Welcome to Exit 6 of our Great American Road Trip with Kids (and on a budget)!
Exit 6 takes us to Glen Canyon National Recreational Park, home of Lake Powell, one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve been on three houseboat trips on Lake Powell, so introducing my kids to this place, and the place their grandparents fell in love with their mom, before she was my wife (make sense?), was a must. More on all that in a bit …
If you’ve been following along with us, much appreciated!
If you haven’t, please check out the following:
Exit 1 – Route 66
Exit 2 – Petroglyph and Aztec Ruins National Monuments
Exit 3 – Mesa Verde National Park
Exit 4 – Hovenweep National Monument
Exit 5 – Monument Valley Tribal Park
We know traveling is hard to do these days (Glen Canyon National Recreational Park is currently open), but we hope that times to travel will return soon, and that you can use these recaps of our 2019 Great American Road Trip to help plan your next stop to Glen Canyon National Recreational Park.
Want to follow along with us on this journey? Awesome! You can follow us through RSS feed, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, or just by subscribing to receive emails when posts are release. Much obliged!
As a reminder, we’re giving you our recommendations and non-recommendations (or highlights and lowlight), for a Great American Road Trip with kids (and on a budget). This will include tips and tricks, what there is to do, how kid friendly each place is, how you can do it on a family-friendly budget, and what you’ll need for that portion of the trip.
And remember, we seriously recommend this trip with a fourth grader. The National Park Services have a wonderful program called “Every Kid Outdoors” where every fourth grader, and their family, get into the parks for free. We saved the $30 entrance fee to the park by having our fourth grader with us.
Great American Road Trip: Exit 6 – Glen Canyon National Recreational Park aka Lake Powell aka Lone Rock Beach
I mentioned in the Exit 5 post, that there were four places that left me in awe during our Great American Road Trip. Lake Powell does that and will forever do that for me. The water is in the high-70s, you have your toes in sandy beaches and you’re surrounded by canyons. It’s absolutely stunning, and like most of these national parks, until you’ve been on, in or around the lake you will never fully comprehend the majesty of it. A future houseboat trip with my kids is a near must.
As mentioned this was my fourth trip to Lake Powell. My parents took us in 1996 with our extended family (grandparents, uncle, aunt, cousins), they took us again in ’98, and then again in ’02 when I was allowed to take my female “we’re just friends” friend on our family houseboat vacation. That friend ended up becoming my wife, and I’m pretty sure it was because of the following video where she impressed my dad with her tubing skills.
Check out her skills and stay for her broken English. She was visiting from Brazil, so hadn’t mastered the English language yet. Wait your wife is from Brazil? Yes, you can read my “When Kevy, Met Lisy” post for that story.
The houseboat trip on Lake Powell had been my favorite vacation until the 2019 Great American Road Trip. You’re on a boat for a week. You anchor, swim, tube, float, find a campsite, hang out, hike, swim some more. It’s one of the most relaxing vacations you can take.
Interested in renting a houseboat, check out Bullfrog Marina, it’s the dock we’ve launched from in the past.
Our stay on Lone Rock Beach Campground had the making of the same. We arrived in the evening, just enough time for the wife and daughter to take a dip in the cooler lake. For dinner we had sandwiches that we purchased at the Walmart in Page, Arizona (see Mom’s Frugal Five Tip of the Day below).
One of our memorable moments of this trip was the wife dropping one of the foot long open-face sandwiches flat onto the sand, and then attempting to scrap off a couple grains and saying, “It’s all good.”
It wasn’t, and as the four of us chewed through a couple ounces of sand, we decided it was trash and said, “These were definitely SAND-wiches.” Clever amiright?
That evening the wife and youngest found us some leftover firewood and made us an awesome bonfire (pictured left).
One of the troubles with the primitive camping at Lone Rock Beach Campground is that you don’t have a designated spot. Another car could park about six-feet from yours, and then later have their relatives show up in two travel trailers, a boat, and another minivan, thus turning your peaceful beach evening into a nuisance. Want to get my daughter started on a rant, ask her about the camping at Lake Powell!
