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Lake Powell is a popular destination for people all over the world. It is known for its high-clear blue water, gorgeous rock formations, and family-friendly activities. Whether you are looking to enjoy your time on the lake or explore what the area has to offer, this definitive guide will help you make Lake Powell an unforgettable vacation spot!
Whether you’re heading down for a quick weekend trip, or plan to be there a few weeks, Lake Powell has something for everyone!
Best Time of Year to Visit Lake Powell
The best time depends on what activities you’d like to enjoy! From May through September, the area is full of activity with waterskiing, wakeboarding, fishing charters, boat tours, and much more.
The later you visit Lake Powell in the summer, the warmer the water gets. My personal favorite time to visit Lake Powell is during September when the weather is warm (but not scorching hot) and the water is still warm as well.
Lake Powell often gets storms during the month of July, so if you go then, plan on short afternoon storms with high winds and rain (a Lake Powell microburst).
If seeing wildlife, or hiking is high up on your list then January through April is a great time to visit. The weather is much cooler in the winter and the water is cold so winter is not ideal for any boating activities at Lake Powell
What to Pack For Lake Powell
While the list of things to pack for Lake Powell could end up being MASSIVE, here are a few essentials that everyone needs to bring:
Map Of The Lake: Lake Powell is HUGE and it’s so easy to get lost. Bring this laminated map with you to help you navigate the lake (note: the marina shops are often sold out of these so buy one in advance)
Lake Powell Guide Book: I cannot recommend this Lake Powell Guide Book enough. The author is the definitive expert on Utah desert exploration and this book will give you detailed information on all the hikes, ruins, camping areas, and places to explore in Lake Powell. We always take it with us and refer to is several times a day on each trip.
Lifejackets: Everyone needs a life jacket at Lake Powell, but kids under 12 are require to have theirs on at all time while on a boat, so they will be wearing theirs A LOT. We recommend this kids life jacket because it’s comfortable and soft for kids to wear for most of the day.
Sunscreen: We sunburn BAD in our family (hello, red hair and freckles), and this is the best sunscreen we’ve found. When our kids wear this sunscreen, I typically only reapply it twice during the day instead of hourly with most other sunscreens.
Games: This game and this game are our family favorites for playing at the beach. Both are great for all ages and even work with younger kids.
Music: Not all boats (especially rentals) have bluetooth audio inputs, so take this to plug into the cigarette lighter and listen to your music. It’s cheap and will make your trip SO MUCH MORE FUN!
If you’re planning to visit other sites in the area, make sure to check out our Southern Utah Packing list.
Best Way To See Lake Powell
The best way to experience Lake Powell is by boat. The lake is 185 miles long and has almost 2,000 miles of shoreline. While you can get a small glimpse of what Lake Powell is like from shore, to really experience how amazing it is, you need to explore it by boat.
Houseboating Lake Powell
If you want the best way to see Lake Powell, then there is no substitution for a Lake Powell houseboat trip. Houseboats provide amazing amenities, but allow you to get off the beaten path and enjoy some of the more remote areas of Lake Powell as well. If you’ve never been on a houseboat, imagine it being an RV for the water. Inside you’ll find a kitchen, beds, bathroom, and a few places to hang out and sit. You can find more basic houseboat rentals from the Lake Powell marinas, or if you are looking for a higher end houseboat rental with luxury amenities, you can find those from other online retailers. Houseboat rentals can often sell out early, so plan on booking far in advance or visiting during an off-peak time at Lake Powell.
When you take a houseboat to Lake Powell you will drive it anywhere on the lake that you want and then park it on shore for the night to camp and anchor it in one place. Houseboats can be difficult to maneuver and move slowly at approximately 8 miles per hour, so most people drive their houseboat to their preferred location on the first day and set up a base camp there and stay in one location for most of their trip. From your houseboat basecamp, you can explore other areas of Lake Powell by motorboat.
Houseboats at Lake Powell can accommodate a large group, so to make the trip more fun, go with a couple of other families and share the houseboat together. Even if your houseboat only sleeps 12, you can often accommodate much larger groups than that by having some people sleep on the roof on air mattresses or by bringing tents to have a few people sleep on shore.
