Horseshoe Bend is an iconic spot on the Colorado River. It is a meander of the river shaped like a horseshoe, thus the name. You probably have seen plenty of pictures from this place, and it is your must-see point on the southwest trip. Unfortunately, it changed a little bit in recent years. Now to get to the spot, you must pay the fee and stay in the crowd at least during the peak season. We prepared this short Horseshoe Bend Hike Guide to make it easier for you and prepare well for this encounter.
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How to get to Horseshoe Bend?
Horseshoe Bend is located 5 miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and about 4 miles southwest of Page, AZ. It is easily accessible from US Route 89. You can reach it driving from the south or north.
How to get from Page, AZ?
From the Page, drive south on US Route 89 (direction Flagstaff) for about 4 miles, and after passing Route 98 junction, look to the right for the Horseshoe Bend parking lot sign. After turning right, you will have a fee kiosk. Pay 10 USD to get to the parking lot (interagency pass doesn’t work here).
How to get from Flagstaff, AZ or Grand Canyon?
A lot of people are coming to Horseshoe Bend from the south after visiting Flagstaff or Grand Canyon South Rim or North Rim. In both cases, you must reach US Route 89 north, and after the junction with 89A in Bitter Springs, just drive about 21 miles to the parking lot entrance. You will see it on your left. Take a turn, then approach a fee kiosk and pay 10 USD to get to the parking lot (interagency pass doesn’t work here).
Where to stay?
The most convenient lodging to visit Horseshoe Bend is in Page, AZ. There is an excellent selection of hotels in the town.
If you are traveling with RV, it might be a more convenient option to choose a campground or RV park. Unfortunately, options are limited here. If you need a campground, we can recommend Page Lake Powell Campground.
When to visit Horseshoe Bend?
Any time of the year will be good for visiting this attraction. The most important is to choose the time of the day. There is plenty of opinions, and many people suggest to come for the sunset. But at this time, you will have the sun directly in your eyes. It’s not bad if you are a photographer and want to catch some last rays disappearing behind the horizon and agree to have a river in the shadow.
But for most of the people, it seems much better to come in the late morning or early afternoon. River should be out of a shadow about 9:30 am and stay like that to the afternoon. If you have more time, you can try both options – morning and afternoon. But remember that now each entry will cost you 10 USD.
Horseshoe Bend Hike
The 1.3-mile roundtrip easy, but heavily trafficked hike. You will be stepping on the mix of stone, sand, and gravel, so we recommend to wear good hiking shoes or boots. For most people, it will take 20 minutes to get from the parking lot to the cliff. It is a very light elevation gain – about 200 ft – downhill to the cliff and uphill on the way back.
The hike was renovated recently and now is more kids friendly due to the railing installed at the cliff. But it would help if you still took special care because you will find those only at the most dangerous part. Otherwise it is easy to fall. Fortunately falling down is not the biggest problem and most of the tourists that need to be rescued here are because of the heat and dehydration. People assume it is a short hike, and they will survive without water. Very often, it is not valid, and most of the year, you must take at least a bottle of water with you. There is no shade on the hike nor the cliff itself.
You can take your pet to the hike. But remember to keep your dog on leash and control your animal at the edge.
Photography Hints and Tips
Time of the Year
As we already mentioned, each time of the year is good to visit Horseshoe Bend, but it might not be correct for photographers. In case you want to have a fantastic and unique picture of this place, you should rather try to choose the weather different than a sunny day. It’s much easier to have unusual weather late fall or in winter. In the spring, there is, however, a better chance for rain and subtle colors. We believe that one visit is not enough to get a somehow unique picture. And make sure to check the weather before coming.
Other posts about Arizona with tons of tips and exiting information you will find in our Arizona PhotoTravel Guide!
Time of the Day
For most of you, it is much easier to choose the time of the day than the time of the year. And each combination will be right but will give you a completely different picture too. You can try to catch the sunrise, but the river will be in the shadow. It seems to be better in the midday to have balanced light on the whole rock. Or come for the sunset and try to catch last rays. In this case you must agree to have river in the shadow again. Maybe it is better to wait after the sunset and have everything in the shadow? It is up to you. We like mid-day or sunset photos best.
The crucial part is to have a wide-angle lens. Or the phone that allows you to take a wide-angle picture (like iPhone 11, for example). If you are coming for the sunset or sunrise, don’t forget to grab your tripod. It might also be a good idea to take an ND grad filter to avoid a big contrast between the sky and the rock. If you have a tripod, you should try to capture HDR as well.