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Glen Canyon Dam Overlook is a must-see stop if you’re exploring this area in northern Arizona. Many people miss it because they’re racing to see the more famous Horseshoe Bend, or Glen Canyon Dam itself. But it’s worth taking a short detour to this well-maintained overlook for spectacular views and great photo ops.

What is the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook?

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook is a designated spot perched 1,000 feet over a bend in the Colorado River about 3/4 mile south of Glen Canyon Dam itself. It’s important to note that this is an official vista point created by the National Park Service to provide visitors a scenic–and SAFE–way to see the Dam, the Colorado River and Glen Canyon itself.

View of glen canyon dam with bridge in front, taken 3/4 mile away at glen canyon overlook
A spectacular view of Glen Canyon Dam from the Overlook. Note the bridge just in front of the dam.

Five reasons to visit Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

  1. Terrific views of Glen Canyon Dam, plus Glen Canyon Bridge
  2. Wonderful views of the Colorado River slicing through Glen Canyon
  3. The overlook is easily accessible via a short (900-foot) hike
  4. Similar views to Horseshoe Bend, with less people
  5. Access is free

What can you see at this overlook?

The views at this “overlooked” overlook are stunning. Glen Canyon Dam Overlook provides a combination of views, ranging from natural to man-made wonders. The dam overlook is about 3.5 miles north of Horseshoe Bend, with much of the same natural scenery (only without the big hairpin turn in the river . . . or the crowds).

Looking to the north, you’ll be able to see the massive concrete engineering marvel of Glen Canyon Dam wedged into the red rocks of Glen Canyon. It’s the only place you can see the dam with the Glen Canyon Bridge superimposed over the front of it–it’s a very cool sight!

If natural scenery is more your thing, all you have to do is look south . . . or down. Looking down you’ll see the Colorado River flowing placidly over 1,000 below you. (If you’re lucky you might see either a motor boat or kayakers making their way down the river.)

Horizontal view of colorado river flowing through the vertical rocks of glen canyon
A view of the Colorado River above 1000-foot cliffs, looking south from Glen Canyon Dam Overlook

The view to the south gives you a terrific vantage point of the river splitting the red sandstone to create Glen Canyon. Since it curves off into the distance you’ll have some idea of what Horseshoe Bend looks like. One of the fascinating things to see is the greenery growing along the edge of the river. The vivid green against the red sandstone makes a nice color contrast, but it’s also soothing to the eye amidst all the reds and browns of this high desert landscape.

man with cowboy hat standing at overlook viewing glen canyon dam
Plenty of railings, plus space and shade to enjoy the view

There are railings all along the overlook, as well as a covered viewing area facing north toward the dam. As you can see from the pictures here, there are plenty of great photo ops, so there’s no need to do anything crazy (or irresponsible), such as climbing out beyond the railings. (DON’T do that!)

How to access the Glen Canyon Overlook

sign at the beginning of the glen canyon dam overlook trail
Sign at the trailhead, note the railings, and a glimpse of Glen Canyon Dam in the upper right

There is a short trail leading to the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook, accessed via the Dam Overlook Trailhead. The trail is only about 950 feet long, but you must descend a series of natural (but irregular) steps carved out of the sandstone. (Therefore, the trail is not suitable for those with mobility issues.) It’s a roughly 80-foot descent to the overlook, but the trail has railings all along the way. This comes in handy, as trying to balance a camera and water bottle as you’re scrambling down slightly angled steps of varying heights can get a little tricky.

To reach the trailhead, turn off of US Highway 89 onto Scenic View Road (which is a pretty appropriate name!), then turn west onto an unmarked, (but well-paved) road opposite the back entrances of the Baymont and Home2Suites Hotels. You’ll see Glen Canyon Dam in the distance, and the road will slope down slightly to a small parking lot (which, unlike parking at Horseshoe Dam, is free). From there you can access the trailhead.

man standing on red rocks above Glen Canyon admiring the view.
Take time to savor the views

How much time is required to see the overlook?

