The name alone sets the tone for this ancient archaeological site. Settled back in 1250AD, the Hopi Rattlesnake clan of the Anasazi used this remote location as an outpost. It’s unknown as to why this secluded location was originally settled or why those settlers eventually left; however, back in 1959, the Defiance House site was found during an archaeological survey within Glen Canyon.
Defiance House is a hidden gem within the sandstone cliffs of Lake Powell, and is definitely worth a visit for any potential visitors to the Lake. While it had been 15 years since our last visit to Lake Powell, it had been over 20 years since our last visit to Defiance House. So when my dad mentioned that he wanted to hike to Defiance House during his birthday trip, we immediately added it to our plans.
August is one of the hottest times of the year to visit Lake Powell, so we started our day just after sunrise in order to get a jump-start on the heat. We started our hour-long boat-ride from Halls Creek Bay to Forgotten Canyon with caffeine in hand, some groovy tunes on the radio, and plenty of snacks for the adventure.
20 years ago, visitors to Defiance House were able to anchor their boats along the cliffs just below the site; however, this time it was different. So different.
This time the lake levels were significantly lower so we anchored the boat closer to the main channel. And when we asked the campers nearby how far it was to Defiance House, they responded with, “It’s about a 30 minute walk up the canyon.” The response was less than assuring. So we started our hike and wondered just how much time we would wander through the desert heat.
Our group hiked the river bottom of the narrow canyon as the trail cut through sandy valleys, grassy pathways, and sand hills, and we saw chipmunks and snakes along the trail. The kids loved it. I preferred to pretend that we did not see snakes so close to our feet.
During our hike we scanned the sandstone cliffs high above the valley floor, looking for the hidden treasure nestled in those very cliffs. And after about 30 minutes of hiking, Defiance House revealed its location by the three warrior markings painted into the cliffs above the site. To my delight, those campers weren’t wrong about the length of the hike.
Because the water levels were lower during our visit, we were the only hikers at the site. Two National Park employees arrived and explained the history and importance of this sacred site. They showed us artifacts including pieces of weapons, clay bowls, and even food that was found. It was incredibly special to have this one-on-one time with the rangers as we learned all about the Hopi clan and what life was like back in 1250AD.
Our group hiked the 30 minutes back to the boat and just as we arrived, we noticed some teenagers starting the hike — with no water and most without shoes. My dad, being the sweet, kind, caring man that he is, started chatting with the kids and persuaded them to bring water and put on some shoes. The heat is deadly in the desert and even an hour-long hike could turn dangerous if you aren’t prepared for the elements.
If you’re headed out on this hike, be prepared: take plenty of water, and watch the weather forecast to avoid flash floods.
I loved that we were able to spend the morning hiking to such a special site. It brought back so many happy memories, and it was even more special as we were able to share the experience with my niece and nephew. The best thing about Lake Powell is that it’s an adventurers paradise. It’s remote. It’s stunning. And it offers plenty of excitement for everyone. And most importantly, it’s the perfect place to celebrate the birthday of the world’s greatest Dad!