The hike to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook from the parking lot is only ¾ of a mile, but it can be a challenging hike. At the moment, the path is partially paved, but there will be times that you have to walk across sand and rock, and it is not flat. While there is one shaded rest stop along the way, there is no shade on the trail itself or on the rim. To make the most of your hike, here are some tips for what to bring with you:
The sand is very hot in the summer. While it might be tempting to wear hiking sandals, like you would at Lake Powell, there is no water in which to cool your feet. You can seriously burn your skin from the sand, so in the summer, make sure you’re wearing closed-toe shoes. Other times of year, I suppose you could wear your sandals – just use your best judgement.
Wear shoes that can get dirty. It may not be a long hike, but the red sand gets everywhere and takes a LONG time to get out. If your shoes were white, they will never be white again. Also, make sure your shoes have a good tread on them. While there is a spot along the rim that has a railing, most of the edge does not. You do not want to worry about slipping on the rock or sand when you walk away from the railing to get your best photographs.
No matter the time of year, you need to protect your eyes and scalp while on this trail. There is no shade! Even in the winter, the sun is bright and it will burn you. Wear sunscreen on your face. Use sunglasses and a hat. There are plenty of awesome hiking sun hats for the summer, and a beanie or hood will work the rest of the time.
It’s a short hike – about ¾ of a mile from the parking lot to the rim, but it is a serious hike. You have to go up a hill from the parking lot, then down a hill to get to the rim, then reverse that to get back. Even in winter, you will be sweating. The red sand also gets everywhere, so I wouldn’t suggest wearing anything that will be difficult to clean. There are lots of beautiful places to sit on the rocks and enjoy the view, so make sure that you wear something you will be comfortable in. Sure, you could make the hike in your cute midi-skirt or your skinny jeans, but you will probably not enjoy it nearly as much. I prefer to wear my long hiking pants.
In the summer, I guess it depends on how much sunscreen you want to wear. Columbia makes an awesome long-sleeve button down hiking shirt that wicks sweat and provides sun protection. Even on the hottest days in Arizona, you will stay comfortable. You could also wear a running tank if you wanted. Either way, it will be hot and you will be sweating. If you don’t have any moisture-wicking shirts, I suggest something in a cotton, or cotton blend at least, and keep it loose.
Fall and spring a hoodie or flannel over a moisture-wicking or loose cotton shirt as a base layer should be fine.
In the winter, you’ll want to bring a winter coat, like a puffer jacket, as a third layer. It can get pretty cold on the rim. I would still keep the base layer and hoodie/flannel because you will sweat while you’re hiking. However, when you stop to take your pictures and enjoy the view, you will cool down dramatically.
Unless you have serious knee issues, you don’t need hiking poles. Even though there are hills, the hike is very short and the slope is not steep. If it’s summer, you’ll probably want your water bottle in your hands. In the winter, you’ll probably want gloves. Yes, it gets that cold!
Depending on the time of day that you visit the overlook, you may want to bring some form of light to help you travel. Either a headlamp, a flashlight will help.
In Your Daypack
While it’s a short hike, most people stay at the rim for a while to enjoy the views and get their instagram shots. Bring some sunscreen in case you’re out there for longer than 2 hours. Bring at least a liter of water for everybody in your group, and a light snack. Of course, bring your camera and any equipment your camera needs to get the best shots.
Horseshoe Bend is an excellent place to have a picnic and people watch as well. You’ll see people from all over the world come to this overlook. There are plenty of large rocks where you and your group and sit and take in the scenery and have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Grab one of those Yeti ice cooler backpacks, and bring your favorite dishes. A summer picnic breakfast would be an excellent way to avoid the heat.
Drones: They’re not allowed over Horseshoe Bend. Bring your selfie sticks instead.
Small Children: Of course, you know your kids best, and there are no official age limits for this hike. However, the rim only has a guard rail in one very small section. If you have small children who think its a game to run away from you, or if you have daredevils who like to court danger, I would not bring them. You need a healthy respect for heights on this hike. You will be so stressed trying to keep them from getting too close to the ledge that you will not be able to enjoy yourself.
Firewood: Campfires are not allowed at Horseshoe Bend. However, you could bring a jetboil and heat up water for ramen or a freeze-dried meal.
Wheelchairs and Walkers: Sorry, but this hike is not wheelchair accessible yet. The City of Page is working on it though. Be sure to stay tuned!