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Best Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend

Best Time to Visit Horseshoe Bend

“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.”

But then again, blogger Joanne J. in A Note From Abroad had this to say about the view from Horseshoe Bend at sunset:

The view was magnificent and I got the picture I had been hoping for as the sun was setting and clouds reflecting in the water.

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.

24 Comments

  1. Mrs paradise

    I would be on a 1 day loop from Page to Horseshoe Bend to Marble Canyon, the Vermillion Cliffs and onto White Pocket,Kanab, and back to Page. Therefore I would have to be on the road for sunrise. How early can you get into the parking lot to walk the trail/path?
    Thank-You
    Have A Nice Day

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Dear Mrs. Paradise,
      Hi and thank you for your question!
      Not knowing exactly when your trip is planned for, I can’t tell you what time sunrise is, nor can I fully assure you that Horseshoe Bend Overlook will be open at the time of your visit.
      Horseshoe Bend Overlook is presently open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so theoretically, it can be visited anytime. However, some improvements are in the planning stage, including an NPS Fee Station, which could impede on your plans. If you’re traveling here in the near future, though, you should be OK.
      Another “red flag” is why include Kanab in your route if you’re going back to Page to overnight? The White Pocket Fold trailhead is located just off the House Rock Valley Road, which requires a 4WD vehicle with adequate clearance to drive in most instances. Once you have completed your hike, you can simply proceed North on the House Rock Valley Road, which connects to US89 East that will return you to Page. If you go to Kanab, you’re looking at 6+ hours of driving. By taking it off your itinerary, you shave an hour off an already long day behind the wheel.

      Hope that helps – good luck and safe travels!
      Alley 🙂

      Reply
  2. sally

    Hi,

    I’ve never been to Arizona and would like to visit over the Easter break. I plan to fly in to Phoenix. I want to visit the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Havasu Falls and possibly the Waves before heading to Las Vegas for one or two nights before flying back to NYC. What do you recomment as a possibly itinerary? And what do you recommend activity wise. I will be traveling with my husband and two sons, ages 13 and 16. I am hoping to score a permit for the waves over the internet.

    Thank you.
    Sally

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Sally and thank you for your questions!
      First off, it’s very likely that you’ll have to cross a couple of items off your wish list, not because they’re not worthwhile visiting, certainly, but they’re extremely difficult to get into: The Wave and Havasu Falls. It seems as though you are familiar with the permitting process for The Wave. For Havasu Falls, reservations for camping and lodging are made available to the public on February 1st for the entire year, and they typically get booked up within hours of the phone lines opening up. Yes, you read right, phone lines. At the present time, reservations for Havasupai are done the old-fashioned way, so hope you have a ton of patience and several friends who can take the day off and work the phones on your behalf.
      Unfortunately, there are no substitutes for Havasu Falls, but there are a few cool places you can see nearby The Wave that don’t require a permit, such as Coyote Buttes South (a permit is required, but these tend to be easier to get), White Pocket Fold, Steamboat Rock, Cobra Arch, Buckskin Gulch or The “New” Wave near Page, AZ.
      Using Phoenix as a staging base, you could do something like this:
      3 nights – Sedona
      1 night – Grand Canyon South Rim
      1 night – Monument Valley
      2 nights – Page (Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon)
      Availability of lodging at Grand Canyon South Rim should be the “lynchpin” around which your itinerary develops, so start by making reservations there, then Monument Valley, Page and Sedona.
      Hope that helps. Good luck on getting those permits for The Wave and Havasu; not to be snarky, but you’ll need it!
      Alley 🙂

      Reply
  3. Fern

    Hi Alley,

    Thank you for all this info! My girlfriend and I will be visiting the Grand Canyon during December 26th -29th. We are hoping to get a chance to visit Horseshoe Bend. Is it open during this time? if so, any concerns or hazards we should be aware of… outside of the potential harsh weather? We are both in fairly good shape so the described “hike” with a little snow shouldn’t be an but not sure if there are other hazards we should consider. Any info on this topic/timing would be greatly appreciated it.

    Thank you
    Fern

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Fern and thank you for visiting!
      Horseshoe Bend is open 24/7/365, so it will definitely be open during your visit. As far as potential “hazards” go, you appear to have anticipated the primary concerns, namely cold weather and accompanying precipitation, but another factor to be aware of is construction. There are some infrastructure improvements going on at both the parking lot and the overlook . While this will not impede access to the viewpoint in any way, you might encounter construction crews and equipment. Please respect any signage requesting that you keep off equipment or stay out of certain areas.
      Have fun and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      Reply
  4. Cathy

    Is a permit required to scatter ashes/celebration of life ?

