Don’t Make This Mistake When You Visit Horseshoe Bend
Avoid the crowds and the heat and see the prettiest views at this iconic site near Page, Arizona.
Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed spots in the United States. While you won’t find solitude on this short trail that saw more than 700,000 visitors in 2022, the view itself is, admittedly, spectacular. The mighty Colorado does a full 180-degree turn at this spot in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, forming a perfect horseshoe flanked by striped rock.
You’re unlikely to be the only one at this Instagram-famous viewpoint, but you can avoid the most common mistake to escape the majority of the crowds, enjoy cooler temperatures and get the prettiest views: don’t visit in the summer, or at mid-day.
How to Avoid Crowds at Horseshoe Bend
Winter is the best time to visit as you’ll find fewer crowds and cooler temperatures. While snow isn’t common, it does occasionally happen and rather than let that scare you off, it should encourage you to visit December through February. The sight of the red rocks covered in glittering white snow is truly magical. Most winter days, you’ll find dry weather with highs in the 40s.
Many visitors head to Horseshoe Bend in the middle of the day. This is a mistake as you’ll experience the hottest possible temperatures and flat light that makes the rocks look dull. You’ll find the prettiest views at sunset, as the viewpoint faces west providing a stunning display as the sun sinks past the horizon. This is the most popular time of day to see Horseshoe Bend, so you’ll have to battle the crowds. Plan to arrive early to snag a parking spot.
The best time for pretty light and fewer crowds? Sunrise. While the sun will be rising behind you, it bathes the rocks in warm morning light and often leads to a colorful sky.
Is There an Entrance Fee for Horseshoe Bend?
You won’t need to pay an entrance fee to visit Horseshoe Bend, but you will have to pay to park in the lot at the trailhead. While the viewpoint is in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the lot is in Page, Arizona so your America the Beautiful or other interagency pass won’t work here. You can pay the $10 parking fee by cash or credit at the fee booth, but be warned that if you visit on a holiday weekend it’s cash only. The lot is pretty big and has dedicated parking spaces for RVs, but it does often fill up. It’s the only place to park to access Horseshoe Bend. Parking along the highway is illegal and dropping people off at the trailhead is also illegal.
The trailhead is located on the west side of Hwy. 89, just under three miles south of Page, Arizona.
How Long is the Walk to Horseshoe Bend?
The trail to the Horseshoe Bend viewpoint is 1.4 miles roundtrip. The path is flat, hard packed and is ADA accessible. Most visitors will find the trek out to the viewpoint easy but be warned, it can get extremely hot here in the summer. A few shelters offer shade along the trail, but there is no escape from the sun once you get to the end. Bring at least a liter of water per person, in addition to sun protection like a baseball cap and sunscreen.
The viewpoint has guardrails, but if you go farther down the rim, the view is unprotected. Be very cautious and keep a close eye on children as the sandstone can be unstable and the 1,000-foot fall is almost certainly fatal.
Is Horseshoe Bend in Grand Canyon National Park?
Horseshoe Bend is not in Grand Canyon National Park. It’s in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, two-and-a-half hours north of Grand Canyon’s North Rim near the Arizona-Utah border in Page, Arizona. However, if you’re driving to the Grand Canyon from Utah or visiting the North Rim from southern Arizona, Horseshoe Bend is a quick and easy detour along your route.
While Horseshoe Bend is iconic, it’s just one of the many incredible spots in this part of the country that are probably also on your bucket list. Check out nearby Antelope Canyon, head north to explore Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or the famous sites near Kanab, Utah like Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons and The Wave. Or, drive southwest to visit Grand Canyon National Park’s less-crowded North Rim.
Make sure to practice Leave No Trace principles when you visit Horseshoe Bend to keep it beautiful.