Colorado River Horseshoe Bend

Arizona, USA
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Horseshoe Bend is a million years old masterpiece of mother nature. This area used to be one of the largest sand dunes the North American continent has ever seen over 200 million years ago. This “sand seas” were known as ergs. This enormous erg was eventually hardened by water and minerals into Navajo Sandstone.

It took the water a couple of million years to erode its way through the Navajo Sandstone and to form this 270° horseshoe-shaped bend.

You might have seen photos of this landmark before in various places. Microsoft, for example, promoted Horseshoe Bend as an integrated background image in Windows.

How to get there.

Reaching Horseshoe Bend is not that hard to reach. There is a parking lot located right off state highway US 89 just south of Page, Arizona. There is a small sign on the main road. From the highway you can’t see this landmark, it’s located on the other side of a small hill. The parking lot is usually pretty full with cars and tour buses. There are restrooms located in the parking lot.

View back to the parking lot from the top of the hill.

Horseshoe Bend Parking Lot

The trail leading to the rim is about 3/4 of a mile long. After the walk up the sandy hill, you get to a viewpoint. From here you can see the rest of the trail leading down to Horseshoe Bend and beyond that are the Paria Plateau and Vermillion Cliffs.

Walk down the rest of the trail to the rim. From the edge of the horseshoe bend, it’s about a 1000 feet (305 meters) straight drop down to the river. Be careful at the edges of the rim as they can break away. There is no railing or any protection at the rim. You are doing everything at your own risk.

Trail to Horseshoe Bend

Walk around and enjoy the different views you can get off the horseshoe bend and landscape around you. The colors of the rocks and water change throughout the day as the shadows move in and out of the canyon and the water sparkles in different colors of green and blue.

Visitors at Horseshoe Bend

Visitors at Horseshoe Bend

Tips for visiting Horseshoe Bend

Bring water, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat to cover yourself from the heat and the sun. Avoid going during the hottest periods of the day. The wind can blow here pretty hard too and sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sand blown around in the air.

For the photographers under you, make sure you bring a wide-angle lens to get the entire scene in your photo. Definitely, bring a lens under 24mm. My smallest zoom lens only goes down to 24 mm and I lost some portions of the scene I would like to have in the picture.

The picture below was taken with my the wide angle camera of my LG V20. It can actually take a picture of the whole scenery but lacks on quality.

Taken with wide-angle lense of the LG V20.

What’s the best time to visit Horseshoe Bend? This is a tough question. It really depends on what you try to achieve with your photos. As the sun starts to set, you are facing straight into the sun and the river below is in the shadows. It’s  probably best to visit during the morning hours and early afternoon. This matters more for the photographers. If you are in the area, you have to visit this amazing place. If you only have a limited amount of time, make sure you come by here, no matter what time it is. You just have to see this amazing landmark!

Sunsets can be also amazing here. I can linger all day here and watch horseshoe bend as it changes colors as the sun moves across the sky.

You might see some people camping at the foot of Horseshoe Bend just on the other side of the Colorado River. They made their way up here by boat from Lees Ferry, located about 15 miles downstream. The waters between Glen Canyon Dam and Lees Ferry are calm and frequented by fishermen and boaters.

Camping at the foot of Horseshoe Bend

Facing Horseshoe Bend, the water flows from the right to the left. For some reasons I always thought it runs the other way around. I guess because I am used to reading from left to right.

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