Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Antelope Canyon
This post is all about visiting Antelope Canyon in Page Arizona and is a guide with helpful tips to know before you visit these slot canyons.
My own experience: I took the scenic tour at Upper Antelope which lasted about 1 hour total (including drive time – maybe only 40 minutes inside the canyon) and my group had about 12 people. We stopped every few feet (for maybe 1-2 minutes at each stop) to allow time for photography and explanation.
Once we finished the tour, we were ushered back out the same way we came in and then it was back to the ticket office. I visited in January so it was quite chilly and not quite as bright as the summer months but I still loved it – someday I hope to visit Lower Antelope Canyon!
Ready to plan your AZ trip? Read: 3 Day Itinerary for Visiting Northern Arizona
Where is Antelope Canyon in Arizona?
Both Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon are located on Navajo land in Page Arizona about 10 miles from both Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. It’s a remote area located in the middle of red rock and flat land, though the town of Page itself has plenty of restaurants, hotels and grocery stores if you’re planning on spending the night in the area.
But don’t expect shopping malls or anything frivolous; most hotels are very basic, their goal to provide you a base for exploring this unique area, and restaurants are far from 5 star. I actually visited the local Safeway for my lunch and dinner because I just wanted a plain salad!
Can I visit Antelope Canyon without a tour?
The only way to visit both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon is through tour operators that belong to the Navajo nation. Since the canyons are located on Navajo property and are protected, they are not open to the public.
There are benefits to having a tour guide, however, as they take you on a fun and slightly quirky journey through the slots while peppering you with random information and tales about the history of the canyon slots. If you prefer self-guide slot canyon tours, you can look into hiking Buckskin Gulch.
How to Get to Antelope Canyon?
After you meet with your tour group (usually in the parking lot of their office), they will drive you down the road for about 10 minutes before veering off into a private sand-filled road that leads to the canyons. I suggest taking a mask if you have allergies to dust. Those last 10 minutes of the drive are pure dirt roads with dust whipping in your face, ears and any crevice it can get into.
I would recommend bringing some type of cloth you can place over your nose along with sunglasses. The dust gets everywhere so keep your cameras and phones inside a bag to prevent damage to your equipment. I even had dust in my mouth!
Which Antelope Canyon tour is best?
There are two Antelope Canyon tours available for Upper Antelope Canyon (and I believe also Lower Antelope Canyon): the normal scenic tour and the photography tour. No matter which company you go through, those are your two options.
The difference between the two is price and time spent in the canyon. While the scenic tour is meant for the average person who just wants to walk through snapping a few random photos, the photographic tour is intended for the avid photographer who wants to get that perfect shot. It is also twice the cost of the scenic tour but you also get to spend almost twice the amount of time in the canyon itself.
Besides these two tours, you will also have to choose your preferred time slot. Certain times of day will cost more because those are the hours when the sunbeams purportedly stream through the canyon. Again, it’s a great photo opportunity but not a must.
Is Antelope Canyon free?
No. Prices range from $60 for an adult ticket to $75 for a ticket to see Upper Antelope at noon. Photography tours run around $125. Lower Antelope is slightly cheaper starting at around $50.
Which slot canyon should you visit?
If you’re really not a fan of crowds, Lower Antelope Canyon will be your choice as it experiences much less foot traffic than its sister canyon. However, I think both have equally beautiful views so you really can’t go wrong with either.
Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon
There are a few differences between Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon. The first are the numbers of people that visit each. The second difference is the amount of light that enters each canyon. Upper Antelope is said to allow much more light (thus making it better for photos) than Lower Antelope.
However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to capture amazing photography in Lower Antelope especially if you opt to visit during the summer months. The third difference is difficulty in walking through the canyon. Lower Antelope is much more rugged and requires stairs whereas Upper Antelope Canyon is level ground throughout.
Is Antelope Canyon worth it?
It all depends on what your expectations are. I definitely think it’s worth it to see both canyons once in a lifetime. They are truly majestic natural wonders that should be seen. However, I wouldn’t say it’s worth it to return to them year after year. There are other slot canyons you can opt for that allow you to explore at your own leisure and without the high cost.
Tips for your visit to Antelope Canyon
Book in advance
You might think you can just show up at the tour office and be able to get a guided tour booked for that day but that isn’t necessarily the case. Even in winter, tours with Upper Antelope Canyon can sometimes book at least a day in advance. Lower Antelope Canyon is less crowded than Upper Antelope Canyon so you might be able to book the same day.
However, I would still prepare for the possibility of not being able to do a same-day booking. Be sure to book your tour several days in advance especially if you only have a certain amount of time you’re touring Page.
Bring the appropriate camera gear
Depending on the tour you choose, you may or may not be able to take a tripod. If you opt for the photography tour, you are allowed a backpack and tripod. Take both. The dim lighting in the slot canyon is unreal and you’ll be wishing you had a tripod to get that classic canyon shot.
If you aren’t signed up for the photography tour, you are only allowed a handbag, no tripod, and you won’t have much time to change lenses or fiddle with your settings. My recommendation is to bring a friend, someone who you can exchange photos with and a good camera or cellphone that you’re familiar with. You aren’t allowed to use flash to prevent disrupting other people from enjoying the canyon so make sure your camera is good in low light.
