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Made up of two distinct parts (Lower and Upper), Antelope Canyon is one of the iconic sites in the Western United States.
Located on land belonging to the Navajo Indians, this fabulous site actually comprises 2 very narrow rocky faults (slot canyon) formed by erosion. Depending on the light, and particularly when the sun is at its zenith and penetrates vertically into the canyon, the rock takes on fantastic colors covering the entire ochre palette.
How do I get there?
They are located 4 miles east of Page. Separated by Highway 98, they are located opposite each other (the entrances are just before the power station). The entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon is on the right, after mile marker 299 (please note that, depending on the agency you’ve booked with, you’ll have to go to different places (in Page, for example)). The entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon is 0.5 miles ahead, on the road to Antelope Point Marina.
At the end of the article, I also tell you about Canyon X, which is less well known than Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, but can be an alternative (it’s cheaper, less crowded and booking slots can be more easily available).
- You have to go through a Navajo agency to visit one of the 3 canyons. It’s impossible to do otherwise.
- The canyons are closed on stormy days (and sometimes the following days) due to the risk of flooding. The tour will therefore be cancelled and reimbursed by the service provider. However, when the Lower is closed, the Upper (less risky) can be opened.
- Visitors are not allowed to bring large photographic equipment (they organize special tours for this purpose). It’s also forbidden to bring: backpacks, panniers (even small ones), GoPro, several lenses, tripods, telescopic sticks for selfies… Bring ONLY your camera or phone (they’re very strict about this, and unfortunately it’s non-negotiable).
- Pregnant women are not accepted.
- Some agencies do not accept children under 8.
- All prices are subject to a surcharge of $8/person over 8, which is the park entrance fee (cash only): the Navajo Nation Fee (remember to keep receipts) and $3-4 tax. If you pay for your tour by credit card, the price may be increased by 3 to 5%, depending on the agency.
- Some agencies (Upper Antelope Canyon) charge for children under 4!
- If you’re planning a visit, beware of the time difference between Utah and Arizona!
1 | Upper Antelope Canyon
Upper Antelope Canyon is the better-known of the two canyons, for two reasons: it’s the more “comfortable” to visit (no elevation changes, no ladders along the way) and it’s the more photogenic. This canyon is just sumptuous, 2 yard wide and almost 200 yard long. It’s when the sun’s rays are vertical (mid-day) that the site is at its most beautiful, as it greatly accentuates the colors. The companies that run the tours are well aware of this, and raise their prices at lunchtime.
Tour schedule – ADVANCE BOOKING IS MANDATORY
Check-in takes place at the agency (all are located and depart from downtown Page, with the exception of one, Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours, which is not far from the site) AT LEAST 30 minutes before departure (please note that a delay may be grounds for cancellation without refund). Go to the ticket office to register and wait for your name to be called. Before leaving, groups are made up (there were 6 of us on our September visit) and we drive to the canyon entrance in a 4×4 (driven by a Navajo from the agency), which is at the end of a wash (dried-up riverbed). The drive is about 4.4 miles, over rather uneven, sandy terrain. We stay in the canyon for about 1 hour. The return journey takes place on the outside of the canyon, as the route is now one-way.
I might as well warn you, the tour is highly organized: you have to stay with the guide and move forward with the group. Groups follow one another.
In summer, the 1st departure is around 6:30 a.m. and the last around 4:30 p.m. (8 a.m.-3 p.m. in winter). As you can imagine, in high season, it’s a factory, with a peak between 10am and 2pm. Don’t forget to book your time slots in advance (3 or even 4 months in advance!).
Between 1h30 and 2h
Upper is by far the more expensive of the two. Probably because of the 4×4 transfer. Count on $50-80/person for a tour outside peak hours, when the rate rises to $90-140/person. Rates therefore vary according to the guides and schedule chosen.
2 | Lower Antelope Canyon
Lower Antelope Canyon is known not only for its canyon beauty, but also for its many different types of ladder crossings. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular. The canyon is approached from above (unlike Upper Antelope Canyon) and is just over 437 yard long. It is divided into several sections, and the differences in level are considerable. Staircases and ladders must be climbed several times, up to a maximum height of 8 yard.
