Trail details last updated 3/27/2017.
You may not know it by name but you’ve almost certainly seen Page, Arizona’s Horseshoe Bend in photos on friend’s Facebook feed or your favorite travel blog (that’s this one, right?!) It’s one of those natural wonders that’s truly worthy of a place on any traveler’s bucket list and certainly deserves a stop your next Southwest USA road trip but then again, since you’re reading this, you probably already know that. So I’ll cut to the chase and tell you what you need to know about visiting Horseshoe Bend from when to arrive to how to get there.
Getting to Horseshoe Bend
Located about 2 hours North of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, Horseshoe Bend’s trailhead can be found outside the town of Page right off of highway 89. With sights like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Zion National Park just a few hours away as well, it’s an ideal rest and stretch your leg point on many road trip routes.
Getting to the trailhead is as simple as heading towards Page and looking for the signs (just about 2 miles before it from the South or after it from the North.) Though don’t expect to find much when you get there — as iconic as Horseshoe Bend may be, the trailhead area is little more than a dirt parking lot, trail info sign and a couple of vault style restrooms. The nearest actual National Park Facilities are located at Glen Canyon Dam (5.2 miles) while any snacks, water or gas should be purchased in Page where you’ll find several convenience stores, a Walmart and fast or sit down food options
Hiking out to the Viewpoint
Horseshoe Bend is so accessible that the hike, small as it may be, is often skipped right over. While it’s not a long walk, it’s well worth understanding that it is a walk and one over packed dirt with a little hill in the middle so accessibility can be a bit tricky.
The walk (because hike really is the wrong term here) is about 1.5 miles round-trip, nothing major but as you’ll be completely out in the open, exposed to the elements and probably baking in the dessert sun or freezing in the dessert cold, it’s well worth coming in prepared. In the popular summer months, expect huge crowds and pounding heat so remember to bring water with you, there is none around the trailhead!
The “trail” starts out at the front right corner of the parking lot and immediate heads uphill… for all of about 40 vertical feet. From there it’s a mix of slight incline, decline and flat walking along the 0.75 mile trail until you reach the ridge of the canyon.
Along the way you’ll see a sunshade cover and a couple stone benches along with some sign posts to try and keep people on the same path and off the fragile dessert plants but that’s about it in the way of man made objects. You’ll know you’ve reached the viewpoint when you either run into huge crowd or the edge of the cliff. All said, you’re looking at something like 150′ of vertical gain. It should take you under an hour to get there and back in total but how long you spend out staring at the canyon is an entirely up to you.
Enjoying the view
While most of the photos you’ll see from Horseshoe Bend are taken within a few dozen yards of each other, it’s well worth wandering around the Bend to get a different perspective and especially for some of the views straight down. There’s no bad time for a view (unless it’s storming out, that’s bad), but there are certainly better times, mainly sunset and perhaps sunrise when you get some incredible light and color around the canyon walls. Throw in a few clouds or just after a storm has passed for a really incredible sky to frame up your Instagram post.
While it should go without saying but do be careful where you walk and what you walk on. There are many gaps in the rocks that would send you down over 1,000′ and while everyone (ok, everyone not terrified by the heights!) wants to go right out on the edge, do understand that the rock can break, especially if you happen to stand on a lip so don’t just run out there.
Lastly, and I’m sad that this has to be said, please don’t carve your love’s initials into the rocks. I know it’s tempting to to leave a lasting memory (or just to make for a better photo) but the rocks are here forever and for everyone, plus it’s rather illegal.
When you’ve had your fill of the view, it’s back the way you came to head on out.
What you’ll need to bring along:
- 1 liter of water / person and more in summer (it’s hot!!)
- Trail snacks for a few hours out, maybe a lunch?
- Sunblock & sunglasses
- Protective layers for sun or cold
- Trail ready shoes (to keep the rocks out)
- A headlamp if you plan to stay out for sunset
- The rest of the 10 essentials
Quick facts about the trail:
- Official Rating: Easy
- My Rating: Walk around town
- Start point: Horseshoe Bend Trailhead, Hwy 89
- Distance: 1.5 miles R/T
- Duration: 1 hour with a short stop to view
- Climb: less than 150′ in total
- Crowds: Heavy year round
- Recommended time: Mornings & late afternoon to avoid the heat
- Facilities: Vault toilets, no water
- Cost: NPS fee area signs but no payment station?
- Permits: None