Visiting this little-known sight doesn’t take very long. It’s about 5 minutes each way to get from the parking lot to the Glen Canyon Dam overlook, and back again. If you’re really quick, another 5 minutes for photos and in just 15 minutes . . . BAM! you’re outta there.

But I encourage you to take a bit more time. The scenery is truly magnificent, and you’re likely to have the place almost to yourself. It’s a great place to slow down for a few minutes and absorb the beauty in front of you. Glen Canyon Dam Overlook is a pleasant surprise, and, like the Hanging Gardens Arizona, well-worth the short detour.

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This Arizona road trip to 4 Corners Monument takes you through the Navajo Nation in the northeast part of the state. You’ll see Monument Valley and many other stunning ancient sights related to Native American history and culture. For geography geeks (like us!), a trip to 4 Corners Monument is a must-see road trip destination. It’s the only place in American where you can stand in 4 states at once!

PRO TIP: 4 Corners Monument (i.e.The Navajo Nation) observes Daylight Savings Time, the State of Arizona does NOTbe sure to plan your schedule accordingly!


The 4 Corners Monument Road Trip Itinerary

Map showing route of 4 Corners Monument road trip
Route map of 4 Corners Monument Road Trip, image courtesy of Google Maps

This Arizona road trip itinerary begins near the north center of the state (Flagstaff or the Grand Canyon) and heads northeast into the Navajo Nation toward 4 Corners. Customize your journey to make it your own personal best road trip in Arizona by linking to one of our other itineraries. Along the way you’ll see some magnificent scenery, including Navajo National Monument and a historic Navajo display in an unlikely location (more on that below).

Spend a night (or two) at spectacular Monument Valley, using it as a base as you explore the area and visit 4 Corners Monument. Afterward, continue southward, stopping in to see the ancient Canyon de Chelly and historic Hubbell Trading post. Finish up near Petrified Forest National Park, where, if you’re so inclined, you can head back west on Route 66 in Arizona.


NOTE: Some National Park and Navajo Nation sights may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check prior to visiting.


Cliff Dwellings at Navajo National Monument

Visit cliff dwellings that date back to the 1300s Navajo National Monument. There are two sites within the park that are available to visit: Betataking and Keet Seel. You can seek the Betatakin dwellings from a distance via an overlook on a self-guided trail. If you want to seek the site up-close, sign up for a ranger-guided tour, which takes 3-5 hours of rugged hiking. For a real in-country Navajo Nation experience, sign up for the 17-mile round trip hike to Keet Seel.

Sweeping view of cliff dwellings at Navajo National Monument, 4 corners monument

PRO TIP: Up-close looks at the cliff dwellings involve rugged hiking on ranger-guided tours. Sign up at ranger-guided tours at Navajo National Monument.


The Navajo Code Talkers Exhibit

After driving about 150 miles east the Grand Canyon you’ll come to the small town of Kayenta. Don’t bypass the Burger King: what appears to be a run-of-the-mill fast food outlet contains a hidden gem. Inside there’s an exhibit dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers. These Navajo soldiers transmitted encoded military messages in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The Japanese were unable to decipher the ancient language, helping the Allied path to victory.–a code the Japanese navy was never able to break.

PRO TIP: Interested in learning more about the Navajo Code Talkers? Seek out the 2002 movie Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach.

On the Navajo Code Talker website you can hear fascinating interviews from actual Code Talkers who served in World war II. One display depicts a fascinating blend of cultures: a Purple Heart medal decorated with local turquoise.

mural of a WWII Navajo code talker on the side of a barn in the Arizona desert


What, exactly, is 4 Corners Monument?

We’re both geography geeks so even from a tender age we used to look at maps and always wonder about that magical place where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah met. That’s 4 Corners: the only place in the United States where you can stand in one spot and be in four states at once. And because of that bit of geographic weirdness, naturally there’s a monument. To some it’s a tad silly, but to travel nerds (and since you’re reading this you may be one, too) a road trip to 4 Corners Monument is a must-do journey.

