Unexpectedly Awesome Page, Arizona or: How I Learned to Stop Planning So Much & Love Motel 6

As I have mentioned MANY times on this blog, I wear my planner’s cap with pride and love to research the heck out of destinations and draft up overly ambitious itineraries so as to maximize our time and get the most out of any place we should find ourselves. While I would love to say...

As I have mentioned MANY times on this blog, I wear my planner’s cap with pride and love to research the heck out of destinations and draft up overly ambitious itineraries so as to maximize our time and get the most out of any place we should find ourselves. While I would love to say that when it came to our epic South West U.S. road trip that we simply set our eyes on the horizon and drove forth allowing serendipity to be our guide, the truth is that we sat down and meticulously planned out all the sights along the way that we just couldn’t miss, largely focusing on national parks that we wanted to visit. And yet, when I declared that following our trip to Zion, we would next drive to Page, Arizona it was for the Motel 6 alone.

I realize this reasoning is probably rather puzzling for many of you, so let me explain: Although our general route was guided by things we wanted to see, inevitably when it came to where we would actually stop and spend the night, that choice was always based on which city/town had an affordable and—after our first nightmare stop in Nebraska—well-reviewed Motel 6. Now, anyone who has traveled around the U.S. knows that Motel 6 has something of a seedy rather than sterling reputation, so why our fixation on this particular motel chain? Well, Motel 6 is one of the few lodging options in the U.S. that doesn’t charge an additional pet fee, something we greatly appreciated since many other places that proclaimed to be pet-friendly either charged such insultingly inflated pet fees that the cost for the dogs would often wind up being more than the base rate of the room itself, or they would put restrictions on the weights of dogs such that your pooch would only be welcome if you could tote it into your room in a handbag. Motel 6 does none of these things (ok, the one in Moab said they would only accept one dog, which obviously didn’t work for us, but they seemed to be an outlier) and thus we rewarded them with our loyalty, even when that meant staying in some town we had never heard of.

(Also, for the record, sketchy side-of-the-highway Motel 6 in Nebraska aside, all of the Motel 6s we stayed at during our trip were really nice and comfortable. And no, they aren’t paying us to say that!)

This is how we wound up in Page, Arizona, a town that, for whatever reason, I decided would have no charms or attractions of its own of which to boast. ‘Why else would hotel rates there be so much cheaper than everywhere else on our trip?’ I reasoned.

I actually have no good answer to that question, because as it turns out, Page, Arizona is really pretty awesome.

Bridge over Glen Canyon, Page, Arizona

Driving into town, we pretty quickly realized that maybe there was a little bit more to the place than we had anticipated when, after miles of gorgeous—though, admittedly, par for the course in Arizona—scenery we arrived at a seriously impressive dam.

Let me be clear: I am not someone who gives a damn about dams. (No apologies… you knew I had to go there!) I know they serve their purpose and that’s great, but I have never understood the appeal in going to visit one. The Hoover Dam has never been on my radar and has always seemed as interesting to visit as the timber factory my parents once took us to in northern Ontario, which is to say, not at all.

Glen Canyon Dam, Page, Arizona
Glen Canyon, Page, Arizona

And yet. Here I was in Page, Arizona demanding that Tony pull the car over so that we could go gawk at the huge dam and the massive canyon that surrounded it.

“Is this part of the Grand Canyon?!?” I asked excitedly, unable to consider the possibility that the largest canyon I had ever seen could be anything but THE Grand Canyon.

In fact, no, it was not. It turns out that although the river running through this mighty canyon was the one and the same Colorado river that runs through the Grand Canyon, this was actually Glen Canyon. Nomenclature aside, however, I have to say that as far as canyons go, Glen Canyon is still pretty darn grand. And while I was not converted sufficiently to wish to actually tour the dam or its associated museum, I did seriously consider extending our stay in Page by an extra day so we could blow our budget and go rafting through Glen Canyon. Alas, as a whole-day activity that was decidedly not pet-friendly, we decided we would have to earmark it as something to do on a future visit.

