One of the most photographed parts of the Colorado River is Horseshoe Bend just outside Page, Arizona. Although you can’t drive to the river, the rim of the canyon around Horseshoe Bend provides a large overlook. The Bend is stop #10 on the Marble Canyon Loop.
Horseshoe Bend is part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Until 2016 it was only visited by a few thousand people each year. Suddenly its appeal boomed and now it is on the itinerary of every tour bus that goes by. Instead of 4,000 visitors a year, Horseshoe Bend now gets that number every day. The first time Tom and I tried to see it, Page police officers weren’t letting anyone in the parking lot. The second time, a Thursday morning in September, we drove in just as someone was leaving. This small place is an example of how the national parks are being loved to death.
Because it is so accessible, everyone wants a selfie in front of Horseshoe Bend. From the parking lot you walk less than a mile up a hill and down a hill to the overlook. People climb off the tour buses and think they can just stroll down to the overlook and back up. Consequently, emergency medical calls are a daily occurrence at the Bend. People don’t realize how quickly they can get dehydrated or suffer from the heat.
Tom and I usually avoid crowds like the plague, but we really wanted to see Horseshoe Bend while we are in the area. We found a parking spot and hiked up the hill and down to the overlook. The path is mostly sandy which makes walking more difficult, but so many people take the path that it is hard-packed in many places.
When we got to the overlook it wasn’t hard to find a good viewing spot. There are rails at a few places, but people just continue around the rim to get good views. The Bend is so large that I couldn’t get it all in my camera lens despite being 1,000 feet above the river. We didn’t stay long – just too many people. The hike back up wasn’t bad. We passed a lot of people gasping for air. I think, after four months, we are acclimated to the altitude (5,000 feet).
The city of Page and Glen Canyon NRA are working together to alleviate the overcrowding. They are building a bigger parking lot, putting up some shade shelters, and paving the trail to the overlook. They will also put rails up along a larger section of the rim.
Horseshoe Bend is worth a look and is a worthy stop on the Marble Canyon Loop. Just don’t be disappointed if there isn’t anyplace to park.