If you’ve seen many landscape photos of the southwest you’ve probably seen Horseshoe Bend. It’s one of the most iconic images of the area. There’s Monument Valley, The Wave, Havasu Falls, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend (in addition to the many National Parks in the area). It attracts photographers from around the world. That’s the primary reason I wanted to see it.
It was a very brief stop on a trip out west. I flew to Las Vegas with my wife and in-laws a few years ago. Ashley was pregnant with Noah at the time. Once we got to Vegas we rented a car and hit the road in a big loop to visit some National Parks and other famous sights of the Southwest. We spent two nights in the Lake Powell Resort, just outside of Page, Arizona. It was a nice location, because of all the things it was close to. We were right on Lake Powell, but sadly it wasn’t hot enough to go swimming in the lake or the hotel pool. We explored Antelope Canyon on Easter, which was an amazing experience I previously wrote about in my blog. The morning we left Lake Powell we first stopped at Horseshoe Bend.
Horseshoe Bend is five miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and just a few miles southwest of Page. The trailhead is located at the edge of a parking lot on the side of Route 89.
This is a very short and easy hike. It is only a mile and a half roundtrip. There is some elevation gain and there is very little shade, but it is a hike nearly everyone can easily complete. Ashley was about six months pregnant at the time and her dad was in his mid-60s and neither had problems with the hike.
A wide and sandy path leads up a hill. It is not too steep, but the amount of sand can slow you down in parts. The walk up the hill is completely exposed to the hot Arizona sun. So, bring water and protection from the sun despite it being such a short hike. Low-lying desert brush surrounds the trail during the climb.
There is a small covered shelter atop the hill. There are benches in case you need a break from the climb or need to simply get some shade for a minute. It was April 1st when we were there and it was very hot on the trail, so I can only imagine how it can be in the summer.
The hilltop is approximately the halfway point on the trail, so it’s a relatively quick trip down to the overlook. The trail gradually leads down to the opposite side of the hill from the shelter. The path is not as sandy on the canyon side. There is more sandstone, gravel, and loose rock.
Within a few minutes we reached our majestic destination. The path ends at the edge of a cliff. There is no guardrail so extreme caution should be used when approaching the canyon rim. The Colorado River curves its way around a large rock outcropping in front of the lookout forming a large U-shape or “horseshoe.” The river is about 1,000 feet below the rim. The drop is near vertical, so it can be a little stressful near the rim.
Ashley kept telling me to back away from the edge. I was trying my best to get a good photo, but it was very difficult because of the size of the scene before me. A wide-angle or fisheye lens is recommended for best photographing results. I was annoyed with myself for being there at a bad time. Due to the time of day, much of the view was in the shade. I should have planned a little bit better. Oh well, I didn’t come away with any magnificent photos, but it was still an amazing sight to see in person.