Best Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend - Video Featured Image

“So, what’s the best time to visit Horseshoe Bend?”

Hope you’ve got a minute, because the answers you’re bound to receive are as diverse as the languages you’ll hear spoken by visitors at the overlook!

When prospective visitors to Page/Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon and the American Southwest want to get the best travel advice on the planet, they often jump on the travel forums of sites like TripAdvisor, Frommer’s and Fodors to get input from recognized experts on the area. And yet, surprisingly (or not) the answers that even they give to this question are as varied as the colors you’ll see in the rock layers of Glen Canyon.

On TripAdvisor, ConnieB, Destination Expert for Utah writes:

“Horseshoe Bend is best viewed late morning or mid day. The ‘bend and river are in shadow at other times. At or just before sunset, the sun will be in your eyes and the bend will be in shadow. It’s best viewed mid day to early afternoon.”

Yet, SouthJerseyGirl, Destination Expert for Grand Canyon National Park, offers up an opinion that almost runs counter to ConnieB’s:

“For Horseshoe Bend, I would try to see it in late afternoon towards sunset. With high sun at mid-day, the colors have a tendency to get washed out.”

Then again, RedRox, Destination Expert for Sedona, might disagree:

“Late afternoon is not the best time for Horseshoe Bend. You’ll be facing into the setting sun and the river below will be in shadows off the canyon walls.”

Bob B, Destination Expert for Tucson, Arizona and Northern Mexico, has yet a slightly different take:

“Horseshoe Bend is best seen mid-morning to early afternoon.”

DetTigerFan, Destination Expert for Grand Canyon and hiker extraordinaire, would seem to agree with Bob B’s assessment:

“The river is out of shadow by 9:30 in the morning and still will be well into the afternoon.”

Tet14, Road Trip Expert, as usual, has his own opinion based on many visits:

“We have been to Horseshoe Bend both in the morning and in the afternoon and prefer the morning.”

Ditto for dez40, Destination Expert for Zion National Park:

“Horseshoe Bend is better in the morning. In the evening the sun is in your eyes.”

If your head is spinning by this point, that’s not surprising. Some facts to keep in mind: the Horseshoe Bend Overlook faces due West. Therefore, during the pre-sunrise and post-sunset hours, the view of the Colorado River below – and the reason most people visit this world-famous attraction – does indeed tend to be in shadow. All other times during the day, it’s fully visible in all its glory.

Here’s another one: Horseshoe Bend is located approximately 5 miles South of the town of Page. Many visitors to Page enter the area from Grand Canyon South Rim, making the Horseshoe Bend Overlook a convenient stop on their way into town. Map With so many vacations scheduled down to the second, anything that can be done to save time is sure to be appreciated, making the issue of optimal time to visit something of a moot point.

So, we haven’t really answered the question, “what’s the best time to visit Horseshoe Bend” now, have we? True to form, another TripAdvisor contributor, dbmove, has done so for us, and quite aptly, if we do say so ourselves. He says:

“I wouldn’t get too hung up on the “perfect” time to see Horseshoe Bend. Even with perfect timing, you could have clouds, rain, etc., that you can’t plan for and the sight will still be impressive. I was there last week and despite timing the visit for the perfect time in the canyon and giving up another activity to be there at the perfect time, it didn’t matter in the end. Half the group ended up scratching the visit because of heavy clouds. The half that stayed still felt it was worthwhile.”

An anonymous visitor to a different travel forum sums it up perfectly:

“We were planning to visit and were wondering whether or not time of day was crucial. Now we know it’s never bad, just different!”

We couldn’t have said it better! Still, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, a very patient gentleman named Brian Klimowski actually took the time to sit at Horseshoe Bend all day long with his camera and capture the constantly changing light and colors. Visit this page to see the beautiful results of his experiment! Sunrise to Sunset Photo Series

Good luck and happy travels to all!

