Distance: 1.5 miles | Time: 30 – 45 minutes | Level: Easy
Horseshoe Bend is one of those popular places that 100% deserves the hype and attention it has received.
While Instagram is what put Horseshoe Bend on the map for many visitors, pictures will never do it justice. When planning our three-week Arizona-Utah road trip, hiking Horseshoe Bend for sunrise was the first thing on our itinerary.
While the beauty of Horseshoe Bend is no secret, don’t let rumors of crowds deter you from stopping at the iconic lookout.
In this guide, I will share the best time to hike Horseshoe Bend to avoid the crowds, what to expect, things to know before you go, and nearby adventures you can’t miss.
Table of Contents
Complete Guide to Hiking Horseshoe Bend for Sunrise
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Frequently Asked Questions About Horseshoe Bend
Is Horseshoe Bend worth visiting?
Horseshoe Bend absolutely exceeded my expectations, despite the thousands of photos of it I had already seen. While you won’t have the canyon overlook to yourself, the area is expansive and allows for people to spread out.
Now the trail to the canyon rim is nothing to write home about but, trust me when I say, the view at the end of the path over-delivers.
Keep in mind that the time of day plays a huge role in the magic of the location. If midday is the only time you can fit in a stop at Horseshoe Bend by all means take it.
However, if you have more flexibility in your schedule I recommend doing the Horseshoe Bend hike at either sunrise or sunset.
Is Horseshoe Bend Better at Sunrise or Sunset?
In my hiking experience, there will almost always be fewer people on a trail at sunrise as opposed to sunset. As it turns out, the Horseshoe Bend hike is no different.
There are a couple of reasons I think sunrise at Horseshoe Bend trumps sunset.
For starters, we began the hike just after the first light and only saw a dozen or so other people. From what I’ve heard, if you do the Horseshoe Bend hike at sunset you might be sharing the view with hundreds of others.
For some reason unbeknown to me, people usually don’t love getting up in the wee hours of the morning on vacation. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret — that’s when all the magic happens.
Next, to really see the extraordinary colors of the desert at sunrise or sunset you actually want to be facing the opposite way. When the sun rises or sets in the desert it turns all of the rocks vibrant red.
To experience the greatest show at these times you don’t want to be facing the sun at all.
Sunrise is the best time to watch Glen Canyon at Horseshoe Bend glow, as the sun will be rising at your back. At this time, visitors get to slowly watch the sun leak into the canyon and the red color of the rocks come to life.
Lastly, you have a better chance of snagging a parking spot in the morning. The parking lot is not large and fills up quickly. When we did the hike for sunrise we had no trouble parking. The lot was nearly empty.
Is Horseshoe Bend a Difficult Hike?
Relatively speaking, the Horseshoe Bend hike is more of a walk. The path is straightforward and pretty much flat. The trail is also well-maintained and level, making it accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
With that being said, the trail still requires you to hike in the desert to get to the overlook. I think far too many people show up thinking the attraction is off the side of the road.
Prepare and pack for the trek as you would any other hiking trail. Make sure to bring along adequate water and take breaks when you need them.
Is Horseshoe Bend Free?
There is a $10 entry fee per vehicle for Horseshoe Bend. The fee is paid upon arrival at the drive-up ticket booth. Once you’re given your ticket make sure to place it on the dash of your car.
Do note that the America the Beautiful park pass does not apply here.
What To Expect Hiking Horseshoe Bend at Sunrise
Horseshoe Bend is located just 10 minutes south of Page, Arizona. We packed out of our campground in the dark and headed towards Horseshoe Bend.
We were among the first set of cars in the parking lot at dawn. When you pull into the lot, pay your $10 fee to the station guard and take your ticket.
The trailhead begins right out of the parking area. Make sure to pack water for the hike despite its short distance.
There are only two covered rest areas along the trail. The rest of the hike is completely exposed to the sun. Another reason to do the hike at sunrise and beat the heat.
The hike is short and only about .6 miles to the overlook. The trail isn’t paved but it is hardened, packed gravel, and easy to navigate.
When you reach the end of the trail you come to a paved, railed platform overlooking the section of Glen Canyon called Horseshoe Bend. This is the only part of the canyon that is protected by a rail.
Those who are comfortable with their hiking ability and balance are allowed to explore other areas of the rim, away from the protected railing and crowds. Keep in mind, you are doing so at your own risk.
Sadly, hikers have fallen into the canyon and died. Please be careful and prioritize your safety, and that of others, over “getting the shot.”
Whether you’ve seen a thousand photos of Horseshoe Bend or you have no idea what to expect, it will take your breath away.
Glen Canyon is massive and has been artistically carved out over time by the Colorado River. The geology of the area is fascinating and unique. Pictures just can’t tell the whole story.
