Social media is increasingly taking its toll on some of the world’s most photogenic locations, with growing numbers of Instagram-inspired travelers causing concerns about site crowding and conservation. Recently, hugely popular destinations have implemented new rules aimed at combatting overtourism. Just this year, Machu Picchu introduced a stricter ticketing system and Venice announced a visitor tax. Now, an extremely recognizable natural landmark in the United States has joined the expanding list.
For the first time ever, travelers must pay an entrance fee to visit Horseshoe Bend, a regularly photographed spot in Arizona’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where the Colorado River takes a dramatic U-shaped turn. To access the coveted overlook, all visitors must now pay to park in a designated lot near the newly built entrance station onsite. The fee—effective immediately—costs $10 for vehicles such as SUVs and RVs, $5 for motorcycles, and between $35 to $140 for commercial buses (depending on passenger capacity). If there are no spots available in the parking lot area near the overlook entrance, visitors will be asked to leave the site and return another time. Parking will not be allowed on U.S. Route 89 (which leads to Horseshoe Bend), and National Park Service passes will not be accepted.
In recent years, Horseshoe Bend has become one of the country’s most Instagrammed locations, with millions of images posted to the photo-sharing app using the namesake geotag. The site’s rising popularity on social media has coincided with an increased number of visitors to the area: In 2018, nearly two million people visited the Arizona landmark. Officials say the site’s infrastructure was inadequate to support those numbers in terms of space and safety.
According to officials from the National Park Service and the city of Page, the new entrance fees are part of a plan to help fund the site’s upkeep and sustain the surrounding environment as the area is impacted by this surge in popularity. Now that spots will be even more sought after, officials urge visitors—avid Instagrammers or not—to arrive at Horseshoe Bend before 10 a.m. or between 4 and 6 p.m., especially during the peak summer travel season.