Visiting Antelope Canyons: Top tips before you go

Wondering what else to see around Grand Canyon in Arizona? Then read along to find out where and how you can see the amazing slot canyons called Antelope Canyons only hours drive from the Grand Canyon.

Yes, you heard that right. Just two and a half hours away awaits more natural treasures in the Navajo nation near the town of Page in Arizona. If you don’t know, Navajo nation and its community is a self-governed American Indian tribe which is home to several Navajo landmarks and tribal parks. Navajo nation’s footprint spreads across parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico near the State borders.  

If this is your first time going to Antelope Canyons you will want to know the answers to all of the questions below.

Where are Antelope Canyons

A true natural wonder, Antelope Canyons is one of the biggest attractions near the town of Page, AZ. And I say canyon’s’ because there are two of them  – Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon.  Both of them are a type of slot canyons. Due to flowing water the soft red rock has eroded over millions of years to form narrow and deep canyons. So keep in mind these canyons are very prone to flash flooding during heavy rains.

You need a guided tour to visit Antelope Canyons as they belong to private Navajo Nation land.

Only local Navajo natives have the permission to guide you through these canyons. We will talk about how to book a tour later in this post. 

How to photograph Antelope Canyons - beautiful layers formed on rocks due to erosion

Beautiful strokes of brushes that mother nature has marked on the soft red rocks in Antelope Canyons. These marks are due to millions of years of flooding water passing through the slot canyons.

How to get to Antelope Canyons

From Phoenix: If you are landing in Phoenix then it’s roughly four-hour drive from Phoenix to Page, AZ where these Canyons are located.

From Grand Canyon: If you want to head down here from Grand Canyon, then it’s a short two and a half hour drive from the South Entrance of Grand Canyon

From Flagstaff: Since Flagstaff is a popular choice for an overnight stay for people visiting Grand Canyon, from here it is a two-hour drive to Page.

Which Slot canyon to see – Lower Antelope or Upper Antelope or both

Well, the answer depends on how much time you have and what you want to see. Upper Antelope Canyon has high slot walls rising from the ground level. It is also wider so you have more space to walk through it. Whereas in Lower Antelope Canyon you have to go under the ground into narrow crevices using steep stairs. Maneuvering your way around very narrow walking path can be tricky here. TIP: For those who are really claustrophobic might want to lean towards visiting Upper Canyon for this reason. For Upper Canyon tour you will be riding on their trucks to reach the slot canyons. For Lower Canyon, you can just drive by the entrance parking lot. 

Top thing to do in Page, AZ is Upper Antelope Canyons tour

You have to ride these trunks in-order to get to Upper Antelope Canyons

Upper Antelope Canyon is more popular of the two so expect it to be more crowded too. However, we are talking about some really popular slot Canyons in the US. In my opinion, they are both going to be crowded especially if you visit during holidays. We personally only visited Lower Antelope Canyon but our parents who were traveling with us went for Upper Canyon.

Photography tour entry for Lower Antelope Canyon

Entry into the Lower Antelope Canyon through a narrow crevice for the Photography tour. This is normally the exit point for regular tours. You can also see the narrow path inside the slots

Popoular tourist attraction the Antelope Canyons tours can get crowded

The crowd in Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon can be overwhelming depending on what time of the year and day you go

Is the Photography Tour worth it

They have special photography tours in both canyons which is a little bit more expensive than the regular tours. Photography tour has strict guidelines for bringing a DSLR and a tripod for anyone who wants to attend it. We took a photography tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon. In our opinion as photographers, it was totally worth spending the extra cash here for the extra time with a small group of people. 

If you are an enthusiast landscape photographer and really want to avoid a crowded group tour then consider the photography tour.

Our tour guide, a photographer himself, gave us some tips to improvise our shots. He helped us with some creative shots by throwing sand under a light beam or pointing out at some famous shapes inside the canyon. TIP: Due to low lighting conditions inside the slot canyon taking handheld photos might not give you very sharp results. And taking a tripod is not allowed in regular tours so if you want to bring along the tripod, photography tour it has to be.  

Photography in Lower Antelope Canyon with different shapes of rock formations

Different shapes and faces seen on the red rocks due to the result of water erosion over millions of years

Photography in Antelope canyon

Due to low light conditions, you might require a tripod to take sharp shots inside the canyons. Adding a subject in the landscape would mean them staying still for the length of the exposure.. something my husband needs to learn πŸ˜‰

What is the best time to visit Antelope Canyons

Here’s a tip for those of you wondering this questions. Generally speaking, noon is considered to be the best time to visit the canyons to see the light beams. However, our guide mentioned anytime in the early hours or late evening hours are great as well for good lighting inside. Lighting plays a very important role in the color of the rocks in these canyons. Mid-day is when you see light beam inside the canyons especially Upper Antelope Canyon so expect that to be the most popular timeslot.

You can easily do both Antelope Canyon tours on the same day if you have enough time between them.

Let me also add here that visiting in the summer months and holidays is equally proportional to expecting higher crowds here. Unless you are like us and visit during Thanksgiving weekend, a holiday where most Americans go home to celebrate πŸ˜‰ Another plus of visiting later in the year was that we escaped the scorching heat of Arizona. TIP: Don’t forget to carry water, sunscreen, and a hat if you are visiting here in summer months. The popularity of both these Canyons is on a high in the recent past.

Photography of light beams in Lower Antelope Canyon

What a difference throwing sand on a light beam can make. It was a great experience photographing the light beams in Lower Antelope Canyon

Booking a tour

We booked our Lower Canyon tour through Dixie Ellis’ which is located next to another famous Ken’s tour. We are not affiliated with them in any way but we would recommend Dixie because of our great experience.  Regular tour prices are $25 for adults and photography tours are $47. You will also have to pay $8 for Navajo Nation Permit fee on top of these prices.  Dixie Ellis and Ken’s tour only operate the lower Antelope Canyon. Our tour guide told us that the owners of all these different tour companies are basically cousins and/or related in one way or the other. I wasn’t surprised.  

