If you are outdoorsy, into hiking, or a fan of the National Park scene, it is likely that you have heard of Antelope Canyon. While already a well-known tourist destination in the Southwestern United States, its popularity has exploded in recent years, largely thanks to social media and the stunning photos that have taken the Internet by storm. This blog post covers everything you need to know about how to visit Antelope Canyon and make the most out of this bucket-list tourist spot.
Antelope Canyon is classified as a slot canyon and is located in Page, AZ. Slot canyons are formed when water rushes through sandstone or limestone and erodes the rock formation. This can take hundreds of thousands of years to achieve! When I walked through Upper Antelope Canyon, you could see a large tree trunk in the top of the canyon where the water washed it there and it got stuck. It’s CRAZY if you really think about it!
Website Disclaimer: I visited Antelope Canyon in April 2023. Although everything is accurate as of the publication of this post, keep in mind that prices, attractions, and information may change with time.
Fun Facts About Antelope Canyon/Navajo Nation
Things to Know Before Touring Antelope Canyon
1. You MUST Book A Tour Guide
The Navajo Nation requires you to have a tour guide to visit Upper and/or Lower Antelope Canyon. This is largely due to preservation efforts that the Native American people employ to keep the canyons in pristine condition (free of trash, graffiti, vandalism, etc.).
I booked an Upper Antelope Canyon tour through Adventurous Antelope Canyon and had an amazing experience. My guide – Roman – was energetic, informative, and willing to take photos of our group in the canyon. He also knew of the best spots to take photos throughout the tour. To book a tour with Adventurous Antelope Canyon, click here. To read more details about my tour, including a link to my tour review blog post, go to the “What to Expect During Your Tour” section of this post.
2. The Location Will (Likely) Mess with Your Phone’s Time Zone
***This is largely one of the most important tips I could give someone who wants to tour Antelope Canyon.***
Antelope Canyon is located in Page, AZ, which is right on the border of Utah. Arizona as a state DOES NOT observe daylight savings time, but because of the proximity to Utah (which DOES observe it), your phone could pick up the location of the Utah towers and adjust to a different time zone.
Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this, and you can do it one of two ways:
- Before leaving on your trip, set your phone’s clock to Phoenix, AZ time zone. On an iPhone, you can do this by going into Settings –> General –> Date & Time –> unselect “Set Automatically” –> click “Time Zone” –> type in Phoenix, AZ. Ta da! You’re all set. Just don’t forget to switch your time zone back to “Set Automatically” once you’re done.
- If you prefer to not temporarily change your time zone, you can go into your clock on your iPhone, select “World Clock,” and add Phoenix, AZ. If the clock on your phone does jump around, you can go into your world clock and double check the time against the Phoenix location.
About halfway through my drive up to Page, I noticed the clock on my phone changed to daylight savings time. If I went by this time, it would have resulted in me arriving to my tour an hour AHEAD of when I was supposed to be there.
3. Put the Top Up
If you drive a Jeep, convertible, or anything else that results in you not being completely enclosed in your vehicle, this one’s for you.
I drove to Page, AZ from Sedona and did not expect the drive to be as windy as it was. I also did not expect there to be sand everywhere once I got into the parking lot for my tour. (The sand wasn’t deep, but it was enough to be messy!) Combine the wind and the sand, and you already know you’re going to have a mess to clean up.
In other words, leave your doors on, your top up, and don’t roll your windows down. Otherwise, you’ll spend part of your trip at the nearest car wash, vacuuming the sand out of your car like I was. Did I mention the sand has a red tint to it, and you’ll likely also need a wet rag or paper towel to wipe the excess dust off of your seats once you’re done vacuuming? You’re welcome. 🙂
4. Dress Accordingly
One of my questions going into this tour was “will I get dirty?” In other words, “do I need to wear old shoes, clothes, etc.? “
You don’t necessarily get dirty, but you do get sandy. Sand falls down from the rocks in the canyon, so you will have to brush the sand off of you when you’re done. After the tour, I had to take my tennis shoes off and dump the sand out of them. But you won’t be climbing any rocks or getting dirty in any other way.
