Lake Powell Houseboat Adventure: 10 Lessons Learned

*This post contains an affiliate link to a product I used.

Lake Powell is a massive reservoir on the Utah/Arizona border.  There aren’t many roads in this sparsely populated desert region, so this man-made lake makes the perfect highway to explore canyon country! There is no better way to experience the surreal beauty of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area than a Lake Powell houseboat vacation!Lake Powell Houseboat

Lake Powell is HUGE! It stretches 186 miles in length and has approximately 1960 miles of shoreline! Lake Powell was formed by the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1966 and took 17 years to fill!

If you boat regularly on Lake Powell, then you may know some or all of these things. However, as this was our first Lake Powell houseboat adventure, we learned several lessons:

  1. Communication is difficult. During much of our trip, we had no means of communication. Cell phone signal was extremely spotty (at best). The houseboat had a marine radio, but it did not work everywhere (including places we anchored overnight).  I had anticipated this issue and rented a satellite phone for this trip in case of emergency.

    Lake Powell Houseboat
    I tested satellite phone in an area where we had no other form of communication. It worked.
  2. A paper map is a MUST! Because of the issues mentioned in #1, don’t leave the marina without a detailed paper map! We used the waterproof and tear resistant map by National Geographic. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Utah / Arizona, USA (Trails Illustrated Map 213) Also, keep in mind that when your down in the lake, those rocks will all start to look alike. It is a good idea to keep up with where you are on the paper map as you move along through the lake.

    Lake Powell Houseboat Map
    National Geographic Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Map
  3. The wind can be fierce. Pay close attention to the weather before you leave. Unfortunately, a lake wind advisory was issued after we left the marina, and we had no knowledge of it until we returned. In retrospect, we should have found a place to anchor as soon as we noticed the winds picking up.

    Lake Powell Houseboat-5 trip
    The Lake Powell Wind
  4. It was easier to anchor in the morning.  During our visit, we found the winds to be calmer in the morning, and thus, it was easier to anchor the boat at that time of day. After night one, we moved the boat first thing and anchored before noon. Again, check the weather and with the locals at the time of your trip.

    Lake Powell Houseboat
    Moving the Houseboat in the Morning
  5. Lake Powell has lots of underwater obstacles. I recommend talking with someone with recent experience on the lake to warn you of those areas that are extra rocky. Make notes on that paper map you’re bringing with you.Lake Powell Rock Formations
  6. Anchoring takes physical strength. Keep in mind that you’ll have to dig 2 or more fairly deep holes to anchor the houseboat securely. Make sure at least one or two people in your party have the strength to do this. This would be a significant problem for someone with a mechanical injury.

    Lake Powell Houseboat Anchor
    The Houseboat Anchor
  7. Seriously consider the extra insurance. Lake Powell is in a canyon filled with those same types of monoliths and rock formations you see all over this area. But, these are under water and difficult to see. Another potential hazard in narrow channels is the wind. It can blow your boat against the rock. (This happened to us, fortunately, the damage was minimal.)  It pays to be careful and get the extra insurance.Lake Powell Houseboat
  8. Check and recheck supplies.  It is important to have all the needed supplies before launch. You do not want to have to go back to get something.  It is too far and just not practical.

    Lake Powell the cut trips
    Passing Through the Cut
  9. It took us longer to get back to the marina than expected.  We were concerned that we’d be late for drop off time.  There are 2 reasons for this: houseboats are slow (we knew this) and Lake Powell is humongous (we knew but couldn’t fully appreciate this). We made it just under the wire!Lake Powell Houseboat Marina
  10. It is completely amazing.  There is absolutely nothing else like a Lake Powell houseboat adventure. This was such a completely awesome experience that I can’t even begin to describe it adequately.

    Lake Powell Houseboat
    The Night Sky over Lake Powell

A Lake Powell houseboat trip was a bucket list experience for us. It exceeded all expectations. I’d love to return and stay longer, of course!  We did learn some lessons from this adventure, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Lake Powell is nothing short of magical!Lake Powell Houseboat

Page, Arizona sits on the shores of Lake Powell. Check out this other information:  Lake Powell Bathtub RingHorseshoe Bend: 5 Things to Know BEFORE You GoGlen Canyon Dam TourYou CAN Tour Antelope Canyon, and Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon.

