Horseshoe Bend is a supernatural panoramic spectacle inside Glen Canyons National Recreation Area. The area covers 1.25 million acres of waterways and backcountry geological wonders stretching from southern Utah to northern Arizona.
Even though this alien-like mars-on-earth destination attracts nearly 2 million visitors each year, you’ll still want to be a part of the magic without feeling like just a number.
So be sure to arrive at sunrise, sunset, or the weekday to peak inside the canyon’s vibrant desert with minimal crowding — this is the best time to visit Horseshoe Bend.
However, there’s far more that goes into a successful trip than just this. But don’t worry — we’ve also rounded up the cheapest, least busy, and worst times to go. Read on to learn all you need to know!
Why You Should Visit Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend, or the “east rim of the Grand Canyon,” is just as it sounds — a horseshoe-shaped meandering water flow belonging to the 47th longest river on the planet, the Colorado River.
The Colorado river begins in the Rocky Mountains at La Poudre Pass in Colorado. It passes through the Grand Canyon in the California Gulch in Mexico.
When the east rim of the Grand Canyon meets the stubborn 3-layer stone escarpment, the emerald-colored river unknowingly chases itself into a 270-degree horseshoe bend. After touring the Horseshoe bend, you can visit nearby natural attractions, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell.
Antelope Canyon is well known for its wavy sandstone and celestial light beams that shine inside The Crack and The Corkscrew canyon slots. And Lake Powell offers paddle boarding, kayaking, boat tours, and a scenic drive through backcountry roads.
Overall Best Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend
When you want to experience Horseshoe Bend without crowds of people, the overall best time to visit Horseshoe Bend is before sunrise and sunset into the early afternoon and late evening year-round.
When you arrive at the Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, you will likely encounter unbelievable photo opportunities with softly glowing lights that amplify the Horseshoe’s desert scarlet hues as the sun positions itself to heat the canyon.
On the contrary, the sunset at Horseshoe Bend is a blend of variety: scarlet, emerald, layered textures coloring miles of 984-foot panoramic canyon shelves.
And since the park doesn’t have designated park hours, stargazers can find good company underneath the stars after the evening twilight.
However, the best time to visit Horseshoe Bend is in the Fall, between September and October. The water feels warm, and the temperatures are cool.
The high season starts mid-March and leaks into mid-October — that means that the parking lot will not have available spaces, and you’ll need to reserve more time to access the overlook.
Cheapest Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend
Penny pinching at the Horseshoe Bend is the easiest when you’re not afraid to be a tour guide and are okay with a road trip.
The cheapest time to visit Horseshoe Bend is when you can be your own tour guide. Although booking a private tour can offer a one-of-a-kind experience, exploring the area alone can be rewarding and adventurous.
Hiking trails nearby worth considering adding to your homemade tour include the Hanging Garden, Dam Overlook, and the Old Navajo Bridge. The Hanging Garden Trail is a kid-friendly out-and-back trail at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
The trail has easy-to-follow markings along the desert path that lead to an unusual formation of spring-fed green vegetation and cool temperatures.
The Dam Overlook trail is an easy 10-minute, out-and-back trail with beautiful views of the Colorado River moving through Glen Canyon 1,000 feet below the overlook. Although this trail is relatively easy to hike, you won’t want to wear sandals.
The overlook descends an 80-foot organic sandstone staircase. The Old Navajo Bridge trail is the best wheelchair, stroller, and kid-friendly trail near Horseshoe Bend to view the historic Old Navajo Bridge, New Navajo Bridge, and Glen Canyon.
You’ll run into the bookstore and visitor center when you travel west of the bridge. And east of the bridge has indigenous vendors excited to share their art and culture.
Depending on where you’re starting your destination from, the cheapest way to access Horseshoe Bend is to fly into Las Vegas and road trip 5 hours to Antelope Canyon, just a 15-minute drive to Horseshoe Bend.
Or begin your trip to Arizona. You can access the overlook from the Grand Canyon in 2.5 hours or take a 3-hour drive from Sedona.
Least Busy Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend
The views at Horseshoe Bend are breathtaking and sometimes you want to have those moments all to yourself without distraction — that’s why you should make your way to Horseshoe Bend before sunrise and sunset.
But, unfortunately, the visitors begin to trickle in after sunset and crowd the viewpoints on the weekends. However, private guided tours can take you to parts of the Horseshoe bend that are not easily accessible by drive-thru visitors.
You’ll have an expert tour guide leading the way, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost when you venture outside Horseshoe Bend. And you’ll have access to a personal itinerary in small groups without the giant crowds.
