I can’t believe we even debated about visiting Antelope Canyon in Arizona.
We had many people tell us it was unmissable, but then we had heard so many other people say it was maybe not worth it.
They complained about the Antelope Canyon tours being overcrowded and described it as waiting in line to take a quick photo of the stand out features. It sounded like a factory line up style of a tour.
This did not appeal to us at all.
The crowds we’ve experienced road tripping across the USA have been pretty intense. Aussies just aren’t used to that, especially out in nature. I just wanted a little space while connecting to awe and wonder.
But since we were only about 40-minutes away from Antelope Canyon when we stayed at Lone Rock Beach on the shores of Lake Powell, we decided we might as well.
No regrets invited.
And regret it we would have indeed.
It was fantastic.
Antelope Canyon is a unique American Southwest experience and not to be missed.
What is Antelope Canyon?
Are you ready to walk into a magical slot canyon created by water that has split and polished rock crevasses over time?
The shapes, colors and textures of the carved canyon walls and how it changed in the light was spellbinding.
Nature has so many surprises in stall for us hidden by just a tiny crack in the ground. Deep underneath is a world that will capture the heart of any who are brave enough to dig a little deeper and explore wider.
The Navajo name for Antelope Canyon is Tsé bighánílíní, which means ‘the place where water runs through rocks’.
The canyon’s English name came from the herds of pronghorn antelope that once roamed freely through the area and entered the canyon to seek shade during the scorching summers.
Our guide also told us the Navajo used the canyon to herd and then hunt the antelope.
Antelope Canyon is actually two canyons – upper and lower – formed over thousands of years as rainwater worked its way through the rock from a higher altitude.
Antelope Canyon first opened to the public in 1997, but really became famous when it was featured as the cover for a National Geographic magazine.
After that, visitors to the canyon exploded and photographers and tourists come from near and far to marvel at its unique, smooth spiraling walls arches and flowing corridors.
You may also recognize it from the old Microsoft screensaver.
Here’s a fun fact:
The most expensive photograph ever sold was of Antelope Canyon. The black and white, Phantom by Peter Like sold for $6.5 million!!!
Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon
I didn’t even realize until we were on our Lower Antelope Canyon tour that there was an upper and a lower canyon.
As our Navajo guide explained, the difference between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon is the size of the canyon and shape.
The upper canyon is wider at the bottom with a narrow opening at the top, which produces beautiful light beams inside the canyon. This is what most people want to see and capture when they visit Antelope Canyon.
Think of Upper Canyon as being shaped like the letter A.
Lower Canyon is much smaller on the canyon floor with a wider opening at the top. Think of it as being shaped like the letter V. More light can enter from above.
We only did the Lower Antelope Canyon tour. But I think the Upper Antelope Canyon would be just as wonderful.
What to Expect at Upper Antelope Canyon
Upper Antelope Canyon is easier to navigate and more touristy. Upper Antelope Canyon is easier to walk through due to its wider bottom but it will be darker than Lower Antelope Canyon.
You will have to ride in a Jeep/ 4×4 to reach the Upper Antelope Canyon which can be bumpy. After that it’s a flat, easy ½ mile walk roundtrip.
Primetime in the Upper Antelope Canyon is when the iconic beams of light in the canyon appear. This will be the herded like cattle moment for you.
But, if your life won’t be complete without that magic shot then go for it. I hope you get $6.5 million dollars out of it.
Upper Antelope Canyon is the only place that runs photography tours and they are typically during Primetime which will be yet another overcrowding moment for you.
The Upper Antelope Canyon tour is more expensive than the Lower Antelope Canyon and tours sell out faster which is why we ended up on the Lower Antelope Canyon tour.
So be sure to book far in advance!
Although we did not experience the Upper Canyon tour, and I’m sure it’s wonderful, I don’t feel we missed out as the Lower Antelope Canyon was such a fantastic experience.
What to Expect at Lower Antelope Canyon?
We experienced the Lower Antelope Canyon tour so can tell you more in-depth information on this tour.
Lower Antelope Canyon has narrower walls and a few staircases. Our kids found a few of the tight squeezes a lot of fun and enhanced the adventure of the experience of them
It is considered more strenuous, however I did not find it so. And even though there were many people visiting it is also considered to have fewer crowds.
