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Horseshoe Bend Travel Guide: Tips for Visiting This Incredible Landmark

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The United States is filled with stunning natural wonders, from the remote wilderness of Alaska to the dramatic volcanoes of Hawaii. But few sights can rival the epic majesty of the Grand Canyon.

A sure-fire bucket list destination for almost every traveler, dreamer, holidaymaker, and outdoor enthusiast, this captivating geological marvel has thrilled us for centuries.

There are hundreds of topographical attractions across its 1,904 square miles, but one of the most popular isn’t part of the Grand Canyon National Park itself. Although, it looks like it should be.

Horseshoe Bend Aerial View
LucasHeplerPhotography / Shutterstock

The beautiful Horseshoe Bend is located in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, close to the east rim of the Grand Canyon. Believing that this striking landform is part of the canyon is a common misconception.

Cut by the Colorado River over millions of years, the Horseshoe Bend is probably the most famous meander in the world. Noted as one of the best things to do in Arizona, it attracts around two million visitors a year, which makes this region of Northern Arizona a hub of outdoor activity and recreation. In this guide, we share some top tips for visiting Horseshoe Bend, and how to get the most out of your experience.

Horseshoe Bend Facts

Horseshoe Bend On A Shady Day
  • The Horseshoe Bend is about 4,200 feet (1,280 meters) wide and 1,000 feet (305 meters) deep.
  • It comprises three rock layers: the bottom is a layer of Kaibab Limestone, the middle is a layer of Coconino Sandstone, and the top is a layer of Hermit Shale. 
  • The Colorado River flows from east to west and began to form the Horseshoe Bend around six million years ago.
  • Eventually, the Colorado River will take the path of least resistance and break through the neck of the bend to become an oxbow lake. Don’t worry, though, as there are still a few thousand years to see it in its current form.
  • It wasn’t always as popular as it is today. The Horseshoe Bend has social media to thank for its recently found fame.

The Best Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend

Rock Formation and River at Horse Shoe Bend

The Horseshoe Bend is open year-round, from sunrise to sunset. Most visitors come during the summer months and aim to arrive for the sunset hours, but it gets crowded during this time.

One of the best vacation planning tips is to consider visiting popular tourist destinations during the shoulder seasons. That means mid to late spring and early to late fall are perfect times to visit Horseshoe Bend.

You can avoid the crowds in the early afternoon in high season, but be aware this is the hottest time, and you will miss out on that glorious sunrise or sunset snapshot.

If I were planning a trip to Horseshoe Bend, my first choice would be a weekday evening in late September. You can visit the Horseshoe Bend in winter, but while snow is infrequent, it can still get chilly.

How to Get to Horseshoe Bend

Arizona State Line highway sign

Horseshoe Bend is located in Arizona, about 10 miles downstream of the Glen Canyon Dam and 140 miles from the Grand Canyon’s north rim. To get there, you have several options.

By Road

To reach the Horseshoe Bend overlook south of Page, take US Highway 89 out of the town. You’ll arrive at the parking area with the Horseshoe Bend Trailhead in about 11 minutes.

A road trip from either Las Vegas or Phoenix is one of the most popular ways to reach the bend, and the drive is around four to five hours from both cities. If you’re coming from Utah, Salt Lake City is just under six hours away.

If you want to leave the car at home, shuttle bus services are available from Page, and tickets cost $5 per person. Flixbus and Greyhound offer routes from further afield.

By Air

The closest airport to Horseshoe Bend is Page Municipal, but most visitors will land at Harry Reid International in Las Vegas or Pheonix Sky Harbor. Try Skyscanner for flights.

By Rail

If you want to arrive on rails, the nearest national link will be the Amtrak train station at Flagstaff. From there, the Horseshoe Bend is still over two hours drive away.

By Water

It is possible to reach the horseshoe bend on the Colorado River. With class I rapids, this stretch of this mighty waterway is calm and suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. You can find more intense whitewater rafting elsewhere.

Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are popular. Guided tours are available (more below) but if you’re bringing your own craft, Lees Ferry in Marble Canyon is a good place to put in. From there, it’s an easy paddle upstream to the historic Petroglyphs Beach, just beyond the bend.

Horseshoe Bend Accessibility

Tourist On the Top of Grand Canyon

The trailhead starts at the parking lot, where it’s a short walk to the overlook’s viewing platform. In total, the distance from the car park to the overlook rim and back is around 1.5 miles.

This trail is listed as accessible in the eyes of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it might still be a challenge to the elderly or anyone with health issues. However, there is now an alternative route.

A newly renovated path is wheelchair and stroller accessible, with a more even surface and less gradient. It also features shade structures for escaping the sun and benches for taking a breather.

Note that the canyon walls of the Horseshoe Bend are steep, and only limited areas have safety railings. Take care when going close to the edge.

