The Family Guide to Lake Powell

Planning a family trip to Lake Powell offers an adventure that combines stunning natural beauty with endless water-based activities. This guide is designed to help families navigate the vast expanse of Lake Powell, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this unique desert lake. From choosing where to stay to selecting activities that are fun for all ages, we’ll cover the essentials you need to know before you head out on the water. Whether it’s your first time exploring the canyons of Lake Powell or you’re a regular visitor, this article provides practical tips and insights to make your family trip easier and more fun.

lake powell utah boating waterskiing

My Personal Experience at Lake Powell

My first trip to Lake Powell was on my 12th birthday, and it was one of my favorite trips I took as a child. Growing up on Colorado’s Front Range, giant red rock canyons were totally foreign to me, let alone a lake that was over a hundred miles long. My mind was blown, and I also got one of the worst sunburns of my life. Our family left that trip, all completely in love with the lake and we took annual trips for over a decade.

As soon as our oldest was born we were excited to take him to enjoy the lake, and we took our first Lake Powell camping trip with him when he was about 6 months old. Since then, we’ve been to Lake Powell over 10 times with our kids with another trip on the books for this summer. To say that we love it would be an understatement.

We’ve never had a trip that was seamless, yet we love it so much we can’t stay away. We’ve been caught in giant thunderstorms, had boats break down, broken bones, needed stitches, and had our boat swamped by giant waves on several occasions. While that sounds like a lot, the reason we keep going back is for the memories. The warm water, the cliff jumping, kids learning how to waterski, tubing until sunset, waterskiing on glass at dawn, hiking up remote slot canyons, beach games, the houseboat snacks, and so much more.

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Best Time Of Year to Visit Lake Powell

The best time to visit Lake Powell is from May through October. During this period, the lake has warmer temperatures, clear skies and a variety of activities to enjoy. In springtime, wildflowers bloom around the lake and visitors can take advantage of boating on the lake’s many bays and coves. Summertime is especially popular, with warmer temperatures all around making it feel amazing to spend your days in the water. The fall months also offer great weather to explore the lake’s many attractions and the water in the early fall is pretty amazing. From hiking trails to stunning sunsets, Lake Powell has something for everyone during these months.

Personally, I like early fall the best for visiting Lake Powell with kids. I’ve only gone once in May and that was enough. We all had to wear wetsuits the whole time and it was just chilly all around. Big thunderstorms are the most common in July and August, so plan on those rolling in later in the day. September is our favorite time to go since the air isn’t super hot but the water is still pretty warm, making everything feel amazing.

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Lake Powell Summer Weather


What To Take To Lake Powell

When visiting Lake Powell, it is important to be prepared for a variety of activities and conditions. Essential items to bring include sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and comfortable water shoes. Be sure to also bring life jackets, extra fuel for boats, paddles and safety equipment such as flares or an emergency beacon. Pack plenty of water and snacks to keep hydrated and energized during long days out in the sun. We always bring electrolyte powder to add to our water since it’s so easy to get dehydrated at Lake Powell. We always take a camera with us too and we highly recommend investing in a GoPro or other waterproof action camera to really capture the fun there!

lake powell utah boating beach time

Do I need A Boat To Visit Lake Powell?

No, you do not need a boat to enjoy Lake Powell. However, if you plan on exploring the lake’s many bays and coves or doing some fishing, it makes things a lot easier. There are several marinas along the lake that offer boat rentals and there is even a ferry service available at some of the Marinas where you can easily get to other destinations around the lake. If you don’t have a boat but still want to experience the lake, there are many guided tours and excursions that let you explore Lake Powell from the shore or by taking a scenic boat ride. These tours are great for those who want to experience Lake Powell without having to worry about piloting a boat.

Better yet, go with some friends who have a boat or who are comfortable driving one. We always go to Lake Powell with friends or family and it makes everything much more fun.

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While it’s possible to do Lake Powell without a boat, we personally love the freedom that having a boat gives us. Lake Powell is MASSIVE with nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, and it would be impossible to really experience what the lake is like without a boat. Having a boat also gives you the added benefit of being able to do more watersports. Both my husband and I learned to waterski at Lake Powell as kids and it’s where all of our kids learned as well. No, a boat isn’t necessary at Lake Powell, but it is more fun!

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Houseboats at Lake Powell

Our absolute favorite way to get around Lake Powell is on a houseboat. It’s basically an RV for the water and it makes a Lake Powell trip so much easier. Nearly all houseboats have bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, and even living areas. Some houseboats are pretty basic while others are nicer than my house! Not even joking. It’s not uncommon to see 3 story houseboats with multiple slides off the roof and party decks.

To get a houseboat, you can either buy into a timeshare or just rent from the local marinas. They’re not cheap, so we recommend going with friends since most of them can sleep multiple families. When we go to Lake Powell on a houseboat we often have people sleep on the roof or when we have a really big group, we’ll bring camping gear along so some people can sleep on the boat and others sleep on the shore.

lake powell utah boating fishing
fishing off the back of the houseboat

Tips for Houseboating at Lake Powell

  • Plan Your Route in Advance: Lake Powell’s winding canyons and expansive waters can be overwhelming. Study maps and decide on a general route and potential anchorages before you set out. Send someone with a motorboat ahead to see what spots are available and which will work with the current water level and your boat.
  • Reserve Your Houseboat Early: Especially during peak seasons, houseboats can book up fast. Reserve your boat well in advance to secure your ideal dates and the size of boat that best fits your group’s needs.
  • Learn Basic Boat Operation and Safety: If you’re a first-timer, ensure you understand how to operate the houseboat and familiarize yourself with navigational rules. A safety briefing is typically provided by the rental company; pay close attention so you don’t cause unnecessary and expensive boat damage.
  • Bring Navigation Tools: While many houseboats are equipped with GPS, having additional navigation tools such as maps, compasses, or even a backup GPS can be invaluable for exploring the lake’s vast and sometimes complex canyon system.
  • Check the Weather Forecast Regularly: Weather on Lake Powell can change quickly, especially in transitional seasons. Keep a close eye on forecasts to avoid being caught in bad weather conditions, particularly high winds which can make navigation challenging.
  • Plan for Meals: Think about how many meals you’ll need and plan accordingly. Consider easy-to-prepare foods and perhaps a few special ingredients to make dining on the lake a memorable experience. There aren’t grocery stores on the lake, so make sure to bring everything you’ll need.
  • Conserve Water: Water conservation is crucial on a houseboat. Use lake water for washing and cooking when safe, and bring plenty of drinking water. Be mindful of how much fresh water you’re using for showers and dishes.

