A perfect trip to Antelope Canyon, Arizona

The American Southwest is great for exploring the wonders of nature. Here you find some of the places you really want to tick off from your bucket list. Antelope Canyon is one of these amazing natural landmarks and it’s located just outside Page in Arizona.

The story about Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a fabulous geological formation in Arizona. It’s a slot canyon characterized by wavy canyon walls and light beams that occasionally reach through the canyon openings. The appearance that is created by this phenomenon is something extraordinary to say the least.

Antelope Canyon light beam
A famous light beam in Antelope Canyon.

Years and years of erosion of Navajo Sandstone mainly caused by flash flooding has formed the canyon and made it look as we know it today. It’s just spectacular!

But Antelope Canyon is not categorized as a National Park. The canyon is located within the Navaje Nation, the big Native American territory that covers land areas in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Instead of being a National Park, Antelope Canyon is part of Lake Powell Tribal Park.

To enter Antelope Canyon you need an authorized tour guide. In other words individuals are not let in on their own, only tour groups. But we see that as something very positive. The guides make sure that the great condition of the canyon remains and that all visitors feel safe.

Amazing shapes in the canyon
Amazing shapes in the canyon.

Even though it’s called the Antelope Canyon it actually consists of two distinctive canyon sections. These are the Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower Antelope Canyon. They have some common characteristics but also to some extent different features.

The Upper Antelope Canyon versus the Lower Antelope Canyon

First of all it’s important to clearly state that both the Upper Canyon and the Lower Canyon offer the trademark twisting and swirling features. Both canyons sections have them and you surely get the “Antelope” feeling in both. But let’s take a closer look on the different aspects of what they offer.

Shapes of Upper Canyon and the Lower Canyon

The Upper Canyon reminds of a V upside down. It’s wider at the base and narrows down higher up. On the other hand the Lower Canyon reminds more of a regular V. As it’s narrower at the bottom where you walk it’s tighter to get through.

The wavy canyon walls in Antelope Canyon
The wavy canyon walls in Antelope Canyon.

Light beams

Light beams tend to appear a lot more in the Upper Canyon than in the Lower Canyon. So if the light beams are a priority you should definitely go to the Upper Antelope Canyon. Read more about the light beams in the next section.

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The crowds and the popularity

We visited during peak season during peak hours. During those hours it’s going to be crowded no matter if you pick the Upper Canyon or the Lower Canyon. The difference was unnoticeable to us.

No matter which option you pick the tours are highly popular, especially during peak season during the summer. So to visit you need to plan ahead and make your reservation well on beforehand.

Antelope canyon wall
The signature canyon wall

Stairway or no stairway

Once upon a time you needed to climb on ladders to reach Lower Antelope Canyon. Today thankfully that’s not necessary as stairways have been installed. So to reach the bottom of Lower Antelope Canyon you take stairs. However, for Upper Antelope Canyon no stairs are needed. There you can just walk straight in.

Price difference

Last but not least the entrance fee for the upper level was significantly higher than for the lower level when we visited. Check out up to date prices before your visit.

Light beams in Antelope Canyon

The higher the sun is positioned the easier it is for the light to reach through the openings of the canyon and create the light beams. For this reason light beams in the canyon start to appear during the second half of March and continue to do so until early October. During the hotter summer months June, July and August they appear more frequently.

Beam in Antelope Canyon
Beam in Antelope Canyon

To be able to spot the Antelope Canyon light beams you also need to be in the canyon during the right time of the day. The right time to see light beams is between 10.30 AM and 1.30 PM. And of course if it’s a cloudy day there are no light beams. They only appear when the sun is out.

Antelope Canyon light beam
The beams appear only when the sun is high on the sky.

Should you pick the upper or lower level of Antelope Canyon?

Both parts of the slot canyon are amazing to experience. The narrow paths of the Lower Antelope part have their charm as well as Upper Antelope has its own charisma.

If you visit during the optimal season for light beams and want to experience them, you should choose the latter. But if you just want to see the beautiful shapes of the canyon, then the lower level is a great choice.  

Red sand in Antelope.
Antelope Canyon

When should you visit Antelope Canyon?

The answer to when the best time is to visit Antelope Canyon is that it depends on what you’re after. If you want to spot the light beams you should visit in the middle of the summer during the golden window in the middle of the day. That’s when your best chances are to experience them. However, the beams come with a cost. This time period is also the most crowded of the year.

So if the beams not are a strong priority you should visit outside peak time to avoid the huge crowds. For more solitude visit outside the golden time window or even outside the time period in which the light beams occur.

How we got to Antelope Canyon from Las Vegas

This was a stop on our grand Southwestern America desert road trip. We started the trip in Las Vegas and drove from there to the Grand Canyon. After our visit of the Grand Canyon we went to Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in that order. From there we continued the desert road trip by visiting Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon before we looped back to Las Vegas again.

Read more: The Southwestern desert road trip >>

Don’t miss Horshoe Bend while in the area  

Only a little over 10 miles (18 km) away from Antelope Canyon you find Horseshoe Bend. We visited both during our time in the Page area and we had such a good time. The experiences are very different but both are truly great wonders of the world.

To visit Horseshoe Bend you don’t need a guide. Consequently you can go there whenever you want, park your car and visit at your very own pace. If the Antelope Canyon feels a bit small or tight at times while you’re in the narrow canyon, Horseshoe Bend shows the great open spaces of the American Southwest. The view is fantastic when you stand or sit at the edge with Horseshoe Bend and Colorado River in front of you.

Horseshoe Bend in Arizona
Horseshoe Bend with the Colorado River.

Both the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are great places to visit. They are located so close to each other and the experiences complement each other so well that if you’re in the area you really shouldn’t miss any of them. We spent the first part of the day visiting Antelope Canyon and ended the day with sunset at the Horseshoe Bend. That was the perfect end to a perfect day visiting Antelope Canyon.

Read more: What you should know when visiting Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona >>

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