Antelope Canyon in Page is one of the most photographed places in the USA. The 2 slot canyons, Upper and Lower Antelope canyon, were eroded from the red sandstone by wind and water.
A few minutes from Page you can find one of the most visited and most photographed places in the American South-West. Each year hundreds of thousand of people visit Antelope Canyon. They all want to admire the beautiful shapes and colors of the canyons.
Antelope Canyon actually exists of 2 seperate canyons, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Both canyons are equally beautiful, but Upper Antelope Canyon is more popular. This is due to the more even ground and the width. This makes the canyon easier to visit. But also the lightbeams that reach the bottom of the canyon around noon attract tourists. In Lower Antelope Canyon you have to climb some stairs and the canyon is much narrower. In some places you have to squeeze through rocks.
Both canyons are in Navajo territory. You have to pay a fee to entre the Navajoland. In earlier days you could explore the canyons freely after paying the fee, but since 11 tourists died in a flashflood in Lower Antelope Canyon in 1997, you are only allowed in the canyons if accompanied by a certified guide. At the moment there are 7 tour companies that offer tours, 5 for Upper antelope Canyon and 2 for Lower Antelope Canyon.
Visiting the canyons
A visit to both canyons is very different. The tours of Lower Antelope Canyons start with a hike to the entrance of the canyon. Here you have to climb down 5 stairs to reach the bottom. The guide keeps up the pace during the visit, but there is enough time to take pictures. At the end of the hike through the canyon you have to climb some steps to get back to ground level. From the exit it is just about 100m back to the starting point.
The tours of Upper Antelope Canyon start with a ride in a 4×4. The entrance of the canyon isn’t near a road and only the tour companies are allowed to drive to the canyon. Before you leave the guide will point out some rules. The most important ones are that the group has to keep up with the pace of the guide and that pictures can only be taken when going into the canyon. When exiting the canyon you have to keep moving and cannot take any pictures. The 4×4’s drop you at the entrance of the canyon. The entrance is a crack in the wall through which you can walk into the canyon. At the end of the canyon the group turns around and exits the canyon via the same route.
- Visit Lower Antelope Canyon as early as possible, with one of the first tours. The waittime can reach 2h, even when you have a reservation for a certain tour time. And the waiting area is situated in the middle of the desert…
- Upper Antelope Canyon is at it’s best around noon, because at that time the lightbeams reach the bottom. Make your reservations well in time, because obviously these tours are the most popular.
We visited Lower Antelope Canyon in July with the first tour (7:40 am) of Ken’s Tours because we had heard from friends that they had to wait for 2 hours at the entrance of the canyon, eventhough they had a reservation for the 10 am tour. We didn’t have to wait and could immediately enter the canyon. The hike felt adventurous due to the height differences and narrow passages.
We had made a reservation at 12:30 pm with Adventurous Antelope Canyon to visit Upper Antelope Canyon. They were very professional and we left in time for the tour. Our guide was very strict, but she needed to be to keep the group moving. She did take time to take some pictures of us. We had very high expectations of the lightbeams, but were a little disappointed. We couldn’t see the beams very well, but the guide told us this was due to the rain that fell some days earlier. Due to the humidity there wasn’t very much dust in the canyon to reflect the lightbeams.
If you have to choose between the 2 canyon, go to Lower Antelope Canyon. It is more adventurous and feels less crowded (But ofcourse, we did go on the earliest tour).