Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located in Page, Arizona and is one of the American Southwest’s greatest treasures. For the Navajos, the canyons are a sacred land and for good reason. There are two canyons in Antelope—Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon—each created by the carving and sculpting of wind and water over thousands of years.
The Navajo name for Lower Antelope Canyon is Hazdistazí or in English, “spiral rock arches.” In comparison to Upper Antelope, Lower Antelope Canyon requires a tad bit more walking to get to, although it’s nothing too tough or strenuous. I thought the hike was extremely cool because you get to climb down into the canyons—imagine, walking down into a crack in the earth! Because of its ‘tougher’ accessibility, Lower Antelope Canyon is supposed to be the ‘less’ crowded tour. However, when Vivian and I went, it was still pretty darn crowded. I guess this means the popularity of the place has skyrocketed over the years.
To visit the canyon, you’ll need to reserve tickets for a tour. There are only 2 tours in Lower Antelope Canyon—Ken’s Tours and Dixie Ellis. We went with the Ken’s Tour for 1 hour 15 minutes at $20 per person.
Upon our arrival, our guide led us on a short 5-minute walk to the canyon from the check-in center. From the outside, the canyon looks like a dusty barren land (helllllloooo Mad Max Fury Road). The inside however, was a whole different story.
As I stood in the canyon surrounded by its massive walls, I instantly knew what others meant when they said the canyons were sacred ground. The walls were unbelievably beautiful. The carvings were so intricate and smooth—as if Mother Nature knew exactly how she wanted to sculpt the land. It was intense how beautiful a simple act like the sunlight hitting the rocks can be. We booked a tour for 10:30am and got to experience the sunbeams as it moved across the sky, falling ever so slightly on the grounds. It pierced through the inside, creating dazzling displays of color, light, and shadow. And the walls — they were so brightly lit in orange. It was truly magical. Mother Nature was definitely glowing. I can’t even begin to describe the experience so I hope these photos will show what I lack in words.
Things to know
- If you don’t have a nice camera, your phone works wonders too. To bring out the orange hue of the canyons, our tour guide advised us to change the settings on our phones: iPhone = Chrome setting, Samsung Galaxy S5 = IOS to 800 and change setting to cloudy. Personally, I kept the setting on my iPhone on ‘none’ because I liked capturing a more natural lighting.
- There is an $8 Navajo fee per person, per visit. If you plan to visit both canyons on the same day, you only need to pay a one-time Navajo fee in cash only. Our trip total for both Lower and Upper (with the tours we went with) totaled $70 ($42 + $20 + $8).
- To photograph the deep purples and orange hues of the canyons, reserve a morning or late afternoon tour. Anytime except 10:00am-12:30pm works. They are less visible when the sun is highest in the sky.
- To capture the breathtaking sunbeams, plan a visit for the opposite. The best times would be from 10:00am-12:30pm.
Before the trip, I did intensive research on both Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon. Some visitors said the Lower Antelope Canyon was better for the deep purples and oranges hues while Upper Antelope Canyon is better for photographing sunbeams. From my experience, I think as long as you make it to either canyon during the right time (morning or late afternoon for deep hues vs. midday for sunbeams), you’re good. Make sure to buy tickets well in advance if you’re looking to book a specific time. If you can, visit both canyons as they each offer different views into the slot canyons. It’d be a crime to experience one without the other.