If there is something like an anatomy of the Southwest the Horseshoe Bend would certainly be its heart. There are many attractions along the Colorado Plateau that are stunning, but the Horseshoe Bend is one of these that goes under the WOW – category! Its easiness of access underscores it even more and should not be missed by anyone that travels around the Four Corners area. I dare to even say that this natural wonder deserves a trip of its own. OK, no one will do this given the fact of the multitude of other attractions in its vicinity that can easily be combined to end up giving you a most memorable trip.
Once the Colorado River passes the Glen Canyon Dam it gets squeezed into a 1,000 feet deep and narrow canyon. Horseshoe Bend is a wonderful and awe inspiring overlook where the river does an almost 360 degree bend leaving a huge butte in the middle. In the background of this unique view are the mighty Vermillion Cliffs.
Getting to Horseshoe Bend:
Your point of reference is the town of Page located in the northwestern corner of Arizona on Highway 89 south of the crossing of the Colorado River and the Glen Canyon Dam with its Lake Powell. Pick one of the multiple hotels at Page to be your headquarters and make sure to have a reservation if you are planning this trip during the high season (Summer vacation). Depending on where you are located in Page you will drive 2 – 4 miles south on Highway 89 until you reach the parking lot and the trailhead to Horseshoe Bend to your right. A sign on the road will guide you easily.
The trail starts with a small ascent in sand and do not wonder if you get short of breath, you are at an altitude of 6,000 feet. After getting up the slope there will be a moderate descent until you reach the vertiginous canyon drop and the most amazing view of the Bend. Be careful, there is no rail!!! The entire hiking loop is about 1.4 miles and most of it is sandy terrain.
Seldom it is so easy to give the right instructions. The only lens required is a wide-angle. It has to be at least a 20mm, preferentially less. Anything else just will not do it, unless you take your tripod (which you should have with you anyway) and do several images that will be stitched later on at home. A circular polarizing filter to decrease the reflections of the water can be an additional bonus.
The best time of the day to get your pictures is highly debatable. I have been to all times of the day there, but I heard people that swear that the best time is early morning (even before sunrise), others bet on late morning when the gorge and the butte in the middle are sun exposed and finally the ones that prefer the sunset with the sun as backlight or the dawn after sunset. I will leave up to decide for yourself which is the most suitable for you. Each of these moments has its own magic.
Last update: Dec. 19, 2010