• Abby Voce

Trip Report: Valley of Fire (Nevada), Horseshoe Bend (Arizona), Antelope Canyon (Arizona)

How To Recreate an Epic Camping, Hiking, and Kayaking Road Trip across the Southwest for Yourself!


The brilliant striated red rock slot canyon walls of Antelope Canyon outside Page, Arizona

Antelope Canyon: Page, AZ - Photo Credit: Abby Voce


 

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Trip Info:

A flash rainstorm sweeps across the Valley of Fire in Mesquite, Nevada, enabling a Prickly Pear cactus to sprout beautiful pinkish purple flowers

Valley of Fire: Mesquite, NV - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue



Overview:


Often this region of the United States is known for the iconic Utah National Parks or the mighty Grand Canyon. However, sometimes venturing beyond the boundaries of these world-renowned parks can offer unique experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.

The Valley of Fire State Park, located about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, was established in 1934 as Nevada’s first State Park. The area is known for its bright red Aztec sandstone that has been shaped by the wind over thousands of years. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset, with an entrance fee of $10.00 for in-state visitors and $15.00 for non-NV residents. Beyond the landscape enriched with history, the park offers first-come first-serve camping and a multitude of hikes.


A trail winds through craggy red rock cliffs and mountains in the Valley of Fire in Mesquite, Nevada

Valley of Fire: Mesquite, NV - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue



It seems rather odd to think a magnificent place such as this one, is located less than an hour drive from such a dazzling metropolis - commonly referred to as the brightest city on Earth as seen from space.. You truly can find epic landscapes where you least expect them.

Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are both located just outside Page, Arizona. This small scenic town in northern Arizona is known for its Navajo culture and close proximity to several National Parks and Monuments: Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument are all nearby hidden gems that also display the vast history and geological wonders of the region.

 

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A parked SUV is dwarfed by a massive red rock cliff at Atlas Rock Campground in the Valley of Fire, Mesquite Nevada

Arch Rock Campground: Mesquite, NV - Photo Credit: Abby Voce


Trip Planning:

Along my journey to all the National Parks in the continental United States, I made a pit-stop in Las Vegas after visiting Great Basin National Park. Although it was nice to eat at a real restaurant and not cook on my Coleman stove for a night, I was eager to be back on the road to the next epic camping spot under the stars. That camping spot became the iconic Valley of Fire State Park, which came highly recommended by several people along my journey - and it did not disappoint!


After that, my initial plan was to stop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, in late April the North Rim is not yet open for the year, so I decided to make a visit to Page, AZ instead to see Antelope Canyon. Most trips through Antelope require a permit, click here for more info on that process. It wasn't until I got to Page and did a quick google search that I realized that the region was also home to Horseshoe Bend. I ended up staying a few nights in Page, visiting memorable landscapes and having some of the most relaxing days of my trip.


Camping:


Camping in either of the two campgrounds in the Valley of Fire State Park is first-come first-serve. You can learn more about camping here.


There are several campgrounds in the Page, AZ area, all of which would make for an excellent jump-off point to explore Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. You can find more camping information here.


Red rocks stretch for miles as ominous clouds come rolling across the horizon over Valley of Fire in Mesquite Nevada

Valley of Fire: Mesquite, NV - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue



Itinerary:


Day 1: Driving from Las Vegas, NV to Valley of Fire State Park

The drive out of Vegas slowly turned from noisy traffic and flashing lights to incredible scenery. The hour-long drive to the northeast slowly brings you back out into the desert, where you are greeted with bright red sandstone hills and cliffs everywhere you look. I took my time on the drive and enjoyed the scenery and arrived at the park around 5pm - just in time to set up camp, go on a short walk around the campground and cook dinner before the sun went down.


There are two campgrounds in the park that are both first-come first-serve. Fortunately I was able to find a spot in Arch Rock Campground, and in retrospect I probably would have arrived earlier in the day since it was relatively full by the time of my arrival. Although both campgrounds have restrooms and water, the other campground, Atlatl Rock Campground, has showers as well. I made myself at home camping among the red rocks, read my book in my hammock, cooked dinner and planned some sights to see for the next day.

 

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Impossibly red rocks and sand stand in stark contrast to green shrubberies in Valley of Fire, Mesquite Arizona

Valley of Fire: Mesquite, NV - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



Day 2: Exploring Valley of Fire State Park, Driving to Page, AZ

I woke up in the morning, got ready for the day and checked out of my campsite. I decided to first head over to Atlatl Rock Campground to take a shower, then I began my exploration of the park. Although it was cloudy, it was the perfect temperature to do some small hikes, such as the Balancing Rock Trail, and take photos. I decided to drive the Valley of Fire highway through the entirety of the park before I started my 4 hour journey East to Page, AZ.


