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The Intimate Grand Canyon Experience

The Intimate Grand Canyon Experience

The trailhead to this easy hike is located just outside of Page, Arizona. It overlooks one of the most spectacular views on the Colorado River, 4 miles south of the Glen Canyon Dam, and 7 miles north of mile zero of the Grand Canyon.

As you walk up the path, the trudge up the sandy hill might seem like a nuisance; but it is actually a walk through cycles of time. About 200 million years ago this sand was part of the largest system of sand dunes the North American continent may have ever seen. These “sand seas” are known as ergs. Our enormous erg was eventually hardened by water and minerals into Navajo Sandstone, an amazing uniform, smooth sandstone layer. It stretches from Arizona to Wyoming, and it can be over two thousand feet thick in some places. When you reach the edge of Horseshoe Bend you will be looking down 1000 feet ( 305 meters) of the sandstone to the river. After the Navajo Sandstone hardened, other layers of sandstone, mudstone, and different sedimentary layers piled on top of it. Then, after a couple of million years, patient water in the form of rain, ice, floods, and streams, worked to erode away the different layers.Today the Navajo Sandstone is once again exposed, and its sand is slowly wearing away. So now, what you are walking upon is sand from the Navajo Sandstone, which was from the giant Jurassic erg – recycled sand!

As you descend, the path is a little bumpier. It alternates between a whitish gravel, more sand, and some pretty solid, sloping rocks, the Navajo Sandstone. Notice how the rock itself has diagonal striped layers. These are the remnants of the layers of the ancient massive sand dunes before they were petrified into stone. The whitish stones tell us how the sandstone was petrified. This rock is calcite,

or limestone, the same rock that drips itself into cave formations. Back 180 million years ago, this mineral mixed in with the rain and snow to cement the grains of sand together. The process took about

20 million years, but eventually all of the sand dunes were petrified by the calcite, retaining their beautiful sloping dune shapes. Today, as the grains of sand erode, chunks of the calcite also present themselves. As you get closer to the viewpoint, some of the rocks are covered with hard, sandy bumps. These are concretions of iron. Iron, being heavier than sand grains, was attracted to itself in ball shape while the sandstone was being petrified. Now that the sandstone is eroding away, the iron concretions are coming into view as well. When the little concretion balls break free from the rock, they are known as “Moki Marbles”.

You’ve made it. Worth the walk, wasn’t it? The view of Horseshoe Bend from the rim of the canyon is extraordinary. (You’ll need a wide-angle lens to get the entire scene in your picture!) If you find the height a little daunting, try lying down on the ground and looking over the edge that way. It gives you a much better sense of security. Make sure you keep an eye on your animal companions as well; they can slip as easily as you.

Below you, the Colorado River makes a wide sweep around a sandstone escarpment. Long ago, as the river meandered southward toward the sea, it always chose the steepest downward slope. This downward journey did not always occur in a straight line, and sometimes the river made wide circles and meanders. As the Colorado Plateau uplifted about 5 million years ago, the rivers that meandered across the ancient landscape were trapped in their beds. The rivers cut through the rock, deep and fast, seeking a new natural level. Here at Horseshoe Bend, the Colorado River did just that, and as the river cut down through the layers of sandstone, it created a 270° horseshoe-shaped bend in the canyon.

Conceivably, at some time far in the future, the river could erode through the narrow neck of rock, creating a natural bridge and abandoning the circular channel around the rock. Maybe in a few million years, this will be the site of a brand new natural bridge formed the same way as nearby Rainbow Bridge National Monument.

About The Author

Ryan

Ryan is an avid hiker and long time resident of Page, AZ. What he lacks in spelling and grammatical expertise he makes up for with extensive knowledge from a lifetime of questionable choices and the ability to ask for help from great editors

16 Comments

  1. Wooksang Kwon

    Hi! I want to visit this spot (Horseshoe Bend, the photo I am watching here) on this Thursday (June 22) around 3-4 PM. I wonder if I should make a reservation to get into this point that people take photos. We will drive from Las Vegas to get here. Can we just get here by car / on foot after parking?

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Mr. Kwon,
      Thank you for your visit and you question.
      You do not need reservations to visit Horseshoe Bend. You are free to visit whenever you wish, including the spot you see people taking photos from. Once you park your vehicle in the very well-signed parking lot, it’s a 3/4 mile hike to the overlook. Be aware that your visit is occurring in peak summer heat, so bring water and wear a hat and sunscreen.
      If you would prefer to have the knowledge and expertise that only a tour guide can provide, consider visiting the Horseshoe Bend Overlook as an add-on to a Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tour. https://horseshoebend.com/horseshoe-bend-slot-canyon-tour/#
      Good luck and safe travels,
      Alley 🙂

      Reply
  2. Jeremy

    Are pets allowed on the trail to the look out over the bend?

