Antelope Canyon

Arizona

Antelope Canyon, Arizona Photo Tips & Best Tours

March 02, 2020

Travel Guide To Antelope Canyon

The Kardasians come here all the time and just don’t shoot any nude photos in the canyon please – tour operator

Antelope Canyon Arizona – this world-famous slot canyon is of the most beautiful places on Earth. This other-worldly place is an enchanting landscape that took water and winds thousands of years to create. You’ve probably seen Instagram posts of a place with beautiful, orangish, magical rock formations on your feed a time or two.

Last summer, we (@atasteofkoko + @paigeydahling) did a three-day trip to the American southwest of Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Monument Valley, and shot the most stunning photos (scroll down!). 

SEE ALSO: 15 Top Things To Do In New Mexico

If you want to visit Antelope Canyon, here is my guide to the history, best time to visit, the different parts of the Canyon, best Antelope Canyon tours, how to take the best Antelope Canyon photos, how to get there, where to stay, and nearby places to visit! 

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History of Antelope Canyon - many think a young Navajo girl stumbled upon it in the 1930s.
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Best time to visit - if you want to see light beams, go in October & November
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Upper, Lower, or Canyon X?
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We went to Canyon X because it’s less crowded & they allow photography tours.
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You cannot enter Antelope Canyon by yourself - you must go on a tour.
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How to get to Antelope Canyon? We flew into Phoenix and drove up to Page, AZ.
Check out my other content @atasteofkoko on Jumprope.

History of Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Things to do in Antelope Canyon Arizona

Right off of Highway 98 in northern Arizona, Antelope Canyon sits on the northwest edge of the Navajo Nation. 

Discovery

The discovery of the canyon is a debated topic.

Many think a young Navajo girl stumbled upon it in the 1930s while herding livestock near Page, Arizona, the closest town in proximity. 

Since then it’s been called “Antelope Canyon” because Navajo people reported seeing antelopes grazing and meandering beside it during winter. 

Formation

Regardless of who discovered it, natural forces have carved the sandstone over the course of thousands of years. 

Massive flash floods pushed water through small cracks in the desert, eventually letting out into the Colorado River and Lake Powell.

Because of this, the Navajos call it Tsé Bighánílíní, “the place where water runs through rocks”.

The result of this gushing floodwater is a “slot canyon” with spiral rock arches: a deep, narrow gorge with wave-like walls designed by water and smoothed out by winds.

Territory

The land in which Antelope Canyon resides is and has been the responsibility of the Navajo Nation for quite some time. Luckily, they respect the land deeply, work hard to preserve this special place, and still allowing tourists to experience its magic. 

It’s a spiritual area for them and they refrain from entering the canyon until they’ve entered a peaceful mindset out of reverence. 

The LeChee Chapter, in particular, are the ones who manage the canyon. Besides that, Navajo Nation extends to the surrounding 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

All tours there and to other Navajo Nation landscapes are facilitated by the natives to ensure the land isn’t degraded by public use.

Because of the Navajos’ willingness, visiting this bucket-list, this mind-blowing destination is possible with these considerations.


BEST TIME TO VISIT ANTELOPE CANYON ARIZONA

Things to do in Antelope Canyon Arizona

When planning your trip, you’ll want to decide on the time of year as well as the time of day.

Time of Year

This part of Arizona is relatively temperate and doesn’t receive much rain annually. Page, Arizona has an average annual rainfall of fewer than 7 inches if that gives you an idea. 

In other words, you can’t go wrong when choosing a season.

May through October you can witness the light beams I mentioned before. It can get hotter and more crowded during the peak months of June, July, and August but it’s well worth it.

If those months don’t work for you, you can visit the canyon between October and April. Instead of seeing the light beams, you’ll see an array of breathtaking colors across the sandstone walls (plus, there will be fewer people).

Keep in mind that the coldest month is January with lows of 26 degrees, which can be super cold in the dry desert climate.