Upper Antelope Canyon or Lower Antelope Canyon?

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are part of the same canyon system.  Since Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Tribal Lands, you must have a Navajo guide to tour either portion.  The entrances are basically right across the street from each other. Lower Antelope Canyon is on the north side of highway 222 and Upper Antelope Canyon is on the south. While Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are quite similar, there are some logistical differences which might influence your choice if you only have time to take one tour.

Lower Antelope Canyon

We selected Ken’s Tours for Lower Antelope Canyon.  Ken’s Tours has a facility at the entrance to the trail head.  We were able to park our car at the facility where there are indoor and outdoor areas to relax while waiting for your tour to depart.

Our tour began with a short hike to the mouth of the canyon.  It is amazing that there is such a spectacular canyon below, but you basically can’t see it from above.  At the entrance, you will descend a series of metal staircases anchored to the wall of the canyon.  They are quite stable but are somewhat narrow and steep.  People with mobility issues might have trouble with Lower Antelope Canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon
View from the top of Lower Antelope Canyon

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Stairway to Lower Antelope Canyon
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The Exit of Lower Antelope Canyon

Another important consideration is to be prepared to pay your fees in cash.  While both of our tours were at a similar time and in similar weather conditions, Lower Antelope Canyon seemed to have more light which was more helpful for taking pictures.

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Lower Antelope Canyon
Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon requires a ride in a tour company vehicle to reach the entrance.  There is a parking to the south from Highway 222. Alternatively, you can take a tour that leaves from Page.  We chose Antelope Canyon Slot Tours by Chief Tsosie which left from Page. As we waited for our vehicle to depart, we were entertained by a traditional Navajo dance.  Once the tour vehicle leaves the road main road, the ride to the canyon entrance is a bit bumpy and dusty.  However, the vehicle takes you right up to the entrance.  There are no stairs and no climbing is required.  Upper Antelope Canyon is an out and back journey through the canyon.

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Navajo Performer
Navajo Performer

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Dirt Road to Upper Antelope Canyon
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Entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon

We enjoyed touring both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons and were glad that we had time to include both on our itinerary.  However, if you only have time for one, don’t despair.  Upper and Lower Canyon are both equally spectacular!

Want to learn more about touring Antelope Canyon?  Check out my previous article You CAN Tour Antelope Canyon!

You CAN Tour Antelope Canyon!

Antelope Canyon is located near Page, Arizona and Lake Powell in the north central portion of the state.  This iconic canyon is a photographers dream with ribbons of sandstone curving in many directions and light streaming in magically from above.  I’d seen many eye-catching photos of this amazing canyon and knew I’d LOVE to see it in person.   Initially, I assumed that this hidden wonder was only accessible to those adventurers who are willing to don special climbing gear.

When planning our spring vacation to the Page, Arizona, I was thrilled to discover that I could actually tour the world’s most famous slot canyon without wearing a helmet or dangling from a rope!  Talk about excitement!

Taking pictures in Antelope Canyon.
I’m on cloud 9 here in Antelope Canyon!

Approximately 5 miles from Page, AZ, Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Tribal Lands.  Therefore, you are not allowed to go through the canyon on your own.  You must be accompanied by a licensed Navajo guide.

There are two sections of Antelope Canyon that you can tour:  Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Which did I choose?  Why, both of course!  Several Navajo tour companies offer the experience, so I used travel review sites to select companies for each tour. Most tour companies offer a general tour and a photography tour.  We selected the general tour – no tripods were allowed on this tour.  (The rules on the photography tour stated that family cannot participate along with the photographer.)

Upper Antelope Slot Canyon

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are completely amazing and share many similarities.  However, there are distinct differences which might influence your choice if you only have time to see one.  In my next post, I’ll share our experiences touring both sections of the canyon.

Horseshoe Bend in Arizona: 5 Things to Know BEFORE You Go

Horseshoe Bend is located near Page, Arizona and is about 3 miles south of town on Hwy 89. This magnificent bend in the Colorado River sits below Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. It is truly a sight to behold!View of the Colorado River from Horseshoe Bend

We visited this area during a spring break vacation to Lake Powell and Page. While I’d done some reading before our trip, here are 5 things I wish I had known beforehand.