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Cathy,
      This is an excellent question.
      The National Park Service states that:
      2.62(b) Memorialization: designation of areas for scattering ashes

      All areas within the Natural and Recreation & Resource Utilization zones, as designated in the 1979 Glen Canyon NRA General Management Plan, excluding archaeological sites, are open to the scattering of human ashes from cremation without a permit. At present the incidence of this type activity is minimal. Such activity can occur without causing any negative impacts to the resources of the area.
      Rainbow Bridge National Monument is not open to the scattering of human ashes due to it being a recognized culturally sacred site and the broad expanse of archeological sites throughout the monument.

      If you’re planning on having some kind of service, you might require a Special Use Permit in order to legally do so within the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Please read these Special Use Permit guidelines.
      Hope that helps. Thank you for your interest,
      Alley 🙂

      Reply
  5. Carolyn

    Can you tell me about what time the sunsets at horseshoe bend. A grand daughter is planning a marriage there in late Oct at sunset and we want to suprise her. Weather also

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Carolyn,
      How wonderful of you to surprise your granddaughter at her wedding, and at Horseshoe Bend no less!
      Sunset in Page, Arizona occurs around 5:30 PM in late October. It is recommended that they arrive at Horseshoe Bend an hour or so beforehand for the best photo ops. Once the sun goes down, the ‘bend and the Colorado River below are in shadow. Advise everyone in the wedding party to bring flashlights as there is no artificial/supplemental lighting once you get out of the parking lot.
      As for weather, expect temperatures in the 60’s or 70’s during the day, possibly jacket weather later in the afternoon.
      Another thing: Horseshoe Bend is located within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is under National Park Service jurisdiction. Hopefully your granddaughter has obtained a Special Use Permit from the National Park Service. She cannot legally hold her wedding there without one.
      Hope that helps! We would love to see pictures 😉
      Take care and have a wonderful visit,
      Alley 🙂

      Reply
  6. jeannine

    Hi Alley,

    Your explanations are wonderful! Thank you for taking your time to answer these questions.
    My family will be traveling at the end of November to Arizona. Do the tours still run at the end of season and what should we expect as far as weather/hiking goes?

    Thank you
    Jeannine

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Jeannine and thanks for the compliments!
      As you’ve correctly stated, late November is “shoulder season” here in Page, AZ, which means not quite on, not quite off. The majority of tours are still running, however, they do so contingent on good weather, and sometimes a certain number of people, in order to operate. The latter (passenger minimum) usually applies to air tours and boat tours, in other words, the “high dollar” items.
      Antelope Canyon tours usually aren’t as particular about numbers, I’ve heard they’ve gone out with as few as two people, but then again, they reserve the right to require more people to sign up. The nice thing, though, is you shouldn’t have to worry about booking a tour 6 months in advance like you would if you were travelling in the summertime.
      As for weather, it’s cold. Bring at least light jackets or sweaters, be ready to trot out hats, scarves and gloves if necessary.
      Hope I’m not making it sound horrible, because it’s not. The best thing about being here at the time you’ve chosen is not having to bump into a ton of people wanting to take the exact same picture you are!
      Good luck and happy travels,
      Alley

      Reply
  7. Jenn

    Alley-
    As a Southern Utah native, I’ve been to Horseshoe Bend many of times and I absolutely love it!! I’ve recently acquired a few kayaks and would love to kayak at the bottom. Where would be the best place to drop in/out? I know some river companies have private contracts, so I wasn’t sure if it was open to the public, and would we need to shuttle? Any help is greatly appreciated!!
    Thanks again, Jenn

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Jenn, and thank you for visiting our site! I too lived in Southern Utah (Big Water, UT, about 13 miles Northeast of Page) for about 15 years and absolutely loved it.
      If you would like to take your kayak on the Colorado River in Glen Canyon, I recommend you contact Colorado River Discovery (the authorized concessionaire that presently has the float trip contract) for backhaul services. They’ll bring you to just South of the Glen Canyon Dam where you can paddle down as far as Lees Ferry. http://www.raftthecanyon.com/raft-the-river/back-hauling-services/
      Anything beyond Lees Ferry is considered the Grand Canyon and falls under a whole different set of permit requirements https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/weightedlottery.htm That and the Grand Canyon is home to some of the biggest, baddest white water in the Western Hemisphere, whereas the Glen Canyon to Lees Ferry stretch is totally smooth).
      Hope that helps – happy traveling!
      Alley

      Reply
  8. Andy

    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!

    Reply
  9. Annie

    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

      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

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

        Reply
        • Alley Keosheyan

          You’re welcome Annie!

          Reply
  10. Skye

    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

      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
  11. art

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

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      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

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