The ride went by fast and I only saw a few sprinkles of rain on the way there. Once I got to Page, I found a decent crepe restaurant called Canyon Crepes and ate dinner. I drove around town, did some basic errands and stopped at Walmart upon arrival. I am always relieved to see a Walmart because (as usual) I didn't plan a campground for the night, so I knew in a worst case scenario I could camp in Walmart’s parking lot - where I spotted several other RV/van/car campers spending the night.


The Valley of Fire highway is one of the most beautiful and exotic roads in America

Valley of Fire Highway: Mesquite, NV - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



After some googling I decided to try Beehives Campground located across from the Wahweap South Entrance of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, just minutes outside of Page. The 6 sites had no water or restrooms available and were all full when I arrived, so I continued on up the road and parked in a pull off on the side of the road. I was assured I was able to park along the road when just after dusk a park ranger drove by and gave me a wave, and I watched a few more van campers pull off of the road in similar fashion after dark as well. I settled in and began to plan the next day!


The Colorado River's impossible hairpin turn around a red rock structure makes up Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend: Page, AZ - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



Day 3: Exploring Horseshoe Bend


I primarily drove to Page to see Antelope Canyon, but I woke up to a cloudy, rainy morning. After my research the previous night I realized that all tours into Antelope Canyon were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the only way to access the canyon was aquatically, through Lake Powell. I discovered online that Antelope Point Marina rents kayaks that you can use to kayak into the canyon. However, since it was a rainy day and slot canyons can be extremely dangerous due to flash flooding potential, I decided to postpone the slot canyon trip until tomorrow and instead visit Horseshoe Bend.


Arizona sunsets are the once and future champion over all sunsets on the planet. These fluffy pink clouds over miles of red desert are here to attest to this

Sunset over Beehives Campground: Page, AZ - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



Horseshoe Bend, located just minutes from downtown Page, overlooks the Colorado River where the sandstone has been shaped into a horseshoe over time due to erosion. The entrance is located between mile marker 544 and 545 on Highway 89 on the west side of the road. The fee to enter is $10.00 for passenger vehicles, and the hike from the parking lot to the overlook is only ¾ of a mile. Although the overlook was decently crowded, I was able to find a spot to sit down, take some photos and relax. The views were breathtaking!


I returned before dusk to the same spot as the previous night and was able to take a walk down the road as the sun was setting. I was able to find some beautiful vistas and catch an incredible Arizona sunset in solitude.


Kayaking through Lake Powell into Antelope Canyon means navigating through impossibly tall and narrow cliff faces on either side of you

Kayaking Lake Powell into Antelope Canyon: Page, AZ - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



Day 4: Kayaking Lake Powell and Exploring Antelope Canyon


I woke up early for my final and most challenging day in Page: getting to Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located off of Lake Powell, just south of Page. This canyon is famous for photography of the towering, unique and swirling sandstone walls above. The canyon is within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation, and requires a permit to directly access the canyon.


I headed to Antelope Point Marina at 8 AM to rent a kayak for the day. To begin, you must kayak through the main area of Lake Powell, then into a slot canyon until water is shallow enough for you to beach your kayak and step out. Though I didn’t quite capsize, I am glad I did not take my camera on the kayak because the lake water was choppy, and it was especially difficult paddling against the current on the return trip. The total kayak time was about 4 hours and roughly 6 miles. Bring lots of water, snacks and sun protection on the kayak - and once you get into the canyon, take your time in the calm waters.


The red canyon walls of Antelope Canyon loom dozens of feet tall, but less than 10 feet away from each other. A woman hikes through this narrow crevice

Antelope Canyon: Page, AZ - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



Upon arrival at the beach you can drag your kayak onto the shore and begin to explore the amazing slot canyon. The canyon walls were stunning, and the experience as a whole was entirely breathtaking. I spent several hours exploring before returning to the marina and after a long day in the sun, I continued my journey into Utah - off in search of my next adventure.


Gear:


For this particular 4 day segment of my trip, there were minimal gear requirements. However, because of the nature of my 6 month cross-country trip where I often slept in my car, I had to prepare for weather and conditions of all kinds. Therefore, the gear list below is comprehensive and not necessary for a basic trip like this one. Often generic and basic gear is just as useful as the top-of-the-line stuff!


Hiking:

Shelter:

Sleep System:

Camp Kitchen:

Food & Hydration:

Clothing:

Tools, Electronics and Miscellaneous:

Hygiene:

Safety/First Aid:


 

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