Kayaking Lake Powell
Kayaking Lake Powell can be a great way to explore small sections of the lake and is best done in addition to a motor boat to take you to remote areas. Lake Powell is primarily used by motor boats and the main channel of the lake can get very large waves making kayaking difficult. If you want to embark on a longer kayak trip on Lake Powell, try and go in the spring or late fall when the crowds die down and boat traffic is less. If you just want to do a little bit of kayaking, consider getting some kid sized kayaks to take on your houseboat with you.
Stand Up Paddleboarding Lake Powell
Very similar to kayaking, SUP at Lake Powell is a great way to see small sections of the lake. We love taking a SUP on our larger motorboat or houseboat and then exploring small side canyons and coves on a paddleboard at Lake Powell. If you only have a motor boat, I recommend taking an inflatable SUP since they’re easier to transport.
Motor Boats At Lake Powell
I’ve been to Lake Powell at least 10 times, and there’s really no way to truly explore and enjoy Lake Powell without some sort of motorized boat. A good solid ski boat is your best option, as Lake Powell is one of the best places in the world for waterskiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing, and tubing because of it’s open spaces, easy access to secluded waters, and warm water temperatures.
Motor boats can be rented from marinas at Lake Powell or can be rented off site. In our experience, the motor boats that you can rent from the Lake Powell marinas are all very well used and also do not have very powerful engines, but can still pull a skier up, and are the best budget option that you can find. If you are looking for a nicer or more powerful motor boat for Lake Powell, plan on renting one off site.
Jet Skis Rentals at Lake Powell + affordable rental options
Jet skis are our favorite rental extra to get when we come to Lake Powell. Growing up, we always owned jet skis that we would bring to Lake Powell, so now with our own family, we rent jet skis for every family Lake Powell trip. To rent jet skis from the Lake Powell Marina, you will pay at least $300/day and most other private rentals will cost you at least that much with jet ski rentals costing up to $1000/day.
After lots of research, we’ve found that the most affordable jet ski rental for Lake Powell is at Uintah Recreation in Heber City Utah where you can rent a personal watercraft for Lake Powell for as cheap as $160/day. While you still have to drive the jet skis down to Lake Powell, if you are coming from the Wasatch Front area, you can save a lot of money by renting here. We’ve rented here several times and have been incredibly impressed with the quality of their boats and the service they provide.
Waterskiing at Lake Powell
Waterskiing at Lake Powell is also a great option for those looking for something to do. Waterskiing Lake Powell give you access to a massive lake that gives great opportunities to waterskiing on glass (very smooth water). Additionally, Lake Powell is a great place to learn to waterski because the warm water temperatures make it easier to learn (it usually takes many tries to get up the first few times, so you could easily be spending a large amount of time in the water at Lake Powell.
Camping at Lake Powell
Since Lake Powell is an area that’s best explored as you get away from the marinas, then plan on either staying in a houseboat or camping on your own.
If you are planning on camping at the beach at Lake Powell, you are required to carry your own portable toilet and will also need to bring in all your own water.
If you want to camp at the marina areas, head here for a list of all Lake Powell campgrounds operated by the national parks service.
Best Sites To See At Lake Powell
Take in views from above along one of the many scenic overlooks as well as sites below water level and explore ancient dwellings that date back over 1200 years ago. If you’re ready to explore the desert, then Lake Powell has something amazing for you.
Lost Eden Canyon Lake Powell
Lost Eden is a small wakeless canyon that you can drive your boats up, just south of Halls Crossing Marina. We love going here because it’s really calm (it would be the perfect place to kayak or SUP at Lake Powell), because wakeless speeds are required, and it’s also stunningly beautiful. There are several sections of the canyon where the walls are more closed in, making it feel like a Lake Powell slot canyon, and other areas where there are large open alcoves that are the perfect place to stop and swim in Lake Powell.
Iceberg Canyon Lake Powell
Six different chasms filled with deep orange color and greenery, extraordinary fishing, a natural dam that was created by The Colorado River pouring over a giant rock, as well as Anasazi ruins.
