Visiting Antelope Canyon: 8 Things You Should Know

Visiting Antelope Canyon can be the highlight of your trip to Arizona. As you’re surrounded by the red canyon walls, carved by nature over millennia, it’s easy to see why the Navajo people hold this place sacred. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon, created by water rushing through the sandstone during flash floods. The water carves a winding path through the stone, forming round and waving walls marked with delicate lines.

We visited the canyon a few years ago. It was one of the more expensive items on our itinerary and I had wondered if it would be worth it. It was. In this post, I’m going to share with you some insights and tips for visiting Antelope Canyon. I hope these will help you make the most of your trip to this majestic place.

Update: This post has been updated to include more information.

Visiting Antelope Canyon

Things you should know before visiting Antelope Canyon –

1. Visiting Antelope Canyon during a flash flood is dangerous.

When it’s raining upstream, tours can be canceled without prior notice. Tour operators should refund your money if that happens, but check their website to make sure. Flash floods are a serious threat. People have been killed in slot canyons, getting caught up in flash floods.

Antelope Canyon itself has claimed its share of lives, unfortunately. I don’t mean to deter you by being too morbid, but if you’re curious about Antelope Canyon deaths, then it’s worth noting that 11 tourists lost their lives in the canyon back in 1997. With no early warning system in place, they had no idea a flash flood was coming in. You can read the story of their guide here. He was the only survivor of the incident.

Fortunately, things have changed after that. An early warning system has been put in place, and visitors are no longer allowed in the canyon when there’s a high flood risk. So, if this happens to you, please don’t be mad at them. Floods post a very real risk.

2. Antelope Canyon is a Navajo Tribal Park

Some people think Antelope Canyon is a national park. I can actually see why. It would have certainly become a national park had it not been on Navajo land. It is one of several Navajo tribal parks, maintained by tribal authorities.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering. Antelope Canyon is not in Utah. It’s in Arizona. I know this may sound silly but people actually Google for “Antelope Canyon, Utah”, so worth mentioning.

3. Mind the timezone

Navajo territory follows Daylight Saving Time (DST) during summer. Most areas in Arizona do not. That means it’s one hour earlier in the Navajo reservation.

If you’re visiting Antelope Canyon and arriving from outside the reservation on the same day, adjust your timetable accordingly.

4. There are two Antelope Canyons: The lower and the upper

It is the same canyon but there are two separate points where you can visit: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. The upper canyon is the more popular one. It’s wider and more accessible with the entry point being on the ground level. The lower canyon has a narrower and steeper entry point and visitors go down several flights of stairs.

Climbing the steps at the lower Antelope Canyon
Climbing the steps at the Lower Antelope Canyon

Visiting Lower Antelope Canyon5. Visiting Antelope Canyon is limited to guided tours only

The regulations of the Navajo Tribal Parks Authority state that you can only visit Antelope Canyon with a Navajo guide.

Guided tours are available throughout the year for both the Upper and Lower canyons.

You can choose between a general tour which lasts about an hour or a more slow-paced photography tour which can last up to two hours. Park regulations limit all visits to no more than two hours.

Upper Antelope Canyon Guided Tours

There are three official tour companies that can take you to the upper Antelope Canyon. Tour operators can usually pick you up from the town of Page, or you can drive to the parking lot, closer to the canyon’s southern entrance and be picked up there. They will then drive you on their 4WD trucks to where the tour begins.

Upper canyon tour operators:

Lower Antelope Canyon Guided Tours

There are two companies offering guided tours to the lower part of the canyon. They are located right across from one another next to the northern entrance to the canyon. Visitors leave their cars in the parking lot and it’s a short hike from there to the entrance.

Lower canyon tour operators:

Ken’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours

Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours

6. Antelope Canyon Entrance Fees

Visiting Antelope Canyon is expensive. The guided tours companies charge $40-$50 per person for the tour itself (discounts available for children under 12)  and there is an additional $8 fee to be paid to the Navajo Tribal Parks. There is also a 6% sales tax (collected by the Navajo authorities).

If you want to save on cash, travel to the lower canyon and start your tour there. That will be cheaper than getting one of the tours which drive you to the canyon.

7. Be prepared to rough it for a bit

You’d think that these fairly exuberant fees will get you some tender loving care… but they don’t. Visiting the upper canyon, you will be thrown around in a 4WD truck across the desert. Not recommended for pregnant women, or those suffering from back pain and other health issues. Pretty uncomfortable for the rest of us too.

If you drive to the lower canyon, you have to go down (and then up) five flights of stairs. This is what we’ve done and frankly, the stairs were not much of a problem. However, be prepared for an overall dismal experience before entering the canyon. You’re expected to wait for at least 45 minutes in the heat of the Arizona desert – even if you booked your tour in advance. There’s some shade but no air conditioning.

The bathrooms leave a lot to be desired too… If you like yours clean and modern, make sure you find a place to go before heading out for the tour.

Bathrooms next to the lower antelope canyon

8. Antelope Canyon Accommodation

Antelope Canyon is near Page, AZ – a small town in the Navajo reservation. The town has several major attractions, including Antelope Canyon, Glen dam, Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge, and the Horseshoe Bend.