Glen Canyon Dam, Page, Arizona

Checking into our room in what turned out to be the nicest Motel 6 of our entire trip, I was feeling pretty satisfied as Page had already offered up more excitement than either of us had anticipated. What was supposed to be a Podunk pit-stop had turned out to be quite impressive; even though I literally had nothing to do with this turn of events, the smug grin of someone who had perfectly orchestrated things was plastered across my face.

It was only mid-afternoon when we had fully settled into our room, and although we were planning to just kick back and relax and maybe watch some premium cable, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. ‘If Page has the unthinkably awesome Glen Canyon Dam on its outskirts, what other treasures might be lurking nearby?’ I wondered.

So I hopped on the internet and started doing some sleuthing to see what I could turn up.

Within minutes, I discovered that Page was anything but the “middle of nowhere” destination I had so blithely dismissed it as. Not only was it a base for visiting the aforementioned (and awesome!) Glen Canyon, but thanks to that crazy big dam, it’s also home to Lake Powell, North America’s largest man-made lake! And, as if that weren’t enough, it’s also the most popular base from which to visit the absolutely gorgeous Antelope Canyon, a place of Pinterest-perfect photography dreams. What makes this last attraction so embarrassing is that Tony and I had talked extensively about visiting Antelope Canyon when we were first planning our road trip (in the end, we decided to save it for another trip because—sing it with me—dogs aren’t allowed in the canyon, and the only way to visit is through a guided tour. Not knowing how hot it would be, we were concerned about leaving the dogs in the car for several hours, and some hotels won’t allow you to leave your dogs in the room unattended) and yet somehow I had failed to register where Antelope Canyon was actually located. And I call myself a researcher?!?

Steph and the dogs at Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona

It also turns out that Page is very close to Horseshoe Bend… another place I had seen in photos before and thought, ‘Wow! That place looks magnificently beautiful! I wonder where you have to go to see that?’ and then proceeded to do zero follow-up. When I saw pictures of it begin to pop up in my searches of things to do around Page, my stomach gave a little flip of excitement and I raced to figure out whether it would be feasible to visit it during our afternoon in town.

Although there were several activities that Tony and I had to bench on this road trip because of dogs, happily, I learned that Horseshoe Bend would not be one of them. Although it is part of the National Park Service, it is one of the rare areas where dogs are welcome (provided they are on a leash)! Best of all, the easy hike was completely free AND not a 10-minute drive from our hotel. I excitedly told Tony that sunset was considered one of the best times to visit and if we left Right! Now! we could make it there in time to get some (hopefully) good shots.

So, we piled the pups into the car and drove out along Route 89 until we spotted a cluster of cars parked in a makeshift dirt lot. Deducing that this was the place, we pulled over and began our walk across the desert.

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona

The silky, shifting sands made the half-mile hike across gently undulating dunes slightly more challenging than anticipated, but when we caught our first glimpse of the Colorado river and Horseshoe Bend, we knew the exertion was more than worth it.

Horseshoe Bend is one of those places that, even as you’re gawking at it, you have to keep reminding yourself is real. For one, it’s crazy gorgeous. Secondly, you’re allowed to get right up to the edge of the overlook and there are absolutely no safety rails or barriers to prevent you from plummeting 1000-feet down to your death. It’s the kind of cavalier disregard for safety that we would expect in Asia but certainly not in the United States, so that definitely added a level of exhilaration too.

Steph and Tony at Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona

Of course, this is when we learned that our big dog, Emmy Lou, has a fear of heights; after tiptoeing up to the edge, she bounded backwards and then stubbornly refused to go close to the lip of the canyon ever again. Rory didn’t seem phased by the drop, but was more content to be fawned over by a group of Chinese tourists who wound up being more interested in taking selfies with him than of the bend. I can’t say I totally blame them, since we also took more than our fair share of pictures with the pups perched up there too… but we also took plenty of photos where Horseshoe Bend was the rightful star.

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona
Steph and the dogs at Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona

The day was slightly overcast and we didn’t want to do the hike back to our car in a pitch black, so we didn’t get one of those stunning shots where the sky explodes into a rainbow of colors above Horseshoe Bend, but even without celestial pyrotechnics, it was still breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

It’s crazy to think that were it not for the Motel 6, we very likely would have skipped Page and its beautiful host of attractions. It’s just another reminder that often it’s the places we know the least about or have the lowest expectations for that wind up surprising us the most and leave the deepest impressions. Sometimes as travelers, we don’t know best, and a place to lay your head become so much more and provides us with a better adventure than the one we would choose for ourselves.