Time of Day

If you want to shoot the famous sunbeams in the canyon, pick a tour between 11 am and 1:30 pm.

Otherwise, you can choose any of the times available. It tends to get busier after 2 pm, to the point where some people are turned away if they don’t have reservations.

Keep in mind while planning your trip the Navajo Nation observes Mountain Standard Time (MST) and daylight savings time (when in effect), while the closest town of Page doesn’t use daylight savings time (they only use MST). It makes things a little bit tricky when planning your trip, but as long as you remember this small detail, you’re good to go.


There are several different parts of the Canyon that you can explore: Upper, Lower, and Canyon X. 

UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON

The upper canyon is known as “the crack”. Here, you can walk through without climbing any stairs. It’s flat and level at 4,000 feet elevation with walls that reach above 120 feet.

During the ideal seasons (spring through fall), you can see light beams that make your jaw drop. It only happens at the upper canyon, where the light falls in picturesque ways at certain hours of the day.

LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON

The lower canyon, “the corkscrew”, is less crowed while stretching longer distances. Stairs and ladders allow you to adventure into the gorge with moderate effort. The views are equally amazing as the upper portion — it just depends on what you’re looking for.

For instance, if you’re traveling with children or someone who has limited abilities, you’ll want to choose the upper canyon.

CANYON X

There are also other parts of Antelope canyon where it meets Lake Powell, such as Canyon X, Mountain Sheep Canyon, and Cardiac Canyon that you can explore. Canyon X is the newest discovered canyon so we decided to check this one out!


BOOKING ANTELOPE CANYON TOURS

Antelope Canyon Arizona

You cannot go into Antelope Canyon alone – it’s not allowed. You have to book a guided tour with a tour guide who will lead you down into the canyons. There are only a couple of tour operators for Antelope Canyon since it’s owned by the Begay family, longstanding members of the Navajo Nation and community. As a part of this family, Dalvin Etsitty also provides tours of this sacred Navajo site.

If you don’t care about getting photos of yourself in the canyon, opt for a regular guided tour ticket for a sightseeing tour. Our tour guide did tell us that they jam-pack as many people they can on these tours and you’ll also run into other tours that are going on the canyon. So if you don’t want a crowded experience or if you do want to take photos of yourself in the canyon, book a photography tour even though it’s more expensive. 

Flash floods do happen in the canyon and it is extremely dangerous but the tour guides are well informed to check on the weather. 

UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON TOURS

As of December 2019, no more photos tours will be offered at Upper Antelope Canyon

LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON TOURS

CANYON X TOURS

  • Canyon-X by Taadidiin Tours – we booked a tour at Canyon X with Taadidiin Tours and chose the 3-hour photography tour for $126.82 per person after tax. The 1.5-hour hiking tour is only $42.29 per person after tax. We got super lucky because no one else was on the tour so we had it to ourselves and our tour guide Eugene was super sweet and helped take photos of us too!

** Book your tours in advance once you decide to go. 


HOW TO TAKE ANTELOPE CANYON PHOTOS

We’re not professional landscape photographers but we shot these photos with my Sony A7Rii with the 24-70mm lens. I highly recommend packing a wide-angle lens and if I had my iPhone 11 Pro then, the wide-angle would have been super helpful. 

Antelope Canyon Arizona

Antelope Canyon Arizona


HOW TO GET TO ANTELOPE CANYON

Antelope Canyon Arizona

While planning your tour, keep in mind your options for getting there. This will, of course, depend on where you’re coming from and whether or not you want to combine other destinations with Antelope Canyon Arizona. 

Road Tripping

If you live nearby or want to make a road trip out of it, you can drive to the canyon. Renting a van or an RV would give you space for passengers as well as a place to sleep if you want to camp. Otherwise, a standard rental car would be fine. 

Flying

If you want to fly, there are a couple of airports to fly into:

  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS) near Las Vegas
  • Page Municipal Airport (PGA)

Phoenix and Las Vegas are both about 5 hours from Antelope, so you’ll have to rent a car after you land. 

