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Upper vs. Lower Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon
Written by Edith & Juan

One of Arizona’s highlights is definitely Antelope Canyon.  Antelope Canyon is one of the most popular and photogenic destinations on a Southwest road trip.  Located near Page, Arizona, the canyon brings hundreds of visitors daily.

Antelope Canyon is made up of tall red walls carved by wind and water.  The Canyon’s sandstone continues to be carved by water that winds through the path forming its walls as it runs through.   It is a place Navajo people hold sacred and that tourists and photographers enjoy.

We visited both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon recently and put together this guide to help you plan your trip to Antelope Canyon.

antelope canyon

PLANNING A VISIT TO ANTELOPE CANYON

Antelope Canyon is located in northern Arizona near Page.  The closest major cities, are Phoenix in Arizona, and Las Vegas in Nevada.  Each place is about a 4 hour drive to Page.

Visiting the canyons requires planning ahead of time.  Upper Antelope Canyon is so highly visited that it requires reservations online, as does lower antelope canyon.  Another reason to plan ahead is Antelope Canyon has flash floods. Tours may be cancelled on these days.

Making a decision on which canyon to visit can be hard.  We’ll break down the differences below so you can make the correct choice for you.  I had the chance to return one month after visiting Lower Antelope Canyon and explored the Upper Canyon.  Both are similar but have unique aspects to them.  I loved both but you must visit at least one while you are in the town of Page.

UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON VS. LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

I personally enjoyed Lower Antelope Canyon more because of the slim pathways and the steep stairs.  It made the experience much more fun. Let’s get into the Pros and Cons.

 Pros:

  • Lower Antelope is Cheaper to visit.
  • It is less populated than Upper Antelope.
  • Easier to photograph because it is less populated.
  • Sometimes tour guides may leave you to explore on your own.
  • It is a longer canyon.
  • Fun for explorers who enjoy narrow pathways and stairs.
  • The canyon walls have more reddish and purple hues.

Cons:

  • May be difficult for some because it has narrow ladders to climb and descend. Not wheelchair accessible nor recommended for pregnant women.
  • The canyon can be dark making photographs hard to take.
  • The pathway is narrow and some people might not enjoy this.
  • Does not have the light beams that most people enjoy from the Upper Canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon

What is the Price?

There are a few tours that operate for Lower Antelope Canyon and they are cheaper than a visit to Upper.  We had a guided tour with Ken’s Tours.  We reserved beforehand online and paid at the entrance.  The price is $25 but may go up a little depending on times, dates, and seasons.  Photography tours cost more, $47. There is also a Navajo Park Entrance fee to be paid in cash at $8 per person.

What to Bring:

It’s best to carry small backpacks for these tours because the passageways are narrow.  But some items to take are: water, camera, comfortable shoes, sunscreen, hat, and cash to tip the tour guide if you’ll be doing so.

What to Know:

Lower Antelope Canyon has ladders anchored to the canyon walls.  They vary in size from 3 feet to 25 feet.  The longer ones have handrails and some ladders have a small width.

The canyon can be rigorous and long for some people and is not wheelchair accessible.   Low hanging rocks, narrow and steep ladders, and narrow passageways fill the canyon. Tripods are only allowed for photography tours.  Regular tours are point and shoot.

The approximate time of the tour is 1 hour 15 minutes.  Photography tours last 2 hours 15 minutes.

Tour guides are mandatory, but I’ve read the guides will sometimes allow you to explore on your own on low crowd days.

Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

I enjoyed Upper Antelope Canyon a lot because of its photogenic features.  Though I didn’t see the light beams, I still enjoyed spots with light reflection and sand falling from above.  Here are the pros and cons.

Upper Antelope Canyon

Pros:

  • The canyon is very photogenic.
  • It is above ground making it more accessible to all ages and fitness levels.  No ladders to climb.
  • The canyon has beautiful light beams and pouring sand.
  • There are larger walkways.
  • The canyon walls are more brown.

Cons:

  • This canyon is more expensive.
  • It is overcrowded!  Really overcrowded!
  • Felt more rushed, because of the crowds.
  • Hard to photograph without people in the way.

Upper Antelope Canyon

What is the Price?

My visit to Upper Antelope Canyon was with Antelope Canyon Tours.  Just a quick note that I didn’t have the best experience with them because of their customer service and the wild driver, but still the visit to Antelope Canyon itself was a great experience.

The price for Upper Antelope is higher, starting at $45 dollars with Antelope Canyon Tours.  The prices will vary depending on time, season, and holidays. Off seasons entrances start at $40.  The Navajo Park Entrance Fee of $8 and taxes are already included in the price.   The price for the Photography Tours start at $100 off-season, and $108 other times.