  1. It’s Popular: Of all the places we visited in and around Page, AZ, Horseshoe Bend was the most crowded. Why is it so popular? See #2. There is a fairly sizable parking area, but we still had to park out by the highway.
  2. It’s Amazing. I’m sure by now you’ve seen tons of photos of Horseshoe Bend, and of course, this is one of those places where photos don’t do it justice. I think what struck me most was it’s expansiveness. You can take in unobstructed views from several vantage points. It is not just an overlook!
  3. It’s a Hike. I was a bit surprised how much of a hike it was to get to the great views. We went at the end of the day, so perhaps it would have seemed more leisurely if I hadn’t been tired from our day-o-fun. The distance is longer than I expected, and it wasn’t what I would call flat. Don’t get me wrong, the hike isn’t hard… but it certainly isn’t a place you’d want to take a stroller!
  4. Time of Day Makes a Difference. If you want to capture a more iconic image of Horseshoe Bend, you might want to pay attention to the time of day you visit. We visited in the late afternoon. I was not thrilled about where the sun was in relation to the view of the bend, so I wasn’t very happy with the photos.
  5. There is NO Barrier: As I mentioned, it is expansive.  You can walk along for quite a ways looking at the bend from various angles. And, at no point is there any kind of railing or barrier. There are many big drop offs! It have bit of a fear of heights, so I stayed back. However, my kiddo was making me nervous bounding around. If I’d realized what it was going to be like, we’d have had a conversation in the car about sticking close to mom and and dad!

    Horseshoe Bend in Arizona
    Don’t get too close to the edge! There is a serious drop off here at Horseshoe Bend!

All in all, Horseshoe Bend is a don’t miss this activity if you are near Page, Arizona. I’d suggest taking in this iconic view in the morning when you are fresh and the sun is in a more favorable position. Whenever you go, be prepared to enjoy sweeping views unlike anywhere else!

There are so many amazing things to do near Page, Arizona!  Check out this information when planning your next trip:

7 Secrets to Stretch Your Vacation Budget Without Sacrificing Fun!

For most of us, considering the budget is just part of going on vacation.  And while it would be nice to travel and not think about the costs, that isn’t the reality for most of us.  I hold out hope that maybe someday…

As we all wait patiently for our ship to come in, consider these 7 secrets to stretch the travel budget without sacrificing any of the fun:

  1. Pack a Picnic:  Packing a picnic is my favorite way to stretch the budget.  Why? Because it is fun!  We started doing this several years ago when traveling with a toddler.  We found it was easier and much more enjoyable to have breakfast or lunch outside somewhere rather than in a crowded restaurant.  Saving money was an unplanned bonus! We’ve continued to pack picnics because it gives us more time in our destination – which is frequently a National or State Park.  But, this tip works in a city as well.  It was a blast eating breakfast in front of the Bean in Chicago!

    A Picnic by the Bean in Chicago
    A picnic by the Bean in Chicago made for a perfect breakfast experience!
  2. Embrace the Roadtrip:  It is a no-brainer that driving is often significantly cheaper than flying.  Our trips are usually to destinations where we’d have to rent a car anyway.  So, when we drive instead of fly, we avoid the cost of airfare AND rental car! This savings means we can either travel more or stay gone longer! WIN!  And, the drive itself can be fun!  Just view the roadtrip as part of your vacation!The road trip
  3. Be Flexible: While I love the idea of traveling during the shoulder season or during the school year, that just doesn’t work for our family at this time.  Even with the traditional school schedule, you can visit places during their less busy time – during that destination’s off season.  That means doing things like going to a ski resort in the summer!

    Ski Lift in Big Sky Montana
    Riding the ski lift in Big Sky, Montana was only 1 of the many fun summer activities!
  4. Consider Similar Destinations:  The popular spots are typically popular for a reason. But sometimes, a nearby but lesser known destination can offer a very similar experience without all the people or the cost! We used this strategy on our recent visit to Maine. Rather than spending a week in Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park), we spent a couple of days in Acadia and the rest of the time in another beautiful coastal town, Boothbay Harbor.  Guess what?  You can go whale watching, eat lobster, and sea kayak in both places, but the cost of lodging was less in Boothbay!  As a bonus, there was less traffic!