An important thing that many other travelers note (rightfully so) is that you should be respectful when driving into Navajo Nation. It’s a spiritual land that is important to the natives, which we should all honor by driving responsibly and leaving no trace.

From Austin, Texas, we flew into Phoenix Airport and then drove up to Page, AZ and stayed two nights there. 


WHERE TO STAY NEAR ANTELOPE CANYON

There are only a couple of options to stay near Antelope Canyon Arizona. We stayed in Page, Arizona at the Sleep Inn & Suites Page at Lake Powell – it was the cheapest option at about $100 a night. 

You can also camp. Local campgrounds include:

  • Page Campground
  • Wahweap
  • Lone Rock Beach
  • Alstrom Point (beware: this option does require some off-roading)

You can also book an entire house in Page on Airbnb for as cheap as $50 a night, which is a great deal if you’re with a group of friends. 

Get $55 off your first booking on Airbnb here!


Other Things In the Area to Check Out

Once you’re down near Antelope Canyon Arizona, you’ll see that the entire surrounding area is filled with natural wonders and things to do.

Within 15 Miles

  • Horseshoe Bend – just 10 miles away from the canyon is Horseshoe Bend so we did book a photo tour to shoot photos here. This is a place where travelers flock to witness the Colorado River wrapping around rock formations in the shape of a horseshoe. 
  • Glen Canyon Dam – this concrete arch-gravity dam in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a sight to see
  • Lake Powell – I wish we had time to go down into Lake Powell for a boat tour or kayak. Search “Rainbow Bridge National Monument” and you’ll see what I mean. 

Within 120 Miles

  • Monument Valley – 2 hours east is Monument Valley, a Navajo Nation area filled with epic buttes made of sandstone. We did drive up to Monument Valley for the day and then drove back down to ___ to fly out the next day.
  • Grand Canyon National Park – 2 to 3 hours in the other direction is the Grand Canyon. The difference in time depends on whether you want to check out the north or south rim.

Feeling ambitious? See all of them! Start with Monument Valley then head to Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and finally land at the Grand Canyon. You’ll want a few days to really soak in the goodness these places have to offer if you’re making the long haul.

Within 280 Miles

  • Phoenix – combine your nature tours at Antelope Canyon with a little bit of city action by heading south back towards Phoenix.
  • Visit Scottsdale – I did a hot air balloon ride in Scottsdale last time and I highly recommend it!
  • Tempe – there are a ton of excellent restaurants and the Desert Botanical Garden

Alternatively, you can head west instead of south and in 280 miles, you’re in Sin City — Las Vegas. 


What to Pack

Lastly, let’s talk about what to pack because this trip is more rugged than my typical destinations. Keep in mind that although it’s the desert, the nights can get chilly depending on the time of year.

Pack your favorite yoga pants, jeans, tank tops, and coverups so that you can be comfortable around the clock.

We went in the summer and the two most important things that I was SO glad I packed were:

After checking the weather forecasts closer to your trip, you’ll also want to pack:

  • A couple of cute brimmed hats and sunscreen to protect your skin
  • A few pairs of sunglasses to keep away sun glare.
  • A scarf to block out dust
  • Closed-toed shoes for walking through the dusty paths of Antelope Canyon
  • A portable phone charger to make sure your phone doesn’t die mid-tour
  • A small, lightweight backpack to keep water and snacks
  • Insulated water bottle – thank goodness I packed my Swell bottle because it was so hot and it’s super, super important to stay hydrated.

Finally, if you’re anything like me, you’ll need to pack your dry shampoo to keep your hair looking picture-perfect. 


RELATED: San Luis Obispo County California Travel Guide

WRITTEN BY:

Jane Ko is the Austin blogger behind A Taste of Koko, Austin's top food and travel blog featuring the hottest restaurants and weekend getaways. Jane has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), Texas Conference for Women, BlogHer, and more on entrepreneurship and social media. She lives in Austin Texas with her dog and cat.

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