Tour (booking is possible – I strongly recommend it):
– IF YOU HAVE MAKEN A RESERVATION – the meeting point is at your agency’s reception hut, next to the parking lot. You should arrive 45 minutes to 1 hour in advance. Check-in is 30 minutes before the departure time indicated on your reservation (please note that late check-in may result in cancellation without refund). Go to the ticket office to announce your presence and wait for your name to be called.
– IF YOU HAVE NOT BOOKED A TOUR – you have to go to the site, choose between the two companies offering tours, pay for your tickets and wait for your turn.
After being called, a Navajo guide will take you on a tour of the canyon. Unlike Upper Antelope Canyon, access to the canyon is on foot. A 5-10 minute walk in the sand and sunshine will take you to the entrance of the rift. The first steep staircase takes you into the depths of the canyon. You may find yourself waiting in front of the canyon entrance (in full sun) because of the steep staircase. The route is one-way.
Some areas are extremely cramped, while others have been fitted with ladders to facilitate progression. Note that the canyon is very narrow in some places, so if you’re claustrophobic, the visit could prove more complicated. The visit inside the canyon ends with a succession of ladders. After leaving the canyon, a path leads back to the parking area (10-15 minute walk).
In summer, the 1st departure is around 6:30 a.m. and the last around 5 p.m. (9 a.m.-3 p.m. in winter). But remember to book your time slots in advance.
50/person, $30 for ages 4 to 12, free for children under 4. Rates vary according to guide and schedule.
Let’s face it, the tour of Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon is very strict, and you have no choice in how long you want to visit. Everything is very well orchestrated by the Navajos. Depending on the guide, the visit can be very unpleasant (which was not the case for us). Mass tourism takes a bit of the magic out of the experience. If this mass tourism puts you off, or if you find the prices prohibitive (they are) or if there are just no more places available, you can fall back on the very nice Canyon X.
3 | Canyon X
Canyon X is another slot canyon carved and shaped over the years by erosion. Canyon X is in fact divided into 2 canyons: a “Y”-shaped canyon opening towards the sky, letting in a lot of light; a second, “A”-shaped canyon receiving a little less light. They are linked by a trail located in a much wider canyon. This site is a good alternative to Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon, but you’ll also need to go through a Navajo-run agency to visit it.
How do I get there?
It’s located on Highway 98, a little past the 2 Antelope Canyon if you’re coming from Page.
Tour description: I advise you to book in advance on the Internet. Even if the site is still little-known and little-visited, the number of daily visits is limited and places are quickly snapped up.
When you arrive at the parking lot, you’ll need to present your reservation at the ticket office at least 10 to 15 minutes in advance, so as not to miss the convoy’s departure. In exchange, you’ll be given a post-it note to stick on your windshield with the time of your visit. When all the participants are present (around 15 to 20 people), you’ll have to line up behind the pilot car. If the trail to Antelope Canyon X is in poor condition, or if your vehicle is unsuitable for the trail, you will be transported in a shuttle bus. The convoy will set off along a 2.5 miles trail to a large parking area (allow 15 minutes’ drive).
Once at the parking lot, it’s time to join the guides who will be forming the groups. Down the stairs, the tour begins. We follow the 2 canyons. Return by the same route, taking the initial series of steps back to the parking lot and your car. Follow the pilot car out of the site.
9am-3pm. I advise you to book a slot between 11am and 1pm for the best light.
Count $39/person. A Photos Tour is available for $125.
Given the beauty of the three canyons, I guarantee you’ll come away with some extraordinary photos!
What’s more, the guides will (usually) give you invaluable advice as soon as you enter the canyon on how to set up your cameras and phones. They know exactly which filters to apply and which settings to use to bring out the colors. They even know the best angles for taking great photos, and won’t hesitate to take your picture to immortalize the moment.
In this article, you’ll find some of the photos we took during our visit to Upper Antelope Canyon.
Thanks for reading!
My most beautiful photos are on Instagram
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