Parking at Horseshoe Bend

The car park is large, but it will fill up during peak visiting times. On rare occasions, it can overflow, in which case it will close and you will be advised to return later.

At the time of writing, it will cost you $10 if you’re driving a car, SUV, truck, or motorhome. For motorcyclists, the fee is $5, and for large or commercial vehicles the fee will be $35-$140 depending on capacity.

National park passes will not grant you access to the Horseshoe Bend parking lot, and every vehicle will need to pay an entrance fee. Note that there is no overnight parking allowed, and camping is strictly forbidden.

Pets at the Horseshoe Bend

Dogs are allowed at the Horseshoe Bend, provided they are kept on a leash no more than six feet long. Be mindful in summer though – the scorching sand and rocks won’t be kind on their little paws.

Where to Stay Near Horseshoe Bend

Pool amenity in Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell
Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell / Booking.com

You’ll find plenty of accommodation options in Page, Arizona, which is just under five miles from the Horseshoe Bend parking area. Hyatt Place (pictured) is one of the best hotels in Page, with an in-house restaurant serving traditional American fare. Try Canyon Colors if you’d prefer a cozy bed & breakfast.

Page is filled with vacation rentals, and the delightful Cowgirl Cabana surely has to be one of the cutest. For families, this three-bedroom home might be more suitable and is just three minutes from the Horseshoe Bend.

Camping is readily available in the area if you’re looking for budget-friendly accommodation. Try the Page Lake Powell Campground, which also features covered wagon glamping, as well as RV and tent spots.

Horseshoe Bend Tours

From Page, Arizona: Secret Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend Tour

If you don’t fancy getting to Horseshoe Bend on your own steam there are plenty of excellent guided tour options. Day trips from Las Vegas are extremely popular, and this one takes in Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell by way of Horseshoe Bend.

If you’re coming from Sedona or Flagstaff, try this tour instead. If you’ve already made it to Page, this secret Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend tour will show you the less well-known spots in the region. For a different perspective altogether, this helicopter tour departs from Page and boasts a stunning bird’s eye view of the landscape.

Travel Tips for Visiting Horseshoe Bend

A man looking the  Horseshoe Bend

Stay Hydrated

Horseshoe Bend is located in Arizona and the most popular time to visit is from May through August. The heat can be extreme, so if you are coming in summer, make sure you bring plenty of water.

Since the National Park Service and City of Page Council don’t want anyone suffering from dehydration, bottled water is available to purchase at the site. But it’s more economical and less wasteful to bring your own.

This water bottle from Lifestraw is an excellent choice, as it comes with an onboard filtration system. If you wanted to, you could fill up from the Colorado River and have instant clean drinking water.

Wear the Right Shoes

Although the trail to the Horseshoe Bend is a relatively straightforward one, flip-flops are not recommended as suitable footwear. You’ll need something more supportive and comfortable for negotiating the rocky terrain.

And baked with the sun’s rays all day, the sand can get scorching hot. Wearing anything with open toes is going to be a mistake.

A good pair of lightweight hiking shoes will be your best bet. Something like the Columbia Crestwood is ideal.

Wear Sun Protection

That big ball of fire in the sky gives us life, but it can just as easily take it away. Temperatures can get into the 80s in summer and with little shade to speak of on the Horseshoe Bend Trail, exposure is a genuine risk.

If you’re visiting during this time, I highly recommend you wear appropriate clothing with adequate sun protection. A good sunhat is essential, and exposed skin should be liberally slathered in sunscreen that’s over 50 SPF. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable, so double-check to ensure they’re properly protected.

Taking Pictures

The Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed spots in the US, so you need to make sure your travel photography game is in top shape to capture those stunning sunsets. Be sure to pack your wide-angle lens, as this is about as panoramic as it gets. Drones are, mercifully, not allowed.

Travel Insurance

Consider travel insurance when you’re exploring the Grand Canyon and surrounding regions. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Antelope Canyon

Inside the red-tinged lower canyon of Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is another bucket list destination and attracts even more visitors than Horseshoe Bend (around four million, annually). Probably the most famous slot canyon in the world, it’s a must-see if you’re in this part of the American Southwest. You’ll find it less than a ten-minute drive from Page, AZ.

You can only visit the canyon with a tour guide, but that’s perfectly fine when they’re a local Navajo Indian. This admission ticket is all you need.

And don’t miss the Carl Hayden Visitor Center when you’re in Page, where you can learn about all the attractions in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Sunrise in Grand Canyon National Park from Mather Point.
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

FAQs

How was Horseshoe Bend formed?

Horseshoe Bend began to form around six million years ago. Tectonic plate movements raised the area and the Colorado River began to sharply erode the landscape, creating a dramatic sandstone escarpment.

Where does the water come from in Horseshoe Bend?

The Colorado River makes this famous landmark what it is, flowing from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Gulf of California.

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