What to Bring:

Like lower antelope, small backpacks are best because of the narrow passageways.  Big ones are not allowed.  Items to take include water and camera.  Because of dusty conditions, it is not recommended to change camera lens inside to avoid damage.  The canyon is flat, dusty, and short, so it doesn’t necessarily require comfortable shoes. The sun doesn’t shine in much, so hat and sunscreen are only needed for the ride to the canyon.  You can also bring cash to tip the tour guide.

What to Know:

The drive to the canyon takes 20 minutes. 10 minutes are on paved highway and 10 minutes are off-road.  The off-road will be a bumpy ride.  The companies use 4 wheel dive tour trucks that pick you up at their offices in the town of Page.  When looking upwards, the canyon walls are as high as 100 ft high.   Sometimes sand may fall from above, so expect to get sandy hair and try to avoid your camera from being showered in sand.

Know your camera and phone beforehand for better pictures.   If you don’t, it’s okay.  The tour guide will help you set up your phone for photos.  The complete tour with the drive time included takes a total of 90-100 minutes, about 50-60 spent in the canyon.  Tripods are only allowed on the photography tours.  Regular tours are point and shoot.

Tour guides are mandatory.

Upper Antelope Canyon

WHICH IS THE BEST SLOT CANYON?

The truth is it all depends on what you enjoy and  what you want to see.  Both canyons are amazing and it’s hard to say one is better than the other.  Though they’re similar, they each have unique aspects like I mentioned above.  I can however say which I enjoyed the most.

Lower Antelope Canyon was a better experience for us because we enjoyed the stairs and narrow pathways.  It felt more adventurous which is what we like most.  We got to hike and climb.  We also had a more pleasant tour with the company because of its great service despite the unusual busy day and Memorial Weekend crowds.  Had it not been Memorial Weekend, there would have been less crowds.

At Upper Antelope Canyon, we got better photographs.  Though we didn’t go at the times the light beams shine in, we got some great lighting on the walls that reflected in to create a glow.  We also got to enjoy the pouring sand.  The hike was easy and accessible for everyone.  I understand why it’s the most popular one.

What I did not enjoy was how crowded it was.  The pathways are used for both, entering and exiting the canyon.  This created some traffic jams inside the pathways that took away from the experience.  We felt more rushed taking pictures because of this.   The place is still beautiful and worth the visit though.

And like Juan tells me, these places are for every one to enjoy, not just me.  I have to remember that sometimes when I want places to myself.  However, If I find myself going back, I’d go to Lower Antelope Canyon for less crowds.  The truth is both have many people and you feel rushed through both.  That’s what happens when beautiful places are discovered.

Upper Antelope Canyon

MORE THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING:

  • Antelope Canyon is a Navajo Tribal Park.  It is maintained by tribal authorities and tours operate through them.
  • Watch for timezone changes.  The Navajo Nation follows Daylight Saving Time during summer, whereas Arizona doesn’t.  Pay attention to reservation times.
  • Antelope Canyon experiences Flash Floods and is dangerous when it rains.  Tours can be cancelled without prior notice.
  • Use the bathroom beforehand.   There are no restrooms near the canyon, unless you want to use porter potties.
  • Antelope Canyon is by guided tours only and booking ahead is highly recommended.
  • During busy seasons or holidays, expect limited shade and high waiting times in the heat outside the canyon even with reservations at lower antelope. But also expect over crowding at Upper Antelope.
  • Accommodation in the small town of Page can be expensive. It also books quickly because of the many attractions so it requires reserving hotels early.
  • The canyon can be dark for photographs.  Know your settings before going.  I haven’t studied my camera well enough and didn’t get great shots of the canyon that I wanted.  However, at both tours, the guides help you with your phone camera settings and the pictures turn out alright.

Upper Antelope Canyon

IS ANTELOPE CANYON WORTH IT?

Yes! Though the tour and the town are a bit expensive, the heat of the desert is almost unbearable, and the over crowding is annoying, there is nothing quite like Antelope Canyon.

The formation of the canyon is beautiful and fun to explore.  Walking through the pathways and finding figures on the rocks adds to the adventure despite feeling rushed sometimes.  It’s an amazing experience and should definitely make it on your travel bucket list.

This place is one of the coolest, most photographed places in Arizona and most visited slot canyon in the world for good reason! A must see!

