Alstrom Point: discover and access one of the most beautiful views of the American Southwest
Alstrom Point is one of our favorites from the American West. This view of Lake Powell is breathtaking! It is for us one of the most beautiful panoramas that can be found in the American Southwest. But Alstrom Point is also a place that will not be easy to reach. Because of its difficulty of access, only the adventurers equipped with a good 4WD will be able to join it, thus preserving this panorama to a small group of explorers.
1Alstrom Point: a 5 star panorama!
We discovered Alstrom Point a little by chance, finding an Instagram photo that immediately attracted us by its beauty. This panorama left us speechless, so unreal that we absolutely had to see it with our own eyes, what we did in October 2017.
Alstrom Point is therefore the name of a viewpoint, or rather a promontory located on the vertiginous heights of Lake Powell, in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, on the Utah side. It offers an absolutely breathtaking view of Gunsight Bay and Lake Powell.
From the promontory, we overhangs the eastern part of the great Powell Lake. We can see perfectly the myriads of small canyons and interstices which give the lake this so particular form. Straight ahead, a magnificent rocky point advances, letting imagine the splendour of the canyon of yesteryear, before it is covered by the water since the construction of the dam. Looking south, you can see the strange rock formations of Arizona in the distance, reminiscent of Monument Valley.
From here, we can only sit and contemplate the beauty of the show. We were amazed by this almost surrealist view, so fascinating it is. We were alone in the world, no noise to disturb us, a moment of pure happiness. From the point of view, we walked a little until we reached the edge. We were on the edge of the vertiginous walls, but we didn't want to miss a thing of the show.
We had to stay at least 2 hours watching the sun go down and capture in our cameras every second of that magical moment.
But be careful, because access to Alstrom Point is particularly difficult, which will reserve it for 4WD drivers with a minimum of experience and equipped with a vehicle with good ground clearance, but its difficulty of access is largely worth the landscapes that you will discover on the spot!
2How to get to Alstrom Point?
Alstrom Point is located at the end of a long 4WD track that is virtually unmarked. It is therefore important to follow the instructions below so as not to miss the various junctions and get to your destination. Also make sure you have the appropriate vehicle to venture out on the trails (see paragraph below).
40 km (24,5 miles) from Big Water - Approximately 1h20 to Alstrom Point
The route begins in Big Water, a small town on Highway 89 northwest of Page, Utah. Enter Big Water and turn right onto NP230. The road, initially paved, quickly turns into a path of stones and dust just before encountering a first obstacle after only a few hectometers. It is a river to ford across.
Depending on the last rainfall, it will be more or less inflated. If the weather has been dry for some time, it may dry out as it did during our visit. However, if it looks too big, don't take any risks.
Be sure to be able to cross it if the stream appears deep. It will be the only "big" river to cross. Don't forget that you will also have to cross it on the way back.
Once the river is passed, the track begins in a large desert with surreal landscapes. The colours of the rock formations are fascinating grey, the Smoky Mountains are not far away! With each turn, the landscapes are transformed even if the desert is always present. The feeling is really strange!
You will have understood it, this sector deserves some stops so much the surroundings are photogenic and deserve contemplation in spite of the ambient aridity!
20.7 km (12.9 miles) after the beginning of the NP230, you are the car full of dust and facing a first intersection where we will continue on the right on the NP230 (do not enter Grand Staircase Escalante NM). Then after 1.4 km (0.8 mile), here is a second intersection. On the left, Smoky Mountain Road enters (again) the Grand Staircase Escalante NM, and on the right, the NP230 continues towards Alstrom Point, which must therefore be taken.
The track continues to scroll and the Smoky Mountains are now behind us. They give way to another arid desert, this time much flatter. The landscapes have less charm, but the track enables to take a little speed.
After 5.2 km (3.2 miles), a third intersection will appear: this time the question will be "Does my vehicle have sufficient ground clearance? The road to the right, NP264, is not recommended because of the dry riverbed which is difficult to cross for vehicles with a low ground clearance (this is the dotted route on the map at the bottom of the article). For your information, our Toyota 4Runner has scraped off the towing bracket at this point. If in doubt, unless you are a gambler, continue on the NP230 which goes left for 1.6 km (1 mile) up to the intersection with Romana Mesard which goes right and which you will have to take to join the NP264.
No further questions regarding the route, NP264 continues to Alstrom Point. On the other hand, a little after having joined the NP264, the track becomes very chaotic with many rocks and obstacles. This is where the real difficulties will begin. Expect your progress to Alstrom Point to be extremely slow. You will meet places where it will be necessary to be good in the analysis of the ground or to have a co-pilot who will go down from time to time to guide you on the best trajectory to take while rocks threaten the integrity of the underside of your vehicle! Allow time to make this last portion and identify the track that sometimes merges with the rocks on the ground, just indicated by small stones.
A little anecdote to back up my comments: at GPS point 37.067727, -111.379862, we met people equipped with a 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee on the way back and having experienced the greatest difficulties to cross the rocky area here, as evidenced by the friction marks on the ground they had left after several attempts! This is, I think, the most delicate part of the road. Know in the worst case that if you get stuck here, you will only be 3 km (1.9 mile) from the point of view.