    Lighthouse in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
    Boothbay Harbor, Maine had all the elements of a coastal town in Maine without the traffic associated with a National Park in Bar Harbor.
  5. Select Budget Friendly Activities: National and State Parks offer many budget friendly vacation activities.  Enjoying outdoor activities like hiking or fishing costs very little or no money.  Some of the most fun we’ve had on vacation was doing things that didn’t cost a dime.  Even when we aren’t near a park, there are things to do that don’t cost much.  For example, hunting for sea glass in Maine was a blast. And, the free tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Ft. Worth was fantastic! Chances are that you’ll be able to find plenty of fun low or no cost activities wherever you go.

    Rocky Shoreline at Monterey Bay in California
    The shoreline in Monterey, California is a great place to kick back and enjoy the outdoors… for FREE!
  6. Watch Prices: Do you have a list of places you’d like to visit? We do, and I periodically glance at prices for those destinations.  That way, when a good deal comes along, I know it.  We have used this strategy in selecting our vacation destination for years.  And, it works!

    Lake Powell
    We found a great deal for a hotel in Page, AZ (Lake Powell).  It was high on the list, so we decided to go!
  7. Plan Ahead:  Planning your activities and meals before you leave not only helps you budget, but also keeps you from wasting time with the what-do-we-do-next conversation.  With a little prep work, you can not only avoid wasting time, you have a better chance of keeping your group happy with your meal choices.  To top it all off, when you plan your activities ahead of time, you can use your budget more strategically.

    Hamburger at Crave in Colorado Springs
    During pre-trip Internet research, I discovered Crave, a Colorado based restaurant in Colorado Springs.  I knew this hamburger restaurant would be a big hit with my family.  It was TASTY! (and now I’m just hungry)

Travel can be expensive.  But, I never have regretted spending money on these vacation experiences.  Using these strategies, it is  possible to plan an awesome trip without breaking the bank!

5 Unique Spring Break Trip Ideas

Looking for somewhere different to go on spring break?  Consider someplace other than your typical beach or ski trip.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE both the beach and the mountains.  But, sometimes it is fun to experience something new.  Here are 5 ideas that are a bit outside the box but won’t break the bank.

  1. Zion National Park:  Zion is nothing short of breathtaking and there are so many family-friendly hikes which are perfect for taking it all in.  As a cherry on top, the town of Springdale is right outside the park entrance and has restaurants to please even the foodie in your family along with amazing views in every direction.  From a weather standpoint, spring is the perfect time of year to visit Zion!
    Sunset at Zion National Park
    Zion National Park at Sunset

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  2. Chicago, IL:  While the windy city may still be a little chilly in spring, there are so many amazing museums in Chicago where you can stay warm and occupied.  You’ll have such a great time inside, you might not even miss that bike ride along Lake Michigan.  While Chicago can be an expensive city to visit, there are various options for passes offering admission into these museums, so your entertainment doesn’t have to break the bank.
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    U Boat at the Museum of Science and Industry
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    The Shedd Aquarium
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    The Field Museum

    dinosaur at the Field Museum
    Sue the T Rex at the Field Museum
  3. Buffalo National River:  The Buffalo National River is located in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.  The mild Arkansas weather means spring is a great time to enjoy the outdoor fun!  The Buffalo River is perfect for family floats, and you can explore beautiful hiking trails and caves in the area.  Local outfitters like Buffalo River Outfitters keep close watch on river conditions and can advise you on which section of the river is best for floating during the time of your visit.
    Buffalo National River
    Buffalo National River

    Hiking Trail overlooking the the Buffalo National River
    Buffalo National River Hiking Trail
  4. Savannah, Georgia: Savannah is a beautiful and historic town located near the coast and on the Savannah River.  The city’s architecture and history combine to make it a unique and scenic destination.  The river is lined with shops and restaurants and the city is full of inviting squares and parks.  While you’re there, don’t miss Fort Pulaski – a civil war era fort in remarkable condition.  savannah-trip-3-tripssavannah-trip-2-trips
    Fort Pulaski National Monument
    Fort Pulaski National Monument was struck with canon balls.