Best Areas of Lake Powell To Visit

Due to its remote location and difficulty of access through canyon country, there are very few points of access into Lake Powell. The two most popular launching points are on the south at Wahweap and Antelope Point Marinas near Page, Arizona. From here you can explore the south and western portion of the lake as far north as Bullfrog Marina in Utah. The Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam is also a great spot for fishing and sightseeing.

The most popular areas of the lake to explore in the north are accessed from Halls Crossing, and Bullfrog. These locations provide stunning views of the canyon walls along with plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing or simply lounging in the sun. If you’re coming from eastern Utah or Colorado, this is one of the easier points to access Lake Powell.

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Camping at Lake Powell

If you don’t have a houseboat, you’ll find that most people end up camping at Lake Powell. The most common way to camp at Lake Powell is to load up your boat with all your camping gear and to find a nice sandy beach farther up the lake to camp at. This works out fine, but it does mean that you’ll have a pretty packed boat ride as you transport everything to camp. The other option is to camp at one of the drive in beaches and boat out from there. There is a drive in camping area just north of Bullfrog at Stanton Creek. The other is west of Wahweap at the Lone Rock beach. BOth of these are primative camping areas. We regularly see RV’s in teh packed sane here and plenty of tents. If you don’t have access to a houseboat, this is the easiest option.

lake powell utah boating beach time

You can also get campgrounds at Lake Powell, but this can be more difficult. With the primative campgrounds, you can park your boat on the beach, but if you’re staying at an established campground, you have to take your boat out of the water every night and put it back in in the morning. While this might not sound bad, keep in mind that there are often wait times of over an hour to use the boat ramp, so this can be a major time drain.

Personally, we’ve done a mix of both areas through the years and think that both offer great options.

camping with kids utah

Lake Powell with Kids

Lake Powell is a paradise for kids who love to explore and run wild in the sand, sun, and water. Plan on stepping back and just letting the kids play and let their imaginations run free. You’ll be amazed at how easily entertained kids are by a stretch of sandy beach, a bucket and the lake.

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Our kids love the warm water at Lake Powell, making it the perfect place for kids to learn to waterski, wakeboard or surf. The warmer water and more open spaces than you’ll find at most lakes make Lake Powell the ideal place for kids to learn watersports. Marinas offer lessons and rentals of all kinds if you need help figuring things out. Our kids also enjoy tubing when the lake gets rougher and choppy, so make sure to pack a tube to tow behind the boat as well. Typically the water is the calmest in the morning and gets rougher as the day goes on, so keep that in mind when planning your day with the kids.

lake powell utah boating beach time

We’ve found that having some games to keep the kids occupied also helps a lot. We typically bring a few beach games as well as some card games to play inside in the evenings or when the weather gets bad.

NOTE: Kids 12 and under are required by law to wear a life jacket at all times when on a boat.

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Visiting Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell

If you’ve always wanted to visit Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell, you’re in luck. This natural arch can be visited with your own boat or by guided tour from the marina. Depending on the water levels you could float right up to the arch, or you may have to hike up to a mile to get there. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for this journey as it can be long and hot in the summer months. Once you get there, be sure to take some time to appreciate its beauty and grandeur. It’s an experience like no other!

Read Next: 33 Best Utah Hikes with Kids

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Kayaking Lake Powell

If you’re looking for a great way to explore small parts of Lake Powell, kayaking is the perfect option. With plenty of bays and coves to explore, kayaking gives you access to areas that are not as easily accessible by boat. You can find many marinas along the lake that rent out kayaks and provide tips on where you can go. Be sure to wear a life jacket and pack plenty of water before setting out on your kayaking adventure. The main marinas all have a lot of boat traffic, so if you’re kayaking near there, make sure you’re visible to other boats and stay out of the middle of the channel.

The most common way to kayak Lake Powell is to transport kayaks on a larger boat or houseboat to a smaller cove and kayak from there.

Wahweap and Antelope Point Marinas at the southern end of the lake have some of the most popular kayaking routes, so we recommend that if you’re kayaking Lake Powell, you start there!

Other Adventures Nearby:

Paddleboarding red fleet

Safety Tips for Visiting Lake Powell

Lake Powell may be a beautiful destination, but it can also have its dangers. Be sure to take all necessary safety precautions when visiting the lake. Here are some of our top safety tips for visiting Lake Powell:

– Wear life jackets at all times when on a boat. Kids 12 and under are required by law to wear a life jacket at all times when on a boat.

– Stay aware of your surroundings and avoid areas with high boat traffic or strong currents.

– Keep a lookout for underwater obstacles such as rocks, logs, and debris. Don’t jump of cliffs into unknown waters before checking the landing!

– Pack plenty of water and sunscreen

– Follow all rules and regulations for the lake, such as speed limits and wake zones.

– Alcohol consumption is prohibited in Utah waters, so be sure to drink responsibly elsewhere.

– And lastly, but most importantly: Have fun!

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