Have you heard of Glen Canyon Dam? We made a trip here last summer as part of a family reunion, and it was a lot of fun.
My parents and I had planned a June getaway to the Grand Canyon North Rim, with our base in Kanab, Utah. As the trip neared, my sister’s three kids joined us and then my other sister decided at the last minute to make the drive with her four kids. All nine of my parents’ grandchildren were there. The grandparents were thrilled and my kids were in cousin heaven.
Our group ranged in age from 5 to 65, and while there are a lot of fun things to do near Kanab, intense summer heat limited our options. Visiting the Glen Canyon Dam was interesting, unique and mostly air conditioned. We packed a picnic and ate it on the shady lawn outside the visitor center, but there are restaurants, hotels, fuel and other amenities nearby.
Glen Canyon Dam is located just outside of Page, Arizona, near the Utah border. It’s a remote desert region, but if you’re planning a trip to Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon North Rim… it’s in the neighborhood.
My grandpa claims to be the first person to put a boat on Lake Powell. He was an avid sportsman whose job often took him to Page, and at the moment that the locks were closed on the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell began to fill, he and a friend happened to be there with a fishing boat. My dad got to tell that story at the Glen Canyon Dam to all of his grandchildren, which made our visit especially personal and memorable.
Here are eight fun things to do at or near the Glen Canyon Dam.
Check out the Visitor Center
The Carl Hayden Visitor Center is located next to the Glen Canyon Dam. It has a small museum with lots of updated, hands-on exhibits about the dam. It also has big picture windows, which are nice for viewing the dam in air conditioned comfort.
The Visitor Center has a ranger desk where you can sign up for dam tours, bathrooms and a gift shop.
Earn a Junior Ranger Badge
The Glen Canyon Dam is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, and kids ages 5-12 can earn a free Junior Ranger Badge. They can earn a second badge at the same time for Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Ask for Junior Ranger workbooks at the Ranger Desk. Help your child complete them, and then return to the Ranger Desk for a souvenir gold ranger badge and swearing in ceremony.
Junior Ranger badges are great souvenirs, and fun to collect. Five kids in our group earned both Junior Ranger badges. They were able to complete all the requirements at the Visitor Center.
Take a Dam Tour
Touring the Glen Canyon Dam was the highlight of our visit. Tours are offered by the Glen Canyon Natural History Association on a first come, first served basis from the Carl Hayden Visitor Center. At the time of our visit, tours were just $5 per adult and less for kids and seniors. For current information, visit the association’s website at http://www.glencanyonnha.org/glen-canyon-dam-tours.
The 45-minute tour includes the top and interior of the dam. We learned a lot about the history and science, and enjoyed great views of Lake Powell. Temperatures regularly climb over 100 degrees F here, and we were grateful for the aggressive air conditioning inside the Glen Canyon Dam.
There were also some funny moments. We all snickered when the calm digital voice in the elevator announced, “dam” when we reached the bottom. A few minutes later, we spotted a worker mowing the lawn at the bottom of the dam (the dirt absorbs vibration and the lawn prevents erosion) and my daughter joked, “When someone asks what his job is, he says, ‘I mow the dam lawn.'”
Maybe you had to be there, but family trips are all about the memories. These memories from our Glen Canyon Dam tour still make us smile.
Walk the Bridge
The Glen Canyon Dam Bridge is just outside the visitor center. It’s part of Highway 89. You can walk a foot path all the way across that will get you great views of the Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River.
Go to the Beach
Glen Canyon Dam created Lake Powell, one of Utah’s most popular beach and boating destinations. Lone Rock Beach is located a few miles from Glen Canyon Dam, on Highway 89 in Utah, and is open for swimming and camping.
There is a fee of $25/car to visit Lone Rock Beach, and it’s good for seven days. National Parks Passes, including Every Kid in a Park, are accepted. Click the button to learn more about this free pass and other ways to save at 4 Ways to Save on National Parks Fees.
Stop at Big Water Visitor Center
The Big Water Visitor Center for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is near Glen Canyon Dam and Lone Rock Beach, on Highway 89 in Utah. If you have any dinosaur lovers in your family, be sure to stop at this tiny visitor center. The wilderness of Grand Staircase-Escalante has yielded several new species of dinosaur fossils in recent years. You can see some of them up close at Big Water Visitor Center.
You can earn another Junior Ranger badge at Big Water. Our kids declined this one, but with the Grand Canyon and Pipe Spring National Monument, it would have been their fifth badge from this trip.
Visit Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is located about 10 miles south of the Glen Canyon Dam. It’s one of the most famous and scenic slot canyons in the world. It’s also very popular, and hot during the summer months. We decided to skip it on this trip, but most families ought to at least consider a visit if you’ll be this close.
Antelope Canyon is administered by the Navajo Nation. Tours are required and reservations are recommended to enter Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Tours of Antelope Canyon and other local points of interest are offered by several local providers.
Click the button to see reviews and recommendations for Antelope Canyon Tours on TripAdvisor.
Consider a Boat Rental or Tour
When we arrived at the visitor center, I was tempted by the all-day boat tour to Rainbow Bridge. It’s one of the largest and most spectacular natural bridges in the world, and is really only accessible by boat. Aramark rents all kinds of boats and equipment for recreating on Lake Powell. They also offer several boat tours. Tours and rentals aren’t cheap, but it’s my dream for a future trip.
Click the button to learn more about boat tours and rentals at Lake Powell at www.lakepowell.com.
We had such a great time on this trip! It was a little crazy with all the kids and so many ages to accommodate, but our visit to the Glen Canyon Dam was a winner for everyone.
If you have a question about visiting the Glen Canyon Dam, please ask in the comments. I generally answer within 1-2 business days and your question will probably help other travelers too. Happy travels!
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