In addition, most visitors that want to take their frameable photos at sunrise and sunset usually don’t stay after dark during the quietest and least busy time to visit Horseshoe bend. As a result, there is no light pollution at night, the quiet canyon sounds are still, and the stars paint the sky.
In the summertime, it is common to see the Milky Way, Big Dipper, Little Dipper, and Circlet of Pisces, among other constellations. And the winter time gives a peak into Orion, Head of Hydra, Lepus, and Saturn in late winter.
Night adventures can search for the perfect spot to plop their sleeping bag just after sunset:
- With a couple of flashlights or headlamps, a comfy pillow, and a beach towel.
- A camera with a long exposure that can capture the night sky.
- Maybe a free app like Star Walk 2 if you’re new to stargazing
- And a good pair of eyes or binoculars
And before you go, remember to adhere to leave no trace practices, leaving the destination just as you found it to help promote wellness for humans and the planet.
Worst Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend
The worst time to visit the Horseshoe Bend is in the Summer, between June and August– This is because the desert temperatures are at their hottest.
However, the water is quite warm. But if you’ve only got time for a summer vacation, remember to dress like you’re in the desert: head protection, loose cotton or linen clothing, UV sunglasses, sneakers, and sunscreen.
Horseshoe Bend has an average summer temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit without shade.
That means you’ll want to protect your head and eyes from harsh sun rays. And if you tend to overheat, cotton clothing paired with a good grade of sunscreen will help protect your skin from sunburn.
In addition, sneakers can keep your feet nice and cool without exposing them to sunburn. However, since the desert doesn’t necessarily reach frigid temperatures, the winter season attracts the holiday-getaways seeking warmer southern temperatures.
So when traveling through Horseshoe Bend in the winter, be mindful of the chilly sweater weather, early morning icy roads, and crowds of international visitors.
Things to Consider
Before making your way down to Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, to experience sculptural layers of paranormal canyon formations, there are a few things that you need to know.
First, the Horseshoe Bend doesn’t belong to the national park service, so you won’t be able to use a National Park Service pass in place of the small entrance fee for all passenger vehicles and motorcycles.
If you arrive during the busy season and the parking lot is full, you may have to return later when the lot has open availability. And if you’re a traveling nomad, you’ll want to reserve a tour or rent a car to visit the overlook.
Unfortunately, Horseshoe Bend does not allow drop-offs or side-of-the-road parking. Second, Horseshoe Bend lives in the desert, so you’ll want to have desert essentials handy just in case you squeeze between two trails of tourists for long periods.
Our top tips include:
- Remember to grab your sunglasses or a big umbrella — the open desert can be bright.
- Wear sunscreen and a brimmed hat. You won’t find much shade on the desert trails
- Wear hiking boots. The sandstone can be too slick for sandal traction.
- Pack at least 1 liter of water and a light snack. The summer season reaches over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lastly, when you’re not rushing to tour Glen Canyon, book an overnight stay at one of the hundreds of Page’s best accommodations, such as the Lake Powell Resort or the luxury Hyatt Place Page.
But if hotels and motels are not your favorite choice of stay, you can find a campsite at the Wahweap campground, Lee’s Ferry campground, or Page Lake Powell RV park.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you still considering Horseshoe Bend as your must-see travel destination? Check out these frequently asked questions to help you book your new favorite travel destination hassle-free:
How much time do you need at Horseshoe Bend?
Reserve at least 90 minutes to explore Horseshoe Bend. This reservation will give you enough time to capture photographic memories, maneuver through the crowd, and bask in the view.
How long does the Horseshoe Bend hike take?
The hike to Horseshoe Bend overlook begins at the parking lot south of the Carl Hayden Visitor Center off US Highway 89 and takes about 40 minutes or less to trek. The trail is a 1.5-mile wheelchair, stroller, and kid-friendly out-and-back trail.
That means the Horseshoe Bend trail is a single trail with the same start and end location. And you don’t have to worry about leaving your pets in the car. Dogs can tour the overlook with their owners on a leash.
Can you see Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon in one day?
You can see Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon in one day when you plan your trip. However, it isn’t easy to tour both locations on a freestyle itinerary. Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon are only 2 hours away.
However, you can quickly lose track of time when you start your trip later in the day and want to bask in the beauty. To see both natural landmarks in one day, begin your trip in the Grand Canyon, Page, Flagstaff, or a nearby city.
So, When Is the Best Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend?
Whether you’re a tourist on vacation, a photographer scouting for the perfect location, or a stargazer trying to catch shooting stars, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Horseshoe Bend. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!