Antelope Canyon in the US state of Arizona is arguably the most frequently photographed sandstone canyon in the northern section of the state. It is a popular slot canyon that’s narrow yet still not too difficult to navigate. It comes complete with incredible, rugged rock formations created by many, many years of water and wind erosion.
The sunlight only enters this canyon from above. Thus, at specific times of the day, visitors can witness the sandstone comes alive with a stunning array of colors. The elements-smoothed walls turn a pretty purple-orange making it one of the United States’ most evocative, unique national parks. To help make the most of your visit, here are some Antelope Canyon travel tips.
Antelope Canyon Travel Tips
Antelope Canyon: General Information
This striking slot canyon near the city of Page is famous for both its Upper and Lower Canyons. Oddly, few traveler writers ever mention what some call Antelope Canyon X. The Upper Canyon is perhaps the most well-known and is situated off an unpaved road.
Private vehicles are not permitted there. It’s miles away from the Lower Canyon which is situated closer to lovely Lake Powell. Unlike other US parks, you must actually book an official tour.
The canyon is nestled within the Navajo Nation, so when you book your tour you will have to pay a Navajo or tourist tax. If the tour company does not immediately charge you when you purchase your ticket, you will have to pay it when you arrive before your tour begins. The park is open all week but hours vary depending on the season you visit.
Hours And Booking
If you visit between late March and November 1, it is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you visit between November 2 through early March, the hours are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Remember that the state has two time zones too!
Since visitors are required to book a tour, be sure to make reservations in advance. You can do it online, in most cases. (Note: While it’s also possible to do it in person in nearby Page, Antelope Canyon is too popular to make reservations at the last minute.)
After booking your tour, be sure to peruse your paperwork to make sure you know what time to arrive at your chosen tour provider’s location. It is not uncommon for agencies to require you to arrive an hour before your tour time in order to check in. The Navajo can be strict about tour start times and could cancel on you for being a few minutes tardy.
In general, tours run roughly one and a half hours. Tour time includes transportation from the town and can be somewhat bumpy as the vehicle speeds over the rugged terrain. (Note: The Lower Antelope Canyon tour generally runs under one hour, because you must provide your own transportation to the tour’s starting point.)
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit is usually during the summer. It is then that you can best enjoy the unique light effects created when the rays of the sunshine into the canyon. It may be good to note that the peak season is reported to be between March 14th and October 8th. The rainiest months are August and September.
Visitors to Antelope Canyon are not permitted to wear a backpack. Water bottles, however, are recommended. Guided tours are reportedly required because of potentially dangerous flash floods. 11 travelers are reported to have died in Antelope Canyon on August 12, 1997.
The Upper Vs. The Lower Antelope Canyon
Let’s discuss both the differences and main features of the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon by focusing on touring them both.
Touring The Upper Antelope Canyon
The Navajo refer to the upper canyon as “the place where the water flows through the rocks.” This is the most visited and most well-known section. In fact, five different tour businesses offer tours here.
It is the most popular because it is a bit wider and that makes it more accessible. It is shaped like an inverted V. It’s wider at the top and more narrow at the bottom.
It is also deeper. This means it is darker and cooler. Nevertheless, sunlight still gets into the canyon in a number of different places.
This tour route is a loop trail in the canyon. It is only about a quarter of a mile but there are frequent stops in order to allow returning tour groups to pass. Veteran visitors confess that it can be a little “nerve-wracking” at times. There are no officially difficult parts though and with the exception of those who are claustrophobic, anyone can participate.
Touring The Lower Antelope Canyon
The lower canyon isn’t as deep. It is, however, quite pretty due to the way the light strikes the canyon walls and the rock shapes are not that much different than those found in the upper canyon. For those of you who prefer to avoid tourists, the biggest advantage to this tour is that there are only two businesses that conduct tours here.
That translates to fewer lines and, sometimes, when there is a low turnout, you can even stay there a little bit longer. This is also a one-way hike with a length of just over one-quarter of a mile. There are five iron ladders used to get into the canyon and some might consider them steep.
In some places, the route might be challenging because there are areas where the space between the canyon walls is very narrow and it’s not so easy to walk through. Nevertheless, unless you suffer from claustrophobia or vertigo, you’re good to go.
Antelope Canyon X: An Alternative
Ah, but there is a remote portion of the canyon that not everyone knows about named Antelope Canyon X. Now that the slot canyons around the town of Page have become more popular, booking a tour here less than four miles south of the upper canyon, may just be the only way for you to take in the Antelope Canyon’s characteristic shapes at a slower pace. Only one agency provides tours here.
Your tour guide will take you to the trailhead via an almost three-mile stretch of unpaved, dirt road. You will find two slot canyons, North and South, in Antelope Canyon X. They have different shapes and you only need a regular ticket to visit them.
Here you will discover what some call a blend of the famous features found in the upper and lower canyons. The views are reported to be nigh-identical. The initial portion of the tour here can be a bit difficult although you won’t have to climb anything. If you’re on a budget, or simply can’t resist a bargain, the tour of Antelope Canyon X is cheaper than the others too.
How To Get To Antelope Canyon
Hopefully, you’ve pre-booked your spot on the tour of Upper Antelope Canyon. The agency should provide you with a meeting point address, and a required check-in time.
If you sign up to tour the Lower Antelope Canyon, you may have to find your own transportation to a parking area on Indian Route 222, in Page. There’s also the possibility that the tour agency might give you specific instructions and directions when you book your tour.
If you choose instead to take the tour of Antelope Canyon X, you will have to drive to the tour agency’s office. There you will park your vehicle and your tour guide will lead you to the entrance of the canyon.
Photographing Antelope Canyon
If you’re a shutterbug looking to shoot Antelope Canyon, you must first determine what you hope to accomplish before determining what time to go there. In general, visitors will reportedly enjoy the most extraordinary colors on sunny days in the summer. Photographers in the know suggest booking a tour for 11:00 a.m.
That way, you will actually be in the canyon at roughly 11:30 a.m. That is arguably the best time to make the most of the extraordinary lighting. Unfortunately, the lighting is best during the time of day when the canyon contains the highest number of tourists.
So be prepared to come up with some creative ways to get those memorable, Instagramable photos. If you absolutely must avoid the busiest times, you could visit in the spring or even early fall.
Remember, if you plan ahead but are still unable to book a tour of the Upper Antelope Canyon on your given vacation days, try to purchase a tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon. It’s usually not as crowded. If all else fails, you spend less and avoid the tourists by taking a tour of the lesser-known Antelope Canyon X.
Stay in the city of Page is located on U.S. Route 89. Travel experts agree it’s the best place to spend the night as it is not even 15 minutes from Antelope Canyon. There are a number of hotels available. You can research both the 10 best and the least expensive online.