If you’re looking for a quiet corner, Horseshoe Bend is not even close to off the beaten path. In fact, it’s probably the most visited landmark in Page. The eye-catching spot attracts a couple million visitors each year, and is one of the most photographed sites in Arizona. Despite all the associated hustle and hoopla, its striking beauty still begged us to pay a visit.
Horseshoe Bend sits just ten minutes south of the town of Page, just steps off of US-89. Horseshoe Bend is named for its distinct shape, where the Colorado River forms a 270° meander beneath the thousand-foot-tall sandstone cliffs of Glen Canyon. What’s kind of special about the overlook is how square on you can face the river’s bend – giving a really dramatic perspective of the Colorado’s perfectly shaped loop.
The overlook is reached by a half-mile walk from the parking area along a well-graded trail (stroller friendly and ADA accessible). Because of its popularity, we chose to go to the overlook at sunrise. Although there was no light on the river at this time of day, we did not want to contend with hordes of other people. It ended up being really beautiful, and there were maybe five or six other people there to share it with (and just one other with a tripod, so no competition for space).
If you enjoy photography, the bend faces due west, so getting that perfect shot can be a challenge. In the early morning hours, the canyon is fully dark. As the sun starts to peek up, the canyon remains dark while the more distant landscape is glaringly bright. From late morning to late afternoon, the canyon is largely illuminated (save for perhaps a shadow on the southern wall), however there will be harsh light as well as throngs on people to contend with. During sunset, you’ll be shooting straight into the sun with the canyon again dark. That said, it’s a beautiful spot, so just enjoy whatever time of day you decide to visit.
Know before you go:
- Interagency Passes are not accepted here. The parking lot is owned by the City of Page, and all passenger vehicles must pay a $10 entrance fee ($5 for motorcycles).
- Hours of operation are from sunrise to sunset. Overnight parking is not allowed. There’s also no parking along Highway 89, nor are passenger drop-offs allowed. For more information, visit: https://cityofpage.org/hsb.
- The busiest hours are from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with sunset being particularly popular. The summer months are also peak tourist season. For a quieter experience, consider planning your visit during off-peak hours and season.
- Although the path to the overlook is quite short, there’s no shade, so it can get brutally hot in the summer months. There are now a couple of shaded benches along the short path if you do struggle with heat.
- The City of Page has installed a fence around the overlook as a safety measure. Even still, people continue to fall to their deaths here. The sandstone can be slick, so don’t get too close to the edge. Seriously, a stupid selfie is just not that important.
- Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash at all times. For your pup’s safety and the safety of other people and dogs, just put the damn leash on. It’s not a punishment for the animal, it’s not difficult for you and, frankly, it’s a rule. Sometimes we don’t like rules but need to just put on our grown-up pants and deal with them anyway.
- If you’re thinking of visiting Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, you’ll probably want to be as close to the overlook as possible. Remember, though, there is no overnight parking at the overlook, nor is parking allowed anywhere along US-89. To save the cost of a hotel, we car camped in the Walmart parking lot. It may not be glamorous, but it’s legal, it’s free, it was surprisingly quiet, and it’s just two miles from Horseshoe Bend.