Visiting Horseshoe Bend: Everything You Need to Know
If you didn’t know already, Horseshoe Bend is one of the top things to do in Page, Arizona. As I’m sure you can guess by the name, this section of the Colorado River is shaped a bit like a horseshoe and is located at the bottom of a 1,000 foot deep canyon. The overlook, which is just outside of Page, allows you to get a fantastic view of the canyon and river below! Find out everything you need to know about visiting Horseshoe Bend, including the best time to visit, how to get there, and what to expect when you arrive.
- When is the Best Time to Visit
- How to Get to There
- Entrance Fees and Parking
- The Hike and Overlook
- Other Things to Know
When is the Best Time to Visit
This is sort of an unfair question, because really the truth is any time is a good time to visit. What is the “best time” kind of depends on what you are looking to get out of your visit. It also depends on the time of year that you visit.
One thing to keep in mind is that the overlook faces West… which is also the same direction as the sun sets. For the photographers looking to get a sunset picture, this is great. For those who aren’t really into photography, you may find the setting sun to be a bit blinding. Personally, I’m terrible at sunset photography. It’s just one aspect of photography I haven’t manage to get a grasp of yet. All of my pictures end up being blown out by the sun and the sky comes out super bright.
Also, keep in mind that it’s a canyon. This means that when the sun in rising and setting, the canyon walls will cast the bottom of the canyon and Colorado River into shadow. Again, if you’re taking photos, this might be a bit problematic before the canyon will come out dark. However, everything is perfectly visible to the naked eye, so non-photographers will still enjoy the view.
The last point to keep in mind is that Arizona can get very hot. It’s a bit of a hike to get from the parking lot to the overlook and there is very little shade on the trail. If you will be visiting Horseshoe Bend during the summer months, I recommend trying to avoid visiting during the hottest part of the day.
With all that said, we actually visited Horseshoe Bend twice in one day, once at in the morning and once in the evening. We visited at the end of August, so sunrise was around 5:50AM and sunset was around 7:00PM. The first time we went, we got there just a little after 10:00AM and found that parts of the canyon were still in shadow (see the above picture to see what I’m referring to). The second time we went was just a few minutes before 7:00PM. In order to get the best picture of the canyon without it being in shadow, I think we would have had to go just a bit later than 10:00AM and before 6:00PM. Still, I’m pretty happy with the pictures I got and it was a fantastic experience both times.
Most importantly, try to be flexible. During peak tourism season, the parking lot can fill up. Since parking on the highway is strictly forbidden, visitors will be asked to come back at another time.
How to Get to Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is located on US-89 just outside of Page, Arizona. To be honest, it’s a bit unassuming. When you are driving down US-89, you cannot see the canyon from the road. I had expected to see the large canyon and just know that we had arrived. However, it’s actually a few miles away from the road, and won’t be immediately obvious, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the entrance sign.
There are two main roads in Page: Lake Powell Blvd and AZ-98. Regardless of which one you start on, you’ll want to turn left onto US-89 South. You’ll stay on this road for about 2 to 3 miles and then the entrance to Horseshoe Bend will be on your right.
From the Grand Canyon Village
If you are heading to Horseshoe Bend after hanging out at the Grand Canyon Village along the South Rim, you’ll want to head east on AZ-64, also called Desert View Drive. You’ll take this for a little over 50 miles before arriving at a roundabout. Here, you’ll want to take the 3rd exit (equivalent of taking a left hand turn) onto US-89 North. After staying on this road for a little under 80 miles, Horseshoe Bend will be on your left.
Entrance Fees and Parking
The parking lot at Horseshoe Bend was recently expanded to accommodate more cars, and with the re-opening of the parking lot also came entry fees. Beginning April 13th of 2019, vehicles will have to pay to enter. The prices as of September 26th, 2019 can be seen below.
- Motorcycle: $5 USD
- Passenger Vehicle: $10
- Commercial Van: $35
- Mid-Sized and Commercial Tour Bus: $70
- Full-Size Buses: $ 140
Passenger Vehicles are your typical cars, trucks, and SUVs. It also includes RVs and motorhomes. Vans and buses are defined by their passenger capacity (not actual number of passengers).
- Commercial Van: 14 people or less
- Mid-Sized and Commercial Tour Bus: 15 – 35 people
- Full-Size Buses: more than 35 people
Horseshoe Bend Hike and Overlook
The hike from the parking lot to the overlook is 0.6 miles one way. For most people, it will be relatively manageable. However, it’s not for everyone.
The first part of the trail from the parking is relatively steep hike up a hill and the path is made of deep sand. It’s not a dirt path like you might expect. It’s like walking on a sandy beach and going up an incline. Once you reach the top of the hill, the path slowly descends as you continue towards the overlook. This part of the trail is still sandy, but not as deep.
Save for one rest point at a pavilion, there is no shade on the trail. Being in the direct sunlight the whole time makes this trail significantly more difficult. We actually ended up pulling out our umbrella to help shade us from the beating sun.
Like I mentioned before, it’s a relatively short hike. Those even moderately in shape should be able to do this hike without much difficulty so long as you bring plenty of water. I even passed a girl on crutches doing this hike. However, those who have high probability of suffering from heat stroke or exhaustion (such as elderly and young children) might want to think twice about doing this hike during the summer.
It’s also worth noting that the park is working on making an ADA accessible hike, but there is no date set yet as to when that would be available to the public.
At the end of the trail, you’ll find yourself at the viewing platform which has a railing you stand behind while admiring the great canyon. However, many people will continue on to the right of the viewing platform, climbing up onto various rocks to get better views of the canyon.
If you continue on pass the viewing platform, know that there is no railing. You can climb the rocks and continue on without getting close to the edge, just be careful. No picture is worth potentially falling off the edge.
Other Things to Know
First thing to know is that the only restrooms are located in the parking lot and are more outhouse style restrooms. If you prefer more standard restrooms, make sure you go before you head to Horseshoe Bend. If nothing else, go before you hit the trail, because there are no restrooms along the trail or at the viewing platform.
Also, make sure to bring plenty of water, especially if you are visiting during the summer months. There isn’t a place to purchase water on the trail or at the overlook, and I didn’t see any stands selling water at the parking lot either. You’ll want to make sure you have water with you when you set out for Horseshoe Bend.
You may also want to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect you from the sun since there is no shade on the trail. As mentioned previously, my mom and I even used an umbrella to help keep us out of the sun.
Lastly, please wear good shoes! Do not wear flip flops or other loose footing shoes. They are trip hazards, especially when climbing on rocks (ask my mom how she broke her toe in Hawaii). Given that you will be near a 1,000 foot deep canyon, the last thing you want to do is trip.