Chances are you’ve seen pictures of beautiful Horseshoe Bend. Trust me when I say it is even more incredible in person. It’s just one of those places you have to see to believe. Luckily with its close proximity to the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon, it’s an easy place to visit! I made some mistakes while visiting Horseshoe Bend so this post is so you all can benefit from my mistakes. Let’s get to it!
About Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is essentially a 270 degree bend in one of the USA’s longest rivers — the Colorado River. Its unusual shape looks like that of a horseshoe, hence its name. Horseshoe Bend is about 140 miles from both the South Rim and the North Rim of the famous Grand Canyon. It’s a common misconception that Horseshoe Bend is part of the Grand Canyon, but in reality it’s 5 miles from the beginning of Grand Canyon National Park.
Horseshoe Bend is a geological wonder. It combines a large canyon, a river bend, fast moving water eroding the banks of the river over millions of years, and a little help from mother nature. All of these aspects combined work together in perfect unison to form the beauty that is Horseshoe Bend.
Horseshoe Bend is located just outside of Page, Arizona. Page is a small town just under 8,000 people, but gets a lot of visitors because of its close proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Antelope Canyon. From Phoenix it was about a 4.5 hour drive. We took I-17 North until we reached US-89 North which took us all the way into Page. Your average iPhone or Google Maps should have no problem giving you complete directions.
To get to Horseshoe Bend from Page, you’ll drive south on Highway 89. After a few miles, there will be a small sign to indicate where Horseshoe Bend is, but be alert, because it can be easy to miss. Once you find the parking lot and get parked you’ll be greeted with the sign in the picture below. As you can see there is a slightly steep hill to walk over. From there the rest of the path to the rim is down hill.
In the picture above you can see that the trail is dirt, but also well groomed. I saw people walking this path in sandals, and believe it or not, heels. You can see the top of Horseshoe Bend on the very left of this picture.
Photographing Horseshoe Bend
I’ll be honest, I am not really a fan of my photos from Horseshoe Bend, and if I ever go back I’ll do it differently. Let me tell you why.
My travel buddy and I were on a pretty tight schedule. We were squeezing in a visit to Horseshoe Bend before our tour of Antelope Canyon and then had to hit the road back to Phoenix right after that. If you’d really like to get some nice pictures, my advice would be to go right at sunrise and then come back at sunset. Or if you’re really lucky and happen to make it there on a cloudy day, come whenever! We were there on a super sunny day and we went at an awkward time — around 10:30am-ish. As you can see in most of my photos I had to wrestle with an ugly shadow. This is an awesome article that gives a more in-depth look at how photos will turn out at different times in the day.
Another word of advice: bring a wide angle lens. I did not have a wide angle lens at the time and getting the entire Horseshoe Bend in the picture was a big struggle. I now own this and use it for my wide angle shots and LOVE it.
Safety and Other General Tips
- There are absolutely no railings around the edge of Horseshoe Bend — none, zero, zilch. Proceed to the edge of the canyon with caution! Just over that edge is a 1,000 foot drop straight down into the Colorado River.
- Dogs are allowed, but need to be on a leash. Honestly, even on a leash I am not bringing my dog here. Just my personal preference.
- It says there is a 3/4th of a mile “hike” to the rim of Horseshoe Bend. It really is not a hike. It’s more like a walk on a well groomed dirt path with a slight incline at the very beginning and then a slight decline to get to the rim of the Bend. I saw many people — very young and very old — making it down to the rim just fine.
- Dress in layers. Ya’ll Arizona is tricky. When the sun is down it is cold, but as soon as the sun is up it gets scorching. If you’re going for sunrise or sunset it’s going to be cold. Wear layers that you can take off when it warms up, or add to when it gets cold.
- There is no fee to see Horseshoe Bend and parking is also free. Yay!
- That being said: there is no shade, no water, and no bathrooms. You’ve been warned.
- Pack a water bottle — always, always, always.