Now it’s your turn! Tell Us: What unassuming destination have you discovered in your own travels, somewhere that you only planned to spend the night, but then it turned out to be unexpectedly awesome? Would you want to visit Page, Arizona? Also, how do you feel about dams?!?

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22 comments Leave a comment

  1. We stopped in Page for two nights on a 6 week Western US road trip in 2010 and although the town isn’t that impressive, it is definitely worth visiting for Lake Powell and Glen Canyon. I wish we had got out on the lake when we were there, it is popular with houseboats, and I wish I had known about Horseshoe Bend then, I only found out about it a couple of years later. We didn’t have the money or time to go to Antelope Canyon so I will definitely have to return 🙂

    Jun. 3 2015 @ 6:33 pm
    1. Katie author

      Yes, I wish we had been able to go out on the lake, too! I think there might be a restaurant on the lake that is actually pet-friendly, but that’s not really the same thing, is it? Would be incredible to stay on a houseboat there, I think! Something to put in our back pockets for when we don’t have two fur kids along for the adventure…

      Jun. 5 2015 @ 11:52 am
  2. As a civil enginerd, I have to say I do have a soft spot for dams, though I’ve never seen or been to any of those big epic ones. I’ve been once, years ago, to Vegas, and while I’d rather try new places, if I am ever back I vow to tie in the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam to glory in the marvels that they are.

    I’ve seen photos of Horseshoe Bend, and always think that the actual thing would knock any photo out of the water, but, as per usual, the photos in your post has had me literally oohing and aahing at my laptop – well done! I’m glad you guys didn’t miss out!

    Jun. 3 2015 @ 7:22 pm
    1. Emily author

      Horseshoe bend is actually ridiculously tricky to photograph. So many of the photos I had seen are really spectacular and the real thing is too, but in a different way than it seems in photos. (I realize that makes no sense, but when you visit, you’ll know what I mean.) And it was really hard getting photos that actually captured a sliver of how beautiful and special Horseshoe Bend really is and that manage to capture the sense of scale and exhilaration you get when you’re standing right there on the rim. I pretty much left the picture taking to the professional (read: Tony) and focused on enjoying the bend in person (and also keeping Rory from toddling over the edge!).

      Still haven’t made it to Vegas (it was a trip being in that part of the country as there were actually road signs/mile markers telling us how to get there!), but it’s on the list. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll check out the Hoover Dam when we go…

      Jun. 5 2015 @ 11:57 am
  3. I hear you! We kinda ended up there accidentally and loved it! Lake Powell was a pleasant surprise and horse shoe bend… Wow! That gave me some serious vertigo. Just looking at you and the dogs on the edge makes my stomach squirm. Gorgeous shots!

    Jun. 3 2015 @ 7:36 pm
    1. Sarah author

      Ha! Yeah, I had to definitely play mother hen and keep Rory from getting to close to the edge as he knew no fear! And, of course, I was nervous that one of the dogs would give a tug, I’d trip, and it would be game over! I never thought Emmy would be the more sensible of our two dogs, but she had the right idea keeping her distance from the edge… I’m not one to get scared of heights, but standing up right on the lip of Horseshoe Bend is quite dizzying!

      Jun. 5 2015 @ 12:00 pm
  4. We’ve stayed at Motel 6 a couple of times during our US road trips (and Super 8 and HoJo!) because motels are *so* much easier when you have a dog. In fact, most of the time we’ll be rolling in late at night and leaving early morning and so a couple of times we didn’t even tell them about the dog, we just parked round the back and trotted her in. But I do agree about the annoying “pet fees”. In Santa Fe, we were seeing ridiculous charges for pets and lots of “No Pets” signs in windows, which was very disheartening. Especially when you know that your pet is probably cleaner and tidier than some human guests!! I have a soft spot for your corgi, because he looks a little like our sweet Basset (although both of your dogs are adorable!)

    Jun. 4 2015 @ 2:36 am
    1. Julia author

      We had originally considered adding New Mexico to our itinerary, but when I saw the prices for pet-friendly lodging in Santa Fe, I decided it might be best to save that city for a different trip.

