Let’s face it, any Northern Arizona vacation planner would have to have been living under a rock for the past year not to know how hairy the parking situation has gotten at Horseshoe Bend.
It’s hard for us locals to believe that in the space of less than 20 years, what was once an obscure but stunning overlook that the majority of visitors passed by on their way to bigger things (namely, the Grand Canyon), has risen to the #1 position on TripAdvisor’s list of 15 Best Things To Do in Page, Arizona.
Today, the City of Page can’t build parking areas fast enough to accommodate the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of family cars and tour buses that visit the overlook by on a daily basis. Traffic accidents have occurred, including, sadly, a fatality. It got so bad in the summer of 2018 that the local police department allocated several officers to monitor the parking area during peak visitation hours to ensure that folks don’t park on the shoulder of US89 illegally, or attempt to squeeze into the lot when it’s already full. If the Horseshoe Bend parking lot is full at the time of your visit, you’ll be asked to come back later. If a space doesn’t free up when you do, you’ll be asked to come back later – again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
If this doesn’t sound like your idea of a vacation, we don’t blame you in the least, and are happy to report that there are alternatives to all this craziness that is now the norm at Horseshoe Bend.majority of visitors passed by on their way to bigger things (namely, the Grand Canyon), has risen to the #1 position on TripAdvisor’s list of 15 Best Things To Do in Page, Arizona.
Flight tours over Horseshoe Bend are offered daily from the Page Municipal Airport in both fixed-wing airplanes and state-of-the-art Eco-Star EC-130 helicopters, expressly built for aerial sightseeing. In about 30 minutes time in the air, you’ll see a ton of incredible scenery in addition to Horseshoe Bend, including:
Want to take the “wow factor” off the scale? Ask about adding a landing on top of Tower Butte to a Horseshoe Bend Helicopter Flight! An air tour is a wonderful way to not only gain a truer understanding of Horseshoe Bend and how it relates to the surrounding landscape, but also for getting a feel for how huge Lake Powell really is, and how the works of Nature and Man can create something amazing together.
Tip: book your flight for the earlier morning hours for optimal lighting conditions and less wind.
What trip to the American Southwest would be complete without taking a horseback ride? Now, you can saddle up and ride a gentle trail horse to the very edge of Horseshoe Bend instead of wasting valuable vacation time competing with other like-minded visitors for a parking space. Horseshoe Bend Trail Rides is a newly established tour outfitter situated on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands, which share a common boundary with National Park Service land on the Southern side of Horseshoe Bend Overlook. No previous riding experience is required to take part in this one-of-a-kind, Navajo-guided excursion, but age and weight restrictions may apply. Please contact the tour company for more details on these. Standard tour length is 2 hours, and group sizes are limited to 10 people, so advance reservations are recommended.
Tip: free up a whole day and take the extended tour to the Loom Rock Range, Waterholes Canyon, Waterholes Bend and Horseshoe Bend.
Tip: Ask about upgrading to the Deluxe Sunset Tour, which includes an educational tour of a traditional Navajo home site, some scrumptious home-made fry bread, and a spectacular sunset hoop dance performance.
Have you already been to Horseshoe Bend, or are so averse to dealing with its crowds that you’re willing to sacrifice it altogether? You don’t necessarily have to. There’s another bend in the Colorado River, literally located next door to Horseshoe Bend, that feels more like Horseshoe Bend used to be. It’s called Waterholes Bend, and can be visited by prior arrangement with the tour company who now manages Waterholes Slot Canyon, Waterhole Canyon Experience LLC. So, the $64,000 question is, does Waterholes Bend look like Horseshoe Bend? Not so much. Waterholes Bend doesn’t boast the almost perfectly symmetrical shape that Horseshoe Bend does. It would bear more of a resemblance to a “lopsided heart” if you were to look at it from the air, plus the hike to it is a bit more involved. You would also have to make advance arrangements to tour this section of the Navajo Reservation, but many people find the added “inconvenience” – if you can call it that – to be more than a fair exchange for experiencing one of the few remaining “hidden” gems this part of Northern Arizona. Tip: Skip overcrowded Antelope Slot Canyon, too, and tour Waterholes Slot Canyon instead.
If there’s no talking you out of visiting Horseshoe Bend in your own vehicle and on your own terms, one way you can avoid most of the crowds is by visiting the overlook just after sunrise. During the summer months, you’ll consider that a blessing in order to avoid the oppressive heat, which can exceed 110℉ in the afternoons.
No matter what time you visit, be sure to bring plenty of water for your entire party, and to wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Closed-toed shoes are also recommended on summer days, as the sand gets hot enough to melt flip-flops.
We’re not kidding.