About the author

Alley Keosheyan

A 25-year veteran of the tourism industry in Northern Arizona, including 7 years at Grand Canyon South Rim and 15 years at Lake Powell, Alley has taken part in virtually every commercial tour offering there is! She has ridden the Grand Canyon mules, hiked rim to rim, rafted the rapids of the Colorado River (and the smooth bits, too), enjoyed many a weekend on a houseboat on Lake Powell, logged countless hours on both airplanes and helicopters, walked on air on the Grand Canyon Skywalk and frolicked in the blue-green waters of Havasu Falls. About the only thing on her "to-do" list now is the Tower Butte Helicopter tour! She now makes her living as a freelance writer by day, bass player in a cover band by night.

10 comments
art - February 20, 2017

how far of a walk is the parking lot at Horseshoe Bend to the rim? Have a disabled person with me

Reply
    Alley Keosheyan - February 21, 2017

    Hi Art, and thanks for visiting our site.
    The walk to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook is approximately 3/4 mile long up a very sandy trail. To give you some idea, my mom (with bad knees) visited me a few years ago and I proposed going on this walk. She took one look at the trail and said “no way.” To get a visual, forward to the 3:40 mark on this video (it’s sped up, but gets the point across). https://youtu.be/VBeES4C0V34
    I’m not sure when you are planning to visit, but improvements to the Overlook are in the works that include an accessible trail. https://www.lakepowelllife.com/improvements-to-horseshoe-bend-advance-to-design-phase/ Mind you, though, these probably won’t materialize until next season.
    Another way for someone unable to walk to Horseshoe Bend to see it is to fly over it. Fixed wing airplane flights depart from the Page Municipal Airport (PGA) daily, weather permitting. http://horseshoebend.com/see-horseshoe-bend-air/
    Hope that helps. Have a great trip!
    Alley

    Reply
Skye - February 22, 2017

Hi Alley,
Question for horseshoe bend can you tour it on your own? Do you have to have a tour guide or free to walk the trail up to the bend?? I’m trying to plan my trip in May, and want to do as much as i possibly can without tours.

Reply
    Alley Keosheyan - February 28, 2017

    Hi Skye,
    At the moment, a tour guide is not required to visit Horseshoe Bend. It is, however, required to visit Antelope Canyon. So, yes, you are free to walk up the trail to the overlook anytime you wish – 24/7, 365 days a year. Although I wouldn’t recommend going up there at night necessarily. Once it gets dark, it gets really, REALLY dark and with no guardrails at the rim, it’s a long drop to the river!
    Good luck and happy traveling!
    Alley

    Reply
Annie - February 23, 2017

Hi Alley,

Great site – just found it whilst trying to get some local knowledge and Bingo – there you are 🙂

Forgive my complete British ignoprance, but does Horseshoe Bend have water all year round, or does the river dry up in places? I only ask as we once trekked for 10k in Yosemite to see an oxbow lake, only to discover it was empty! Just wondered if Horseshoe was full year-round? Planning a trip in early August with my two children and wouldn’t want to come at the wrong time of year (if there is one, given your excellent ‘wrong time of day’ point!).

Thanks,
Annie.

Reply
    Alley Keosheyan - February 28, 2017

    Hi Annie and thanks for writing — And no, your question does not reflect ignorance of any stripe, it is perfectly valid and useful!
    The flow of the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend is regulated by the Glen Canyon Dam upstream. Therefore, a minimum output quota must be met in order for the dam to continue generating hydroelectric power. Long story short, the river never “dries out.” In fact, in August, it’s typically quite the opposite as that is Arizona’s “monsoon” season, typified by brief but sometimes intense rainstorms that can produce temporary waterfalls in Glen Canyon. You might see one of these from Horseshoe Bend! Just don’t attempt to do so if lightning is present. With no guardrails at the overlook, it’s a long drop to the river.
    Good luck and happy travels,
    Alley

    Reply
      Annie - March 5, 2017

      Thanks so much Alley – that’s really helpful and interesting information!
      Warm Regards,
      Annie.

      Reply
        Alley Keosheyan - March 6, 2017

        You’re welcome Annie!

        Reply
Highway One – skramesto.no - February 25, 2017

[…] av oss besøkte også Horseshoe Bend på vei til […]

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Andy - March 19, 2017

Thanks Alley and everyone for the insightful article and great questions to help me plan my trip to Horseshoe bend and Antelope Canyon. So much great information!

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