Chances are you’ve seen pictures of Lower 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.
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, Arizona worth it?
What is Antelope Canyon?
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 Antelope Canyon weather to make sure you’re as safe as possible.
Where is Antelope Canyon?
Antelope Canyon is just outside of Page in Arizona.
How to visit Antelope Canyon
Can you go to Antelope Canyon on your own?
No. You cannot go to Antelope Canyon on your own. The land that Antelope Canyon is on is owned by the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona.
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.
All the tours are fairly similar so it’s hard to say which is the best Antelope Canyon tour but here’s some more information.
Ken’s tours or Dixie’s for Antelope Canyon tours?
There are several tour companies available for both Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon but they’re basically all the same. In fact they’re even run by the same families so it doesn’t really matter which one you pick.
We went with Ken’s tours in Antelope Canyon 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. And Dixie Ellis tour groups queued on the right hand side before going down to the canyon, whereas Ken’s customers queued on the left.
Lower Antelope Canyon Tour Experience
We took the standard Lower Antelope Canyon tour with Ken’s Tours. These lower Antelope Canyon tickets 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.
It didn’t really seem that they had a limit to the tour size. The 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. Here 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.
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.
In the canyon
When we finally climbed down the stairs into the canyon we had tour guides telling us to move further into the canyon. This was 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.
Photography tours of Lower Antelope Canyon
The only people that were’t being told to hurry up and move on where those who had paid extra to take the Antelope Canyon photo tour.
On the Antelope Canyon photography tour you’re allowed to take tripods and spend more time getting pictures.
But 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.
How long is an Antelope Canyon tour?
The Antelope Canyon tours are roughly 1.5 hours long besides the photography tour which is 2-2.5 hours long.
A lot of this time is spent queueing to get into the canyon rather than walking through the canyon itself.
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 bit more about the area I probably would have headed to another slot canyon.
Upper vs lower antelope canyon
One of the biggest questions I, and others have, is whether to do an upper or lower antelope canyon tours.
Both the upper canyon and lower canyon are very similar once you’re inside. They are both the same age and were created the same way. You need a tour guide from the Navajo Reservation for both.
Upper Antelope Canyon differs in the sense that the tour begins with a ride on a 4×4 truck to the entrance of the canyon.
One of the main differences between Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon in terms of what you’ll see is that the Upper Antelope Canyon is well known for its light beams. These beams are loved by photographers and while you may experience them a little in the Lower Antelope Canyon they tend to be better in the Upper canyon.
The light beams in Upper Antelope Canyon are more reliable around midday on clear days.
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 for alternative slot canyon in Arizona.
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
Best time to visit Antelope Canyon
The best time of year to visit Antelope Canyon is anytime that counts as off-season. Mainly because the crowds will be a little less but also because it’s a bit cooler.
The tourist season in Page, Arizona tends to be from mid-May to September. I visited in early May and it was still super busy then though.
The time of year and day you visit also depends on whether you’re likely to see light beams or not. 10am-12pm is usually the best time slot for light beams and summer is great for them too since the sun has to be high in the sky. But summer is busiest…
The best months are probably late March/early April or late September/early October, especially when you visit mid-week, for both light beams and less people.
Where to buy Antelope Canyon tickets
You can buy tickets in advance, online or once you get there. We used Ken’s Antelope slot canyon tours which you can book online. I’d recommend making an Antelope Canyon reservation.
How to get to Antelope Canyon
The closest airports to Antelope Canyon are Phoenix and Las Vegas both of which are 5 hours away from Page. It’s a little in the middle of nowhere but it’s a great stop if you’re planning a USA road trip!
If you’ve yet to book flights I totally recommend SkyScanner. I always find the best flight deals on there!
If you want to visit Antelope Canyon then the best way is to hire a car and head towards Page! Check out Rentalcars.com for the best deals on rental cars (plus it’s super easy to use too!).
Antelope Canyon to Grand Canyon
Getting from the Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon is pretty easy, you just need to head east on the AZ-64 and then north on the US-89 towards Page. You’ll see signs once you get close.
The drive from the Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon is just under 2 hours long so it’s a good day trip if you’re visiting the Grand Canyon National Park.
Where to stay near Antelope Canyon
If you’re planning on staying in the area and are looking for Antelope Canyon hotels then take a look at the following suggestions for hotels in Page, Arizona. There’s plenty to do near Antelope Canyon such as Horseshoe Bend and touring Lake Powell.