The next morning we set up our beach location early, trekked our canopy, floaties, and cooler about 100 yards from our campsite and prepared for the day.
We swam, we floated, we built sandcastles, we lounged. It was perfect, and Luke Bryan’s “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” joined Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” on my Lake Powell soundtrack.
That was until about mid-afternoon when we noticed some sand kicking up on the north side of the beach and making its way towards us. We thought it was a truck stuck in the sand, until we saw canopies start to fly and boats start to drift.
We had just enough time to lower our canopy before the sandstorm hit us. We had to stop our youngest from saving a beach ball, he was headed into the the water on a floatie, thankfully we stopped him before the wind had taken him out to … lake.
As the sandstorm hit us, we all just turned and faced toward the water as the sand pelted us from behind. Our canopy buckled, we couldn’t see what it was doing to our tent. The wife tried to bundle things together, the kids and I secured the floaties under our arms as the wind picked up.
When it died down a bit I made the trek up to the campsite, only to see that our tent had been flattened. The wife had left the windows open to air out the tent, sand covered the inside, however if she hadn’t it’s likely the tent would’ve been like Dorothy’s house, twisting in the air.
One of our tent poles had snapped, and I removed the remaining stakes and put our storage containers on it to weight it down until the storm finished.
When it finally subsided the wife and I surveyed the landscape. A couple of hours later we called an audible on our itinerary, decided we’d take an L and not spend a second planned night on the beach. The tent was shot, we were covered in sand, it would not be an enjoyable evening.
The storm had pushed sand under, over, and up against our tires, loding them deeper into the sand. We dug ourselves out of it a bit, was able to create some wiggle, and as I prepared to gas it, the wife took one more push, jumped in and slammed the door on her leg. I paused, but a slight grimace, and a quick, “GO!” from her, made the kids proclaim,
“Mom’s superhuman.” I still remember the eldest’s face like, “Whoa! Why is she not screaming in pain?”
The following day was to be spent at Grand Canyon so we made the trek south. On the way down we called my dad and asked if he could find a hotel for us, as we weren’t able to get much service, and he’s in the know for hotels due to his business. He did, and graciously hooked us up at a hotel in Flagstaff, even paying for our night. It’s still one of the best showers we’ve ever taken. (In fact, we took two that day and one the following morning, two days later we still had sand coming out of our … ears, just ears.)
Unfortunately, we did have to skip Horseshoe Bend, because we were in discomfort, our hope is that we will return to the area and take in the view.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (4.2 out of 5): Despite the sandstorm and obnoxious neighbors, nobody rated our stay at Lone Rock Beach Campground lower than a four. You can’t go wrong with your surroundings
Age: All ages.
Cost: $30 for a 1-7 day stay, but $0 with an Every Kids Outdoor pass. Lone Rock Beach was $14 per night.
By the way super excited when I learned that the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area fell under the Every Kids Outdoor pass! Total bonus win as we expected to introduce the kids to Lake Powell anyway!
Badges Earned: None.
Mom’s Frugal Five Tip of the Day: Once again, a reminder of an earlier tip, but hit up the Walmart in Page, Arizona. We snagged some SAND-wiches, more water, ice, items for s’mores, and everything else you need to fill up your cooler for an expected two-night stay at Lone Rock Beach.
Word of the Day: Sandstorm (noun) – a strong wind carrying clouds of sand with it, especially in a desert.
The Johnson Five Recommends: Just in case of a sandstorm, put everything away and take down your tent. It’s not worth the hours cleaning up the aftermath. Also, unless you have a 4 x 4, play it safe on the beach. The sand is soft and you will get stuck if you’re not careful. The closer to the beach, the softer the sand. We saw more than a few vehicles being pulled out of the sand, some were even 4 x 4’s. If you have a 4 x 4 kudos to you, travel farther south down the beach where there are fewer people, and more peace.
The Johnson Five Doesn’t Recommend: Experiencing a sandstorm.
What You’ll Need – Get Them Here!
We’re not big campers, so if you’re looking for more in-depth knowledge on camping and camping materials, check out my buddy at We Live A Lot. These are some of items we used and recommend while visiting Monument Valley.