      Also, yes, you’re right that there are a few other chains that are pet-friendly and don’t charge crazy fees (weirdly, I think there were never Super 8s in the places we were interested in staying… or the ones I found did have a pet fee, maybe?), and we did stay at a La Quinta on our way from Toronto to Minnesota back in December. Alas, La Quintas wound up being quite pricy (like $80+/night) in most of our destinations, so we skipped them.

      Oh, and you’re not the only one with a soft spot for Rory and believe you me, he knows it! 😉

      Jun. 5 2015 @ 12:05 pm
  5. I’ve never heard of Page but that geography looks beautiful! All for a Motel 6 — ahh, the things we do to save money 🙂 At least it worked out very much in your favor! I suppose Montreux kind of worked out like that for me, but then again where in Switzerland isn’t it beautiful? (also: not cheap at all.) As for dams…I don’t get the appeal. I mean, it’s a marvel of man vs nature, but still, it’s pretty boring to look at, IMHO.

    Jun. 4 2015 @ 8:54 pm
    1. Edna author

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t get dams either. I mean, Glen Canyon was really cool to see in person and, I’ll admit that, for the five minutes we were looking at its huge dam, that was neat too… but I would not drive out of my way to see the dam part of that experience, I can tell you that.

      And I’m glad that save for our first night in Nebraska, the Motel 6s of SouthWest America were actually really decent. I wouldn’t have minded staying there even if we didn’t have the pooches. One thing long-term travel has definitely done for me is made me realize that accommodation is always going to be a low-priority when it comes to budgeting for things. I want somewhere clean, quiet and safe to spend the night, but it doesn’t have to be fancy! Plus, most low-budget hotels in the U.S. have free WiFi whereas the pricy places charge extra for that… as if they weren’t already making a fortune!

      Jun. 5 2015 @ 12:10 pm
  6. Hi guys! We’ve been (finally) on our own Western US road trip and have been just amazed by the beauty here. Your photos capture those colors (blue + orange + more blue) so well. We loved Moab actually, and didn’t know what to expect from it. I loved the quirky restaurants, and we went ‘glamping’ there…and Arches N.P. was also fantastic! Who knew! I can’t believe our time in AZ went by without a visit to Page, but what can you do. Next time… 🙂

    Jun. 5 2015 @ 7:40 am
    1. Julie author

      I’m so glad you enjoyed Moab! I think if I *had* to pick my favorite stop from this road trip, that would be it, and Arches would be my favorite park. But Page was definitely a surprise and I’m glad that things worked out the way they did and we got to visit. Seems like that pocket of the U.S. is just filled with beautiful things just waiting for people to stumble upon them… we’ll definitely need to head back and visit some of the places we didn’t manage to fit in on this trip.

      Jun. 5 2015 @ 12:12 pm
  7. Jen

    Hello! Just wanted to say that I love your blog. I commented once before (I live in Taiwan). BUT, I am from Arizona, and yes, the 4 corners area is beautiful!! If you like to read, then I suggest you read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. You will find out a lot about how amazing Glen Canyon was before the dam. Hope you are enjoying Mexico, and thanks for the fun read. 🙂

    Jun. 5 2015 @ 7:57 am
    1. Jen author

      Thank you so much for the sweet comment, Jen. How lucky for you that you get to live in Taiwan but have also experienced the beauty of the American Southwest. Consider us jealous! 😉 Also, thank you for the book recommendation—I do love to read, so I will certainly check out that title when I get the chance.

      Jun. 5 2015 @ 12:13 pm
  8. Oh Steph, so very true. Although I, too, am admittedly a planner, over the course of our travels I’ve learned to plan excessively, partly because I love it, but then as often as not throw all plans to the wind. Inevitably, we meet an interesting local with insider knowledge, a different road calls our name, or sometimes we’re simply not in the mood for “the plan”. I think a truly great traveler knows the options, but is open to abandoning them just as easily. I am sad to say we did NOT make it to Horsehoe Bend! Looks amazing.

