Ultimate Guide | Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is one of the most popular and photogenic destinations in the southwest. Located near Page, AZ the canyon is the second most popular tourist spot next to Lake Powell. Hundreds of thousands of people tour the sandstone canyons each year which can make planning a trip a bit stressful and overwhelming. Casi and I are planning our first trip so we decided to make this guide as a resource for other first time Antelope Canyon visitors. Enjoy!
Where is Antelope Canyon?
Antelope Canyon is located in northern Arizona near Page, AZ. There are several ways to get here. Casi and I live in the Phoenix Metro area so the best option for us was to drive the 4+ hours to Page. Here are some other options;
- There are a couple of smaller airports near Page
- If you are travelling by car, below is a map that can help you figure out how to get there. Feel free to zoom in and out and drag the map.
Visiting the Slot Canyons
When Casi and I were doing research on visiting the canyons we had a ton of questions about entering the canyons. How much does it cost? Do I have to have a tour guide? Which canyon is better? We'll answer all these questions and more in this section.
How much does it cost?
Here is a breakdown of our research (as of 01/2016);
1. Navajo Park entrance fee: $8
2. Mandatory Tour Guide: $20-$58
3. Optional Photography Tour: $42 (Ken's Guided Tour)
Total: $28-$108 (depending on the tours,times,season)
Are Tour Guides Mandatory?
Yes. In the Upper Canyon you must arrange for your own tour guide. In the Lower Canyon you can drive to the parking lot, pay the fee, and then wait in line for a designated tour guide to escort you to the canyon. I'm not sure exactly the rules but I think the tour guides in the Lower Canyon use their own discretion on whether or not to actually go into the canyon with you. You can also arrange for your own tour guide for Lower Canyon.
TIP: Bring cash to pay the tour companies and the Navajo Park fee.
Here are a list of recommended tour guide companies;
Tour Guide Companies
Upper Antelope Canyon:
Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours
Antelope Canyon Tours
Grand Circle Adventures
Overland Canyon Tours (Canyon X)
Lower Antelope Canyon:
Lower Antelope Canyon Tours (928) 640-1761)
Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours
Upper Vs. Lower Canyons
+ It is extremely easy to get to. The tour guides drive you straight to the canyon opening (seen above) and it is accessible to people of all ages including children
+ There are much wider walkways in the canyon
+ Contain the famous "light beams" and "pouring sand"
+ Very photogenic
+ The canyon is actually above ground so there are no ladders to climb down
- It is more expensive, especially if you take a photography tour
- It is WAY more crowded
- Nearly impossible to get a picture of the canyon without people in the way
+ Less populated and easier to get photographs of an empty canyon
+ It is much longer than the Upper Canyon
+ A tour guide doesn't have to accompany you at all times
+ Cheaper to visit
- Depending on who you are this might be a pro; access to the canyon requires hiking into the canyon and using ladders up to 25 ft. in length to climb down
- It is more narrow which can make people uneasy
- It is darker and although still very photogenic can be hard to get as good of a shot as Upper Canyon
Which one is better?
Both canyons are unbelievable and it would be hard to pick one over the other. If you have to choose, categorizing them might help. The upper canyon is by far more popular, is accessible to everyone, and has the famous light beams and pouring sand. If you are looking to photographing these or are not able to hike or climb than this might be a better choice. The lower canyon has been labeled as a more adventurous canyon because it requires a hike, climbing, and is underground. If you are looking to break away from most of the crowds than this might be a better choice.
What to Bring to Antelope Canyon
Casi and I had no idea what to bring with us to Antelope Canyon. Here are a couple of items to think about bringing with you on your trip;
If you plan to bring a backpack make sure it is as small. Depending on the canyon, it will be either packed, too narrow to fit, climbing ladders, or cramming into a modified truck with a dozen other people.
Food and Water
It's a good idea to carry a water bottle with you into the canyon. I recommend something you can put in a small backpack so you can use both hands to take photos. Although the canyon is much cooler and darker than direct sunlight it is still a good idea to stay hydrated and fed for the hour or two you are touring the canyons.
I don't know if there is a set rule, but from what I've researched tour guides will not allow non-photography groups to use tripods. If you are a part of a photography tour make sure to bring a professional camera (I've read only cameras with interchangeable lenses are accepted). If you are not on a photo tour than it is a point and shoot atmosphere.
I don't know about every tour company, but some only take cash and I believe you must pay cash for the Navajo Fee. Either way, it is a good idea to carry enough cash to cover your tour. Also, if you are doing a photography tour it is suggested to tip the guide.
Things to look out for
There are a couple things Casi and I found out while researching Antelope Canyon that we thought would be worth noting in this section.
Use the Bathroom
Before you sign in and head down the 15 minute bumpy road to Upper Canyon, be sure to use the restroom as there are no restrooms at the canyon.
The canyons, especially the Lower Canyon, are dark. All the photos you typically see of the canyons are modified and it can be surprisingly dark if you aren't prepared for it.
The Navajo Nation uses a different time zone than Arizona so it is best to call your tour guide ahead of time to find out if your tour is on Navajo or Arizona time.
This is especially true in the Upper Canyon. Don't let this scare you off but just know that you probably aren't going to get much solitude to "take in" the canyons by yourself.
This may be one of the coolest, out-of-this-world places in Arizona. It is likely to be the most photographed and visited slot canyon in the world. I thoroughly recommend making this a part of your bucket list travel destinations!