As a side note, the guides are super friendly and will volunteer to take your photo. So if you end up going alone like I did, you’ll still be able to get some photos of you; they just might not be the best quality.
Bring the appropriate clothing
The canyon is dusty and cold during winter so be sure to pack a jacket and the appropriate footwear. During summer, it’s possible to trek through with shorts and a tee. If you take a tour with one of the open bus tours, it will be cold during winter. You may see a pile of blankets for your use at the ticket office but as an FYI, they look kind of gross so I’d recommend wearing warm clothing or bringing a scarf instead 🙂
Take photos on the way through…but make sure you turn around to snap photos in the opposite direction
This might not make sense until you actually go on the tour. There are numerous tours that run simultaneously. The canyon is only so big so the tours have all devised a way to allow each group to enjoy their tour without the annoyance of random people in their photos.
Because of this, the guide will inform you that you can only take photos on the way through the canyon and not on the way back (you take the same route). It is tempting to still do it; however, you might end up ruining someone else’s photo and you’ll be stopped by the guides so don’t do it. Instead, as you’re walking through the first time, turn around every few feet and snap your photos looking the opposite way.
There are A LOT of people
I feel like this is one of the most important things to know before your tour just so you can keep your expectations in check. You will not be the only one in the canyon; in fact, there will be at least 8 other groups touring the canyon at the same time as yours and each group has 5-15, maybe more people in it. Unless you go on some super exclusive tour, this will more than likely be your experience.
However, the tour groups do a decent job of timing their tours to allow each group sufficient “alone” time in each section. This affords them the opportunity to take photos without any people in them. It was actually very impressive to watch the guides coordinate their positions and other than the few straggler here and there, it didn’t feel overly crowded.
What to wear in Antelope Canyon
You’ll want to consider the time of year you go. If you are visiting Antelope Canyon during the winter months, make sure you dress warmly. I’d recommend jeans, a tee and a jacket. You may also want to bring a long a hat. The canyon is shaded and does get cold so you’ll be grateful for your layers.
As mentioned above, you’ll be riding in an open bus on some tours and layers again come in handy here. If you’re visiting during summer, the shade will be your friend but of course the ride in the hot sun will have you shedding layers rather than putting them on. For both seasons I would recommend sneakers or boots. The ride and canyons are dusty so unless you don’t mind dirty feet, opt for close-toed shoes.
Next time check out Antelope Canyon X – an awesome alternative for half the price and half the crowds, just down the road! I totally lucked out finding them as I didn’t want to deal with the crowds of regular Antelope Canyons. Eventually, word will spread and they’ll be just as crowded.
I’ve never even heard of that one! Thanks so much for the tip!
Great read! im hoping to go here at some point this year! 🙂
This is absolutely stunning! I have been wanting to get to Antelope and I will refer back to your guide when planning the trip!
Hopefully it helps you!
Wow these are really useful tips! Lol the photos always look like there is no one there. Good to know the reality behind the gorgeous photos. Also great to know that it can get cold and dusty! Thanks so much for sharing these honest advice.
I always thought the same thing and was so surprised by all the crowds haha!
I absolutely loved your photos! It makes me want to go there today.
Thanks for those tips, by the way. I had no idea you aren’t allowed to take a tripod on the other tour and this is one of my most valuable gears, especially in such dark place like that.
About the crowds, I feel so naive for thinking that if you would only go there in the early morning it would be empty… Obviously, hundreds have thought the same. 🙂
Yeah, unfortunately, you are required to use a tour guide for both Antelope Canyons. So that makes spontaneity difficult. But the photography tour looked great and much more relaxed!
Awesome tips! I was just there back in January too! But… I was one of those people that just showed up without booking a tour LOL! And it didn’t work out. It was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment drive by to see if we could go in but obviously couldn’t! So disappointing but all my fault because I didn’t know all of these awesome tips!
Ahhh…I’m so sorry it didn’t work out for you. Honestly, I never would have thought you couldn’t do same-day booking either before going there!
Wow! These photos are absolutely epic. Good to know its best to book in advance, thanks for sharing your tips!
Thanks for the tip. I’m planning my trip for March 2nd this year. Hopefully it’s not a bad time. Looking forward to capture some great pictures.
I hope so too! You’ll get awesome photos. Also make sure you check out Horseshoe Bend as it’s only a few miles away and is another great photo opportunity 🙂
Which company did you specifically book through and which tour? Thanks for the helpful tips we’re going in May hopefully.
It was through antelopcanyon.com (sightseeing tour)! Let me know if you have any other questions!
Wow! These photos are awesome and thanks, Grace for the useful information. I am looking to visit this place this December. By, the way I pre-booked everything.
If I plan to go visit on Dec 20-25 in winter holiday, what is the best time for the upper tour to see the light?
I’m not 100% sure since I didn’t visit at that time but I’d assume that doing the noon tour would be your best best! If you’re really worried about it, just give the tour company a call and see what they recommend 🙂 Either way, day time is great; I loved going mid-morning.
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