Full service campground inside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
As we moved along our tour of Southwest Summer, we knew we were approaching the zone that was Most Likely to be Miserable in terms of temperatures. Dropping from 7-8 thousand feet all the way down to 3 was always going to bring the heat. Many times we thought about cancelling the Arizona reservations, particularly when we saw forecasts of up to 108º. Lucky for us, all that predictable heat moved its way to the zone that was Least Likely to be Miserable: the Pacific Northwest. We felt bad for people wilting online and reporting temperatures of up to 117º, but also felt pretty relieved to only be seeing low 90s on the horizon for our entire stay.
Vermillion Cliffs way down below
Leaving the North Rim, we saw some crazy scenery. From a herd of Bison, casually grazing by the road, to the appearance of the Vermillion Cliffs, to the seriously beautiful side trip to Lee’s Ferry, the day’s journey was extremely picturesque. We continued south on Highway 89A (A for “Alternate”) and this took us right through a wide sweeping descent into Marble Canyon. Nestled at the dead end of this canyon is the confluence of the Colorado and Paria Rivers. There is a campground there I’d heard about called Lee’s Ferry, which is first come first serve and no hookups. The campground lies within the borders of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and holds its own with any national park campground, in terms of surrounding geological beauty. We took a little five mile detour off the highway to go check it out and darn near stayed there. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the heat, I think we would have. Instead, we found an empty campsite and raised the roof to at least have a nice long lunch.
Lee’s Ferry Campground – Colorado River in the background
At the end of the day, reservations with full hookups waiting for us in Page was too much of a draw. So we continued on down the valley until it merged with Highway 89. It then climbed up the other side of the canyon, offering impressive views of the whole of Marble Canyon. The descent into Page is no less visually striking. Here, the rocks take on a light pink and bone-white look.
Totally different kind of landscape, with its own unique beauty
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is huge and encompasses the entire river system terminating in the Glen Canyon Dam. The Colorado River goes on from there and everything north and east of that forms Lake Powell. The water levels are low now, an ever present reminder of the growing state of drought across the west, but it is still, to my eye, an otherworldly kind of beautiful. The crisp blue of the water, nestled deeply within the stark white cliffy canyons is dazzling, and so unique. I forgot to take any pictures until the light faded with the sunset. So you’ll have to use your imagination when it comes to the color of the water.
Back from shopping a little too late to catch the sunset
Almost as soon as we got set up, we left for the other reason we were looking forward to Page: Walmart. I know. I get it. And yet, if you want to kill a couple of hours out of the heat and restock everything from frozen dinners to RV TP, this place is reliable. Also, after spending a couple weeks in Utah, where the selling of alcohol is strictly limited, restocking wine had become a priority. We happily passed enough time that when we emerged, the sun had already set.
Overall, this was a rest stop for us. Richard got in some work time with good cell service, I caught up on communication and blogging, and we kicked back and did very little. Sadly, the place I was hoping to see, Antelope Canyon, is still closed to the public. That would be worth a return trip.
Dramatic summer storm on the horizon
Some excitement came on our last night when a big storm rolled in. You could see that it was something serious by the way it completely blocked out the horizon. We took down everything outside and battened down the hatches. For us though, beyond some pretty close lightning strikes and moderate wind, it was nothing big. However, over on the other side of the cliffs, Marble Valley got hit pretty hard. There were all kinds of flash flood warnings and it sounds like Lee’s Ferry was evacuated, so I’m pretty happy we didn’t end up staying there. Meanwhile in Zion, all kinds of Hell broke loose. Looks like there was a ton of damage there, which is sad, but it also seems like this whole area really needs the rain.
Bridge and Glen Canyon Dam
Our two night stay was quite pleasant and much cooler than we expected (even though it was in the 90s). We would stay there again, though a summer visit might not be the brightest idea we’ve ever had. We were both frustrated with the service. At times we’d have four bars of strong LTE and then it would just disappear. Same with the campground WiFi. Sometimes it was strong and fast, and then it would just fall off to nothing. In town, everything was full bars, just down in the campground, it was iffy. It is nice to have a potable water spigot right in the site. In North Rim, the spigots were spaced far apart, plus the water was heavily treated. We filter our drinking water anyway, but it mattered when Richard hiked down to the Supai Bridge and he could smell the chlorine. Good thing he had plenty of his own water left. It would have been a shame if he’d died because of being a water prima donna. I can imagine him out in the desert barely conscious lying in the sand when some rescuer finds him just in the nick of time and brings a canteen of precious life saving water to his lips. With his last breath he would say, “Wait, is that filtered?”
Pretty nice place to stay
We give this place an overall thumbs up with the caveat that it gets hot, duh. The campground offers lots of services, including laundry that we never got around to using, and makes an excellent location for a stopping or jumping off point. It also lies inside Glen Canyon, so be sure to have that National Parks Pass ready if you go.
Total miles: 139.6 (with side trip to Lee’s Ferry), 20.6 mpg (must have been all the descending). Site F3, full hookups, back in. Sometimes full bars of LTE, then nothing. Campground WiFi is best in front of the registration building but can be hit, sometimes, from the campground. Pretty good sewer hookup but there is also a separate dump.