Best Kept Arizona/Utah Secret Adventures
My first thoughts of Arizona stirred up images of sand, rattle snakes, sand, scorpions, sand, and sunburns. I imagined it all being very beige. First views of Phoenix once I arrived were supporting my theory, but I was to be proved wrong.
If this is your idea of Arizona, I'm here to share the stunning beauty of a state that is more than desert. In fact, there isn't that much sand! To my surprise this is not the Sahara, this is Sonoran. The Sonoran desert is the rainforest of deserts! There is so much diversity in the plants and landscape. And the rest of Arizona? It's a looker.
The northern part of the state holds a special place in my heart. Driving up to Page, Arizona from Phoenix you will pass through a forest of saguaros, a forest of pine trees, and Navajo land that will take your breath away.
The trip I put together here only scratches the Northern Arizona/Southern Utah surface. I could add hundreds of hikes, rivers, canyons, and more to explore, but since I created this for a weekend, I will keep it toned down to be doable in just a couple days.
You can take one thing off this list, and build a weekend around it, or do all the things.
Let's start out with some beach camping.
Lone Rock Beach
Situated right across the Utah state line north of Page is Lone Rock Beach, you can camp anywhere on this lovely stretch of beach. No reservations needed. RV's tend to set up right on the water, but there are plenty of superb camping spots with a view of the water and lone rock.
Set up tents in the dune for a little elbow room and shelter from the wind. The beach is a short walk away, and bathrooms are available on the beach. Just be careful to drive on the well worn path, as it's easy to get stuck if you venture into the soft sand.
Here you can enjoy the water with a swim or take your SUP or kayak out for a paddle to explore more of the lake. Showers and Bathrooms are on the hill above the beach. There is a $25 entry fee per car, plus $8 per night camping fee. An annual American the Beautiful pass covers the $25 fee. I highly recommend grabbing that before you go.
Only down side (besides all of the rv's), the two times I've been camping here the wind picks up around dusk and blows fiercely. Not a deal breaker but something to tolerate. It will die down again and the night will be magical.
Located just outside of Page, Arizona. Map
Paria Ghost Town
The Paria Ghost town was at one time the site of small pioneer community. But maybe we should call it a ghost of a ghost town, there isn't actually anything here now. The settlers abandoned the town around 1920. It was used as a movie set for the Rat Pack's Sergeants 3, and later for The Outlaw Josie Wales, but vandals burned the remains down in 2006.
When you get here you'll have to use your imagination to see the remains of town and movie set, but you won't have to use that imagination for the beautiful landscape. It's awe inspiring.
Directions: Turn off Hwy 89 at milepost 31 between Page and Kanab Utah. The drive down the dirt road will have you stopping every five feet for more pictures. This is a small section of the painted desert and the views are magical.
There is a small parking lot and a few signs pointing you to the old movie set. Badlands formations meet the valley floor and invite further exploration on foot. A few miles further up the road are the remains of the 19th century cemetery, and the road ends on the banks of the Paria River.
You may find the remains of a few fenceposts at the original townsite, but the real star is the river itself. A shallow trickle much of the year, you can explore as much or as little of the bank as you like.
Kayak or SUP Lake Powell
I was reluctant to talk about this adventure because I feel like it's a bit of a hidden gem at Lake Powell. Antelope Canyon might be the most famous slot canyon on earth (with crowds to match) but you can visit Lower Antelope Canyon without the crowds if you are willing to put forth the effort. If a 6 mile round trip paddle sounds like your version of fun, then you are ready for this adventure.
Several local outfitters offer kayak and paddle board rentals. Check the forecast for wind conditions, its 3/4 of a mile across the lake to the entrance of the Canyon and even a moderate breeze can kick up some whitecaps. A kayak is MUCH easier to handle in the wind than a paddle board.
Put in at Antelope Point boat ramp and paddle left hugging the east edge of the lake until you find a little inlet that allows you to paddle left again. Its an obvious entrance that you can't miss.
Boat tours come through the wider part of the Canyon so it's not the super secret part, yet. Keep paddling as the canyon narrows and the boat tours turn around and you will eventually reach the end of the flooded portion.
Beach your craft on the spit of sand at the end and slip on your hiking shoes, the best part is still ahead! This is such a fun hike into the slot canyon of lower antelope. You can hike about two miles before you reach the the border of Navajo land. Do not go past that point! You need permits to hike there and please be respectful of their land.
Walking in a slot canyon with ancient towering rock formation is a humbling experience. It made me feel so small, but not in a bad way, in a way that connected me to something bigger.