There’s plenty to see in northern Arizona and we had been touring the Grand Circle area admiring the sandstone cliffs, slot canyons, ancient petroglyphs, and turquoise rivers. But it wasn’t until I took a sightseeing trip with American Aviation that I was able to put together the pieces of what we had seen in this beautiful area and understand how rivers created canyons, how the various layers of the Colorado Plateau—exposed in many places—was once a seascape, and how the Glen Canyon Dam created the multi-fingered huge body of water that is Lake Powell.
Flightseeing is touring from the air, low enough to see the rock formations, rivers and lakes below, and is a must-do when visiting Arizona.
The Flight Over Lake Powell
American Aviation’s typical flight is a 40-minute scenic adventure taking off from the modern airport at Page and experiencing Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam, and the winding Horseshoe Bend from the small low-flying plane. You’ll see the deep river canyons and the turquoise waters winding past the red rocks. As you fly over the lake you’ll see the rugged mesas and weathered rock formations created by nature over millions of year.
The beauty of flying in a smaller plane (ours held six people plus the pilot) is that you can see out of both sides of the plane at the same time. Our plane was a small, single-engine Cessna with high wings so nothing got in the way of our views. We wore noise-protection headsets so the hum of the motor didn’t bother us. We didn’t need narration—a card in each seat pocket showed the sights we would be seeing—but then we knew what they were because these sights are world-renowned.
Our flight, a one-hour charter, took us from the airport at Kanab, Utah to the Lake Powell area. We took off, climbed quickly to our low cruising altitude (no oxygen needed) and enjoyed the views of the sandstone cliffs. We quickly flew over changing terrain with rivers, rock formations, and more layered cliffs. A dusting of snow was visible on the ground on this December morning.
We got excited as Lake Powell came into sight and the airplane banked to follow the lake to the massive Glen Canyon Dam. We could easily see the concrete dam face and the view reminded me of the time I took a rafting trip from just below the dam to Lee’s Ferry, an easy, scenic float where we saw eagles, petroglyphs, and looked up at canyon walls from the river. But this was different—we were the eagles as we flew over the canyons.
Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell
Horseshoe Bend is one of those places you see in aerial photographs of Arizona. It’s absolutely stunning. Horseshoe Bend is a deep, horseshoe-shaped canyon created by the Colorado River. It’s located about 5 miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell and is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
You can join the crowds at the dusty parking lot and walkway down to the overlook or you can take a flightseeing trip and marvel at its beauty from above. The colors of the canyon wall contrasted with the deep blue-green of the river make for amazing photographs.
We circled Horseshoe Bend and then headed over Lake Powell to get an in-depth view of the rock formations and the sparkling water. We followed the outline of the lake discovering covers and inlets. We all thought it would be great fun to spend a vacation on a Lake Powell houseboat in the summer. But this was winter and flying was a great alternative.
Page, Arizona Airport
The Page Municipal Airport (PGA) is a modern airport with commercial service as well as a number of helicopter and fixed-wing tour companies. The airport is ideal for exploring many of the Southwest’s national parks and monuments, and the attractions of the nearby Navajo Nation. While we were there, we noticed busloads of visitors from as far away as South Korea.
This is where we landed and were picked up for the rest of our journey through Northern Arizona. I was amazed to find out that Lake Powell had become a major international tourist destination in just the few years since I had been there last.
Staying at Lake Powell
After our flight from Kanab, a cozy lunch at the Lake Powell National Golf Course, a visit (on the ground, this time) to the Horseshoe Bend Lookout, and a marvelous late afternoon tour of Antelope Canyon, it was time to check into the Lake Powell Resort Marina, located right on the lake. The sliding glass doors of our spacious rooms opened to a small patio and grassy area—and the lake and beautiful rocky canyons beyond.
That evening we gathered to dine at the resort’s Driftwood Lounge for a gourmet meal and shared some excellent California wine as we talked about our amazing flight over Lake Powell.
The next morning I got up early, went outside, and enjoyed the sunrise on the red rocks surrounding the massive lake.
When You Go Flightseeing at Lake Powell
American Aviation is one aerial tour company that runs sightseeing flights. The planes are small, and there is no moving around once you are buckled into your seat, but the views are amazing. Since you will be flying in a small plane, don’t be surprised if the pilot asks your weight and places you on the plane in a way that the weight is equally distributed. Dress warmly when the weather is chilly and dress for comfort because you will be climbing in and out of the plane. This is a must-do activity when visiting Lake Powell.
There are many more Wander With Wonder articles on things to do and see in Arizona and I will be writing an article soon on the best things to see and do in the Lake Powell-Page area.
Note: The author toured as a guest of the Grand Circle Association. As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodations, meals, tours, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.