Ahh, Horseshoe Bend. An iconic spot. I have more to say on this location later, but first: Leyla and Lance. Leyla reached out to me with a very clear image in her mind. Its always cool to see how a couple envisions their day when they reach out to me. Sometimes the image is fuzzy- they know they want red rocks or an epic overlook, but that’s it. Not so with Leyla and Lance- they knew they wanted a Horseshoe Bend elopement.
I initially offered some alternatives to Horseshoe Bend, but Leyla and Lance knew exactly what they wanted, and said they were willing to get up for sunrise to make sure their experience matched their vision. Horseshoe Bend is a *wildly* popular spot at sunset, so sunrise was a great way to get the views they wanted while still having some privacy.
We met up outside the gates when it was still dark (arriving *very* early to ensure we were first through the ticket booth and able to enjoy the most of blue hour we could). We walked in the dim, muzzy light to the overlook where the couple got situated (and battled Lance’s boutonniere for a while) before saying their vows. The couple kissed just as the sun started to light up the rocks on the horizon. We spend the rest of the morning hiking around, talking about movies and our dogs, and enjoyed much of the area with very few people around. It was a beautiful and perfect morning.
A word on Horseshoe Bend specifically:
Horseshoe used to be a local secret whereto could have this massive view to yourself- with hardly a dirt pull off to mark the faint trail out to the overlook. That has changed, so much so that Horseshoe Bend is very much the poster child for responsible geotagging and outdoor recreation. With social media Horseshoe Bend experienced a massive surge of visitors, so much so that the ecosystem couldn’t take the sudden influx of people. Plants were getting trampled, garbage was left behind, and parking became a REAL problem. So first the parking lot was expanded, then expanded again and paved over. A gate was put in place with a booth where you now pay to enter the area. The trail to the overlook is paved, with handy garbage cans for trash (though I still find left-behind water bottles every time I go). In a few very short years (I think two?) it went from a few thousand visitors to an estimated 2 million.
And yes- I am one of those visitors. So know I’m not sitting here being like “don’t go outside” cause- that would be pretty hypocritical wouldn’t it? More what I’m saying is be thoughtful about about how you interact outside and how you tag and disclose locations on social media. I’m a leave no trace aware photographer (certified and everything!) so I think about these things when I suggestion locations. The ethics of it, it experience of it, all of those things.
Which is why I’m circling back around to this idea of a Horseshoe Bend elopement. It’s a commonly sought after spot but one that frequently gets vetoed because it’s so. dang. busy. At sunset there will be a wall of photographers with tripods, gaggles of families, individuals taking selfies and “doing it for the gram.” Truly gobs and crowds of people. More Disney Land, less quiet experience in the outdoors.
And-I say this genuinely- a sight that is worth seeing. The sunset views from Horseshoe bend are *unreal.* I would never ever suggest ignoring this spot for the sole reason that it’s crowded. But it really doesn’t make for a great elopement experience. So then…
November-March is a great time to elope at Horseshoe Bend because visitation is down. You could probably squeak by with a sunset elopement if you timed it on a weekday and knew you’d be sharing your space with at least some other people.
Enter: sunrise. Thats the lovely thing about some of these more famous spots- they are way less busy at sunrise. The way the light falls is different (but no less pretty, if you ask me). If you have your heart set on a Horseshoe Bend Elopement and you aren’t a fan of the cold- an early morning in Spring or Fall will give you privacy and warm temps.
The best way to ensure privacy anywhere- there are some companies in Page that have access to parts of Horseshoe Bend that aren’t open to the public. I share these companies with my booked couples if they are in love with the views at this famous overlook.
This is kind of a cheat but there are spots in the southwest that look VERY similar to this, but are way way less crowded no matter the time of day. This is all part of the location scouting process and I usually send these over to any of my booked couples curious about horseshoe bend 🙂
So there you have it! There are things to consider for a Horseshoe Bend elopement but it is very much doable if you are thoughtful in your decisions. And you *cannot* beat that view.
Check out these images for more Horseshoe Bend elopement inspiration.
If you like Horseshoe Bend, you may also like Moab! Check out this rad two-day elopement.
— Ryan + Styhiln