The following is a good checklist of things to wear and/or bring with you to your Antelope Canyon tour:
- Closed-toed shoes – tennis shoes are fine; hiking boots are not necessary as you won’t be climbing rocks or walking on any uneven surfaces
- Jacket with pockets – it is 10 degrees colder in the canyon than it is outside. Plus, you aren’t allowed to bring a bag on the tour, so having pockets to put your cell phone in is a good idea.
- Sunglasses (to prevent sand from falling in your eyes)
- Mask or face covering (again, due to sand)
- Bottled water – this isn’t completely necessary as you won’t be on a strenuous hike; you will also be out of the sun for the majority of the tour. BUT – everyone in my group had water nonetheless.
5. No Bags Allowed
As mentioned in the previous section, you are NOT allowed to bring a bag to your Upper Antelope Canyon tour. You ARE allowed to bring a cell phone for photos, so make sure whatever you are wearing has pockets. When I went on my tour, the only thing I carried with me was my phone and a water bottle.
When is the Best Time to Tour Antelope Canyon?
The Best Months to Tour the Canyon
The best months to visit Upper Antelope Canyon are between late March to early October. This is because you will have a high likelihood of seeing the sun beams during these months. Avoid holiday weekends at all costs – my tour guide said that both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons get no less than 3,000 visitors per day, and close to 10,000 throughout the whole weekend!
The Best Time to See the Light Beams in Upper Antelope Canyon
If you are touring Upper Antelope Canyon, you are likely booking your tour with the intent of seeing the famous light beams that everyone talks about. To have the best chance of seeing the beams, book your tour between 11:00am – 1:30pm. Make sure you book far in advance, as this is the most popular time slot and will fill up the fastest.
How To Get to Antelope Canyon
As previously mentioned, Antelope Canyon is located in Page, AZ, which is right on the Arizona/Utah border. You can make this a day trip from Sedona, AZ which is what I did. From Sedona, it takes about 3 hours to get to Page.
My Upper Antelope Canyon tour started at 11:05am, and I needed to be there 30 minutes before my tour started. I got to Page around 9:30am and found this adorable coffee shop, LP Espresso, about 10 minutes down the road. This ended up being the perfect place to grab a quick breakfast & coffee, leaving me plenty of time to still make my tour.
I have also heard other people say they combined this into another National Park trip. Antelope Canyon is about 2 hours & 45 minutes from Bryce Canyon, 2 hours & 20 minutes from Zion, and 2 hours & 20 minutes from the Grand Canyon. Depending on what you want to do and see, you could create your own National Park tour and make this one of your stops.
What is the Difference Between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon?
Differences in Structure
The main difference between Upper & Lower Antelope Canyon is that Lower Antelope Canyon is below ground, hence its name. Therefore, you will have to climb down ladder-like stairs to get into Lower Antelope Canyon. You are able to walk right into Upper Antelope Canyon since it sits above ground and is all one level.
Lower Antelope Canyon is shaped like a V, making it more narrow at the bottom and wider at the top. Because of this (and the ladder steps), Lower Antelope Canyon is more challenging to maneuver through and may not be a good option for those with mobility issues. It is also prone to more cancellations due to weather. In fact, my Lower Antelope Canyon tour got cancelled about an hour before it was supposed to start due to excessive wind. Windy conditions can cause rocks to fall into the canyon and create dangerous conditions for visitors.
Upper Antelope Canyon is wider at the bottom with a more narrow top, making it easier to walk through (like an upside down V). The only steps that were involved was when we were leaving the tour and had to walk up and down some stairs that led over and around the top of the canyon to get back to our tour vehicle. (These were NOT ladder-like steps; just regular stairs).
Differences in Popularity
In terms of popularity, Upper Antelope Canyon is the more popular canyon, largely because it is thought to be the more picturesque of the two. It is also easier to walk through thanks to its wider base and no steps. But perhaps most importantly, it is easier to see the light beams shine down in Upper Antelope Canyon than it is Lower. The colors of the rocks change throughout the day, creating a beautiful and ever-changing landscape. This is also partially due to the base of the canyon being wide, leaving more space for the light to shine down at an angle.