    Jun. 5 2015 @ 1:52 pm
    1. Rhonda author

      Oh, absolutely, Rhonda! I love to make plans, but I mostly just use them as guidelines these days and don’t get too worked up if we don’t wind up doing whatever I researched… generally that’s because we stumbled upon something even better instead! As you said, I like to know what (most) of our options are so that we don’t risk missing out on something really cool (and I’m very goal-oriented), but I’m always open to throwing the plans out the window if something more appealing comes our way.

      Jun. 8 2015 @ 5:36 pm
  9. i just love this story of an unexpectedly awesome travel find! It sounds a bit like my travels throughout France this past month. I’m usually exactly how you describe yourself – researching away, letting no restaurant go unvetted for, with a list of things to do in hand. But given all the work that moving entails, we only had accommodations booked for each destination with little concrete idea of what we were actually going to do in each place. And to my surprise, it worked out! It was kind of liberating researching on the go and asking around for locals’ advice.

    I’ve seen photos of Horseshoe Bend, and have marveled at its beauty (probably on Pinterest!). It’s one of those places I’ve determined I would love to see now that we’re focused on exploring the US more. How perfect that you got to see this place without even realizing your proximity to it!!! Your photos of it are gorgeous and reaffirm my desire to go. Glad to hear that area has a few things to see in addition!

    Jun. 10 2015 @ 10:30 am
    1. Sara @ Simply Sara Travel author

      I think because of the internet and being connected all the time, people often feel like they have to have all the details sorted out well in advance and we feel uncomfortable about leaving things open to chance and really facing the unknown. But, you know, whenever we’ve not made concrete plans for a place, things have ALWAYS worked out and often you just don’t hear about the really cool stuff until you’re on the ground, making it up as you go along.

      The great thing about Page is not only is there tons of stuff to do in the area, but you’re actually not that far from things like The Grand Canyon, Zion, Monument Valley, and even Sedona. So it’s really not a bad place to base yourself if you want to explore that part of the U.S. (and clearly you do, because it’s GORGEOUS!).

      Jun. 10 2015 @ 11:55 am
  10. I have actually been to Arizona and it was surprisingly awesome although I was slightly worried about meeting snakes as there were so many signs stating to be aware of them. Gulp!

    We’ve only been to America once so far and we decided to go to the West Coast and so our 3.5 weeks adventure started through California, Arizona, Nevada & Utah. We went to four National Parks through the snow and the desert as we arrived in January LOL!

    We went to the Hoover Dam. Emm. Yes. Hubby was excited. Myself, not so much OK but I preferrred the Grand Canyon. It was just so beautiful and inspiring and even slightly over-whelming. I wasn’t expecting that. 🙂

    Jun. 11 2015 @ 1:13 am
    1. Victoria@ The British Berliner author

      What a great adventure you had through the U.S.! For a first visit, I think you probably got to tackle some of the most beautiful places, at least judging from our most recent road trip. And we visited in March and still got to experience a decent amount of snow, but I think that was kind of nice as many of these places are far more popular in the summer so seeing them blanketed in white makes for a rather unusual experience.

      And funny you should mention the Grand Canyon, because our most recent post is all about how blown away by it we were! I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when we made it there, especially after all of the amazing parks we visited in Utah, but it definitely did not disappoint!

      Jun. 12 2015 @ 9:44 am
  11. Gorgeous photos of Horseshoe Bend! That’s a place that I’ve also enjoyed seeing images of without knowing where it was actually located. Nice find!

    And the more time I spend traveling outside the U.S., the more dog-UNfriendly I find our country to be. People take their dogs with them everywhere in Latvia, and I’ve noticed the same in France and Norway. I don’t get what the issue is, America. Parks are for dogs!

    Jun. 15 2015 @ 3:17 pm
    1. Heather author

      I think the U.S. is dog-friendly in some ways—certainly compared to Mexico where finding a hotel that will accept dogs is certainly harder work—but it is a bummer about the national parks. Their rationale is that they don’t want dogs aggravating or upsetting the wildlife, but I feel like there are a lot of places that you could take a pet so long as it was on a leash (and we never let our dogs off leash in public… mostly for their own safety!). Thankfully, all of the national forests are pet friendly, so that is another alternative, but we just accepted there were certain things we would have to forgo on this trip and enjoyed the things that our entire family could take part in!

      Jun. 16 2015 @ 12:12 pm

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