About 300 meters after this delicate passage, you will discover the first point of view on the lake. On your left, expect to be bluffed by the superb panorama which is even more beautiful if you take the time to walk down a few tens of meters as you approach the edge of the cliffs.
The road then continues in the middle of big stones, and finally reaches the long-awaited point. The track ends with a fork leading to 3 small tracks to reach different points of view. As you drive south, you will quickly find a small dead end and a small tray ideal for spending the night.
From here you only have to explore the area by foot and find the best location to sit and admire the scenery.
3What vehicle do I need ?
A 4WD with good ground clearance is required to get to Alstrom Point. The crossing of the river by ford, the crossings of the various rivers and washs drained and especially the last very uneven portion will require necessarily a good vehicle if not you will not pass.
In view of the difficulties the gentlemen had at the wheel of their Grand Cherokee, we can only advise you to take a higher model, with better ground clearance. Our 4 Runner arrived without any problems, but Sandrine had to get out of the car several times to guide Florent. At one point, it had to take small rocks to make a slope so that our 4x4 could cross a big obstacle without damaging the underbody.
Also be careful as the weather can make the track impassable, which can turn into a muddy and dangerous rink if it has rained recently. Note that in case of heavy rain or storm, access could be impassable and the area made very dangerous by the high risk of floods. So be very careful before you start.
4Our Alstrom Point video
Here is the video of our two days at Alstrom Point. We show you some portions of the trail and the difficulties we encountered, as well as our feelings on the spot, facing this sublime landscape.
5Some practical information
When to come to Alstrom Point?
Alstrom Point is accessible all year round if the access roads are accessible. However, avoid going there if it has rained a lot in the previous days or if the sky is threatening.
Prefer to come at the end of the day to enjoy the beautiful sunset lights, or come very early for sunrise. Allow enough time not to miss the sunrise or sunset as the road is long enough because of the obstacles of the last part.
Ideally, take the time to bivouac on site. The place is really superb and quiet and you can fully enjoy the sunsets and sunrises. It's magic!
How much does it cost to access Alstrom Point?
Alstrom Point is located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is subject to fees. Admission is $25 per car ($30 starting June 1, 2018), valid for 7 days, but if you plan to visit several National Parks or National Recreation Areas during your trip, we recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful pass which is accepted here. Read more in our article: The indispensable America the beautiful pass.
Please note that there are no payment terminals on the entire route. If you do not have the America the beautiful pass, you will have to buy your 7-day pass by stopping at the nearest Visitor Center, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Wahweap, near Page.
The backcountry camping in the park is free.
Can we fly a drone to Alstrom Point?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. The entire access road from Big Water to Alstrom Point is located entirely within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, although the track is located on the northern boundary of the park. The regulations of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area therefore apply here.
The track to Alstrom Point is clearly visible on the new Glen Canyon National Recreation Area map. We insist on this point because when we came here, we mistakenly thought that Alstrom Point was located outside the park and we flew our drone there, which was already forbidden at the time.
Where to sleep near Alstrom Point?
To enjoy all the beauty from the point of view, we highly recommend you to bivouac on site. You will be able to appreciate the calm and serenity of the place by contemplating the sunrises and sunsets which are magical! For those who prefer to head to a hotel, the cities of Page in Arizona or Kanab in Utah are a good place to sleep.
In backcountry camping
We kept an unbelievable memory of this night spent at the edge of the cliffs, dominating Lake Powell in an absolute calm. That night, we were alone sleeping on the spot. However, at the end of the day a young couple joined us to admire the sunset, but they left after dark to find a more comfortable campsite.
It must be said that there is absolutely nothing at Alstrom Point. You will only find a more or less flat rocky area dotted with small shrubs. As we were alone, we left our 4WD where the road stops and set up our tent right next door, near a small fireplace ready to welcome a fire. All we had to do was burn some logs and enjoy this idyllic moment!
When night came, we felt like we were on the roof of the world! What calm! From our point of view, we could see lights in the distance on the shores of Lake Powell. We felt both near and far from everything, a very strange feeling.
The next morning we set the alarm clock not to miss anything from sunrise. It was incredible! The colours were completely different from the day before. This time, the sun rises on the lake, the reflections and nuances are all different and we have the impression to discover a new landscape.
A couple arrived shortly after sunrise. He's settled far enough away from us not to bother us. We were disappointed for them because they missed the best colours. To come directly for the sunrise especially considering the state of the track is rather risky, it is necessary to be good on the timing!
You will have understood it, if you are equipped, do not miss under any pretext a bivouac at Alstrom Point! It's free and there are no permits to apply for.
The comfort of a hotel room
If you are not equipped for backcountry camping, or prefer the comfort of a hotel room, the closest and most convenient will be the city of Page in Arizona (see the hotels at Page) which will be quite convenient to explore the surroundings, but beware, the prices are very high because very tourist. Otherwise, the pleasant city of Kanab in Utah offers many accommodations (see hotels in Kanab). Both cities have a number of restaurants and supermarkets.
If you want to reach your hotel after sunset, plan not to leave too late to at least make the first 4 km difficult before dark. The rest of the road won't be a problem. Allow a little more than 1 hour 20 to reach Big Water.