In Navajo Nation near Page, Ariz., Antelope Canyon is famous for its striated sandstone slot canyons adorned with the most beautiful shades of orange. These walls were formed over millions of years by water and wind erosion, and the two canyons are known by the Navajo people as “the place where water runs through the rocks” (upper) and “the spiral role arches” (lower). If you’re visiting the Southwest during any time of year, pack your camera and make time for an Antelope Canyon tour.
Where is Antelope Canyon Located?
Antelope Canyon is about 10 minutes from Page, Ariz., near the intersection of Hwy. 89 and State Route 98. On Navajo land, it is located east of Grand Canyon National Park, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
To reach Antelope Canyon by car, it takes about 2 hours from Flagstaff, 4.5 hours from Phoenix, 4.5 hours from Las Vegas and 8.5 hours from Los Angeles.
Can You Go to Antelope Canyon Without a Tour?
No, you cannot go to Antelope Canyon without a tour. Located in the Navajo Nation, a tribe-authorized tour guide is mandatory for visiting both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. Part of every tour includes guides sharing their knowledge about the area’s history and geology. You can find a list of operators through the Navajo Nation’s park website at navajonationparks.org/guided-tour-operators/antelope-canyon-tour-operators/. It’s best to make arrangements ahead of time through the individual companies, though some operators accept walk-ins, depending on the season and day-of availability.
In addition to the $8 Navajo park entrance fee per person, guides cost anywhere from $50 to $112 per person depending on your tour selection.
What’s the difference between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons?
Upper Antelope Canyon is an above-ground slot canyon where sun beams through the opening and sand spills from the top of the walls, some as tall as 120 feet. The flat trail through the canyon is fairly narrow and tight. But because it is a shorter walk and is renowned for its photo opportunities, this canyon tends to be more crowded.
Lower Antelope Canyon is an underground slot canyon, accessed by ascending and descending a series of stairs with handrails more than 100 feet below the stream bed. This canyon is narrow at the opening and grows wider toward the floor. You exit the same way you entered via the staircases. It’s spectacular in its own way but tends to be less crowded.
How Long is the Antelope Canyon Hike?
Most tours begin in Page or at the park’s entrance off Hwy. 89. Depending on which tour operator you choose, you are either driven or led on foot to the canyon entrance. Therefore, the walk to the canyon entrance varies. Ask your guide for the precise walking distance.
Once inside the canyons, the hikes are relatively short. The Upper Antelope Canyon hike is about 0.5 miles round trip (.25 miles through the canyon plus another .25 mile outside walk to get back to the parking area). The Lower Antelope Canyon is about 1.1 miles round trip. Regular tours usually take about 1 hour, while photography tours can last up to 2.5 hours.
Is Antelope Canyon a Difficult Hike?
Neither tour is considered strenuous. However, it’s important to note that both trails feature sandy terrain and begin above 4,000 feet in elevation. They’re also both narrow, only as wide as three feet in some places but up to 15 feet elsewhere, so anyone who’s uncomfortable in enclosed spaces should be advised.
In Upper Antelope Canyon, the trail is mostly flat and level. But once visitors exit the one-way tour, they must ascend and descent stairs to get back to the parking area.
In Lower Antelope Canyon, hikers must ascend and descend a series of stairs inside the canyon and return the same way they came. Neither trail is open to wheelchairs or strollers.
When Is the Best Month to Visit Antelope Canyon?
The canyons are open year-round for tours, but the most popular time to visit, especially for photographers, is midday from March through October when the high sun creates light shafts through the canyon. July is the hottest month averaging about 84 degrees, while December is the coldest month averaging about 35 degrees.
It’s uncommon for Antelope Canyon to close for rain or snow, but it’s possible especially during Arizona’s monsoon season from June to September. Flash flooding occurs in this area, so defer to your tour company for the best practices and most up-to-date information during this season. The off-season between November and February is still a spectacular time to visit, when the weather is mildly cold and the crowds thin.
What Should I Bring on My Tour?
Sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots are recommended for navigating the sandy trails and staircases. Opt for a small backpack rather than a large frame backpack because of the narrow openings. Some tour operators only allow one pack per family/group, so check ahead of time to find out what you can carry with you.
Bring only what you need for a few hours, including water for each person. The temperature inside the canyons doesn’t vary too widely from the temperature outside the canyons, so dress accordingly but there’s no need to pack an excess of layers.
While most hand-held cameras are allowed and encouraged, leave behind your GoPros, live action cameras, tripods, selfie sticks, and monopods because they’re not allowed. Neither are pets and service animals.
As of April 2022, the Navajo Nation was still requiring masks for the duration of tours, including during photos.