March 2016 – Horseshoe Bend is a jewel of spot just a few miles south of Page, Arizona, that’s easy to access and is a fabulous place to spend a few hours or more, especially for RVers headed through northeastern Arizona. As we brought our truck and trailer up from Sedona, Arizona, we stopped at Horseshoe Bend in the afternoon.
From the parking lot there is a 3/4 mile walk up and over a rise to get to the Horseshoe Bend overlook. Hundreds of people were on this trail going in both directions.
As we crested the rise and began the descent on the other side, we could see people scattering like ants as they approached the Horseshoe Bend overlook.
This is a Very Cool Place. Even though we were there with throngs of other people, we felt a rush of excitement as we neared the edge. Everyone else seemed to feel the same way, and the unprotected rim of the overlook was jammed with tourists peering over the edge.
Far down below, rafters were making their way along the Colorado River. The mighty Colorado has carved Horseshoe Bend over millenia, and it is staggering to think of the force necessary to dig this huge ditch through sandstone rock, especially with the river looking so meek and mild down there.
This is a great place for selfie shots too!
Selfie sticks were held high aloft all around us.
Some folks were pretty creative getting photos of themselves. Others just laid on their bellies to get a shot of the incredible bend in the river a thousand feet down below.
Some were brave and crept far out on a precipice for a very dramatic photo of themselves.
I’m not sure how many people had noticed the sign on the way in saying that the sandstone is crumbly and the overhanging edges have a tendency to break off…!
As the afternoon wore on, the crowd swelled as people came in to get a shot of the sun setting over the bend in the river.
The rim was packed with photographers getting set up for this special moment. Finding a place to squeeze in along the rim wasn’t so easy!!
The excited discussion between everyone standing on the rim alternated between what kind of photography gear they had and speculation about whether we’d all have a chance to go for a starburst shot at the moment the sun vanished from the sky on the far side of the canyon. One woman said she had gotten a doozy of a starburst photo two nights before. We all crossed our fingers.
But Mother Nature had other plans for us that afternoon, and the sun slipped behind the horizon with nary a wink.
It was still very special!
I had an 18-35 mm lens, but the best images were a little wider. Mark whipped out his favorite trusty 14 mm lens and got a fabulous image.
As we watched the clouds drift across the sky in shades of orange and yellow, suddenly the river down below began to reflect the color. How cool!
We left Horseshoe Bend on a total high, absolutely exhilarated by Nature’s show. If the sunset could be that magical, we thought, then what might be in store at sunrise?
The next morning we were on the trail before dawn. There were three cars in the parking lot, including ours, and a young couple was just ahead of us on the trail, weighed down with some serious looking photography gear.
I got chatting with Brittany as we trudged along the trail in the dark, and I discovered that she and her companion, Justin, were professional videographers with their own video production company, Chiet Productions. They had just landed a gig for a regular show on PBS about a nightclub in Washington, DC, that will begin airing in April. It’s called “Live at 9:30.”
They were here at Horseshoe Bend for pleasure, however, and they were planning to shoot the sunrise using timelapse photography.
Mark and I went for stills, however, since that was where our heads were at this morning. it was too early to think clearly enough to figure out everything we’d need to do to set up a timelapse, although I LOVED the idea!!
The sunrise was lovely.
The funny thing is that the sunrise wasn’t all that different than the sunset the night before. The sun had set over the horizon in the distance in front of us, but the sun rose behind us, so it would seem the canyon would look quite different. However, the colors we saw at sunrise filled the sky opposite the sun as it rose, casting a soft light across the horizon front of us.
A little while later, the sun lit up the top of the peak in front of us. As the sun rose higher and higher, the shadow on the cliff slipped lower and lower.
When the big show was over, we found Justin and Brittany where we had left them with all their gear on the edge of the canyon. They had done three timelapse videos, one on a GoPro, one on a Sony mirrorless camera and one on a cell phone. Brittany showed me the one she’d done on her cell phone. She had caught the sun lighting the top of the pinnacle in the canyon and had captured the shadow slipping down its front as the sun rose higher. Wonderful!!
The morning wasn’t over yet, though. In fact, the day was just beginning. Where there had been just four of us on the rim at sunrise, we could now see a steady stream of people pouring down the trail, cameras and tripods in hand. The rim slowly became crowded with photographers and tourists once again!
Curious about some rock formations nearby, we headed off to the right (north). Leaving behind the growing rush of visitors arriving at the rim, we walked out into these cool rocks.
