Near Page, AZ
Horseshoe Bend is not like any other place on earth. It’s one of those amazing places where pictures simply don’t do justice to the reality. When you first walk up to the rim of Horseshoe Bend you cannot believe how unbelievably large the bend is, and it takes you a few minutes to wrap your mind around what is in front of you. The horseshoe shaped river sits 1,000 vertical feet directly below you and the bend is over a mile long.
It is understandable why thousands upon thousands of tourists from all over the world visit this location each year. And from a photographic standpoint, it should be a must for your portfolio. You will not be disappointed.
Trail Difficulty - MODERATE
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 2.5 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The hike from the parking lot to the rim is a well-marked sandy ¾ mile trail. The hike has an incline of about 100 feet to the top of the trail, and then a 200ft. decent down to the rim. As mentioned, the trail is sandy, so wear boots or shoes and just take your time.
The ledge on the rim is 1,000ft. straight down to the river. A fall would be fatal, so always be careful.
Download KMZ Trail File
Click Here to download the KMZ file for this location.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to the Horseshoe Bend trailhead parking lot.
The closest town to Horseshoe Bend is Page, AZ (2.3 miles south). From the US-89 circle in Page (in front of the McDonalds), head south on US-89 for 2.3 miles. Turn right into the Horseshoe Bend parking lot. Follow the well-marked sandy trail to the rim of Horseshoe Bend. Pick your composition and enjoy one of the wonders of the world.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
The two primary times to shoot Horseshoe Bend are sunrise and sunset.
For sunrise, you need to arrive 15 minutes before sunrise to compose and set up, as the scene lasts for only a few seconds after the sun hits the back walls of the Vermilion Cliffs.
Best Time of Year to Shoot
For sunset, the best months are April through September, as the sun sets directly in front of the bend.
For sunrise, I like the winter months, as the sun rises from the left and illuminates (just for a few seconds) the pink sandstone walls of the Vermilion Cliffs.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
You need an ultra wide 11-16mm lens to capture the full view of the scene. Without an ultra wide lens, you will have to stitch multiple shots together.
There is a $10 parking fee for Horseshoe Bend.
Direction of the Shot
The direction of the shot is west around 280°.
Special Nuances of Shot
As mentioned, the scale (height, depth, and width) of Horseshoe Bend is larger than you can imagine before visiting. Trying to compose is difficult to impossible without an ultra wide lens.
For sunrise, the best light lasts for only a few (30 or so) seconds after the sun hits the back walls of the Vermilion Cliffs. If the sunrise it blocked, it is dead shot and you will have to try again another day. However, if you catch this just right, it can make for a stunning image. The differences in dynamic range are extreme, so you may need to blend multiple images together or use HDR software.
For sunset, in the spring/summer months, the sun will set directly in front of the river bend. From a photographic standpoint, it is always best with clouds or a thunderstorm. If you get lucky and hit the right conditions, you can get a GREAT image.
Special Equipment Needed
Other than a tripod, there is no need for any special photography equipment unless you plan on doing a panoramic shot.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
Hundreds to thousands of tourists and photographers visit Horseshoe Bend each day. At sunrise, you will normally have 5-15 photographers with you. At sunset, it is a MADHOUSE! On busy days you could share the location with up to 500 other visitors.
Page, AZ, is an arid climate at over 4,000ft. above sea level. The temperatures range from 95° in the summer to below freezing in the winter.
I use Verizon, and the full cell service at Horseshoe Bend.
Page, AZ, is nice town with plenty of lodging and places to eat. The only campground/RV park in Page is the Page Lake Powell Campground. It is a very nice facility with good Wifi, laundry, and showers.
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Page Lake Powell Campground - Page, AZ
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Hampton Inn & Suites
294 Sandhill Road, Page, AZ
Holiday Inn Express
643 S Lake Powell Blvd, Page, AZ
600 Clubhouse Dr, Page, AZ
I really enjoy the town of Page, AZ. It is a nice place with friendly people along with some good restaurants and watering holes. My two favorite places to eat and relax after a long day in the canyons are the Dam Bar & Grille or El Tapatio. The Dam Bar & Grille has a good menu, tasty food, cold brew, and a fun sports bar. El Tapatio is a nice family restaurant with excellent Mexican food and LARGE margaritas. For lunch, the Birdhouse has a nice selection of fresh chicken, wings, sandwiches and salads.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
Dam Bar & Grille
644 N Navajo Dr, Page, AZ
25 Lake Powell Blvd, Page, AZ
707 N Navajo Dr, Page, AZ
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest airports are:
The closest international airports are McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, NV (345 miles west) or Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) in Phoenix (390 miles south).
There is a small regional airport in Page: Page Municipal Airport (PGA / KPGA) that services: Great Lakes Airlines, Frontier Airlines, United, and Scenic Airlines.
Area Guides and Workshops
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.