One of the most photographed sites in Arizona, Horseshoe Bend is definitely worth seeing, especially if you are traveling between the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon. Just five miles from Page, Arizona, and Glen Canyon, Horseshoe Bend is an incredible horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River.
While you can take an air tour or drive to an overlook to see the bend, stretch your legs and do a 1.5-hike round trip to see this curious geological feature. Geologists think it emerged about 5 million years ago when the Colorado Plateau uplifted. Trapped, the river cut through rock to continue its journey downstream. The result? A 270-degree bend in the river.
The hike to the overlook, which sits at 4,200 feet above sea level, will take an estimated 45 minutes round trip. You’ll be walking on mostly sand and dirt with no shade, so if mobility is an issue, this may not be the trail for you. There will be an ADA-compliant trail opening fall 2018, which will smooth out the trail.
Moreover, it also gets extremely hot in the summer. Rangers respond more to heat-related issues here than anywhere else in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, so be smart. Don’t hike this in extreme heat. While it may seem like a short distance, there is no shade along the way. In fact, the heat melts the glue that keeps your sole adhered to your shoe, so if you are there in the summer, be sure to wear sturdy walking shoes.
In fall 2018, the park service will have several shade stations erected along the trail, as well as will unveil an ADA-compliant trail. Bring a ton of water, wear a hat and sunscreen.
Off to your left will be the Navajo Nation. Be aware that there are no guardrails or fences at the lookout, so be extra cautious while there. It’s a long way down to the river ⎯ 1,000 feet to be exact.
6 Tips for the Horseshoe Bend Hike
- Reach the trailhead by going five miles south of the Carl Hayden Visitor Center on U.S. Hwy. 89. Just south of mile marker 545, turn at the sign onto a direct road that ascends a small hill.
- When you enter the parking area, park at the bottom of the hill. No vehicles are allowed past the end of the parking lot at the base of the hill.
- Wear sunscreen and a sun hat and bring a lot of water with you. While the hike is just 1.5 miles, don’t be deceived. Desert heat is intense and can transform a short walk into a dangerous situation for those who are unprepared.
- Avoid hiking during the hottest time of day, even if you think you are in great shape.
- If you want to bring home a photo of the entire Horseshoe Bend, it’s best to bring a wide-angle lens with you.
- If your dog is coming with you, know that all dogs must be on leashes that are 6-feet or shorter. If it is hot, the heat can melt the glue holding your soles to your shoes, which means your dogs pads are in danger of getting extremely burned. Put booties on your dog or leave he or she in your air-conditioned hotel. Be sure to hold on tightly to the leash when you are at the Colorado River overlook.