After a very rainy drive from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, we arrived in Page, AZ ready to see some gorgeous sights and get back to camping. Luckily the rain eased up in the afternoon, though we were still worried about potential flooding that could cancel our Antelope Canyon tour. Here’s how we spent 2 days in Page, AZ, and tips for what to do in Page, AZ.
The best Antelope Canyon tour
Heavy rains can make slot canyons like Antelope Canyon very dangerous, so we were worried about our tour being cancelled. Luckily our tour company assured us that the rain stopped early enough the day we arrived that our tour for the next day was still on.
Most people visiting Page debate about taking a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon vs Lower Antelope Canyon. But my research told me either one would be packed with people. This is such a popular area, and I’ve heard that the tours rush you through, barely giving you time to enjoy where you are, and you’re constantly battling with everyone else to get photos.
It sounded awful. But we still wanted to see this famous slot canyon.
It turns out, there are other sections of Antelope Canyon, because it’s a huge system of slot canyons. So instead of taking one of the more popular tours to Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, we booked a tour to Antelope Canyon X.
With only one tour company running tours to this section, we didn’t have to deal with the crowds. It was just our group of about 15 or 20 people. We saw the photography tour run by the same company, but they started at the opposite end and we only saw them once in passing. The canyon never felt crowded, Andy and I never felt rushed, and everyone in the group had plenty of time to admire where we were and take photos.
We didn’t get to see the famous light beams. There’s apparently only a small window of opportunity for that to happen, and we weren’t there at the right time of year. But this would’ve been the case at Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon as well.
I’ve looked at my photos in comparison with other people’s photos from the popular canyons, and I really don’t think there’s much difference. Andy and I got to see the gorgeous wavy rock formations and the tall narrow walls that make it a slot canyon, and it didn’t bother us that we weren’t in the more famous section. I’m confident we enjoyed Canyon X much better since there were fewer people, and I think this is the best Antelope Canyon tour you can take. Check it out here.
Note: Absolutely no bags are allowed on the tour. Not even the tiny camera bag I have for my point and shoot. They provide water, so you don’t have to worry about that. Wear a hat and sunscreen, carry your camera, put your car keys and maybe a spare camera battery in your pocket, and you shouldn’t need anything else.
Seeing Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is another famous and often photographed area in Page, AZ. It’s a section of the Colorado River that has cut deep walls into the rock over time, and on the outskirts of Page, it has formed a dramatic horseshoe shape.
We drove out there in the morning before our Antelope Canyon X tour, which turned out to be the wrong time of day if you want a perfect photo. The sun was in the wrong place, casting shadows in awkward places. But it was still amazing to see, if you could ignore the herds of people.
No one ever seems to show you just how many other people are at Horseshoe Bend at the same time, but I can assure you, you won’t be getting that perfect pose in solitude. We were lucky to find a parking spot, and we scrambled to get going ahead of the big tour group a bus had unloaded as we arrived.
That said, the area at the edge where you want to be for photos is pretty big, and there’s lots of space to walk around and take pictures from different angles. You just have to be patient if there’s a specific shot you want and someone else is already there.
Leave yourself a good amount of time to see Horseshoe Bend. The parking lot is easy to spot from the road, but after you park, you have to hike a little ways to get there. Some parks are fairly steep, so bring plenty of water, wear a hat and sunglasses, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
***Update: When we visited Horseshoe Bend, it was free. But in early 2019, a new fee was implemented for the parking lot. Charges are now $10 per car or RV (it’s only $5 for a motorcycle but more more expensive for commercial vehicles) to park for your visit to Horseshoe Bend. The national park pass does not cover you here, and there’s nowhere else in the area to park. But really, $10 isn’t so bad.
Views of Lake Powell
In several places on our road trip, we stayed at campgrounds on national park property. But Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land, and it’s actually several miles out of town. While searching for camping near Antelope Canyon, I found a privately run campground on the banks of Lake Powell, technically inside the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
The views of Lake Powell were gorgeous! I had no idea before we arrived just how much I’d love this area. There were a few viewpoints along the road in between the pay station and the campground, plus the hotel connected to the campground sat right on the lake. The views alone are reason enough to stay here, but even if you stay in town, it’s worth driving a few miles to see Lake Powell.
