The Canyon Circle Road Trip: Part IV

A Day in and Around Page

Sunday dawned cold and grey. But the photo trip was still on and we spent a couple of hours in the company of Charley from Overland Canyon Tours in the Antelope Canyon which is a few miles outside of Page where the slot canyons are majestic narrow passages with just enough space for a small group to walk the sandy floor – and for the occasional shafts of sunlight to shine down from above. [1]


The best time to visit is when the sun is overhead so you get those super shots of sunlight on the sand particles shimmering in the oranges, reds and yellows of the naturally carved sandstone. Unfortunately for us there was no sun, but that did not spoil our enjoyment of this incredible place. Even light flares added an interesting purple hue to the rocks. For those of you who are fitter than us you might like to visit the Lower Antelope Canyon which is reached by a series of ladders. All I can say that climbing the steps up into the cab of the Ute was hard enough!


In the afternoon we took a drive back down to Bitter Springs and turned right on to the 89A across the Navajo Bridge to visit Lees Ferry where you can get down to the edge of the Colorado and watch groups preparing to raft down the river.  [2]

(click on an image to enlarge)

Over the ten miles or so south of the Navajo bridge, the Colorado has several fascinating narrow tributary canyons including  Seven-mile Draw, Soap Canyon, Jackass Creek and Badger Canyon. The layers of sandstone and shale that form the vermilion cliffs once extended five miles to connect to the same layers in the Echo cliffs. The Colorado River cut a canyon through the Navajo sandstone. 

We stopped to marvel at the balanced rocks on the way back to Marble Canyon. Thousands of years ago a huge boulder of conglomerate broke from the cliff above and rolled to a stop here. Since then at least 6 feet of this slope has eroded away.

Balanced Rocks
Balanced Rocks
Balanced Rocks

Ultimately the softer rock, now protected by the umbrella of harder conglomerate will erode, and the boulder will topple to the ground again.

Balanced Rocks
Balanced Rocks

Several fallen boulders at the foot of the desolate Vermilion Cliffs on the Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon.

Hard upper layer - Shinarump Conglomerate - forms the cliff top.
Hard upper layer – Shinarump Conglomerate – forms the cliff top.

At the 89a junction we turned right and drove to the  Cliff Dwellers Lodge about nine miles further east to have an early dinner at the diner there.

Cliff Dwellers Lodge
Cliff Dwellers Lodge

During the Great Depression, a few white settlers built a small town of wooden structures with shingle roofs that still cling to gigantic boulders in a moon-like setting at the foot of Vermilion Cliffs.

Through the window of a cliff dweller's home
Through the window of a cliff dweller’s home
Tough living
Tough living

Returning to Page after a very interesting day we managed to catch the sun setting on Echo Cliffs on the land of the Navajo Nation.


[1] When we did this trip it was OK to have any type of camera but now you need to have a SLR – point and shoot, IPads and IPhones are  not accepted, if you have one of these you may find yourself on a normal tour. We had bridge cameras.

[2] There was a landslip in 2013 which meant that this route was not accessible for quite some time. It is advisable to check routes in this region before setting out.

The Canyon Circle Road Trip: Part III

Grand Canyon to Page

After breakfast on Saturday we checked out of the hotel and set off eastwards along the East Rim. It was a dry day, but extremely windy, which made standing out on the exposed viewpoints and keeping a camera steady, quite challenging.

(click on an image to enlarge and see the detail)

Can you see the river?

I was amazed and rather concerned at the number of people who venture out onto the overhanging rocks to get a photograph, especially when said rocks are covered in snow and it is difficult to see where the end is! I wonder how many tourists lose their lives in this way?


The best views of the canyon on the East Rim are from Grandview, Artists Point and Lipan Point. The whole drive takes about an hour but stopping to look from the various pull-ins will add on at least another hour.  Possibly more! From this side you can catch glimpses of the River Colorado and the rafts making their way down the rapids.

Pinyon Pine
Pinyon Pine hanging on for dear life
Hance Rapids
Hance Rapids – click to enlarge and see the rafts bottom right – yes it really is that deep!

And if, like us, you are leaving via the east gate then make your last stop at Desert View where you can see and hear the river below. Climb up the Watchtower for even more spectacular vistas, framed by the windows they look like paintings. Admire the wall murals inside and maybe buy yourself a souvenir from the region.

View from the Watchtower
View from the Watchtower – Colorado on the right, Little Colorado centre
View from the Watchtower towards the Painted Desert
View from the Watchtower towards the Painted Desert

Hard though it was to pull ourselves away from the Canyon we had to get to Page for the night which meant driving eastwards through the Painted Desert to join the 89 route again.

Murals – the large circular painting tells the legend of the Snake people

The drive from the Grand Canyon Village to Page will take about three hours without stops, so make sure you don’t dally along the rim for too long!  After exiting the east gate at Desert View the next logical stop is at the historic Cameron Trading Post where you can buy artefacts or a Navajo frybread taco if you are feeling hungry!

The next two hours  is on the Painted Desert scenic highway. The road was pretty empty of traffic in March and the views of the layers of coloured rock meant that it was never boring.

marble Canyon

At Bitter Springs where the 89 winds up into the mountains we pulled into a viewpoint where you have views back towards the Grand Canyon and  also to Marble Canyon [1].

Bitter Springs
Above Bitter Springs towards the snowy North Rim
Vermilion Cliffs
Vermilion Cliffs east of the Colorado River – can you see where the river runs?

Further on is the turn-off to Horseshoe Bend Overlook on the Colorado River, where you need to park up and hike for an hour to view the river from a spectacular high viewpoint. Although I would have liked to see this, we didn’t have the time or the energy for an hours hike (each way).

Lake Powell in the distance
Lake Powell in the distance
Driving into Page
Driving into Page

We stayed at the Courtyard Page at Lake Powell, which is not the most convenient location as it is right on the edge of the town so not easily walkable to the shops and restaurants. But it is quite close to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area from where you get good views of the dam and where you can take river trips down the Colorado.

Glen Canyon Dam
Glen Canyon Dam – it really is very high
Catching a Raft down the Colorado
Catching a Raft down the Colorado

We popped out later for a burger at the Dam Bar and Grille, a steak house in town, hoping that the snow which was forecast overnight wouldn’t lead to the cancellation of our photo trip to the Upper Antelope Canyon on the following day.

[1] The US 89 to Page closed after a landslip in February 2013 and you have to take the newly paved 89T or use the route via Tuba City.