4 Corners Monument feet straddling state borders
As geography geek photo ops go, 4 corners monument is high on the list!

The 4 Corners Monument straddles four states but it is firmly located within the Navajo Nation. The tribe controls the monument at the remote location and charges an admission fee of $5/person in winter; $10/person in summer; ages six and under are free. Given the uniqueness of the site that’s not bad. The monument itself consists of a pink granite slab with markings showing the boundaries of the four states. They intersect at a round brass marker which designates the actual spot where they meet, stamped by the US Department of the Interior.


What about GPS? Is 4 Corners Monument in the right spot???

There’s been some talk lately that GPS technology has proved that the spot isn’t the actual corner of the four states. Some critics theorize that it could be 2 1 /2 miles away. Ray Russell of the Navajo Nation addresses this issue by saying, “In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.” The local Bureaus of Land Management also agree. So when you stand on the brass plaque in the you can be confident that you are indeed standing at the 4 Corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

“In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.”

Ray Russell of the Navajo Nation
Here’s a cute video of a girl running in and out of four different states.

4 Corners Monument: A Breaking Bad Moment

The Four Corners Monument even made it into an episode of the TV show Breaking Bad. When Skylar White was thinking of leaving her husband Walt she drove up to the 4 Corners with baby Holly in tow. She stood near the plaque and flipped a coin at the middle to determine where she should go. Her choice is pretty telling. (Observant fans of the show will notice that Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skylar, never actually made it to the Four Corners. Due to the magic of cinema her body double was used for the shots.)


Monument Valley

Monument Valley

After getting your geography fix at Four Corners, head to Monument Valley to see some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, straddling the Arizona and Utah borders. The epic landscape has been featured in hundreds of old Western films, many of them starring John Wayne riding to the rescue and other star-studded fare including Forrest Gump, Thelma & Louise and even the most recent version of The Lone Ranger. (Okay, so maybe they all haven’t been hits.)

Where to stay near 4 Corners Monument

We stayed in Monument Valley for a few nights. We found it was a great location a base to explore the 4 Corners Monument and the stunning rock formations at Monument Valley. There are only two hotels, but they are both winners, each offering their own unique charm:

  • Right at Monument Valley, stay at The View Hotel. It’s owned by the Navajo Nation and just like the name promises, it looks right out over Monument Valley and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
  • Historic Goulding’s Lodge opened in the 1920s as a trading post, eventually growing into a motel that housed John Wayne and crew when those Westerns were being filmed. The views of Monument Valley are more long distance views but still spectacular.

Canyons of Navajo Culture

Leaving Monument Valley and the 4 Corners Monument behind, turn south and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument to see the site of 5,000 (!) years of civilization. Because this park is contained within the Navajo Nation, it is a rare National Park that has inhabitants, whose ancestors have lived there for generations. While there you can view spectacular cliff dwellings, take a guided hike with a park ranger, or an off-road tour with a local Navajo guide.

If all this Navajo immersion has you hankering for a special souvenir, stop into the historic Hubbell Trading Post, which has been selling the work of Native American artisans for nearly 150 years. You can tour the Hubbell homestead, then watch Navajo artisans-in-residence practicing their craft. Much of this magnificent work is available for sale.

After leaving Hubbell Trading Post, head due south for about an hour to connect you with Interstate 40 and Old Route 66. From here you can head west, exploring the mid-century delights of Route 66, or continue south through Petrified Forest National Park and a Road Trip along the Mogollon Rim. Either way, you’ll have completed a unique trip through northeastern Arizona . . . somehow managing to visit 3 other states at 4 Corners Monument!

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Where is Four Corners Monument?

Four Corners Monument feet straddling state borders

Four corners monument straddles 4 states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah, but this intersection of states is firmly located in the midst of the Navajo Nation.