Glen Canyon Dam Overlook
We still had a lot of day left after lunch and our Antelope Canyon tour, so we poked around on the map to see what else was around. Andy spotted the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook near town, a little south of the dam, so we drove over to check out out. While driving on Hwy 89, look for Scenic View Road, and turn for some gorgeous views and hardly any other people. The road makes a loop, so it’s really just a tiny detour off the main road.
The overlook gave us a fantastic view of the Glen Canyon Dam as well as views of the river. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Horseshoe Bend, but the colors of the water and the canyon walls formed by the river were still gorgeous and impressive. And bonus, almost no other people. I think we only saw 4 or 5 other people at all the lookout points here. Plus if you really don’t want to pay that $10 parking fee at Horseshoe Bend, this is a nice alternative.
Where to camp near Page, AZ
As I mentioned above, we found a great campground on the edge of Lake Powell, called Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas. It ended up being one of my favorite campgrounds of the road trip because the views were so gorgeous. I highly recommend it if you’re camping in Page, AZ.
Aside from the views, the bathrooms were clean and well-lit. There was even an additional sink area outside the bathroom hut where you could wash dishes, which was great for us since the pump sink attached to the back of our van was kind of annoying to use. The pay showers in the main building were decent and clean. There was a small store where you check in, but it was mostly stocked with snacks, so do your full grocery shopping in town.
The campground has various types of campsites, so make sure you choose the right kind. Tent only sites would not have worked for us since we had the campervan.
The same company also runs a resort hotel, so we hung out there to use the wifi, enjoy the views, and get some shelter from the sun. The hotel also had a restaurant.
15 minutes of terror
The storm that plowed through the Grand Canyon as we drove away from the park wasn’t quite done, despite having an entire day of sunny skies. As we finished up our dinner on our second night in Page, we started seeing lightning off in the distance. We chatted with a couple who was living in their campervan for several months with their two adorable dogs, then read for awhile from the comfort of our camping chairs, all while keeping an eye on the distant storm.
Sleeping on top of a big metal van seemed potentially dangerous. Sure, the tires grounded it, but would that protect us if we were on top of it? Things we should probably know, but we didn’t. We debated opening up the bed inside the van and sleeping in there again, but the one time we did it while camping in Yosemite was miserable. Eventually we decided it was probably safe and went to bed in the popup as usual.
Around 3:30AM, we were woken up by howling winds and loud crashing thunder. Rain pelted down on the roof of our popup, and the van shook back and forth. We considered climbing down and hiding out inside the van, but while we hesitated, the somewhat light rain turned into a threatening downpour. That kept us in place.
With no chance at sleeping through this storm, we sat up and tried to keep each other calm. It was a very scary thing to experience, though in hindsight, probably not a big deal.
As violently as the storm rolled in, it passed just as abruptly. We spent about 15 minutes wide awake hoping our van wouldn’t topple over or get struck by lightning. And then it was over. Luckily the adrenaline of fear can be quite exhausting, and we went back to sleep for a few more hours until the sun came up.
Why you should buy a national park pass
Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land, so a national park pass won’t help you, and Horseshoe Bend charges a separate fee. But if you plan on staying at the campgrounds we used, or even their hotel option, you’ll need to pay the entry fee for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
The normal entrance fee for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is $30. If that’s the only park you’re visiting on your trip, and if you don’t plan on going to more than two national parks all year, it’s fine to simply pay the fee. But if you’re going to multiple parks, it is well worth buying a national park pass.
The America the Beautiful pass costs $80 and is valid for one year. It covers admission for the pass holder plus anyone else in the car. While shopping at REI, the cashier mentioned they sell the national park passes. Many times throughout our trip, I was so happy we bought one through them because we didn’t have to worry about it anywhere along the way.
Aside from the storms, Andy and I really enjoyed our time in Page, AZ. The town itself wasn’t too impressive, but the natural attractions located in the Page area were really impressive. I’m so happy we did the Antelope Canyon X tour instead of the more popular Upper or Lower tours. Horseshoe Bend was cool to see, though I’m glad we also went to the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook. And staying at Lake Powell was the icing on the cake. There are so many things to do in Page, AZ, it’s no wonder this is such a popular vacation spot.
You might also enjoy:
- 2 Days in Kings Canyon National Park
- 2 Days in Yosemite National Park
- 2 Days in Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
- 1 Day in Death Valley National Park