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon Tour Guide Companies

Upper Antelope Canyon:

Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours

Antelope Canyon Tours

Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours

Antelope Slot Canyon Tours

Antelope Canyon X by Taadiidin Tours

Chief Tsosie’s Antelope Slot Canyon Tours

Lower Antelope Canyon Tours

Ken’s Tours Lower Antelope Canyon

Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours

Placer Near Antelope Canyon:

Horseshoe Bend

Page, Arizona

Have you visited Antelope Canyon?  Upper or Lower?  What did you think of it?  Who has this on their bucket list?  If you enjoyed this post, please share it with others to help them plan their trip.  Follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Antelope Canyon

 

    California Globetrotter

About the author

Edith & Juan

From Arizona but temporarily based near California, Edith and her husband Juan created Life Beyond 520 to share inspiration from their local travels and adventures in California and beyond. Edith is the blogger behind these posts, but together they hope to inspire couples and others to get out there and explore new places, including their own city.

34 Comments

  • This was just what I needed when I was planning my trip there in December! We ended up choosing the Lower Canyon, and I’m happy with the choice. I wouldn’t mind going back to see Upper, though!

  • Would love to see this one day! These are great tips so I’ve pinned it for later!! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  • I want to visit both! Your pictures are lovely and your tips will come in really helpful when I finally make it there so I pinned for future reference. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  • We are attempting to get to Antelope Canyon this year as a detour off Route 66 and you just sealed the deal for us. Just look at that place! Incredible. Thanks for all the helpful tips, we will surely be using them soon!

    • I’m glad you’ll be detouring to Antelope Canyon. Don’t stop there though, check out the other things in Page like Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. This little town is full of gems.

  • Hi Juan and Edith,
    This is a wonderful piece, and very helpful for people who are in the position of having to choose between the two branches of Antelope Canyon.
    I write for a couple of tourism-related websites in Page, AZ and would love to link to this in future articles on our two websites (URL’s below).
    I hope you get a chance to visit Page, AZ again soon and maybe take one of the “Antelope Canyon Alternative Tours” that will show you slot canyons that are just as beautiful and a lot less crowded!
    Best wishes for continued safe travels,
    Alley Keosheyan
    Staff Writer/SEO Consultant
    http://www.horseshoebend.com
    http://www.antelopecanyon.az

    • Hi Alley, I’m glad you liked it. Thank you for considering our post for your websites. We are honored to be linked to your site to help others plan a trip to Antelope Canyon. We definitely hope to go back sometime to check out the other slot canyons in the area. We loved this small town and we’ll be going back again. Best Wishes to you too and thank you, Edith R.

  • I’m heading here in a few weeks, and I’m pretty excited about it! This is an awesome and comprehensive guide! Thank you! #theweeklypostcard

  • This is one of the places I’m hoping to visit sometimes this fall. Reading your post I began wondering however if there are any places in the canyon that would make me feel claustrophobic. You mentioned that we have to bring small backpacks. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • The spaces are tight in some pieces but not to the point of feeling uncomfortable. The lighting from above and some of the large openings would help for those who feel claustrophobic easily. I’ve heard of other slot canyons where you have to squeeze through even more, this one isn’t so bad. I would think the guide would let you walk through the whole thing quickly if you felt really uncomfortable so you can get out quick. However, I think you’ll be fine and should definitely give it a try. 🙂

  • We visited Antelope Canyon and had a real hard time figuring out daylight savings. As I remember, the tour we booked was on Arizona time. We took the photography tour which was nice for a couple of reasons. First, the schedule it for the noon slots where the light beam shines in. Secondly, they direct traffic so you have a few open scenes when you are shooting. Antelope Canyon is a beautiful place that people really should visit

  • Every time I see these rocks, I want to get in my car and go there. I think I would enjoy the lower canyon as well. I like the idea of climbing up ladders and walking through narrow passages.

    • Do it haha! It’s worth the road trip, that’s if you aren’t too far. Lower Antelope was definitely fun because of the climbing and passages. Hope you get to go soon.

  • So glad you posted this as I’ll be there in early November…those crowds are certainly a turn-off, but I think I’ll cough up the extra money for the photography tour. I didn’t get a permit for the Wave, but I’d like to work that into my visit as well. Thanks for the tip on hotels booking up early, I better get on that!
    #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • The Antelope Canyon, is a source of great fascination for me after reading about it and seeing the stunning pictures. What a phenomenon of nature. The place looks so surreal. The beauty of the place comes to live in your post in all its vivid colours.

  • Good comparison! I remember exploring the canyon in the 1970s and early 80s, before it was a designated park, and we mostly used ropes instead of stairs. The park’s popularity is both good and bad. It’s nice that it’s more accessible now, but I’m afraid the days of being the only one in the canyon are long gone. 🙁 Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures with #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust! -Rob.

    • That’s awesome! What a great comparison. It must have been more thrilling to have to climb than just walking the stairs they put it. But definitely, the crowds can be a turn-off but the canyon’s beauty is still wroth the visit. 🙂

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