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