Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona

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It may be just a bend in an otherwise meandering river, but Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona is one of those geological features that will not only stun you with its uniqueness but with its spectacular beauty.

To get to the U-shaped canyon in the Colorado River from Page involves a hike of about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) roundtrip from the parking area just off highway 89.  The trail is not of any great length but it is comprised of sandy rolling hills that can be soft in places and steep in others.  The key is wearing proper hiking shoes.  We witnessed tourists wearing flip-flops and thick platform shoes and it was comical to watch them try to negotiate the loose sand and the up and down undulating hills. 

Be smart, this is part of the southwest desert and it can become very hot at times.  Plan your trip here so you are not taking the hike during the hottest part of the day.  Besides, the harsh sunlight is not good for getting great photos of this place.  Bring water, wear sunscreen, and understand that there is very little shade along the trail.

Be prepared to encounter many people along the trail and also once you get to the Horseshoe Bend overlook.  Finding that optimum spot to capture that perfect view and that perfect photo may take a bit of waiting, and patience, as there are typically many people taking photos, especially selfies.  But why not?  It’s a beautiful place to capture yourself in a photo with such an amazing background!

The strange thing about this great landmark in the Glen Canyon National Recreation area is not only the feature itself but the several agencies that are competing for its boundary.  Horseshoe Bend belongs to the GCNR,  however, the parking lot belongs to the city of Page, Arizona, while the land just south of the parking lot belongs to the Navajo Nation.  What this means is that you have to pay the city of Page to park in the parking lot before you can enter the National Park, which charges no fee.  National Park passes are not accepted to park here.

Once you reach the Horseshoe Bend overlook and find that ideal viewing spot, consider that this magnificent feature was created about 5 million years ago as the Colorado Plateau uplifted.  Over the millennia, the Colorado River carved and shaped the landscape as the water created a path to the sea.  This action of sweeping water along with literally tons of abrasive sandstone particles left a 1,000-foot deep, 270º degree, u-shaped crevice in the red sandstone Glen Canyon.

The views are beautiful and the contrast of azure sky, red sandstone, emerald-blue river, and pastel green banks along the Colorado make the scene even more spectacular.  Let alone the steep plunge to the bottom which undoubtedly many cameras and cell phones have done!  You will not be able to retrieve them so hang on to them (and your children!).

Due to the high number of visitors to Horseshoe Bend, the National Park Service is busy incorporating improvements and adding safety features to this place.  In the Summer of 2018, they installed an impressive viewing platform with safety rails to prevent an unwary visitor from taking an accidental plunge over the side.  

Remember that a very large portion of the accessible rim is unprotected and the park reminds you to wear proper shoes, watch your footing, and above all else, don’t let the kiddies run amuck! 

Horseshoe Bend is an everchanging contrast of color, light, and shadows.  If you are staying in Page, Arizona, consider an early morning visit to nearby Antelope Canyon, then afterward stopping at Horseshoe Bend, perhaps have lunch nearby, then head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Each of these three places should be on any traveler’s bucket list.  To visit just one is a huge drop in the bucket, but all three in one day?  You may need a bigger bucket!

All photographs are the copyright of Jim Jackson Photography. Please contact me with any questions, comments, or for authorization to use photos or for signed, high-resolution prints.

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