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“Help! I Can’t Do The Hike to Horseshoe Bend…”

As travelers plan their spring and summer vacations to Northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell, invariably the topic of Horseshoe Bend comes up. For some, it comes with a heaping helping of trepidation about the length and difficulty of the walk to the overlook.

Since we know you’re busy, we’ll save some of you some time right now: 9 out of 10 of you who are in reasonably good health, not afraid of heights, and who walk regularly or participate in even a moderate exercise regimen will be able to make this “so-called” hike. Wear good walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat, and carry water. You’ll be good to go!  

As for those who aren’t so sure where they stand, you’ll be glad to know that you’re not alone. Many prospective visitors in your shoes have gone to the one place people go to either assuage their fears – or confirm them: the travel forums of TripAdvisor!

A recent poster, Kav3 asks:

“How difficult is the Horseshoe Bend hike for a 74-year-old woman with some arthritis? Trying to decide if we should skip this…”

MarianReader, a frequent poster and Destination Expert for Tempe, AZ, replies:

“You might want to skip it. The hike is uphill, a portion of it through a sandy trail, no railings at the top, no shade at any time.”

StlCardFan would seem to concur, and comes back with a very detailed and accurate description of the Horseshoe Bend Overlook trail:

“The first part, from the parking lot to the top of the rise is fairly steep, and the sand is soft and deep. You will be huffing a bit when you get to the top. (Think walking on a soft beach uphill). Then it is down to the bend itself. This is less steep, and there is some smooth rock areas on the way down. The sand is not as “deep”, but it is about three times further a hike than that first rise from the (parking) lot. This is easy to go down, but again, on the way back, even though it is less deep and not as steep, it is further, still a sand trail, and will wear you out in the sun.”

RedRox, Destination Expert for Sedona, also offers a word of caution not only for those who are a bit out of shape, but for those traveling with children:

The Horseshoe Bend overlook is a short but challenging hike in the direct sunlight (no shade), and no barriers at the edge, so caution is advised especially with youngsters or those with height issues.”

So what’s a person to do if they’re unable to manage the walk to Horseshoe Bend? Be content to look at everyone else’s selfies or just fantasize that they saw it? Not necessarily.

Here’s what we would suggest:

How slow can you go? As slow as you want! First off, the trail to Horseshoe Bend is relatively short, a little more than half a mile (0.6 mi) each way. The uphill portion comes at the very beginning of the walk, right as you leave the parking lot. It then dips down slightly as you get closer to the overlook. The biggest challenge you’ll likely face is sand, especially if the Page area is in the midst of a summer dry spell.

Still, it’s not a race. You are welcome and encouraged to take the walk at your own pace, even if said pace is inch by inch and bit by bit. Concrete benches have also been placed every few hundred yards. Obviously, you’re not the first person who may need or want to stop and rest on the way there! Visiting Horseshoe Bend Overlook during the cooler parts of the day will also make the walk it easier to manage. As mentioned previously, make sure you protect yourself from the sun and bring plenty of water.

If you decide to take a chance, remember that you can always turn back if you feel as though you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, but many people who were at bit dubious at first felt the view they were rewarded with was well worth the effort expended, like Carolina R., a visitor to our Facebook page:

“(The walk) was longer than expected. Nonetheless, it was so worth it. Absolutely breathtaking!”

Still not convinced? There are other options.

Get down in it. See Horseshoe Bend up close and personal, on the Colorado River Discovery Half Day Float Trip. On this scenic, relaxing excursion suitable for children as young as 4 and people of all physical fitness levels, you’ll board motorized rafts at the base of the Glen Canyon Dam and glide down the very stretch of the Colorado River that people on the overlook are gazing down at. Give them a wave and they’ll usually wave back! You’ll travel 15 miles downstream on the last remaining intact stretch of Glen Canyon before disembarking at Lees Ferry and traveling by motorcoach back to the town of Page, Arizona.

The only part of this trip that might be somewhat strenuous for people with mobility issues is the hike to the petroglyph panel that occurs about midway through the trip. Though relatively short, here again, the trail is sandy, and shade is minimal to non-existent. Hats, sunscreen, and a towel that can be dipped in the water and placed around your neck or shoulders as an evaporative cooler are must-bring items. Water and other beverages are provided, and a bistro box lunch can be purchased at the Colorado River Discovery’s River’s End Cafe. Float Trips depart once daily at 11 AM March 1st – 31st and October 1st – November 30th, twice daily at 7:30 AM and 11:00 AM from April 1st – 30th, then at 7:30 AM and 1 PM May 1st through September 30th.

For more information or to make reservations, visit Colorado River Discovery Half-Day Float Trip.

Get up above it.  How would you like to see Horseshoe Bend, the Glen Canyon Dam and much more? How many steps will you need to take? Two: one up, and one down. Fixed wing airplanes take flight over Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell daily from the Page Municipal Airport. In less than an hour’s time, you’ll gain a true appreciation for the true scale and scope of Horseshoe Bend as it relates to the surrounding landscape, and soar past the towering monoliths of Lake Powell, including Lone Rock, Romana Mesa, Castle Rock and the Historic Crossing of the Fathers. The man-made wonders of Glen Canyon Dam and the Steel Arch Bridge round out this aerial sightseeing bonanza that many people regard as being better than the Grand Canyon!

This bird’s-eye perspective is one shared by only a select few. If you would like to be one of them, visit Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell Air Tour. Tours operate weather permitting and may require a certain number of passengers to guarantee operation.

Wait awhile. In February 2017, the Page, Arizona City Council announced that it had awarded a contract to a Scottsdale architectural firm to handle a series of improvements at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook.

Plans in the works include:

  • An accessible 1-mile long trail and rim viewing platform
  • Visitor restrooms
  • Trailhead orientation structure
  • Potable water source
  • Parking lot expansion
  • Improved signage

Construction is slated to begin in the near future and the entire project should take 5-6 months. So by next year, people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to make the walk to Horseshoe Bend will be able to marvel at this extraordinary view alongside their families and friends. We’ll keep you posted on this.   

‘Til next time, happy traveling!

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.

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