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  5. Page, Arizona:  Page is a little town in Northern Arizona which makes a great base for exploring Lake Powell and the surrounding area.  Lake Powell is a huge man-made lake that stretches across the Utah/Arizona border.  Renting a boat is easy and exploring a canyon by lake is certainly unique. (Check out Lake Powell Houseboat Adventure: 10 Lessons Learned) Beyond the lake, there is so much to do in this area:  tour Antelope Canyon, check out Glen Canyon Dam, hike in the Grand Staircase, and gaze at the iconic Horseshoe Bend.
    View of Lake Powell
    Lake Powell
    Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona
    Lower Antelope Canyon
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    Horseshoe Bend

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    The Colorado River

 

Spring break is a great time to take a trip.  Many wonderful destinations have great weather this time of year, so get out there and try something new!

4 Corners: 4 Different Experiences

If you want to have a variety of experiences on your next vacation, head to Four Corners area. The Four Corners, as it is often called, is the only spot where you can stand in 4 states (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico) at the same time. In my book, that’s pretty cool!

After standing in 4 states, what’s next? Plenty. In fact, there is so much to see and do in this region that it would be impossible to do it all in a week long vacation.  So don’t wear yourself out trying.  Instead, just know that you’re going to want to go back!

Using Cortez, Colorado as a home base, here are 4 experiences each with its own flavor.

  1. Hovenweep National Monument  – About an hour from Cortez, Hovenweep includes groups of structures built over 800 years ago by the ancestral Puebloans. The visitor center is located by the most notable group of referred to as the Square Tower Unit.  A nice hiking trail meanders along a small canyon with structures dotting the rim.  It seems quite solitary and it is hard to envision as many as 2500 people living in these communities.hovenweep-castle-trip

    Hovenweep National Monument
    Hovenweep National Monument
  2. Mesa Verde National Park – Visiting Mesa Verde’s dwellings, also constructed by the ancestral Puebloans, is a very different experience than visiting Hovenweep.  This area, located only 15 minutes from Cortez, is quite vast with expansive scenic vistas and over 600 cliff dwellings.  These  structures are quite sophisticated in their design and location within the cliffs.  You might even see some wildlife (mule deer, foxes, horses, etc.). I recommend taking one of the ranger led tours of the sites (for an extra fee) to get an up close and personal view, but be prepared for some climbing! Practically speaking, the fact that the inhabitants scaled these cliffs on a daily basis carrying out their activities is simply amazing!mesa-verde-3-trip

    Mesa Verde National Park cliff dwellings
    Mesa Verde National Park
  3. San Juan National Forest – The San Juan National Forest is huge – over 1.8 million acres! This national forest offers a wealth of outdoor recreational activities including hiking, fishing, climbing, horseback riding, and more.  A quick 20 minute drive from Cortez thru Dolores will yield beautiful mountain scenery.  If you are traveling with children, be sure to make time for the Dolores playground – it is probably one of the most amazing playgrounds I’ve seen!san-juan-national-forest-2-trip

    San Juan National Forest
    San Juan National Forest
  4. Monument ValleyMonument Valley is one of those places that you must visit intentionally as it is a bit out there, geographically speaking.  (Consider the fact that the nearest Walmart is 2 hours away!)  From Cortez, you can reach Monument Valley in about 2 hour and 15 minutes.  And trust me, it is well worth it!  If you have ever seen a western, then you’ve likely seen Monument Valley.  It is probably the most iconic location in the Wild West and as such, it attracts a lot of international visitors!  Monument Valley is on Navajo Tribal Lands, so you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide.  Plan ahead, and use a site like TripAdvisor to book your tour.monument-valley-2-trip

    Monument Valley
    Monument Valley

The 4 Corners is a culturally rich and beautiful area with so much to see and do.  When you post your photos, your friends will wonder just how far you traveled on one vacation!  The good news is that you can see so many different sites without changing hotels!