Visiting Antelope Canyon has been a dream of mine for quite some time. Since my friends and I were taking a girls trip to Las Vegas over an extended weekend, I thought it was the perfect time to visit Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon on this trip.
As I started researching how to visit Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, I was surprised to discover that you cannot visit the canyons unless you take a guided tour. The canyons are protected by the Navajo Parks and Recreation and only authorized tour companies can take visitors to the canyon. Safety and preventing vandalism is the main reasons why everyone needs a guided tour; the canyon became unavailable to the public in 1997.
There are two types of tours you can do: the Lower Antelope Canyon and the Upper Antelope Canyon. The Upper Antelope Canyon tours are for the photographers that want to take that perfect picture without too many tourists around. The cost is at least $100 and it sounded a little too hardcore for me and the girls, so we went with the Lower Antelope Canyon tour. Dixie Ellis' Lower Antelope Canyon Tours sounded like the one to go with since it had many great reviews. Most of the articles I read online suggested visiting the canyons around 10 in the morning to get the sunlight coming through the slots. I booked the 9:30 AM tour ($35 with entrance fee included) and was all set to go.
Before heading to Antelope Canyon, we visited Horseshoe Bend to catch the sunrise. Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe-shaped incised meander of the Colorado River. Many visitors suggested visiting Horseshoe Bend at sunrise instead of sunset because the sunset causes a harsh shadow and the sun will be directly in your eyes.
Sunrise was at 6AM, so we didn’t think there would be too many people there at 5:30 in the morning, but we were dead wrong. There were already at least 50 cars parked in the parking lot. There might have been more people than usual because it was during Labor Day weekend and there was a wedding ceremony going on.
It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk up to the site. You’ll have to go uphill a bit, so make sure to bring some water with you. We didn’t think we would need any water but quickly realized bringing water with us would have been a good idea as the hike up was a little tiring walking through fine dirt.
We’re so glad we woke up early for the sunrise at Horseshoe Bend because it was absolutely breathtaking. The pink and purple skies around the rocks were so beautiful and there are plenty of spots for photo opportunities at different angles. It was a little scary going near the edge as there are no railings, so just be careful when you’re taking pictures or have children with you.
At 9 AM, we headed towards Antelope Canyon for the tour. We were in a group of about 10-15 people and we followed our awesome tour guide, Garrison. We walked for about 10 minutes through the fine dirt and approached a line of people waiting to get into the slot canyons. We waited a good 30 minutes before entering the canyons as there were hundreds of people lined up to go in. Make sure to apply sunscreen and bring a hat because there are periods where you're directly in the sun with no shade.
You go down very steep stairs, so the tour guides do not permit the visitors to take pictures as we go down because it is very dangerous and people have dropped their cameras. Once you enter the canyon, it is unbelievable how gorgeous these rocks are. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures online of these canyons but nothing compares to seeing it in person. It’s truly nature’s work of art.
When you first enter the canyon, there are a bunch of people in one area so you feel a little crammed at this point but not to worry as you’ll get plenty of photo opportunities later with less people as the tour goes on. Garrison was also kind enough to take pictures for all of us and show us how to set up our cameras to take the best photos inside the canyon.
The tour went on for about an hour and it was so exciting walking through the narrow passages and learning how these rocks were formed. We also learned that it can be dangerous being in the canyons as there are numerous flash floods during monsoon season. Before the mandatory tours were set in place, there have been many hikers killed in the slot canyons when the flash floods occurred as they are very powerful. Part of having these mandatory tours is for safety and now we understand why.
When we exited the slot canyon, we were amazed that we came out of a tiny slit in the rocks. We passed right by this area when the tour started and had no idea it was part of the slot canyon we were just walking around in.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time around this area and so glad we made this part of our girls' trip. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Page, we highly recommend Hampton Inn & Suites. The staff was wonderful, the room was spacious, the breakfast is complimentary and it’s in a perfect location right between Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.