I have read some things that say you have a chance at seeing light beams in Lower Antelope Canyon, but if you go to Upper Antelope Canyon at the right time of day and during the right months, you are practically guaranteed to see them.
- I have even read articles that say you can’t see light beams in Lower Antelope Canyon at all, but unfortunately cannot say from experience (yet!).
Can You Tour Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in the Same Day?
The short answer is YES, YOU CAN!
In fact, touring both of the canyons in one day was my original plan, but my Lower Antelope Canyon tour got cancelled due to weather. I fully intend on going back to Page and seeing Lower Antelope Canyon (plus Horseshoe Bend), but for now, know that it IS possible to do both. If this is your goal, it may not even be a bad idea to plan for 2 days in Page, just in case one of your tours gets cancelled.
Depending on the time of your tours, you could likely squeeze in Horseshoe Bend too. Horseshoe Bend is a 1.5 mile out-and-back hike that will lead you to a spot overlooking the Colorado River that is shaped like, well, a horseshoe. You do NOT need to book a tour to hike to Horseshoe Bend like you do Antelope Canyon. This, plus the short duration of the hike, makes it easy to fit Horseshoe Bend into your day!
What to Expect on Your Upper Antelope Canyon Tour
***The information here will be based upon my Upper Antelope Canyon tour with Adventurous Antelope Canyon. Other tour companies may provide a different experience.***
There are PLENTY of different Navajo tour companies to book your tour experience through. As previously mentioned, I booked mine with Adventurous Antelope Canyon and had a great experience, so I would recommend them to anyone looking to tour Antelope Canyon.
To read the entire recap & review of my Upper Antelope Canyon tour with Adventurous Antelope Canyon, check out my other blog post: Adventurous Antelope Canyon: Tour Review.
During Your Tour – A Quick Summary
From the tour headquarters, you will be transported to the entrance of the canyon. Once you are there, your tour guide will lead you inside and point out different facts about the canyon as you walk through. You will have plenty of opportunities to take photos, and your guide should also point out the best spots in the canyon to take photos as well. My guide, Roman, was incredibly accommodating at taking photos of all of us in my group!
The entire tour is timed for about an hour and twenty minutes, which I felt was an appropriate amount of time. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded if it was a little longer! I enjoyed taking my time as much as I could and really gazing at the canyon walls, ceiling, colors, and structure. (Note: this includes the amount of time it took to walk back to our vehicle and drive back to the tour site once we were done inside the canyon.) Once we were done, we walked around the top of the canyon to get back to our tour vehicle to end the tour.
I had read on other Antelope Canyon tour websites that people felt “rushed” through their tour, and afterwards, I would have to say I agree with this statement. On one hand, there are SO many people coming to tour Antelope Canyon that I completely see why they want to move people through it as quickly as possible. On the other hand, it would have been nice to be able to take my time more and take it all in.
Is Antelope Canyon Really That Orange Inside?
Okay….here’s where I *might* disappoint you…
Below, I have included a photo of what you usually see when Googling images of Antelope Canyon, and then what the unedited images, aka the actual canyon, looks like the majority of the time:
As you can see, most of the time, the actual canyon is NOT as orange inside as some of the photoshopping makes it out to be. There ARE times when the sun hits it at a certain angle that the walls DO look orange, but know going into it that it will never look exactly like the top photo. As previously mentioned, when the sun hits the rocks, the colors on the canyon walls DO change, and sometimes, they look more orange than others.
This photo was taken in an area where you are able to see the sun beams, but the top of the canyon in this particular spot doesn’t allow enough light in for the rocks to glow bright orange. However, please know it is still gorgeous. It is still fascinating. It is still unlike anything you will probably ever walk through. I would still say Antelope Canyon is absolutely worth it to explore, and if it is on your bucket list, it should be a place that you definitely check off.