Antelope Canyon is one of the most widely photographed slot canyons in the Southwest. Vibrant photos from inside the ravine have been featured in National Geographic and used as a stock image for Apple products. Here is everything you need to know about making a trip to the Navajo Reservation near Page to explore the colorful canyons.
Upper vs. Lower
The first thing to know is that there are two canyons: Upper — "The Crack" — and Lower — "The Corkscrew." Both require guided tours.
The main difference between the two canyons is their overall shape, said Brenda Catron, the fee collection supervisor of Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park and Antelope Canyon for Navajo Parks and Recreation.
Upper Antelope Canyon is in the shape of the letter "A" where the canyon has a narrow opening at the top and the walls widen toward the bottom. Tour guides drive visitors about 3.5 miles down a sandy road to the entrance and guests walk right into the canyon.
People visiting Lower Antelope Canyon park in a lot about 10 minutes away from the canyon and walk with their guide to the entrance. Visitors climb down several ladders to the bottom of the canyon to start the tour and climb back out at the end. This canyon has the opposite shape of a "V," Catron said, with the canyon walls opening wider at the top of the canyon and tapering down at the ground.
Lower Antelope Canyon has one-way traffic with visitors entering at one end and leaving at the other. Upper Antelope Canyon has two-way traffic so visitors can return to the tour vehicles.
General or photography tour?
General and photography tours are offered at both canyons.
General tours are cheaper and shorter than photography tours and do not allow tripods. The guide shuffles a group of 15 to 25 people into the canyon, points out where distinct shapes, such as a shark head or chile pepper, can be seen and pauses throughout the tour to take your photo and give photos tips.
Regular tours last about 90 minutes in the upper canyon and about an hour in the lower canyon. Lower Antelope Canyon tours depart from the visitor center every 20 minutes, but the wait outside the canyon entrance to go down the narrow ladders can be up to two hours on busy days when numerous groups get stacked up, our guide told our group. Luckily, I only had to wait about 20 minutes.
This summer, guide companies at Lower Antelope Canyon have decided not to offer photography tours between March and November to ease traffic in and out of the canyon, and to enable more visitors to explore the canyon each day.
Photography tours at both locations generally require a tripod or monopod and a mirrorless or DSLR camera. If you're visiting Antelope Canyon and want to set up a tripod to capture shots at your leisure and without people in them, book a photography tour.
I'm just an amateur on a budget so I decided to tour Lower Antelope Canyon. I felt I had plenty of time to take photos I was happy with on my DSLR and without using a tripod.
The least expensive tour is the hourlong general tour at Lower Antelope Canyon. It costs $25 plus the $8 Navajo Parks fee. You can tour Upper Antelope Canyon for about an hour and a half starting from $38, which includes the Navajo Parks fee. The most expensive tour is the night photography tour at Upper Antelope Canyon for $208, which is two hours long and includes the park fee.
Best time to visit
Most people go to Antelope Canyon for the photos, Catron said. During the summer, the best lighting at Lower Antelope Canyon is before 11 a.m. At Upper Antelope Canyon, it's between 11 and 1 p.m.
Photos with light beams and dust or sand are taken at Upper Antelope Canyon because of the way the light angles into the canyon when the sun is high.
Some tour guides said May, when I toured Lower Antelope Canyon, is the best time of year to visit because of the way the sunlight reflects off the canyon walls. But a guide who has been giving tours at Upper and Lower for several years said no two photos ever look the same regardless of the time of day or year they were taken. The colors and lighting are always changing.
Before your tour
No matter which tour you choose, make sure to eat beforehand, wear closed-toed shoes and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Restrooms are not available in the canyons, although there are port-a-potties in the parking lot of Lower Antelope Canyon.
Check the weather forecast for extreme heat or rain. The companies cancel tours if the weather is too hot or if there is a flash-flood warning.