Choose between the upper and lower canyon
If you’re looking to travel somewhere both stunning and adventurous, Antelope Canyon in Arizona may be just the ticket. For millions of years, rainwater has been cutting a narrow, deep swath in the sandstone there. Also known as a slot canyon, the depth can be many feet or miles down into the earth. Slot canyons are sometimes measured in ratios of depth to width.
Antelope Canyon is found on the Navajo Indian Reservation. The Navajo Tribe is the curator of the canyon and didn’t open access to Antelope Canyon until 1997.
There are tours available for sightseeing and photography. Tourism is an integral part of the Navajo Nation. Exploration of the canyon is only by a guided tour as it’s a sacred site. All Antelope Canyon tour guides are tribal members and must have a special permit.
Upper Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon has two different slots, an upper and a lower. The upper canyon is the most popular of the two. For visitors with physical disabilities or without much climbing experience, the upper canyon is recommended due to easier access. More families visit the upper canyon for that reason.
The upper canyon is also the most photographed of the two. The main reason for this is the iconic light beams from the sun that shine down deep into the canyon. Photographers know them as light-beam shots. Like the image below, the pictures have to be seen to be believed. Tripods and selfie-sticks are only allowed on special photography tours.
When making Antelope Canyon reservations, tourists should know there are times of the day when it’s better to visit the upper canyon. The best photographs of the light beams are midday when the sun is overhead.
Because the upper canyon is more popular, it is also the most crowded. Be aware that people are coming and going on the same path, which can create bottlenecks. Any visitors with claustrophobia should be mindful that many people feel enclosed during these tours.
The passageways are twisted and narrow, but the terrain in the upper canyon is flat and easy to walk on. It’s a shorter trip and the more expensive of the two.
Lower Antelope Canyon
The lower canyon has its own pros and cons. It’s brighter, warmer, and less crowded. It’s an extended tour with more variety of sites to see. The tours are 90 minutes and involve climbing up and down metal stairs as well as walking. Comfortable shoes are recommended!
The lower canyon is also very photogenic. Though it’s brighter, there are not as many of the intense light beams of the upper canyon. However, the colorful walls are said to glow on sunny days.
It also offers a little more leeway as to the time-of-day photos. The sunlight coming down the canyon changes throughout the day, creating more opportunities for photography.
Because it’s shaped like a “V,” there’s no two-way traffic. You enter on one side of the canyon and re-emerge on the other side. It is more narrow at the bottom and considered a little more adventurous and closed-in because of that.
“…iconic light beams from the sun that shine down deep into the canyon. They are known by photographers as light-beam shots.”
If you’re looking for Antelope Canyon directions, it is located near Page, Arizona, but using a GPS is recommended. Summer is peak season for visiting the canyon. So if crowds are not your thing, you may want to look at touring off-season. Some tours sell out for months at a time, so it’s recommended to make reservations in advance.
Do some research on Antelope Canyon before your trip to get ahead of the tourism curve. You can decide which formations you like the best and what time of day to visit.
The spectacular forms and shapes down in the canyon will not disappoint. If you can’t decide between upper and lower canyon, put both of them on your bucket list. Then you won’t miss anything!
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
- Best travel apps every traveler should download | Vacation 101
These apps can find you the cheapest flights and help you plan your itinerary.
- Benefits of using a credit card for the family vacation | Finance 101
It’s always best to use credit cards when traveling. Find out why.