On a 10-day trip to Utah and Arizona, my group and I hit up three national parks, two national forests, and two national monuments. The itinerary was packed with the outdoors. On our last day in Arizona, we woke up bright and early to kayak Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, and, if you like to kayak, it’s an excursion you should definitely add to your bucket list.
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Seeing Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona
When we first arrived in Page, Arizona, one of the first stops we made was to hike the overlook to Horseshoe Bend. The out-and-back trail was about a mile in total. It is very hot, and there are a number of benches with covers to allow you to break when necessary. When you get to the overlook, the view truly is phenomenal.
There will most likely be a lot of people gathered at the overlooks, though, so if you want a more personal experience with Horseshoe Bend and the Colorado River, kayaking is the way to go.
Kayaking the Bend
I’ve always loved being in the water, and learning to kayak was a formative experience at summer camp when I was 14 years old. That said, I hadn’t done it in quite a long time, but with good guides, it came back in a flash. To get to the start point of this 11-mile journey, we boarded a small motor boat with our gear around 7:20 AM.
Guides warned us to stay close to the edges when we could and to follow the angles of the rocks to avoid over-exerting ourselves rounding corners. We were also warned multiple times to finish our ride next to the boat dock and to not go past the buoys. If we went past the buoys we would enter the rapids.
When we pulled up to the beach, we unloaded the kayaks and our other gear off of the boat and then we were on our own. The beach stop that we were dropped off at had some petroglyphs that we could take in before our ride, so we trekked up the beach to the side of the cliff where there were a number of scenes to take in, including sheep, people, and a few other drawings that we couldn’t quite make out.
Once we’d seen some history and were equipped with sit-on-top kayaks, we were on the water exploring in no time.
Kayaking between red cliffs was a very different experience, and I had plenty of time to think about the beautiful layers of color in the rocks that had been formed throughout the millions of years that came before me. Being out of the water, all I could hear was the water moving under my kayak and paddle, ducks, and cicadas in the trees. There were times I was so lost in thought that I didn’t even realize I was paddling and ended up being a couple of hundred feet away from the rest of the group. It was that peaceful.
From time to time, I would just stop paddling and let the water carry me down the river. The gentle push definitely helped keep all of us going, especially when we were getting tired.
We were expected to finish the ride between four and six hours, and my group ended up finishing in about three. If we wanted, we could have stopped at a number of beaches alongside the river to rest and take in the sights.
For us, the water was where the magic was. We started so early in the morning that there were very few other people on the water with us. The only company we had were some ducks.
Getting to experience Horseshoe Bend from two different angles made me appreciate just how big the Colorado River really is, and we only kayaked a small portion of it. Around each turn was something new to appreciate and discover, especially when the water was so quiet.
If you’re looking to experience the American Southwest in an intimate way, kayaking the Horseshoe Bend could be just the excursion for you.