The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed sites in the state of Arizona. And for good reason: The curve of the Colorado River’s path and the shape of the surrounding rock formations offer truly unique, unforgettable views.
The natural landmark attracts over 2 million people every year, and we are here to give you all the information you’d need to make your trip to Horseshoe Canyon as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
The History of Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
Horseshoe Bend is a stunning example of erosion, which slowly chiseled mighty rock into otherworldly shapes over the past 20 million years.
By looking at the pictures of the landmark, you can see the Colorado River at the base of the bend. The river, which simply followed its natural path for eons, has sculpted away at the rocks forming the sharp bend in the river over which we can marvel today.
Getting to Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is located in the Glen Canyon National Park, an 11-minute drive from the Glen Canyon Dam in Northern Arizona.
From the Grand Canyon (2 Hours, 20 Minutes)
From the Grand Canyon National Park, head north towards the city of Page. Highway 89 into Page has numerous signs for Horseshoe Bend, with an exit clearly signposted to take you down to the parking lot.
From Monument Valley (2 Hours)
The route from Monument Valley to Page requires you to head west on Highway 160, then turn onto AZ 98W close to Shonto. The drive will take you past Antelope Canyon and once you reach the intersection with Highway 89, turn left. From here, drive 2 miles, and you’ll reach the Horseshoe Bend parking lot.
From Las Vegas (4.5 Hours)
If you’re heading in from Las Vegas, you’ve got quite a drive ahead of you. The fastest way is to drive north on the I-15 until you reach Washington; from here, take exit 16 onto Highway 9 and continue until Fredonia. Then, take the northbound Highway 89A to Kanab, and turn onto Highway 89 (southbound) – this final leg will take you right to Horseshoe Bend.
Horseshoe Bend to Antelope Canyon (10 Minutes)
If you’ve finished up at the bend and are looking for something else to do in the area, then you must visit Antelope Canyon, which is only a 10-minute drive away.
To get to Antelope Canyon, head east towards US-89S, turn left onto US-89N, and then turn right onto AZ-98E.
Things to Do at Horseshoe Bend
Although the bend is absolutely stunning, the activities you can participate in are fairly limited. That said, you can spend your entire day hiking or simply taking in the majestic views.
Hike the Horseshoe Bend Trail
In our opinion, the best way to experience Horseshoe Bend is to hike the Horseshoe Bend Trail. From the parking lot, you can follow the 1.5-mile round hike that eventually leads you to the natural wonder that is Horseshoe Bend.
The Horseshoe Bend hike is short and relatively easy, and should take you around 30 to 40 minutes to complete. On your way to the bend, you’ll find a shaded gazebo where you can learn all about the history of the area and what you can expect to see at the midpoint of your hike.
If you choose to hike the trail during the summer months, be sure to take adequate amounts of water and sun protection as the Arizona sun can really do some damage.
Enjoy Beautiful Views at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook
Once you’ve completed the gentle hike to the bend, you’ll get to witness the landmark in all its glory. The overlook gives you uninterrupted views of the bend, which many call the most intimate Grand Canyon experience (we know, it isn’t actually in the Grand Canyon, but it’s next door and much more quiet).
Staying Safe at the Overlook
Unfortunately, not everyone follows safety guidelines at the bend: Over the years, 6 people have fallen to their deaths after getting too close to the edge for an Instagram shot.
To keep visitors safe, the National Park Service installed railings on the central part of the cliff in 2018. Still, we highly advise you to stick to the paths, stay behind the railings, and focus on taking in the views instead of seeking out Instagram-worthy shots.
Horseshoe Bend Tours
Horseshoe Bend is best viewed from above, but that isn’t to say there aren’t unique experiences to be had down below. After all, there is a river flowing at the bottom, which opens up a whole new world of adventure.
Boats frequent the section of the Colorado River that flows at the bottom of the bend. To get onto one of these boats, head to Glen Canyon Dam; there, a guide will take you along the river in a raft or kayak. These tours are a great way to learn more about the history as the guides are know-it-alls regarding the geological evolution of the bend.
How Much Does Entry to Horseshoe Bend Cost?
As Horseshoe Bend has gained popularity, so has the need to expand its car park and safety measures. Entering the bend is free, but you are required to pay a $10 parking fee. This money goes towards the visitor center, trail pavings, and safety rails.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend?
The best time to visit the bend is in the late morning or mid-day. If you visit at a time out of these periods, the bend might be in shadow from the sun rising and setting.
When it comes to seasons, spring and fall are the optimum periods for visiting the bend. During the summer, temperatures at the bend get extremely hot because, if you haven’t forgotten, the bend is in Arizona. Winter, on the other hand, does a full 180 and can see temperatures dip below freezing.
This isn’t to say that if you visit during the summer or winter you’ll have a bad time; you’ll just need to prepare yourself more with adequate sun protection, water, or warm clothes.
How Much Time Do You Need at Horseshoe Bend?
As we mentioned before, the hike to the bend will take you roughly 30 to 40 minutes; the time you spend gazing at the natural masterpiece is entirely up to you.
It’s hard to put a time frame on it as you could be at the bend for about an hour or the entire day if you pack a picnic and leisurely stroll along.
For the most part, people complete their Horseshoe Bend experience in under 2 hours, but you can stay for as little or as long as you like!
Other Things to See and Do in the Area
If you don’t want your adventure to be over just yet, there are a few other natural landmarks in the Horseshoe Bend Area.
- Glen Canyon – Many people skip past the remainder of the Glen Canyon as they’re only interested in Horseshoe Bend. But, the canyon is also home to the Glen Canyon Dam, other picturesque canyon walls, and of course, Lake Powell. Check out the Glen Canyon headquarters for more information on what to do in Glen Canyon.
- Grand Canyon – Horseshoe Bend is only 5 miles away from the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon is the most well-known canyon in the entire world, and if it isn’t already on your bucket list, then write it down asap.
- Antelope Canyon – If your budget allows, head over and book a tour through the Antelope Canyon. These canyons fill with light from above which illuminates the magnificently carved walls.
- Colorado Plateau – The Colorado Plateau, which you may also know as the Colorado National Monument, is an excellent destination for hikers, cyclists, and those who love the great outdoors.
Horseshoe Bend: Conclusion
So, there you have it: Now you’re got everything you need to know about Horseshoe Bend before you set off and visit the marvel for yourself.
As we wrap up this article, we’re intrigued to know if you’ve visited the bend. If you have, what was your favorite part of the trip, and would you go back again? Let us know in the comment section down below!