antelope canyon is it worth it

lower antelope canyon toursChances are you’ve seen pictures of Antelope Canyon on instagram without knowing exactly what it is or where is it. That’s how I found out about it and a quick look on a map showed it wasn’t too far away from Zion National Park in Utah. It looked incredible, completely unlike anything I’d ever seen before and so we headed over the border to Arizona so we could visit.

I’d read that Antelope Canyon gets pretty busy but that if you do the lower canyon tours, rather than the upper, it should be better.

That was not our experience at all.

You could barely move a couple of inches without walking into someone and the guides hurried you along before you’d had much chance to get pictures. It’s up there with the most expensive things we did on our trip (others include fancy dinners in New York & a night in a hotel in Vegas) and you couldn’t even stay as long as you wanted.

With that in mind, is Antelope Canyon worth it?

What is Antelope Canyon?

lower antelope canyon tours

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon. This basically just means it’s a really thin canyon. The gap at the top (the slot) lets beams of light shine down into the canyon and, if you’re there at the right time, you can see the individual beams.

There are actually two separate slot canyons – the Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. You can visit both of them, but to do so you need to book two separate tours with different companies.

The canyons were formed by rainwater and, more specifically, flash floods. It’s still a dangerous area for flash flooding now and the tour companies keep a close eye on the weather to make sure you’re as safe as possible.

How to visit Lower Antelope Canyon

lower antelope canyon tours

Antelope Canyon is on an the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona and you’ll get in to big trouble if you try and access the canyons on your own. You have to go with a tour guide.

There are several tour companies available but they’re basically all the same and run by the same families so it doesn’t really matter which one you pick. We went with Ken’s Antelope tours for our trip in to Lower Antelope Canyon but Dixie Ellis’s tours did the exact same thing as us at the exact same time. The only difference seemed to be that their tour guides wore different colour t-shirts.

Lower Antelope Canyon Tour Experience

We took the standard Lower Antelope Canyon tour with Ken’s Tours which cost $32 each. To our surprise, we were able to get on the next available tour slot when we turned up. I’d read that tours can be fully booked days in advance.

However, it didn’t really seem that they had a limit to the tour size as time slot we were on was then split further into 4 separate groups of about 10 people.

We were then walked over to the entrance of Lower Antelope Canyon where we had to wait in excess of half an hour before we could actually enter the canyon itself. Ken’s tours lined up on one side whilst Dixie Ellis lined up on the other. Every 10 minutes or so we’d move a little bit closer to the stairs that take you into the canyon.

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We could see into the canyon from the top of the stairs and it was absolutely packed. You could barely see the floor or a gap in the people.

Our tour guide didn’t seem very forthcoming with information about the canyon. So what I know about the canyon came from overhearing other tour guides and looking on Wikipedia for this blog post.

lower antelope canyon tours

When we finally climbed down the stairs into the canyon we had tour guides telling us to move further into the canyon (something physically impossible due to the number of people down there).

During one particularly narrow section where we had a few moments to ourselves to take some photos you could hear the tour guide shouting “move along, this bit isn’t very interesting”.

Still, the canyon was spectacular. The colours are incredible and really as as orange and purple-y as you’ve seen in the pictures.

Despite the number of people down there and the constant shepherding from tour guides telling you to hurry up as you progress through the canyon, I still thoroughly enjoyed seeing Lower Antelope Canyon.

lower antelope canyon tours

The only people that were’t being told to hurry up and move on where those who had paid extra to take the photography tour. On the photography tour you’re allowed to take tripods and spend more time getting pictures. However, don’t think you get the canyon to yourself. Every 5 minutes or so you’ll have to wait as yet another tour group tramples through your shot. You can still get great pictures without paying the extra as it’s an extremely photogenic place.

So, is Lower Antelope Canyon worth it?

I still think it would be very hard to be disappointed by Antelope Canyon. It’s gorgeous and definitely pretty special.

However, I think you could pretty easily find other similar canyons without having to pay $32 and deal with huge crowds of people. If I’d known a but more about the area I probably would have headed to another slot canyon.

Alternatives to Lower Antelope Canyon

Arizona and Utah are full of beautiful scenery and there are plenty of alternative slot canyons to visit too. Here are a few suggestions. If you do visit make sure to check the weather and avoid the slot canyons if rain is forecast – you don’t want to end up in a flash flood!

  • Peek-a-boo & Spooky Gulch
  • Singing Canyon on The Burr Trail
  • Buckskin Gulch: the longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwest
  • East Fork of Upper Kaibito Creek
  • Starting Water Wash
  • Butterfly Canyon
  • Water Holes Canyon