[Updated for 2018]: I revisited horseshoe bend in 2018 after having visited it 7years before. Below is my account from 7 years ago with updates as to what it’s like now. While the details of the location are the same, the experience has changed A LOT.
Horseshoe bend has fallen victim to the “insta-famous” social media trends that are causing so many beautiful places to be ruined by getting overwhelmed by tourists. This destination went from being a place you could visit with no one else being there to now having a never ending stream of hundreds of foreign tourists crawling all over the area. The solitude and amazement I first felt when coming here is completely gone and I was very sad to see what it has become. Not only that, but a viewing platform with guard rails is currently being built along the edge of this view, which just adds to tame this once wild wilderness.
The first time I heard of Horseshoe Bend, I was hiking in The Grand Canyon and a friendly fella on the trail asked where we were traveling and told us that we absolutely needed to include Horseshoe Bend on our road trip. Not realizing what it was, we thought why not, we could stop and take a look, though we weren’t expecting to be impressed.
Man were we wrong! Horseshoe Bend ended up being one of the most impressive and overwhelmingly beautiful vistas on that trip and I am so thankful to the gentleman on the trail for recommending it to us! That was years ago before Instagram even existed, so now Horseshoe Bend has become much more popular due to the amazing photos that have been spread all over social media.
Horseshoe Bend is an area of the Colorado River where the river has over thousands of years literally bent in a horseshoe shape canyon. Though not technically part of The Grand Canyon, it’s just on the outskirts and could easily be included in any Grand Canyon trip, especially if visiting both rims.
Directions to Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is just south of Page, Arizona off Highway 89. It’s approximately 140mi or 2 hours from both the North and South Rims of The Grand Canyon, but only 5mi outside of the park itself.
Directions From Page, AZ
- Follow signs for 89 South.
- Travel along 89 South for about 8-10 minutes to reach the parking lot.
Directions from South Rim, Grand Canyon
Time: Approximately 2 hours
- Follow 64 East until it intersects with Highway 89.
- At the traffic circle, take the 3rd left onto 89 North.
- Continue for approximately 80mi and the parking lot will be on your left.
Directions from North Rim, Grand Canyon
Time: Approximately 2.5 hours
- Head Northwest on Route 67 for approximately 40 mi.
- Turn right onto 89A South.
- Continue for 55 miles, then turn left onto 89 North.
- Continue for approximately 20mi and the parking lot will be on your left.
When Is The Best Time To Go To Horseshoe Bend?
This view is beautiful pretty much year round. If you want to see more water in the river, you might prefer to visit in the late spring/summer, but otherwise, it’s always going to impress.
How Long Does It Take To Hike Horseshoe Bend?
It’s hard to even call this a “hike”. It’s more of a stroll along a dirt path over a ridge and then down to the edge of the view.
- Distance: 1.25 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 200ft
- Crowd Factor: Moderate
- Time: 30mins- 1 hour (depending on how long you enjoy the view)
What To Expect
- Difficulty: Easy
- Fees: None
The dirt parking lot is just off Highway 89 and can be easily missed if you’re not paying attention. You’re literally in the middle of no where and it doesn’t seem like anything this beautiful would be nearby. [This has completely changed – it’s now a large paved parking lot that you can’t miss as it’s packed with cars]
From the parking lot, you pretty much just walk straight out from the end of the parking lot away from the road. There is a small not very defined path, but there’s really only one direction to go.
The path is mostly packed desert dirt. The first part of the path goes slightly uphill to the top of a ridge.
Fun fact:: Over 200 million years ago this sand was part of the largest system of sand dunes in North America.
Once you reach the top of the ridge, the path descends down to the edge of Horseshoe Bend. You won’t fully understand the majesty or appeal of this view until you’re almost at the edge. [There are now also benches and shaded “pavilions” for people to rest to get out of the sun.]
Pro Tip: It’s almost impossible to get the “classic photo” of the full bend in the river all in one shot because you are so close and it’s so large. You’ll have to take a panorama or use a wide angle lens.
There are no guard rails, so watch your footing as it’s a 1,100 ft drop! Visitors often explore all along the rim, which is made of sandstone, some daring to get closer to the edge than others. [As of 2018, a large viewing platform and guardrail is currently under construction.]