This is a tale of three canyons. Chances are you haven’t heard of at least one and maybe two.
Here’s what I plan to cover in this trip report, mostly in order:
You may not realize it but you’ve almost certainly seen pictures of Antelope Canyon. I had seen plenty of pictures but didn’t realize until a few months ago what and where Antelope Canyon is.
What: Just about one of the most beautiful places on Earth I’ve ever been. It’s a canyon, more specifically a “slot canyon”. That is, a very narrow canyon created by water flow.
Where: Antelope Canyon is located on a Navajo reservation near Page, Arizona. You’ll find Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam nearby.
Why You Need To Go: Because it’s stunning.
Not ready to book your trip yet? Here’s a brief summary of our trip and some pictures. I literally took hundreds, each more beautiful than the next.
I didn’t really understand what Antelope Canyon was even though I’ve seen plenty of pictures. I was naively thinking of the Grand Canyon. Nevertheless, it was beautiful and we needed to go. There are two choices for Antelope Canyon, Upper and Lower.
The Upper is more easily accessible, especially if you have trouble navigating ladders or don’t like tight spaces. Partially due to the easier accessibility the Upper canyon tends to book up sooner and costs a bit more. It also involves a bit of a ride in a tour company vehicle.
We got a bit of a late start booking our slot. They fill up quickly! We chose Lower Antelope Canyon because there were better times available and the lack of a need to hitch a ride to and from the site in. It ended up being the right fit for us.
We arrived onsite and checked in with the guide office. We were trying to squeeze in a quick visit to Glen Canyon Dam after the Antelope tour, so we asked if there was an earlier tour we could jump into. A bit to our surprise, they were able to take us early.
Once we were checked in the tour guides shuttled us to a few different holding spots to wait for access to the canyon. The popularity definitely showed with sizable crowds throughout. Thankfully, there’s overhead coverage to keep out of the hot sun. But, you’ll definitely want to bring plenty of water with you. Our tour guides directed us to coolers and invited us to take an extra free bottle of water if we liked.
After about 30 minutes of waiting we were next up to descend into the canyon. The steps are quite steep and narrow. It’s safe, but it paid to be careful. Our guide recommended removing our hats as we descended into the canyon. I’d never heard of this before, but apparently it can lead to fainting spells. True to form, one of our party who left their hat on was dizzy by the time we got to the canyon floor. She needed to be attended to the guides with fluids for a bit. She may have been dehydrated prior to starting the tour. Regardless, it was a good reminder to stay hydrated and follow instructions.
The first portion of the canyon we entered was nice, but not spectacular. Maybe all those pictures made it look more glamorous than it actually was? It didn’t take us long to figure out how wrong we were. Over the next 45 minutes we walked through cave after cave of unbelievable views. It’s the sort of place that doesn’t even seem real. The views were nothing short of incredible. These pictures are unfiltered, unaltered.
These last two are my favorite. The nest really struck me as a very subtle contrast to the vibrant stone around it.
We caught a few glimpses of the vaunted light beams from the sky and were amazed. Before long, the adventure was winding to a close. We popped out of a hole in the ground like ants crawling out of an ant hill.
How To Book
We chose Dixie Ellis tours for our Lower Antelope Canyon tour. The prices appear to have taken another hike since we visited. An adult ticket will cost you $38.10 plus an $8 fee to enter the Navajo reservation. Child tickets are $19.05 with kids 7 and under free of charge. While that’s higher than what we paid, it’s also about half what a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon costs. Side note, some of the Upper Canyon tours do have a restriction on kids 5 and under.
We would recommend Dixie Ellis, but I don’t think the tour company you choose makes a ton of difference. It’s mostly self-guided, though our tour guide did help point out a couple of great picture spots.
The Final Two Pennies
The only downside was the crowds. There were precious camera shots we would love to have gotten if not for tourists who just wouldn’t respect everyone’s desire to take pictures in an orderly fashion. Our guides tried to organize the throng a bit, with little success. If returning, I would definitely try to visit on a quieter day.
While I wish I could share our thoughts on Upper Antelope Canyon with you as well, we didn’t make it that far. The next best thing (and maybe better) is my friend Seth’s recap of their visit
The pictures of Antelope Canyon still look stunning to me today, months later. And yet, I’m confident they don’t do it justice. If you take only one thing away from our experience, it’s to make sure Antelope Canyon is on your bucket list. I might recommend sooner rather than later given the current tourism activity. It’s a natural beauty you don’t want to miss.