With so many tourists pouring into town, accommodation tends to be expensive. Make sure you book in advance, or you’ll be left with the least desirable spots (and sometimes with none at all).

Here are some good choices for motels and hotels in Page, AZ. This is the
“Deals Finder” by Booking.com so you can be sure you’re seeing the best deals in Page. Trust me, you’ll need ’em.
Booking.com

The Antelop Canyon FAQ

Over the years, we’ve had questions from visitors about visiting Antelop Canyon, so I’ve decided to put them into an FAQ. Here goes.

How to get to Antelope Canyon?

Antelope Canyon is near the town of Page, AZ. It’s a short 1o minute drive from town, and there’s plenty of parking space near the ticket booths. If you don’t have a car, or don’t want to be driving yours, some tour operators will gladly shuttle you from Page itself.

Antelope Canyon from Las Vegas

The shortest route from Vegas to Page is via i-15, and then through Kanab, Utah. The drive takes about 5 hours to complete, so most people plan on staying in Page for at least one night. There’s plenty to do there, actually, so if you have an additional day, you won’t get bored. Renting a boat and sailing on Lake Powell would be my recommendation. My kids absolutely loved that particular experience.

If you have more time, you can get to Page – or return from it – via the Grand Canyon National Park. This would become a longer drive – around 7 hours – but hey, you’ll be visiting the Grand Canyon! If you go that route, make sure to include the historic Route 66 section between Oatman and Seligman in your itinerary.

Antelope Canyon from Phoenix, AZ

You can drive to Antelope Canyon from Phoenix via route 17 and road 89. If you have the time, take the detour to visit Sedona, on highway 89A. It’s a gorgeous scenic byway, that’s well worth the extra time. Going straight – without the detour, this drive should take you about six hours.

What can you bring with you to Antelope Canyon?

That depends on your tour operator’s policies. On our tour, we had no limitations. While you can’t eat and drink once inside the canyon, we could bring our bags and backpacks. However, some tour operators mention on their website that they don’t allow backpacks. So, again, check the conditions before booking your tour.

Can you bring a young baby along?

Again, that depends on your tour operator’s policy, so make sure you check with them before making the reservation. You definitely can’t take a stroller into the Lower Canyon because of the ladders. As for a baby backpack, I don’t think I would have been comfortable wearing one in the Lower Canyon. Some parts of the hike were simply too narrow. It would have been possible to take off a backpack and pass the baby along, but  you’d have to really be careful.

Are the ladders in Antelope Canyon safe and/or scary?

The ladders are in the lower canyon and they felt very safe to me. I have fear of heights and had no problem with them. They weren’t too long, and felt very stable.

Is this a difficult or technical hike?

Nope. I’m not a very fit person and had no issue with the hike. It’s not too fast – everyone stops for pictures all the time – and the ground is fairly level (with the exception of the ladders themselves).

When is the best time of day to visit Antelope Canyon?

That’s something a lot of people ask. The guides usually recommend early morning or afternoon, thanks to the angle of the sun. Personally, I think that this is a consideration that’s more relevant to professional photographers. We went on a mid-day tour and had a great time (will be sharing photos in a minute – they seem pretty good to me).

When’s the best time in the year to visit Antelope Canyon?

Tours are held all year long. Summertime is the busy season because that’s when people travel most. However, Page is super hot during summertime, and while it’s cool in the canyon itself, IMO it’s too hot to enjoy other activities in the area. Winter time in Page is ok but it might be too cold if you want to work the Grand Canyon or Bryce Canyon into your itinerary while in the area. With that in mind, autumn and spring are probably the best times for visiting Antelope Canyon and the area.

Visiting Antelope Canyon – Is it worth the hassle?

So, between the expensive tour in an expensive town and waiting for an hour in the heat of the desert with no decent bathrooms – should you even be visiting Antelope Canyon?

Yes. You should.

Antelope Canyon is a bucket list item. The rock formations are amazingly beautiful and serene. Yes, the tour is crowded and can even feel a little bit rushed but you’ll be spending it feeling in total awe of the beauty of nature.

It’s said to be one of the most photographed places on earth. That may be so but truly, it’s a place you have to be at in order to experience the magic for yourself. I really don’t want the last photo in this post to be that of the nasty toilets, so I’ll wrap it up with a few more of the pictures we took during our visit –

Lower Antelope
There are some narrow passages in the Lower Antelope Canyon but nothing was too uncomfortable.
lower-antelope
Even the rubble was photogenic!
lower-antelope-canyon2
A close look at the canyon walls, made of Navajo sandstone
lower-antelope-canyon
One of my sons hiking the canyon. I think this photo can give you a sense of how deep this slot canyon can be.
lower-antelope4
Beautiful formations wherever you turn your head.

I hope you find this post useful. If you do, please share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. And, as always, comments are welcome!

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. I know it’s a silly questions but how narrow are the passages, I’m a plus size women and worried that it might be a little tight from what I’m reading. I can walk for miles that is not the problem.