There were lots of curvy lines and ripples in the sandstone.
We were both really intrigued by the contours of this fantastic land, and we roamed around this spot for quite some time.
If your RV travels take you to Page, Arizona, a stop at Horseshoe Bend is a must.
A few tips:
To avoid the crowds, the best time to get there is early in the morning.
If you are driving your RV, your best chance for finding a place to park it in the parking lot is early morning, not too long after dawn. There is turnaround room (big buses come and go regularly all day long), but it seemed to me that on weekends at peak season, especially holidays, this parking lot probably fills early and would be nearly impossible for an RV. We were there midweek in mid-March, and the number of tourists was mind boggling. The numbers intensify in the afternoon, especially near sunset.
As you hit the walking trail to Horseshoe Bend, there’s a sign that says this is a Fee Area managed by the National Park Service. Interestingly, no money was being collected and no one asked to see our Federal Interagency Pass. The National Park Service could be making a small fortune here, as I’m sure several thousand people visit every day.
Never miss a post — it’s free!
More info about Horseshoe Bend:
National Park Service Website – Official description of Horseshoe Bend
Allstays – RV Parks near Page, AZ
Location of Horseshoe Bend – Google Maps (it is mis-labled “Houseshoe” and called a “chapel” – funny!)
Other blog posts from our RV travels in northeastern Arizona:
- Navajo Bridge, Arizona — A Scenic Roadside Attraction in Red Rock Country 06/03/22
- Canyon Country Highlights – Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend & More! 02/01/19
- Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies 05/09/17
- Blue Mesa Trail – Lavender Beauty in Petrified Forest National Park 05/05/17
- Petrified Forest National Park RV Trip – Magic in Jasper Forest 04/28/17
- Getting Our Kicks on Route 66 by RV in AZ – Cool Springs, Winslow & Holbrook 04/24/17
- “Cliff Dwellers” on Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs Scenic Drive – A Fun Stop! 12/03/16
- Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley and Bears Ears 03/28/16
- Lees Ferry & Marble Canyon AZ + Pretty Paria River Hike 03/26/16
- A Glimpse of the Navajo (or “Diné” as they call themselves) 12/16/14
- Mysteries in the Navajo Nation, Arizona 11/29/14
- Wire Pass Trail – Slot Canyon Hiking! 05/22/14
- Canyon de Chelly, AZ – A Canyon of Indian Cliff Dwellings 06/27/12
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So beautiful! It reminds me of Goosenecks SP in Utah. Your photos are stunning — can’t believe some of those people teetering on the edge of crumbling sandstone!
It’s similar to Goosenecks SP (which we just visited and will be writing about soon), but quite different too. In both places you can get right up to the edge…it’s so spooky to look down!!!
As usual, great writing, and beautiful photography! Inspiring adventures for us us part-time Rv’ers.
Even though we stayed and worked at the South RIm of GCNP for two seasons in our 5ver, driving a Shuttle Bus (Glen did); always kindly advised tourists that looking down at the Colorado River could be treacherous, and deadly, depending on their ability to handle, or not handle, heights. Too close, and dizzy, is a terrible combination. HOO-ah!
Birds fly – people drop like a rock – 3000 feet down, in some places. Sandstone – forget it!
Keep up the great work, you two, so we can follow your crumbs, up and down the RV Trail! Got any scratches on that Dodge yet?
I was reading on a photo website about one overlook where the wind blows really hard. The advice was to get a friend to hang onto your belt while you took your photos!!! Yikes!!!! That sounds like two over the edge to me!!
There’s a book about people falling over the edge at the Grand Canyon (it’s here). Oh my..!!!
The new Dodge is very dusty right and streaked with red sand from playing in the red rocks. There’s probably a scratch somewhere, but it’s too dirty to tell!!!
Thanks for this post. We spent about 10 years going to Powell every summer but never did visit this spot. We will put it on our list! As soon as I saw the pictures of the people so close to the edge on that crumbly sandstone I thought of Michael Ghigleri’s book that you mentioned. Over the edge! I’ve been having fun with timelapse on my Panasonic G7, so that would be something I would like to do at this location. Love your blogs and pics!
It’s funny how we can let something wonderful like this slip by when it’s in our backyard! You’ll love it when you finally get there (just beware of that edge!), and the timelapse on your Panasonic will be very cool. Thanks for reading!!