I recently heard a podcast about the 3-Day Effect, an idea that spending three days in nature can make us happier, healthier and more creative. It seems like common sense that with all of the craziness that is life, a change of scenery can do wonders for – take your pick – the mind, body and/or soul. And while there may be tons of cliches about fresh air and clearing your head and the restorative nature of the outdoors, there’s also a lot of truth to be found. When life throws you lemons, make limoncello. And when the going gets tough, the tough get outside, right?
I say this because I found it to be especially true with my trip to Page, Arizona, which could not have come at a better time. Poetry and psychology aside, this little town of 7,000 near the border of Arizona and Utah, which began as a housing camp for workers building the Glen Canyon Dam, boasts more than enough scenery to fill at least three days. It’s a perfectly situated home base with access to both the recreational area surrounding Lake Powell and other natural wonders that are just waiting to be explored. If you’re planning a trip to Page, here are just a few hikes in the area to help you get your nature fix.
One of the most popular draws in Page is Antelope Canyon. This slot canyon is located on the Navajo Nation and is divided into two sections. Upper Antelope Canyon is shaped like an “A” with a wider opening at the bottom and more narrow opening at the top, whereas Lower Antelope Canyon is shaped like a “V” so is much narrower to walk through with some steep staircases. Both are breathtakingly gorgeous, with layers of swirling orange sandstone formed by wind and water and illuminated by light beams depending on the time of the day. To Navajos, entering Antelope Canyon is a sacred experience therefore it is only accessible via a Navajo-led guided tour. We chose Lower Antelope Canyon for our visit in February and booked through Dixie’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours and could not have had a better experience. You can view a full list of tour operators here and read more about my experience in my post Discovering Antelope Canyon.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Lower Antelope Canyon
Distance: Approximately 1.1 mile round trip
Location: 36.903371, -111.413348
How to get there: From Page head south on Coppermine Road to AZ 98 and make a left onto Antelope Point Road towards the parking lot for Dixie’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours.
Picture this, a section of the Colorado River that wraps around a large rock resembling a horseshoe, the appropriately named Horseshoe Bend has become a bit of a photo op in recent years. Located 10 minutes from Page, it’s an easy 10 to 15-minute walk along a gravel path to the viewpoint, which offers dramatic views of the Instagram-famous spot. Beyond the main viewpoint, which can be quite busy, you should also explore other areas on either side for alternate views of Horseshoe Bend and the area’s interesting swirls and sheets of rock around the surrounding ledge. Note that a small entrance fee is charged to enter and you’ll experience differing lighting depending on the time of day, often with crowds around sunrise and sunset.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Horseshoe Bend Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Location: 36.876864, -111.502874
How to get there: From Page head south on US 89 and look for the turn to the Horseshoe Bend parking lot on your right.
Located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (pass required), Spencer Trail is a short but strenuous 4.4-mile hike near Lee’s Ferry landing, which was established in the 1870s as one of the only spots a person or wagon could cross the river. The trail is named after failed gold miner Charles H. Spencer and was built in 1910 as a rough mule path for hauling supplies to and from the top of the sheer. The hike begins at the end of the road near the 19th century homestead site with remnants of rusted mining equipment scattered around, and what makes it so challenging is its quick elevation gain of 1,500 feet with virtually no protection from the sun. The steep switchbacks are not for the faint of heart but offer incredible scenic views of the sparkling Colorado River as you climb up the rocky trail to the top (the last set of switchbacks in particular becomes more sandy) with the promise of an easier downhill journey on your way back to the bottom.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Spencer Trail
Distance: 4.4 miles round trip
Location: 36.866729, -111.583872
How to get there: From Page head south on US 89 for about 23 miles and turn right onto US 89A where you’ll continue north until you pass the Navajo Bridge before making a right onto Lee’s Ferry Road, which you’ll follow to the parking lot at the end near Lee’s Ferry boat launch.
Cathedral Wash Trail
In the same area of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the nearby Cathedral Wash Trail is a moderately difficult trail that requires both physical and mental focus. Cross under the road to the start of the trail, which almost immediately becomes a maze of problem solving as you make your way through the colorful pockmarked canyon. Like cutting through a slice of spongy layer cake, you’ll often find yourself wondering Should I go down or stay up?, at times scurrying down the face of cliffs or climbing up the side of the canyon to avoid huge drop offs and smaller pools of water. At one point in particular you’ll encounter a massive drop where the only way passed is either up or around (hint, skirt this area to the right). Listen for the roar of the Colorado River and look for the gigantic dinosaur bone-sized rocks that scatter the sandy trail as you get closer to the riverbed. The return went much faster for us since we knew the best ways to get up/down/around. This was arguably one of the most unique and fun trails I’ve ever hiked, and the scenery wasn’t bad either.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Cathedral Wash Trail
Distance: 3 miles round trip
Location: 36.834701, -111.638028
How to get there: From Page head south on US 89 for about 23 miles and turn right onto US 89A where you’ll continue north until you pass the Navajo Bridge before making a right onto Lee’s Ferry Road, which you’ll follow until you reach the parking pull out on the left.
Just over the state line in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Wiregrass Canyon is another beautiful trail that’s only a 35-minute drive from Page in Kanab, Utah. From the turn off at Big Water, follow the gravel road where you may see people on dirt bikes or dune buggies in the open space between the dramatic cliffs and hills scattered with fallen rocks so large that everything else seems to be in miniature. The first part of the trail is relatively flat but after about the first half mile you will encounter some steep drops, which would be manageable if they weren’t filled with water on the day of our hike. There’s an alternative path that goes up and over to the left (look for the cairns to help guide you) that allows you to skirt the deep parts of the canyon and connect back with the trail more gradually. The trail is roughly 6 miles round trip depending on how far you walk into the canyon before turning back and can be considered easy to moderate in difficulty with changing scenery as you travel along the sandy wash through narrow passages and some areas that require scrambling.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Wiregrass Canyon Trail
Distance: 6 miles round trip
Location: 37.077617, -111.589102
How to get there: From Page head north on US 89 (across the Arizona-Utah state line), making a right on N Ethan Allen at Big Water and then right on Smokey Mountain Road/NP 230 until you see parking area on right.
Page Rim Trail
This nearly 10-mile trail encircles the city of Page and is peaceful and quiet and great for walking, running and even biking. With various access points like Library and North Lake Powell Boulevard, the Rim Trail offers easy access to scenery for both locals and visitors alike and is best enjoyed in sections depending on what type of terrain you’re looking for. We hiked the trail on two separate occasions, the first was the northernmost section around Potato Hill overlooking Lake Powell where we walked along sheets of sandstone that resembled thin slices of scalloped potatoes cascading toward the edge of the rim. Another day we hiked along the eastern section of mesa near the airport, which offers wide open views of our expansive surroundings.
Where I Hiked
Trail: Page Rim Trail
Distance: 9.8 mile loop
Location: Multiple trailheads around the city of Page
How to get there: Various access points including North Lake Powell Boulevard, Page Library, Airport and Lake View trailheads.
ON THE MAP