Photography tour in Antelope Canyon is worth the extra money if you are an enthusiast or professional photographer

End of our photography tour, it was a perfect small size of about 6 people. They only take a maximum of 10 people on the photography tour to avoid it being clustered

TIP: It is very important to arrive at least an hour ahead of time to get your tickets. Reserving your tour online isn’t a guarantee that you will get a ticket for that time slot. We originally had planned to visit Upper Canyon tour as well but since we reached only 5 minutes before the tour started they were sold out. Don’t forget the walk-ins who are also waiting to get in. True Story! This happens because you only pay in person when you get there and not online. Luckily we had planned Lower Antelope for next day.  

Navajo tour guide for Antelope Canyons

At the end of our tour, the Navajo native guide played us his handmade made flute

We hope these tips helped you and that you have an amazing time in Antelope Canyons. If you liked this post then do share this with friends and family. And don’t forget to pin it for later πŸ™‚

All you need to know before visiting Antelope Canyon

Touring Antelope Canyon

Happy Traveling!

 

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38 comments on “Visiting Antelope Canyons: Top tips before you go

  1. This is super helpful in planning a visit here! I went a while back and wish I would have read some of this information before. It definitely can be overwhelming with the crowds – I didn’t realize how many people they could pack in there! Still a beautiful sight to see.

    • Even I was shocked how they managed to pack a number of people in that tiny space! I can’t even imagine going there with such crowds in the middle of summer.

  2. Arriving an hour early even though you’ve booked may seem excessive but it really is necessary. We arrived 30 minutes early for our trip but after waiting in line to park then waiting in line at the desk we were only 15 minutes early. The staff said we were too late to join that tour and sent us away to join a trip 3 hours later!

    • I am so happy to read this since now I don’t feel like we were the only ones sent away asked to return 3 hours later! lol Yes, it was the same exact scenario for us too, unfortunately. We decided Upper Canyon was not that wait so we skipped it and went to Horse Shoe bend instead. Luckily we had also booked Lower Cayon for the next day which we arrived way too early. Once bitten twice shy πŸ˜‰

  3. Fantastic tips! I’ve always wanted to go here but really knew nothing about the details of the two canyons. I didn’t even know you needed a guide. I am definitely going to save the name of the company you used for the photography tour. Great read!

  4. Thanks for the review of the photography tour. Visiting Antelope canyon is on my list but I wasn’t sure if the photography tour was really worth it. It looks like it definitely is. You took some beautiful shots.

    • Thank-you Taryn! I think $47 for a photography tour is not bad at all considering there is 1/3 the number of people than the regular tour. It is also not rushed like the regular tour who kept passing by us. Only thing is they ask you must carry a tripod and a DSLR. So even though me and my husband both just wanted to carry one camera between us on this trip, we were forced to carry both our cameras and tripods to Arizona.

  5. Great photos and very helpful things to know for those who have never gone.
    I went a few years ago and would love to go back sometime! This should be on everyones bucket list.

  6. Omg this is amazing!! I want to visit so bad!! Such beautiful shots and suxh a great guide. Good to know where to fly into and what tour to book!! Thank you!!

    • Definitely consider going in winter or autumn season then and do take the photography tour if you are serious about taking landscape photos. You will love it!

    • Thanks Omkar!! Yes do share your photos when you do visit these places πŸ™‚ Well no, unfortunately, we have never even applied to go to the Wave, I know they give only limited passes to enter. However, I have read about another location similar to the Wave which doesn’t limit entry. I will be looking into it on my next trip to the deserts.. lol

  7. We went there four summers ago and fortunately got a space for our family of three. I didn’t expect there would be a lot of people with several tours available. And we only stayed for a night. I agree with you, it’s very popular though it’s an expensive tour, in my opinion.

    • I think these different tour operators have to split timings in the day so they do get packed if it’s a crowded season. I know there are some other not so popular canyons beside these two which probably would be best to avoid crowds but again not sure about the cost. I guess Navajo nation wants to make money from their land somehow .. Ha! πŸ™‚

    • Yes, I always tell my friends who are going to GC to try to fit these canyons too in their plan .. lol Hope you can visit it some other time!

  8. I’ve seen photos from these canyons but I never realized you had to go with a Navajo guide. I think the photo tour would be worth it to have fewer people along and get more time to set up your shots. Great tips about the size of the canyons and claustrophobia, too!

    • Thanks Sherrie! Yes the lower canyon is narrower but totally manageable unless you have severe claustrophobia. Go for the photo tour if you are into landscape photography. Otherwise, go to the upper canyon where there is more light and choose a tour during the time when there won’t be much crowd (like weekdays, non-holidays etc).

    • Thanks a lot Razena! πŸ™‚ Yes we were able to compose some beautiful shots inside the canyon due to the smaller group size and more time we got inside the canyons with photo tour. Noone else in our group was interested in taking their photos though so I was probably the only awkward one who decided to model for my camera .. lol

    • Thank you so much for appreciating our pictures. It did take a lot of efforts to take these.. ha! I hope you can visit someday very soon!

  9. This is definitely an area you want to visit without the overwhelming crowd..! A photography tour seems to be a nice idea, the Canyon’s landscapes are truly beautiful.

  10. I have been wanting to go here for such a long time! Your post includes so much useful information. It’s helpful to know the difference between the upper and lower one. Good to know about the photography tours, too. I love your photos by the way. So gorgeous!

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