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Antelope Slot Canyon

Photographer’s Dream

Gail Newbold | Photos by Kevin Kiernan Jan 11, 2018

Bouncing in an open-bed trailer down a dusty road so rutted your teeth threaten to come loose and with the gunshot sounds of the metal on metal beating in your ears, you’d be forgiven for asking why you signed up for this adventure.

The destination? Antelope Slot Canyon, a photographer’s dream with its swirling, colorful, other-worldly walls that reflect light from narrow openings above. The iconic photos that result are often seen hanging in hotel lobbies and art galleries. Gazing at them, you might wonder to what remote spot these photographers journeyed for the mystical shots. Did they hike into the bowels of the earth? Worm their way into wafer-thin slot canyons? Navigate with ropes and ladders?

Slot canyon with tall ladder
Sandstone slot canyon with light coming in
Upward view of light coming into a slot canyon

No to all. Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land seven miles outside Page, Arizona, just south of the Utah border. The most difficult (if you can call it that) part of the journey is the 20-minute trailer ride from Page to Antelope. After that, it’s as simple as hopping out of the trailer and walking through the flat quarter-mile slot canyon — if you’re in the upper canyon, that is. The lower canyon requires some stairs and ladders.

You will not be disappointed. I found it to be a transcendent experience from the moment we stepped inside the quiet, cool interior. Shapes and colors from violet to orange formed from thousands of years of erosion surround you. Light beams lift off the canyon floor. There is beauty, but also peace. Awe. Joy. A wish for it to never end.

And bragging rights to photos worthy of a spot in National Geographic.

Water inside of a slot canyon formation
Slot canyon trail with smooth sandstone walls
Tall sandstone walls inside of a slot canyon

Know Before You Go

Booking. Book a tour through one of the Navajo tour operators in Page. Check reviews on TripAdvisor for advice on which. We used Chief Tsosie and were happy with our pleasant and knowledgeable guide and the prompt 3 p.m. departure. Our guide shared fascinating history and helped us get the best photos. Book early, especially during the spring, summer and fall. The canyon is extremely popular. “It’s the No. 1 booked activity on the Colorado Plateau, especially in the European and Asian markets,” says Camille Johnson, executive director of Kane County Office of Tourism. “And every year the shoulder season gets tighter.”

Cost. Expect to pay around $48 for the 1.5-hour upper canyon tour. It sounds steep, but once you’re inside the canyon, it feels worth it. Lower Antelope Canyon costs about $25. If you’re a serious photographer, you may want to pay extra to book a photographer’s tour, which offers more time and space to work your magic.

When to go. From 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. is said to be the best time to visit because of the presence of light beams and the way sunlight reflects off the walls. However, midday is also the busiest. Be aware that the time on your booking receipt is Arizona time — an hour earlier than Utah time.

Bathrooms. Stop drinking several hours before the tour if a lack of bathrooms worries you. There’s a bathroom at the office in Page, but not at the canyon.

Logistics. Bring a bandana or some sort of dust muff for the ride from Page to the canyon. You may even want to bring earplugs.

Upper Versus Lower. Try to do both if you can, but you won’t be disappointed if you only do one. To avoid the flatbed trailer ride, visit Lower Antelope Canyon — you can drive to the entrance in your own car. But you must be able to navigate stairs and ladders, and the canyon is narrower. Lower Canyon is also less crowded. Upper Antelope has wider spaces, more crowds, but also more magnificent light beams. Both are beautiful.

Where to Stay. Make Kanab, Utah, your home base. “Our lodging is more economical than Page and we have a fun, cute downtown area with lots of places to eat,” Johnson says. “We consider our town a base camp for Antelope Canyon.”


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