    1. Hi Mary,
      Fellow plus-size woman here :wave: There were a couple of points where we all had to bend a little – people of all sizes. It was not too narrow at all for me. The canyon was just taking a turn in a way that made everyone sort of bend sideways a little bit. When that happens, everyone touches the walls a little bit but no one had to squeeze through, including my self (Dress size 26 if that helps!)

  2. Also when visiting the canyons please DO NOT forget to drink water, plenty of water! This dry heat not humid heat, you need to drink plenty of water when visiting Arizona or anywhere around Arizona.

    1. Great point, Micko!

  3. Can we tour both upper and lower in the same day?

    1. Also, do we need to make a reservation for the tour in advance…as in now if we plan to go there around May 8th or 9th

      1. Hi Joleen,

        I think that if you want to do both Upper and Lower on the same day, I would make reservations in that case. Just to make sure you have everything in order. You’ll be visiting midweek and before Memorial Day so I *think* you could probably do without reservations. We were there in September after Labor Day and had no problem getting on the next tour (there were four of us). However with two tours, you may want to make sure you have them spaced with enough time in between.

  4. I’m wondering if you know anything at all about taking a tour with a 1year old? I’m reading of various tour company sites that backpacks including baby carriers are not allowed?! Nor are carseats for the drive. I see in your photos someone has on a backpack and I’ve read reviews of people taking their young children, but no one addressed the issue of needing to carry a baby or get them to the canyon safely…. any help would be appreciated!

    1. Excellent question. We carried our backpack in and no one told us anything but it was a small one. I have to say, on our tour, I didn’t get the impression that they were too concerned with anything touching the rock. As far as I know, the drive in their vehicles is a makeshift kind of operation and people don’t even wear seat belts (the ones we saw a couple of years ago weren’t). To be honest, with a baby, I would just arrive in my own vehicle. Even if this means doing the lower canyon tour which is narrower.
      I found this video of someone touring the Lower canyon with a baby in a backpack –
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIjVAGNmYHY
      I also found this thread in Trip Advisor where several people mentioned taking their baby to the tour without a problem. Including this quote –

      the lady at the lower canyon’s ticket counter mentioned that a baby backpack would be better (vs a sling)

      I usually would advise people to call the operators and find out in advance via the phone. To be totally honest, my general impression of how they run things over there is that they would just let you do whatever the person in the counter or the guide feels is ok at that moment. Fortunately, I also felt like as long as you pay for the ticket, they don’t really care about much else… This isn’t like a national park with rangers and clear written rules. Here’s what you could do though – email them and try to get an answer in writing. Then print that email and bring it along with you. That’s what I would do for my own peace of mind. Good luck and I’d love to hear an update after your visit! Enjoy Antelope Canyon!

  5. Thank you so much for the information you’ve provided. My husband and I are making 2018 our year of travels. He’s taking me on our first trip of the year at the end of the month. He chose Page Az and Antelope Canyon because next week is my birthday and I’ve always wanted to go. We’ve booked our hotel and found we needed tips as to where to go/do from there. You taking the time to share your tips with the rest of us has aleveated a lot of stress. Thank you, thank you!

    1. I’m so glad you found this post helpful! I’m sure you’re going to have a fantastic time in page, especially with it being off-season and not so hot. There’s more to do in Page so if the weather is nice, why not rent a boat and go on the lake? We did that and it was one of the highlights of our trip! Enjoy your trip whatever you choose to do and happy birthday!

  6. Your pictures are gorgeous. I much appreciate the info. Time zone info is confusing. From what I understand, the Navajos at Antelope Canyon tours are using the same time (Standard Time) year round as Page AZ does, even though most of their nation elsewhere in AZ does use Daylight Saving Time.

    1. Hi Lorrie,

      Time zones in that area of Arizona are very confusing indeed! I have to say, I didn’t notice a difference between the Antelope canyon tours and the rest of Page. I’m pretty sure they use local time. Might be best to give them a phone call to make sure though, just in case.

  7. Thanks for the info! Is the lower canyon a 1-way tour, meaning the entrance and the exit are 2 different places, or do you come back via the same entrance again? Thanks.

    1. Hi Nermin, Yes it was a one-way tour. We had to walk for a bit before entering in one end and then came out at another point. We never had to turn back.

  8. Thank you so much for the detailed/great information. I booked with Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours and their fee is much more affordable.

    1. Hi Jen-Lien, I’m so glad you found the post helpful. If you can, come back and add a comment with your own tips for other users to see. I hope you have an awesome visit to Antelope Canyon!

    2. Hi Jen-lien, did you complete the tour? Did you like it? Trying to book it for December!

      Thanks,
      Kiran

      1. Kiran — i just went on my tour with Dixie Ellis this past saturday 10/21 and it was absolutely breathtaking. I actually booked the kayak combo tour, so you can kayak through another portion of antelope canyon, and it was an unforgettable day. Highly recommend. Worth noting, i am not an outdoorsy person and saturday was my first time kayaking! They took great care of us!!

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