With that being said, we did find that the best time to photograph the canyon is from sunrise until about 20 minute past. After that, the sun completely enters the canyon, and the vibrant red of the rocks fades.
While trying to capture the beauty of the place, don’t forget to take some time to just soak it all in. A photo will never replace the feeling you get standing next to something so grand.
Camping Near Horseshoe Bend
There are several awesome places to camp near Horseshoe Bend, from campgrounds with amenities to BLM (Bureau of Land Management) sites, and primitive areas. Below were some of our favorite places we camped.
Beehive Campground is a BLM area that doesn’t require any reservations. Sites are $14 per night and are paid on an honor system using the envelopes at the information board.
While there are no amenities here (apart from picnic tables) we enjoyed camping at Beehive because of the views and proximity to Lake Powell. Be warned, none of the sites have shade and spots fill quickly.
In search of a shower and real toilet, we spent some nights at Wahweap Campground as well. It’s a great campground with clean amenities. Tent sites are $30. RV sites are also available.
Wahweap offers nice sites, clean bathrooms, hot showers, fire pits, picnic tables, coin laundry, and a camp store. The campground is also within walking distance of Lake Powell where you can swim or relax near the water.
We luckily snagged a walk-in site but I recommend reserving your spot here.
Lone Rock Beach Camping Area
Lone Rock is the iconic sandstone tower protruding out of Lake Powell. For $14 per vehicle (excluding entry fees), visitors can camp right along the shores of Lake Powell.
Camping areas are not designated and are first come, first served. There are some vault toilets spread out along the beach but that’s about it for amenities.
In theory, camping at Lone Rock sounds epic. However, make sure to note the weather before deciding to do so. The Lake Powell area is notorious for wind. The fine, loose sand around the lake mixed with high winds makes for a disastrous time in a tent.
Albeit, some very hilarious stories to tell later.
We also witnessed vehicles having to get pulled out of the sand by a friendly camping neighbor about every 10 minutes. Attempting to camp here was quite the headache for us but I bet on a calm day with the right vehicle, it would be hard to beat.
You can read more about campsites and campgrounds in the area here.
Other Things to do near Horseshoe Bend
As if Horseshoe Bend isn’t enough reason to visit Page, Arizona, there are also several other awesome adventures to be had nearby. Below are some of our favorite things we did in addition to the Horseshoe Bend hike.
I’m actually going to kick this list off with something we, sadly, didn’t get to do. Exploring Antelope Canyon is hands down, a must-see while in Page, Arizona. And, yes, I can say that having never been there.
When we took our three-week road trip, Antelope Canyon was still closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. We will absolutely be returning to explore it.
Antelope Canyon is located just 10 minutes from Horseshoe Bend. All areas of the canyon are only accessible via a guided tour. You can book a variety of tours of Antelope Canyon through Navajo Nation.
Lake Powell is even more beautiful in person and only 20 minutes from Horseshoe Bend. There are so many different ways you can enjoy the lake.
Visitors can visit the sandy shores, swim, kayak, or even boat the lake. We rented a boat through a great local, small business. Cole has his boating license, FYI.
Again, it is very important to check the weather before embarking on any Lake Powell adventures. The lake was extremely rough due to the wind when we went out. Luckily, Cole is an experienced driver but it was still pretty gnarly around certain bends.
In this first-timer’s guide to visiting Lake Powell, I detail all the things I wish I had known before our trip.
Toadstool Hoodoos Trail
Want to experience the hoodoo magic of Bryce Canyon but can’t fit in the 2.5-hour drive to the National Park? A short 30-minute drive from Horseshoe Bend will take you to the next best thing: Toadstool Hoodoos Trail.
By a stroke of luck, we stumbled upon this trail. Wouldn’t you know it, it became one of our favorite hikes we did during our entire Arizona-Utah road trip. Toadstool Hoodoos Trail is short, 1.8 miles, but teleports hikers to Mars within minutes. The rock formations are other-worldly and absolutely fascinating.
The best part? We began this hike shortly after sunrise and only passed two other people.
(For the record, you should absolutely consider spending at least two days in Bryce Canyon. After all, once you’re at Horseshoe Bend you’re already so close).
Cathedral Wash Trail
Again, we found our way to Vermillion Cliffs National Monument completely unplanned and immediately fell in love. Cathedral Wash Trail is nothing short of mind-blowing and a must-do for all off-the-beaten-path adventure lovers.
Just over 35 minutes from Horseshoe Bend you’ll find yourself navigating canyons, scrambling up and over rocks, and swimming in the Colorado River.
What’s not to love?
Are you planning a trip to Horseshoe Bend? If you have any questions about the hike or things to do in the Page area, drop me a message in the comment section below!
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