Annie’s Canyon Lake Powell
This is a great canyon to explore, but there are no places to camp here. The best place in Annie’s Canyon to hike at Lake Powell is from the end of the middle fork inlet.
Slick Rock Canyon Lake Powell
In this canyon at Lake Powell, you’ll find ruins and great opportunities for fishing, hiking and boating. Most of the hiker made trails in Slick Rock at Lake Powell are on the north side of the canyon. There are lots of sandy beaches at Slick Rock, making it a great place to camp.
Visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument from Lake Powell
One of the best things to do at Lake Powell is to visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument. It’s about a two and a half hour drive from Lake Powells Bullfrog Marina by boat and worth it. The national monument is in Northern Arizona, just south of the Utah border. It’s free to visit, and well worth the trip for spectacular views. There are daily tours that depart from both Bullfrog and Wahweap marinas that will take you to Rainbow Bridge, or you can visit on your own if you have your own boat.
Best Hikes At Lake Powell
Navajo Canyon – Mile Marker 9
Navajo Canyon is the longest side canyon on Lake Powell, which isn’t a river arm. It features several different hikes that go all the way up to 12 miles round-trip, with Choal falls being one of the highlights. The canyon starts around mile marker 10 and is easily accessed by kayak. Keep your eyes peeled for wild horses along the streambed!
Labyrinth Canyon (Northeast of Wahweap Marina)
Labyrinth Canyon crawls south from Padre Bay, but the bottom slot is large and sandy enough for people to touch both sides of the canyon when they extend their arms. The passage closes in at its end, producing a wonderful beach with sand that’s perfect for swimming.
Hole In The Rock Trail – Mile Marker 66
The Hole in the Rock Trail is a scenic 0.6 mile out-and-back hike that features views of Lake Powell. This trail has a lot of historic significance since this is the route used by the Mormon pioneers to lower their wagons into Glen Canyon to cross the Colorado river below. There is about a 1200 ft elevation gain with lots of loose rocks.
Aleson Arch – Mile Marker 78
Aleson Arch is 100 feet wide spanning from the outer side of Iceberg Cove to Rincon. Park your boat at the back of the cove and look for a break on the right cliffside that indicates a trail leading to Aleason Arch’s top. This is an easy hike that offers views like you’ve never seen before! One you get up on the mesa, follow the cairns up the path. If you’re looking to get good Lake Powell photos here, early morning will give you the best light.
Rainbow Bridge – Mile Marker 80
Rainbow Bridge is said to be the largest known natural bridge in the world, and it’s worth the effort to see. It is a breathtaking sight that inspires awe in most people who come across it for the first time. For years it was nearly impossible to reach it because it is so remote, but since Lake Powell was created, it can be easily accessed by boat.
You can take a private boat to see Rainbow bridge, or hop on a tour boat out of Wahweap or Bullfrog Marina. While there isn’t a lot of hiking to do here at Rainbow bridge, if the water is low, you make have to walk up to 1/2 mile to get to the Rainbow Bridge viewpoint.
Smith Fork – Mile Marker 106
Smith Fork is a stunning slot canyon at Lake Powell, north of Bullfrog Marina. It is amazing to boat through these narrow and winding canyon walls leading you to the slot canyon where you can start your hike. From the water’s edge you can hike into the slot, going as far as you feel comfortable.Hiking is fairly easy at the lower end and becomes more arduous as you proceed up canyon. If you want to hike the slot canyon, make sure to bring plenty of food and water with you.
If you don’t have easy boat access, you can drive jeep roads to the rim above the canyon, down climb into Smith fork and hike the slot canyon to the lake. Note; If you are not an experienced free climber, plan on bringing ropes and safety equipment with you.
Where to Eat Around Lake Powell
If you’re visiting Lake Powell from Bullfrog, you’ll likely be looking for a great place to eat on your way to or from the lake. Since you’re in such a remote area, there really are not many options, but there is one AMAZING grill that we stop at EVERY TIME. Stan’s is located in Hanksville, about an hour north of Bullfrog and is the best place to stop for a bite to eat as well as all your Lake Powell souvenirs (the Lake Powell gift shop merchandise here is fantastic). Make sure to try their chocolate malt!