The Two Antelope Canyons

You must see at least one of them when you're at Lake Powell.

Antelope Canyon SquareI'm working on an itinerary for a Flying M Air excursion client. They've decided to customize their Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventure to add another day at Page, AZ, as well as an overnight stay at Bullfrog Basin about halfway up Lake Powell.

One of the things they wanted to add to their trip was a visit to Lower Antelope Canyon. The trip includes a visit to Upper Antelope Canyon, which is the attraction that gets the most visits. I felt it important to explain the difference between these two places and provide additional information on how they could be visited. I figured this information might help others plan their visit to the Page area.

Antelope Canyon: An Overview

Upper Antelope CanyonAntelope Canyon was formed mostly by the action of water in Antelope Creek, a south-to-north arroyo southeast of Page, AZ on the Navajo Reservation. During heavy rains to the south, the normally dry creek bed turns into a stream of water that rushes northward, sometimes at dangerous flood stage levels. (Indeed, 11 tourists were killed in Lower Antelope Canyon during a flash flood in 1997.)

Lower Antelope CanyonOver time, the water has carved a series of narrow slot canyons through the red rock sandstone. Two of these slots are open to the public. Upper Antelope Canyon is south of route 98 (see top satellite photo); Lower Antelope Canyon is north of route 98 (see bottom satellite photo). Examination of satellite images of the area show additional slot canyons along Antelope Creek, but they are not open to the public.

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12 thoughts on “The Two Antelope Canyons

  1. Hello,
    Looking at the pictures you take it seems that the upper canyon is nicer; the lower one may be more fun to go through with the narrow passages and ladders. Having time only for one of them which one would you recommend?
    Thank you
    Michel

  2. Hello Maria,
    Thanks for this great advice.
    Ken’s Tour is doing tour in the lower antelope canyon.
    I was wondering, in your article, you say that If we want to visit both, we might not be able the best light for both of them. I know that Upper antelope Canyon is better at mid-day for the light but do you know when is the better time for lower?
    Do you recommend the photography tours which are longer? And gives us more time in the canyon?
    Thanks for your great advice and have a nice day!

    • No matter how long the tour you take is, when you’re in upper antelope Canyon the main problem is the crowds. You’d be better off going at a time of year when there are less people around than to worry about how long your tour is.

      Also, I’m not sure why you’d want a guided tour of lower antelope Canyon. In all the times that I’ve visited it, no tour guide was needed. I much prefer walking it on my own, at my own pace, to being forced to follow a guide at his pace.

      Light is everything in both canyons. I’ve heard some people say that the best photographs have been made in the morning between 9 and 11. But light also depends on the time of year. I think that you could go to these canyons 20 times at varying times of the day and year and have different results each time. I can’t say what’s best.

      Good luck.

      • I just wanted to correct. The only way to visit the canyon is by Tour guides. It has never been self tour, unless you went in illegally. Since early 2000s there has been a company that has been providing tours. It also States on the Navajo Parks and recreation that you must have a permit to hike and A GUIDE. Please provide the correct information.

        • I’m sorry, but it’s YOU who is providing incorrect information.

          While a guide is always present at Upper Antelope Canyon on ALL of my visits there, Lower Antelope Canyon is not managed the same way — or at least it wasn’t when I’ve visited numerous times over the past 10 years. You go to the parking area, pay a fee, and are guided down into the canyon. But on all of my visits, the guide usually left visitors on their own at the very start of the canyon. Although they specified a time limit, there was no way they could ensure you got out on time because they simply were not with you.

          I do not provide inaccurate information on this blog and I certainly do not illegally trespass on Native American lands. (I’m actually pretty insulted that you should insinuate such a thing.) I write from experience, not hearsay or what I read in guide books.

          Have YOU been to Lower Antelope Canyon? If your movements there were restricted by a guide, I can only assume you were part of a bigger group that they wanted to manage or that it was very recently and their policies have changed. Or perhaps you paid a guide in town?

  3. We will be traveling to Antelope Cyn mid November… if we are not there at around midday is the light sufficient to light to inside of the canyon??? Thank you so much for your answer…

  4. If we’re going in mid March, what is the best time of day to go? I heard there aren’t many sunbeams during that time of year, so we were thinking about going to Upper in the early morning for the colorful walls, and then taking our time in Lower afterwards. I also heard late afternoon is a good time to shoot Horseshoe Bend, so that would work out well with that plan. What do you think? You sound like you have a lot of knowledge about the area.

    • It’s been a few years since I was there and I really can’t remember. I know I always sent clients midday, but I’ve been told that later in the afternoon is sometimes better.

      As for the “sunbeams” — you realize that look is man made by throwing sand into the air when the light is shining in, right? You can’t see rays of light without particles in the air so photographers routinely throw sand to get that affect.

What do you think?