The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon is Tsé bighánílíní, which means “the place where water runs through rocks.”
Slot canyons are truly one of nature’s hidden treasures. There are two canyons in Antelope, with Upper Antelope Canyon being the more popular tour due to its easier accessibility. The canyon is a short ¼ mile walk on flat ground. There is no climbing or squeezing through walls, no twists, and no turns required (which I think takes away the fun of walking through slot canyons). Still, it is quite literally a dream paradise for photographers.
To visit Upper Antelope Canyon, you will need to reserve a ticket with a tour company. There are 7 different tour companies in Upper Antelope Canyon. My friends and I went with Roger Ekis Tour for a fee of $40 per person (plus a $2 base fee). The tour lasted about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
After we checked in, our tour guide piled 16 of us into a massive jeep (think a Safari ride and then times that by 2) through the dusty terrains of Arizona. We zoomed by by wild grazing cows, sandy potholes, and miles of nothingness as the winds slapped us all in the face, and teased us with damaging eye sores. Low key, the bumpy 20 minute ride was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Our group got to Upper Antelope Canyon midday (1:30pm) and were able to catch the deep purple and orange hues the canyons are known for. This was a totally different experience than if you were to come during a peak sun hour (when the sun is highest in the sky) for the bright orange sunbeams.
I loved the dark hours of the later tour. The dimness made for a more quiet and intimate experience. Even though the canyon was overflowing with people, I felt alone—and it was the kind of solitude that keeps you lost in thought. It was a peaceful feeling. I was only brought back to reality when our guide would chimed in every now and then to discuss the history of the canyon and explain where to stand for the best photos.
Each look at the canyon was another experience on its own. The different hues, the way the sun hits the top of the canyon, the light that shines through, the spiral of the walls, the deepness of the carvings—it was all so magical. It’s insane the way Upper Antelope Canyon was carved by wind and water. It’s humbling to be able to witness the works of Mother Nature over thousands of years. I don’t think I blinked throughout the entire tour, everything was so beautiful, I didn’t want to miss anything.
Things to Know:
- In addition to the tour fee, 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. Cash only!
- 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.
If you end up planning a trip out here— which you should!— make it a weekend road trip and visit both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. Experience the different characteristics and the contrasting lightshow of each canyon during different parts of the day. I’ve already added Upper Antelope to my list of “must-return” travel destinations.