It’s a 1/4 mile walk to the entrance, which was no bother to me. I loved coming out at the end and walking beside the opening to the canyon. It was so cool to see the narrow slit that held such beauty underneath.
Although you’ll get the changing colors and light in Lower Antelope Canyon, due to the wider opening at the top, you typically won’t experience the light beams, although we had a couple of faint and narrow ones.
I loved at the end of it how our guide gathered the kids around him in a place in the sand and demonstrated with sand and water how the canyon was formed. It helped us connect better to the incredible creation we had just walked through.
The kids even tried to replicate it back at our campsite with water and sand. This is how we homeschool!
Our Navajo guide was knowledgeable about the rock formations and pointed out various shapes and creatures along the way. He was excellent in taking photos for us and showing us how to capture the unique colors and features.
He knew a lot about our Samsung Galaxy phones and showed us a few features and techniques we didn’t know about!! It was awesome.
While you are here, you might as well stop by Horseshoe Bend. It’s very close by and a spectacular Arizona panorama you don’t want to miss.
Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon. What is the Best Antelope Canyon Tour?
I know this may not always be possible given your available time and budget. It’s not an easy decision to make and to be honest, it could be made for you given what availability is left for either tour when you go to book.
The further you book in advance the higher your chances of getting the Antelope Canyon tour you want the most.
We preferred the Lower Antelope Canyon to the Upper Antelope Canyon.
Here are our recommendations to help you choose whether to do the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon tour
Upper Antelope Canyon Tours
- Photographers who want the magic shot.
- Photographers will get the most out of the photography tour. Best time to visit + experienced guides helping + more time and space to photograph
Lower Antelope Canyon Tours
- Families with kids
- Those wanting more adventure and less crowds
- Looking for a cheaper experience
- Booking last minute
Antelope Canyon Tours
There are two companies that run tours through the Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon: Dixie Ellis and Kens.
Both tour companies are from the same Navajo family – it’s a sister brother competition or collaboration – you decide. There is not meant to be any difference between the two tour operators.
We did our tour through Dixie tours.
If you would like to visit Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon in the high season (May-October) you probably need to book your tickets months in advance.
Although the canyon is only 1,400 feet long, it can take an hour to walk through, and it’s almost impossible to take a bad photograph
Every time the sun moves the colors of the walls change. There is much debate over what time is the best to visit and capture the light and colors perfectly. Our guide told us there was no bad time.
Thankfully the guides are experts at helping you take the best possible picture no matter what time you visit.
Standard tours typically last an hour and cost less than $40 per person; more expensive photography tours allow more time.
Taking a weekday tour may help thin out the crowds, and try to book for the afternoon when the sun is high and shines directly down into the canyon for vivid images.
Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Lower Antelope Canyon Tour
- Be aware of time zone changes. Antelope Canyon is in Arizona but right on the border with Utah. Utah observes daylight savings time but Arizona doesn’t, which can cause problems if you are staying in Utah!
- Be sure to book in advance. These tours are popular and can book out quickly. The earlier you book in advance the better.
- No video filming allowed.
- Our guide recommended the 8 or 9am tour as being the best for light.
- He also said the last tour of the day was good as you don’t have crowds coming up behind you so it feels like a quieter and more spacious experience.
- There really is no bad time to visit. The colors change throughout the day so you’re bound to have an amazing experience no matter when. Other people say the best time to visit Upper Antelope Canyon is 10:30 am and the best time to visit Lower Antelope Canyon is at 1:30 pm.
Planning a Trip to Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Getting to Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon is located just outside the town of Page, Arizona and right near Lake Powell.
Page, Arizona is about 114 miles from the Grand Canyon and 273 miles from Las Vegas and157 miles from Sedona.
Car and RV Rentals
- If you don’t have your own car, check here for rental car options from Las Vegas and from Sedona, or Phoenix.
- You may wish to rent your own RV, campervan or motorhome. Check out Outdoorsy and RV share
Tours to Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Where to Stay in Page, Arizona
You can find over 200 Airbnb cottages, homes and retreats in the Page area. Click here to see available options.