With each trip we take, I try to find at least one unique or memorable experience for us to have as a "must do" or "bucket list"-type experience. On our recent visit to Arizona, it was Antelope Canyon. I had seen the Instagram and Facebook photos in my social media feed. I had googled "Antelope Canyon" and saw all the gorgeous photos online. So I wanted to see if for myself. Isn't that how travel photos can plant a seed into your travel plans?
So even though our original plan was to visit Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson, I wanted to make sure we stopped at Antelope Canyon, a majestic slot canyon area located in northern Arizona in Page. It is about 4.5 hours from Phoenix (but you can also get there from Las Vegas, Nevada, about the same distance away).
Since the world has now discovered the natural wonder and beauty of Antelope Canyon, it is a highly recommended experience to see it for yourself.
Here are a few important tips to help you plan:
A guided tour is required to visit.
Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands and cannot be visited unless you book a tour. Travellers must book a guided tour to visit their sacred lands, in order to preserve the natural area and manage the amount of people during the tours to prevent over-tourism. The tour involves walking through narrow canyons and they do need to manage the amount people that can go through at any given time and to ensure the area remains protected.
Flash floods do still occur so tours will be cancelled if the weather conditions pose a risk. It was in 1997 when 11 hikers in Antelope Canyon were killed during a flash flood so since then, it was mandated that visitors had to join a guided tour to visit for safety and security reasons.
Book early as spots do fill up, and they have limited spaces available on each tour. There are only a couple of authorized tour companies that run slot canyon tours, with a set number of spaces available on each tour.
Once you start looking into tour options, you’ll see there is both an Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope Canyon. Most visitors go to Upper Antelope Canyon. More light comes through the canyon so the colours are brighter and more vivid on the Upper Canyon. It is easy to walk through for most people as it is a flat surface tour, with minimal difficulty.
Lower Antelope Canyon is not as well known, but also not as busy as the Upper Antelope Canyon tours. Guests will need to climb down ladders and boulders so it is not recommended for anyone who has mobility concerns or joint issues.
If you want to visit both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon on the same day, you can book both tours but pay the Najavo Land permit fee once.
(Our tour was just only the Upper Antelope Tour).
Light beams are best during the spring and summer months, usually around mid-March to early October. However, this is also peak travel time so tours fill up quickly and the canyon tours may feel crowded. Tour operators also increase the tour times and offer more daily tours than during the off-season.
Our visit in January is considered the off-season when the light is not always as visible but there was nothing there that indicated to us otherwise. It was just as breathtaking to see! The colour changes as you navigate through the canyon so some areas are brighter in colour than other areas.
The best time of day to see the light beams coming into the canyon are between 11:00am and 2:00pm and therefore are the most popular times to book. Most tours offered during this time frame have a slightly higher per person cost (by a few dollars more) than the early morning or late afternoon tour times.
Only authorized tour companies can offer the Antelope Slot Canyon tours so whichever tour operator you select will provide you with an excellent experience. Book early though as tour spaces and times fill up quickly, especially during peak times. Check here for available tour options to get an idea of pricing and availability.
I booked our tour about 10 days before and I was having difficulty finding a tour time on the date I wanted! It was a bit stressful as I didn’t have much flexibility in my trip but I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to visit! I was able to find a tour with Antelope Slot Canyon Tours by Chief Tsosie, a company that is Najavo-owned and operated. Our guide was a Navajo tribe member sharing valuable history and stories of the area.
Antelope Canyon is located just outside of Page, Arizona in the northern part of the state. It is about a 4.5 hour drive from Phoenix or Las Vegas. Day tours from both Las Vegas and Scottsdale are available, but be prepared for a very long day though. If you can spend one or two nights in Page, then I would highly recommend it. You will have time to enjoy the beauty of the area, including Antelope Canyon tours, Lake Powell and stopping at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook.
Horseshoe Bend is less than 5 minutes to Antelope Canyon and is worth the stop to visit. It is a mild 1.5 mild walk/hike roundtrip from the gate. And the views are stunning when you reach the canyon edge! Named for the horseshoe shape formed as the Colorado River flows below, the area is a breathtaking sight as you “feel” like you are in the Grand Canyon! (but you're actually just a few miles from the Grand Canyon National Park entrance).
If you have a car, there is now an $10/car entrance fee to park at Horseshoe Bend.
There is a wide variety of choice in hotels in the area, and I would highly recommend spending a night or two in Page, so that you can experience all the tours available in the area, including boat tours that take you around Lake Powell, or join an airplane tour of the canyons.
Wondering what to do with kids in Las Vegas? Here are some ideas from our trip there last time!
With each trip I take, I try to make the experience as memorable as I can so that my kids will have unforgettable memories of our travel adventures. Let me know how I can help you plan and book your trip so that you can create unforgettable memories in your own travels!