How do you photograph a place that has been photographed so many times and make it look unique? Horseshoe Bend is one of those places. A circular meander of the Colorado River located close to Page, Arizona, USA, referred to as the east rim of the Grand Canyon.
It gets its name from being a horseshoe-shaped carved rock and located approximately 5 miles from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area 4 miles south of Page, AZ. The short hike to get to the bend is only 1.5 miles (2.4kms) round trip from the parking lot and just off Route 89. This place has become an iconic place to shoot social media photos. The best time to see this incredible canyon is before sunset, as the sun will set before your eyes on the horizon. Upon arrival at the canyon’s rim, visitors must be extra careful as wind gusts can easily blow a person over to a dangerous fate. The edge is 4,200 feet (1,300 m) above sea level, with the Colorado River being at approx. 3200 feet (980 m) above sea level resulting in a 1000 foot (300m) steep drop.
As visitors flock to this area every year, more and more photos of this incredible location are seen all over social media. This particular photo was shot with a different angle in mind.
Visitors are blown away immediately by the original shape of the canyon. The aqua reflected water and the incredibly orange layers of rock leave people speechless. The best time to visit this attraction is early spring or late fall when the temperatures are more relaxed. You can go in the summer but do sunset for cooler temperatures. Although these will be ideal times to be there, keep in mind this is peak tourist season. Sunrise or sunset truly is the best light. This photo, shot at dusk, giving the burst of light. Either time will deliver impressive images.
You can do midday tours and if you have to wear a hat then, bring lots of water and sunscreen as the desert temperatures can get above 100F (40C). Most photographers avoid this time as the photos can appear washed out and not as much of the beautiful colors and contrast. Winter, if not a good time to go as access may be blocked, and if there is snow on the canyon rim, you don’t want to be anywhere near that slippery surface.
From a photography perspective, you will see many trying to get the iconic shot at the rim close to the edge unless you are experienced with rock climbing or have impeccable balance. You will want to ensure the wind if calm that day by checking with local rangers or weather reports. Wind gusts can be so powerful it can blow a person off the cliff, so definitely be smart when shooting near the rim.
Another photography tip is to bring a polarizer and an ND filter to shoot this spot. A polarizer will help with reflections off any rocks or water, allowing your photo to keep that healthy contrast without hot spots. A graduated ND filter will be perfect for shooting into the sun by preserving the clouds’ definition. Using either of these two items can help your photos seem much more professional than just using the lens itself. These filters come ready to screw onto the threads of most camera lenses for easy use.
If you are shooting a smartphone, ensure you have an ultra-wide-angle to fit the entire horseshoe in your shot. The ideal size for this is 16mm or wider. Smartphones usually shoot at around 33mm, but you can buy third party lenses that are placed over your regular phone camera lens to increase that field of view.
For staying overnight, there are lots of options. There are many dry camping sites and sites with hookups for trailers. The cost is affordable, around $30 per night, with amenities like showers, laundry facilities, and even WiFi. These campgrounds are located near Page and Lake Powell. Many of them accept RVs and have flush toilet dumping, so definitely do your research before visiting to ensure your trip goes as planned.
Other things to do around Horseshoe Bend and worth the visit are Antelope Canyon (Upper and Lower), incredible tours, and mind-blowing photos are among the best photo opportunities. Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, and, of course, Grand Canyon National Park are must-see places to visit when there.
When you plan a trip here, stay for at least a week to see all the attractions and get to know the Navajo culture. Learning the history from these first-hand generations of historians will genuinely help you understand why this land if so essential and sacred.
Thank you to Gregg Jaden from Greg Jaden Studios for permission to share the photograph.