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In 1963, a dam was built along the Colorado River in Arizona, flooding the canyons to create a reservoir for the Southwest. Travelers have adopted it for less practical purposes. Today, the surreal landscape — 186 miles of clear water snaking through sandstone rock formations — is a destination for houseboating, kayaking, paddleboarding, as well as more extreme sports (look out for flyboarders shooting above the lake). Despite the area’s popularity, Lake Powell is also a place to find solitude, its narrow side channels giving you access to sandy beaches and canyons that aren’t easily reached by land.
Extending from northern Arizona to southern Utah, Lake Powell is in a fairly isolated pocket of the Southwest. The closest airport is Page Municipal Airport (PGA) in Page, Arizona, which serves flights from Phoenix and Las Vegas. Rent a car in Page to reach Lake Powell, a little over 30 miles away. The southern end of the reservoir is a four- to five-hour drive from either Phoenix or Las Vegas.
The peak season in Lake Powell runs from April all the way through October. In spring, the average highs climb from the 60s Fahrenheit in March to the 80s in May. In summer, the water warms up to a perfect swimming temperature, and 90-degree days are common from June to early September. Pack a hat and plenty of sunscreen to protect you from the strong rays, and a light jacket for the cool nights. Fall temperatures dip from the 70s down to the 50s, and winter is chilly (around 40-50 degrees) but also brings fewer crowds and more tranquility.
This slot canyon is a Southwest icon, its undulating sandstone walls the stuff of screensavers and magazine covers. You can access quieter parts of the canyon by boat and a short hike from Lake Powell. To see the highly photogenic upper canyon (aka the Corkscrew), drive to the entry near Page, Arizona. Because the canyon is on Navajo Nation land, you must be accompanied on your walk by an authorized guide. Make reservations in advance for the Corkscrew.
Getting to this 235-foot-long stone arch — the largest natural bridge on earth and a sacred site to several Native American nations — used to require a rough, multi-day hike. The formation of Lake Powell made it possible to cruise right over to it. You can take your own boat or a tour to the docking location, which fluctuates with the water levels, and walk one to two miles along an easy trail to reach the bridge.
The most leisurely way to explore and soak in the lake, houseboats are easy to pilot, even for beginners. At Bullfrog Marina, Antelope Point Marina, and Wahweap Marina, you can also rent kayaks, jet skis, paddleboards, or water toys like flyboarding gear (which propels you up to 45 feet above the water). The large, open channels of the lake are popular for water sports, but it’s worth venturing into the side passages, which are often better protected from the wind; just be aware that they can narrow dramatically.