On U.S. Highway 89 just south of Page, Arizona is where one of the most popular scenic destinations in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area can be found. Horseshoe Bend attracts plenty of onlookers wishing to capture a memory of this unique view of the Colorado River each day. Many famous western artists have spent countless hours painting this majestic view on canvas for all to see, so this truly is an inspirational place to be. Horseshoe Bend definitely is well worth taking the time to experience when touring this region!
Thousands of people take the time to visit Horseshoe Bend each week and the high number of visitors has placed pressure on the infrastructure, so improvements were necessary. Basically, the old roadside parking at Horseshoe Bend quickly became outdated and the traffic conditions were unsafe. Up till recently, a visitor had to slow down to a crawl on the busy highway to find a parking space on the apron of the road. On an average day, the cars were parked on the side of the road for nearly a quarter mile on either side of the trailhead. The slow cars moving off the dirt onto the high speed road posed a hazard and many accidents happened here.
Improvements have been made to the Horseshoe Bend access point in recent years and the facility upgrade project was nearly complete the last time I passed through. Roadside parking is no longer allowed and two large parking areas have been installed just off of the highway by the trailhead for safety’s sake. The parking situation is now a lot less dicy than it used to be.
A few more safety features are in the works for Horseshoe Bend that may be controversial from a preservation standpoint. Guard rails were proposed to be installed at the key viewpoints along the canyon rim. Some folks will say that the guard rails are a detraction, while others will readily welcome this feature, especially on a windy day. Just like at the Grand Canyon, the threat of falling off of the towering cliff is a real danger, especially since the number of visitors has dramatically increased. The guard rails are a preventative measure for those who do not fully realize that you only live once!
The day that I visited Horseshoe Bend was smack dab in the middle of the summer monsoon season. During this time of year rainstorms are frequent in the Glen Canyon region and these storms can be quite fierce, because the barren landscape does not slow the winds down. In this place, an approaching desert monsoon season rainstorm can be seen from miles away, so there is always time to decide whether to seek shelter or tough it out. As can be seen in the photo album, hundreds of other visitors and myself decided to rough it during the storm that day and the experience provided insight into the effects of a strong thunderstorm rolling through the narrow deep canyon.
From the parking area, the Horseshoe Bend Trail goes uphill in sandy soil, so this easy looking feat actually is a bit strenuous. Because the elevation of this region is well over a mile high, the thin air does have a way of slowing the feet down till the body adjusts to the conditions. Staying hydrated is the key to overcoming high altitude related fatigue, so be sure to carry a water jug when doing this short yet strenuous hike.
Once on top of the hill, the colorful Glen Canyon region comes into view and the sight is nothing less than spectacular! The views of this majestic landscape extend for many miles and the town of Page can be seen in the distance. From the top of the hill the best part of the Horseshoe Bend experience still remains hidden from view. Visitors will need to do another half mile trek downhill to get to the canyon rim, where the Colorado River and Horseshoe Bend come into view.
The coral pink sand and red sandstone landscape along the trail is like no other place on earth. This trail can be a bit rough, so those who have mobility challenges may need assistance in some sections. There were a few folks using walkers and wheelchairs on the trail, so this goes to show just how motivating the beauty of Horseshoe Bend really is.
When starting the downhill hike to the canyon rim, one simply cannot help but to stop to look at the long line of hikers doing the same thing. The long line of hikers stretching into the distance resembles lemmings heading for a cliff and this view may even look like a spiritual pilgrimage of some kind. It is then that one realizes that Horseshoe Bend actually is a pilgrimage site for those who worship the Mother Earth Spirit at her best!
As the canyon rim nears, the winds can be heard howling up from below. On any given day the winds can rip through this deep canyon at high speeds because of the temperature extremes. During a monsoon season storm, the high winds can be outright dangerous, especially if standing on the edge of the cliff is in the plans. The updraft gusts coming from the deep canyon are literally strong enough to knock a person off their own feet and that thousand foot drop to the river is a scary long way down. For this reason it is best to maintain a wide buffer zone near the edge of the towering cliff on a stormy day.
Getting close to the edge of the towering cliff is the only way to see Horseshoe Bend in its entirety. Those who have a fear of heights should avoid the rim views altogether for obvious reasons, because this is not a place where you want the legs to freeze up. All it takes is one look down from the high cliff to get that feeling of floating in the air like a bird and this is part of the thrill of it all. Experiencing the full view of Horseshoe Bend from the edge of the cliff truly a special moment to remember for a lifetime!
Horseshoe Bend certainly belongs on the travel bucket list simply because this place offers one of the most famous beautiful views in the entire Southwest! The hiking trail is fairly easy, there are facilities on location and this scenic overlook even has a shaded picnic area. This all adds up to an opportunity to spend a leisurely afternoon in the great outdoors. The views of Horseshoe Bend will create memories that can be shared for a lifetime, so this is reason enough to get up and go!
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