‘I would rather have 30 minutes of “wonderful” than a lifetime of nothing special.’-Julia Roberts
To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure why Horseshoe Bend became a top place to come and visit. Perhaps it is the uptick in popularity with Antelope Canyon and Page, Arizona as a whole but it is not a unique place. Perhaps rare but there is a horseshoe bend in Canyonlands National Park. If you go to Island in the Sky you can see it from above. This is not to say it is this one is not cool, because it is, but maybe a touch overrated.
I actually visited twice. My hotel was just down from the National Park Service viewpoint. It was $10 to park and then a mile walk to the overlook. I went to check out the sunset as I knew I was going the following afternoon. There were a lot of people there but not as crowded as it is during peak times. Again, traveling in the offseason has its benefits. There is no guardrail so be careful! I saw quite a few people doing questionable things for a photograph and it is a far drop to the Colorado River below. Although I was very surprised that not that many people fall to their accidental deaths but the number of kids who just ran around like it was a playground…well, I was judging their parents!
The Colorado River meanders through the bend and it is near the starting point coming from Lake Powell. Northern Arizona is going through a drought and the river was very low but what surprised me was how chill and narrow the river was. See I grew up going to the Colorado River as a kid, it is part of the Arizona/California border. There, the river is wide enough for water sports and narrow is not an adjective I ever used in describing it. Although in the summer, you can kayak or paddle board, something I would like to do when I got back (fingers crossed for ‘The Wave’).
As mentioned in my previous post, after Secret Canyon, the tour went to Horseshoe Bend. I truly didn’t know what to expect and was so surprised. The family that owns Horseshoe Bend tours owns the land next to the NPS’s overlook. It is completely private and my group of six to explore all around. I was also glad that I sprung for this tour due to the history of the land. I learned the U.S. government had originally done a land swap. When Page started to expand and Horseshoe Bend became more popular, the government asked Navajo Nation to give them the land (including the area where the hotels, Walmart, and other stores are) in exchange for territory further north in the Four Corners region. The Navajo were never given the land and the government has tried to shift the Horseshoe Bend Overlook’s boundary without consent.
The view from the NPS overlook is straight on but the views from the private viewpoint are stunning. It was also cool to climb on the rocks and get different vantages without tourists getting in the way. I recommend doing both, its worth the money to get the full experience of a place that otherwise is overrated. Unobstructed views and supporting local business is a great way to spend an afternoon!