One of the most unique and awe-inspiring landscapes in the world, Antelope Canyon is a destination that should be on every nature lover’s bucket list. Made up of Lower and Upper sections, these breathtaking slot canyons are the result of flash floods eroding rock over thousands of years to create otherworldly landscapes. (Picture slim twisting passageways of red sandstone and glowing beams of light shining through the dusty air!)
Considered a Navajo sacred site, you’ll need a guide to see this natural wonder. It’s also a very good idea to make sure you have reservations at least five days before your visit. Here are some other important tips to help you plan a successful vacation to Antelope Canyon.
How to Get to Antelope Canyon
Located in Page, Arizona in the United States, Antelope Canyon is often combined with day trips and vacation packages to nearby Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and Las Vegas.
If you’re coming from Los Angeles, there are many ways to get to Antelope Canyon that include taking a train, shuttle, bus, car, plane or taxi. But most of them require a stop in Las Vegas first before traveling to Page. At a nine-hour drive from LA, it’s easier (and more fun!) when combined with a trip to Las Vegas. If you’re traveling from Arizona, Antelope Canyon is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Grand Canyon Village and a little under three hours from Sedona.
While there is parking at Antelope Canyon, it’s very limited. It’s more convenient to book a tour reservation that includes transportation to and from the area.
Which to Visit: Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?
Antelope Canyon is comprised of two different sections–Upper and Lower. Each canyon has its strengths and drawbacks. For the ultimate visit, you can book a tour that goes to both.
Upper Antelope Canyon
Upper Antelope is the most popular and the one most often seen in photographs thanks to its beautiful light beams. In fact, the most expensive photo ever taken was inside Upper Antelope. (It sold for a record $6.5M in 2014!) You can capture some unforgettable photos while here. But be aware that the area is so popular, it’s near impossible to take a picture without getting other visitors in it.
This canyon is flatter, wider and easier for children and visitors with mobility issues. This canyon is located about a seven-minute drive from Page. To get here, you’ll ride in a 4WD truck with about 10 other passengers. The ride is slightly bumpy and dusty, but it’s short. If you’re interested in visiting Upper Antelope, be aware these tours sell out the furthest in advance. After a recent entrance fee increase in 2020, Upper Antelope Canyon is also the more expensive of the two sections.
Lower Antelope Canyon
Located about a 10-minute drive from Page, Lower Antelope is narrower and more physically demanding than Upper Antelope. It’s also less crowded and the cheaper of the two options.
There are a series of steep ladders which make it unsuitable for the elderly or people with disabilities. You’ll encounter about 40 steps down into the canyon and 20 steps out at the upper end, with about 4-5 stairs in different sections along the way.
While Lower Antelope may be more of a trek, it’s less popular which means you have a better chance of capturing beautiful photographs without other visitors in them. It doesn’t have the same light beams as Upper Antelope but it still offers many breathtaking sandstone attractions. Also, you can enjoy the unique experience at the end of seeing what the canyon looks like from the top. Another perk is that it doesn’t book up as far in advance as Upper Antelope.
Antelope Canyon Tours: Book at Least Five Days in Advance
Whether you’re looking for a day trip or want to include Antelope Canyon on an extended national parks vacation, there are many great tours and travel packages featuring a variety of itineraries. Reservations, however, are necessary to guarantee you’ll have an opportunity to visit either canyon. Also, you’ll want to book your tour as far in advance as you can.
The only way to see Upper and Lower Antelope canyons is with an official Navajo guide. Visitors are not allowed to explore on their own. The guides are also helpful in sharing the history and culture of the area, as well as pointing out the best photo ops. (It’s a good idea to tip your guide at the end, especially if you enjoyed your tour.)
Punctuality is also important to guarantee your trip is successful. With a limited number of visitors allowed in each day, the schedule is managed very tightly. If you’re late, they cancel your tour so they can continue to sell to other interested visitors.
Please note: It’s very important to arrive ONE HOUR EARLY to check in before the tour starts. Your ticket will be cancelled even if you are just a few minutes late. Be sure your clock is set to the correct Arizona time. (It’s the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time in the summer).
When to Visit Antelope Canyon
The most popular seasons are spring, summer and fall. Tours are also available in winter but if there is rain, you run the risk of your tour being canceled last minute. (For safety precautions, tours are not given in bad weather in case of flooding.)
Many believe that the best time for photographs is between 10 am to 1 pm. These times are mostly reserved for tour packages that include transportation to and from the area. However, the canyon still offers plenty of beauty if you end up visiting later in the afternoon (and you can still often capture a light beam or two).
What to Pack for Antelope Canyon
Be sure to wear good walking shoes for your visit. To help preserve the pristine beauty of this natural attraction, visitors are limited in what they may bring inside the canyons. You can bring water to stay hydrated. Also, a camera/phone is allowed so that you may capture beautiful photographs. However, backpacks and food are not permitted inside Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. If you need a snack, eating is allowed in the shaded waiting area before and after your tour.
Don’t Miss Horseshoe Bend
Located just a few minutes from Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend is another amazing natural attraction worth seeing during your visit. Named for its unusual U-shape, this incredible bend of the Colorado River features a stunning vista. Grab some postcard-worthy pictures and selfies from it’s 1,000-foot overlook (just be careful not to get too close to the edge as the rock sometimes falls).
There is a short ¾-mile hike on a dirt road in the area too if you want to spend some extra time. If you want to drive here, there is a new parking lot for visitors ($10 fee). As this attraction is becoming more popular, the parking lot can fill up at times. If you want to skip the hassle of driving, there are tours that include Upper Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend or Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in one unforgettable day trip.
While visiting Antelope Canyon has some restrictions, it’s a destination you won’t want to miss! With a little planning, you can guarantee a successful trip to this amazing natural wonder. For more tours and travel packages to the area, click here.