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Jeremy,
      Yes, pets are welcome at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook. Since there are no guardrails, plus it’s a 500’+ drop to the river, you must be sure that they are leashed at all times. Also, be sure to bring a plastic bag or two to pack out any waste if needed, and bring plenty of water for both of you!
      Alley

      Reply
  3. ct

    alley, do you have the exact address to the horseshoe bend? will it show in the navigation?
    how far from the holiday inn and suites at page,az? thanks

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi CT,
      The Horseshoe Bend Overlook is located just 5 miles South of Page, AZ at Mile Marker 545 on US89. It is clearly signed and should be quite easy to find. It should take no more than 10-15 minutes to drive there from Holiday Inn & Suites.

      Happy traveling!
      Alley

      Reply
  4. Sing

    Hello! My family (Dad, Mom, Sister, and I) are visiting beginning of September (during labor day weekend). We wanted to book a tour with you guys for Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon; however, I saw that you guys pick up only from Sedona? We’re planning on staying in Lake Powell area, so it’s closer to the actual canyons. Do you guys pick up from there? Would that be a different price? I would love to get options! Thank you so much! 🙂

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hello Sing, thank you for visiting our site.
      The tour out of Sedona is by no means the only way to visit Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Since you are planning on staying in Page/Lake Powell anyway, you can take a tour to Antelope Canyon directly from there. 3 tour companies pick up in the town of Page; you also have the option of driving to the Tribal Park Entrance on Highway 98 (about 5-10 minutes drive from Page) and going to the canyon from there. Whichever way you choose to go will cost the same, and tour duration will be comparable as well. Visit AntelopeCanyon.az for more information.
      Horseshoe Bend can be visited on your own. There is no charge for entry at the present time. Just after sunrise or just prior to sunset is generally regarded as the best time to view it.
      Thanks again and happy travels,
      Alley

      Reply
  5. Scott Schaffner

    This is a photo I took and almost lost my life for. Don’t try this at the rim like I did..to close for fun.
    I was sitting on the edge about 3 feet back of the rim. I had my camera on the end of my tripod and the release in my hand. I took the shot and just as I did this big chunk of sandstone broke loose. Holy S..t !!
    I was quick enough to put my boots into the dirt and stop my sliding while still hanging on to my gear.
    We went in before dawn so I didn’t see the warning sign.
    Someone was looking out for me that day.
    Enjoy.

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Scott – an important and timely cautionary tale. The rest of you, take heed: If in doubt, leave it out!

      Reply
  6. Lexi

    Can you elope here at the horse shoe bend ???

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Lexi,
      This is a wonderful question!
      Yes, you can get married at Horseshoe Bend, and many people have. However, since it’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and thus overseen by the National Park Service, you may be required to get a permit for your wedding. Cordoning off the overlook just for your ceremony is not allowed. Your activity shouldn’t disrupt other visitors’ ability to enjoy the overlook. “The smaller, the better” is the way to go. For more information on National Park permit guidelines, click here ->: http://www.mylakepowellwedding.com/Lake_Powell_Wedding_Ceremony_S/Horseshoe_Bend_Wedding/horseshoe_bend_wedding.html
      If you’re wanting to have something a little more elaborate, with friends, family, photographers, etc., visit this site for other ideas for wedding sites and venues in Page and Lake Powell ->: http://www.myarizonaguideweddings.com/html/lake_powell_wedding_sites.html
      Good luck and congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!
      Alley

      Reply
  7. Val

    Hi! Do I need to book a tour to visit Horseshoe Bend or can I do it on my own? I am planning on doing a tour of Lower Antelope the same day do you think there is enough time? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Val, and thank you for visiting our site!
      Horseshoe Bend can be visited on your own, any time of day, though we wouldn’t recommend visiting at night — it’s a long drop to the river!
      You can easily visit Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon in one day. Lower Antelope Canyon is located approximately 7 miles East of Horseshoe Bend Overlook. Be sure to allow 90 minutes to 2 hours to enjoy each attraction. You’ll want to take lots of photos. Remember that you must visit Antelope Canyon with an authorized Navajo guide. Visit this page for more information ->: http://www.antelopecanyon.az/how-to-book-a-tour-for-antelope-canyon/
      Have a wonderful visit to Page!
      Alley

      Reply
  8. Giesela

    Is it open in winter?

    Reply
    • Alley Keosheyan

      Hi Giesela, yes, Horseshoe Bend Overlook is open year-round!

      Reply

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