Last Updated on
Planning a trip to Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona? Read to learn about the Horseshoe Bend deaths, tourists, and why the experience may not be as worth it as everyone says it is.
Horseshoe Bend is a natural wonder that is taking over the world. Its a naturally-occurring horseshoe-shaped curve of red rock around the Colorado River in Page, Arizona. The Bend of the rock leads to gorgeous views of the emerald-green water of the Colorado River, as displayed by the number of professional photos and Instagram pics that have taken over the internet lately. In fact, tourism to Horseshoe Bend Arizona has skyrocketed to 2 million visitors each year since 2014.
Of course I had to go there.
Yes, it’s cool to see the red rock canyon and the blue-green river water bend around a canyon wall, but, unfortunately, it feels like everyone in the world agrees.
You know how sometimes going to a popular place is ok and doesn’t really impact your visit, but other times seeing a bunch of other tourists kind of….. ruins your experience? Seeing Horseshoe Bend is the latter.
Book a top-rated Antelope Canyon tour. It’s WORTH IT!
Deaths at Horseshoe Bend
Here are my two main issues with Horseshoe Bend are:
- It’s over commercialized, which means there are so many people you can hardly appreciate the nature. That’s just sad, considering there are other beautiful places with virtually no foot traffic nearby.
- Safety concerns. The edges actually go down at a negative angle, which means there are no cliffs to catch you if you fall. And there are no barriers preventing you from falling.
How many Horseshoe Bend deaths are there each year?
Tourism to Horseshoe Bend was relatively low in 2010 when the first reported death at the rim was confirmed. The death of a Greek tourist made headlines at the time for it’s rarity. Since that unfortunate incident nine years ago, six others have died while falling over the steep edges of Horseshoe Bend.
Seven deaths in nine years actually isn’t much considering the Grand Canyon, just two hours away, has averaged 16 deaths per year for the past decade. Of those Grand Canyon deaths 4 are reportedly falling accidents each year, while others are medical emergencies of visitors at the Grand Canyon.
Falls off the 1,000-ft cliff are a constant concern as tourism to the canyon rises to an estimated 2 million visitors each year. The National Park Service undertook a $750,000 project to construct a railed viewing platform and ADA-compliant trail due to the increased visitor numbers and safety concerns. Construction on the safety platform began November 6, 2017, and was opened to the public on June 19, 2018 (with the wheelchair-accessible path being delayed until 2020).
The new viewing platform does not stop people from getting as close to the edges as possible in search of that perfect selfie, however. The truth is that making Horseshoe Bend 100% safe and accident-free is nearly impossible. The gorge carved by the Colorado extends for miles in each direction, and there will always be visitors willing to risk their safety by walking outside of the railed safety zone for better views of the emerald water.
Though not as high as the Grand Canyon death toll, seven deaths is still too many. Each represents the loss of a loved one and is considered tragic, no matter how accidental. Thankfully, no Horseshoe Bend deaths have been recorded in 2019. This downturn of accidents could be due to the recent safety platform, or to safety standards being taken more seriously after the highly publicized, tragic fall of a 14-year-old California native over Christmas of 2018.
Our Horseshoe Bend Experience
Horseshoe Bend was our first stop in Page, Arizona, after 6 hours of driving from central Utah.
I insisted on seeing it, and arriving at dusk seemed perfect. Just a bit cranky from being stuffed like Thanksgiving turkeys in the car for hours, I tried to muster mine and the other’s attitudes to see Horseshoe Bend once we arrived.
Tennis shoes on, jackets tied around waists, water bottles and camera in tow, we made our way up.
The first thing to greet us was a large parking lot. The second thing was a sign advising tourists on what to and not to bring; including drones. Darn. The third thing we noticed was a hill.
It wasn’t too hard to climb up using the sand-covered steps, but once at it’s apex we noticed the hill had a steep decline. And then continued. For a while. All-in-all we had around .6 miles hike up which left us embarrassingly out of breath. We took break’s for “Whit’s” sake, being regularly passed by selfie-stick wielding Asians in high heels.
Oh well, it is what it is.
Once we got closer to the actual bend we weren’t surprised to see a crowd of people already worshiping at the alter of social media (er, I mean, nature).
It’s not an exaggeration to say that every inch of Horseshoe Bend had a person planted on it, and that that person had a phone or camera (or both) attached. (Not that I’m any different, mind you, it was just kind of a shock to have the realization of my own blatant sheepishness hit me in the face.)
After the initial surprise that we weren’t the only ones interested in seeing this natural wonder, we took our place in line to try and get our own set of pictures.
Unfortunately, the edges are really steep and I’m really afraid of heights. Ben kept trying to walk closer to the edge to give Whit a better view, and I kept freaking out.
We became somewhat of a sideshow to the other tourists, entertaining them with my cries to keep my son away from there and Ben’s insistence that he wouldn’t put his son in any danger.
Well, Dad won. We did eventually get to the edge (I mean, we hadn’t gotten passed by classy Asians for nothing) but only by laying on our stomachs in the safest position possible. To his credit, Whit didn’t even complain when I tightened my arm Boa Constrictor-style across his torso.
I hope you enjoy our mediocre pictures. We risked our lives getting them.
This is just my personal opinion.
Let’s be reasonable, folks. There’s no reason to get upset over my saying this particular landmark isn’t worth it. You know why? Because we are all individuals who appreciate different things when we travel. Our family loves being in nature. We enjoy hiking, visiting national parks, kayaking, rock climbing, etc. My distaste for Horseshoe Bend has nothing to do with an unappreciation for natural beauty. It’s just that, for us, a place needs to be more than just natural beauty. We are looking for areas which builds us up and inspires us to think or feel more than we had. While Horseshoe Bend could do that, when combined with selfish, rampant tourists and incredibly dangerous edges that bad outweighs the good. What once must have been an incredibly spiritual location has been ruined (to us) by overcrowding.
Especially when Page, Arizona, is full of other naturally beautiful landscapes which still allow someone to sit and think without being asked to move out of someone’s selfie.
But that’s just one person’s opinion.
Yes, it’s beautiful, but, personally, being scared to death that my son was going to plummet to his death and feeling self-conscious about screaming while standing side to side with other people who are probably recording my outbursts for Instagram Stories just isn’t my idea of fun in the end.
But if you’re determined to visit….
Here’s what you need to know about Horseshoe Bend Arizona:
How to get to Horseshoe Bend:
- Horseshoe Bend; Page, Arizona: Mile Marker 545, Highway 89, Page, AZ 86040
Things to Know Before Going to Horseshoe Bend:
- The best time to go to Horseshoe Bend is at sunset on weekdays. Avoid holidays!
- Bring a camera with landscape photography lens and tripod, if possible.
- Take lots of water
- It can get pretty windy, so consider bringing a jacket
- It’s best to wear good tennis Shoes since the ground doesn’t have a lot of traction to avoid slipping.
- It is free to park and enter Horseshoe Bend
Interested in one of Arizona’s other natural wonders? Check out Angel’s Landing!
If you’re interested in things to do in Page, AZ and want to see Horseshoe Bend pin this article for later!