Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona has become one of the darlings of Instagram. A horseshoe-shaped bend in the Colorado River, images of the green water curling around the red rocks have created the aura of a must-see destination, but is Horseshoe Bend really worth visiting? Here’s an honest summary of what it’s like to visit Horseshoe Bend.
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Where is Horseshoe Bend?
Horseshoe Bend is located just south of Page, Arizona along Highway 89. The route is well marked. Page is 2 hours from Flagstaff, AZ; 4 hours from Pheonix, AZ; and 2 1/2 hours from the Grand Canyon.
We visited as part of our Epic Cross-Country Road Trip, in between stays at Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon.
If you are planning a road trip, don’t miss: 60+ Fun Road Trip Activities for Kids: How to Keep Kids Entertained on a Long Car Trip
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Horseshoe Bend?
There is a fee of ten dollars per car as you enter the parking lot for Horseshoe Canyon. Because this is not a National Park, your Annual Park Pass will not help you pay the entrance fee here. Your fee is good for one entrance, you cannot leave the parking area and then return later in the day without paying a second time.
How Long is the Hike out to Horseshoe Bend?
From the parking lot, the walk to the overlook is just over half a mile. But there is no natural shade, so the walk can be brutal in the middle of the day. There are two benches with overhangs to create shade that you can stop at along the way to get a break from the sun.
The hike is not difficult, the path is wide and gently graded. Our kids easily did the walk in flip-flops. The land is an open desert here. Once you get to the overlook, you’ll have one viewpoint over a 1000 foot drop into the canyon.
When Should I Visit Horseshoe Bend?
Ideally, you should visit either early in the day to avoid the heat, or at sunset. Sunset provides the best views as well as lower temperatures. Some visitors complain of the cold as the temperature in the desert can drop fast at night. Be prepared for wind and chilly evenings if you chose to visit for sunset.
Is Horseshoe Bend Crowded?
We visited in early August- the crowds were manageable, but as we started back up the path several tour buses full of people were heading down to the overlook. The overlook area is not especially large. This is by no means an empty, quiet spot for contemplation.
All those social media pictures of people sitting on orange rocks looking romantically out over Horseshoe Bend are very staged. You should be staying on the path, and not climbing out on the rocks. We saw several people climbing out onto the rocks for photos and I gave my kids a stern lecture to not ever do that. People who disregard the rules are putting themselves in danger, and setting a terrible example for all the younger kids watching.
Is There Another Way to Visit Horseshoe Bend?
Yes! If the desert path is not your cup of tea, you can take a plane ride over Horsehoe Bend. Papillion Air (who we recommend after using them to fly in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon) will fly you over Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam, and Horseshoe Bend.
You can also take a half-day rafting trip along the Colorado River from the base of Glen Canyon Dam which will pass through Horseshoe Bend.
Where Should I Eat in Page, Arizona?
We ate lunch at Fiesta Mexicana, I highly recommend it. They have a lovely open but covered front patio where we ate. The inside is quite large, and they were fairly busy for lunch when we visited. The mole was delicious, and the menu was quite varied. S (6) actually ordered an avocado salad and loved it!
Other places to eat in Page that we haven’t tried but come with high recommendations include:
Big John’s BBQ – Known for its Texas BBQ, they do have outside seating, right next to the meat smokers. This place is hard to miss and you drive through town. They sometimes have live music, so check their website.
Birdhouse– Fried chicken and beer, with open-air tables.
R&Ds Drive-in– Diner food that gets great reviews. Tables inside and out.
So, is Horseshoe Bend Worth Visiting?
So the answer is yes, maybe. Depends on your situation.
The site itself is stunning. The colors are exquisite. If you look closely you can see the banks of the river are covered in green biological soil crust. This is a living layer microbial layer that takes many years to grow that we had just learned about on our visit to Arches National Park! It was cool to see it in action in another setting.
Horseshoe Bend is an unusual natural phenomenon, and a wonder to behold.
It’s busy and hot, hot, hot. The location means that it’s easiest to visit on a road trip. For us, a trip through Page, Arizona fit nicely between Bryce Canyon and visiting the Grand Canyon. But, that meant passing through mid-day, so that we could be at the Grand Canyon for sunset.
(I didn’t love the Grand Canyon, read why in 6 Reasons to Skip the Grand Canyon on your Next Family Road Trip)
If you are staying in the area to visit Antelope Canyon or nearby areas, this would be a great place for sunset, though I can’t speak to the sunset crowds.
The heat at mid-day was searing. Even a half-mile in the heat left our kids grumpy and unruly. We stopped in each of the shade shelters to get a break from the heat on the way back up to the parking lot.
Horseshoe Bend is a beautiful phenomenon that you should try to see at least once, but don’t expect it to be a meditative experience. This is a mass tourist spot right now. Waker would have preferred to skip it entirely, I felt like it was worth seeing once, but I don’t expect we’ll be back unless it’s by boat!