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Deserts & Red Canyons: Antelope Canyon Insider Guide

by Maria June 26, 2017 1 comment
Deserts & Red Canyons: Antelope Canyon Insider Guide

One more location was crossed off the bucket list this week: Antelope Canyon. And with it, so was the Horseshoe Bend (Glen Canyon). They are both around the city of Page, Arizona, near the border with Utah. That whole area is a mix of gorgeous red desert, sprinkled with canyons and little green spots of vegetation. Apart from these two beautiful places, Lake Powell is also an incredible sight! So check out the article below for all the info you need to plan your own visit. 🙂

I decided to make it a two-day trip because of the tours I wanted to go on. I started the trip at 9 am in the morning on Monday from Las Vegas. Hopped in the rental car, and made my way up to Arizona. The trip is about 4-5 hours, and it takes you through the hot desert, amazing red mountain ranges, and twisting roads. I got to Page at around 2 pm and was ready to begin the adventure!

Scroll down below, or jump directly to a topic:

FUN

Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

Colorado River Rafting

Horseshoe Bend

Lake Powell

STAY

EAT

CONCLUSION

EXTRAS

FUN


Now let’s get to the fun part! The Lower Antelope Canyon and the Upper Antelope Canyon were done the first day, while the Colorado River Rafting, the Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell all happened the second day.

The Antelope Canyon

The beautiful Antelope Canyon was created by years of rushing water and wind that smoothed the rock in various patterns and sculptures. It’s on Navajo land and can be visited through guided tours only. There are two canyon sections that can be visited: the Lower Canyon, under the ground, and the Upper Canyon, above the ground. I booked the tours a few days in advance, and I could barely find a tour for the Upper Canyon. So, book everything in advance if you can.

Lower Antelope Canyon

There are two companies that offer this tour: Ken’s Tours and Dixie Ellis. I decided to go through Dixie Ellis by basically a flip of a coin since it seemed like there was no difference between them simply by researching online. Once I got there, I realized that they are located next to each other and, as far as I could tell, both companies provided the same service, for the same price and for the same amount of time.

There are generally two types of tours: the general tour and the photography tour. The general tour is 1h long, while photography tour takes about 2h and is for professional photographers with professional equipment.

These are the ground rules: arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled tour to check in and make sure you have enough water to last you for approximately 2h. You will then be sorted into groups of 15 people or less, will be provided a guide, and you will start your way to the canyon.

The Lower Antelope Canyon is underground, and it can only be accessed by literally a crack in the ground. There is a 5-minute walk to the entrance. Once you reach the first stairway going in, the guide will let you know the best settings to take photos with for your camera and phone (the Antelope Canyon is notoriously difficult to photograph). Depending on how awesome your guide is (ours was pretty amazing), he will take photos of you and your party, and also take photos with your camera of places he knows look great on camera. I will also share the camera settings in the “Extras” section below.

The Lower Canyon is absolutely gorgeous. Compared to the Upper Canyon, the Lower Canyon is considered to be more adventurous. Inside, you will find narrow stairways and passageways, as well as uneven ground, and so it’s not recommended for people who have a problem with tight spaces.

Once you’ve completed the walk through the canyon, you walk a series of stairs going up and exit the canyon through a different area than the one you walked in through. You make your way back and will be greeted with a cold bottle of water at the end.

Upper Antelope Canyon

The tour progression for the Upper Antelope Canyon is more or less the same. The only difference here is that the tour will be 30 minutes longer, simply because there will be a 10-15 minute drive to the canyon.

There are a lot more companies offering this tour compared to the two at the Lower Canyon. I went with Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tour simply because all others were booked (don’t let their website turn you off). The tour starts at their lot about 1 mile away from the entrance to the Lower Canyon. Again, be there 30 minutes before and bring water. Also, no backpacks are allowed, so make sure you leave yours in the car.

At the scheduled time, you’ll be sorted into groups of 10. You’ll hop into a car and will be driven through small sand dunes to the entrance of the canyon. The drive itself is adventurous. 🙂 So hold tight and enjoy the ride.

Once you arrive, your guide will begin by editing your camera settings (those settings will be available in the “Extras” section below). Once in, he will talk about the history and meaning of the canyon and pinpoint beautiful rock formations. Again, if he is awesome, he will take pics of you and your party, and will also take pics for you of the canyon with your own device.

Both canyons are amazing. The only difference on the inside between the Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower Antelope Canyon is that the Upper is much easier to walk through and it’s definitely wider.

Once you’ve reached the exit on the other side, you are invited to head back and leave the same way you came in.

Colorado River Rafting

Colorado River Rafting is a half day raft trip on the Colorado River (4 hours). It’s a very tame ride, so no white waters or danger of falling over. 🙂 The tour will start at the Glen Dam and will take you around the Horseshoe Bend and stop halfway on land to view ancient petroglyphs before heading back.
The company that offers that is Colorado River Discovery. You can pick either the 7:30 am or the 1:30 pm tour and the price is $87.00 (without tax). It can also go higher if you order lunch (which I wouldn’t recommend, just bring your own). I picked the 7:30 am tour for two reasons: to have time to go back to Las Vegas the same day and to not have a heatstroke (the temperature in Page in June is 105°F/40°C).

The tour starts at their headquarters in Page. You need to be there to check in 30 minutes in advance, as for the Antelope Canyon tours. They have a bag policy of which you need to know about here, so if you find yourself unprepared, you can purchase everything you’d need from their shop.

During check-in, they will walk you through the tour and what you can and cannot do. Basic stuff. Once that’s over, you’ll hop into a bus that will take you to the Glen Dam through a 3-mile access tunnel that’s has been carved into the canyon. You’ll walk down to the pontoon, be sorted out into groups and then hop into the raft.

Your guide will talk you through the history of the canyon, its past explorers, its geology, wildlife, native cultures, and much more. The tour takes you around the Horseshoe Bend for a few hundred meters, before heading back. On the way back it will make a stop on land where you can view ancient Indian petroglyphs on the canyon wall and, if you so wish, you can also go for a swim in the Colorado River. Just some heads up, the water is 47°F/8°C. I barely made it past my ankles.

Once you hop back on the raft, your guide will offer you river chilled lemonades before hitting the gas and taking you back to the bus.

It’s a beautiful, once in a lifetime ride through the canyons, and those 4 hours passed by super fast. I totally recommend it if you can stay longer in the area.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend is an amazing looking horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River, part of the Glen Canyon. It’s right next to Page. The bend can be accessed by car up to a point, but there is still a 1 mile/1.6 km hike through the sand and torching sun involved to get to the edge of the canyon. So make sure you’re wearing a hat and have water with you. I am not exaggerating. You will need it!

There are no words that I can say that will do it justice. The photos barely can. See for yourself in the photos below. 🙂

Lake Powell

You pass Lake Powell if you’re coming from Las Vegas, so it’s definitely worth a short stop. The lake is actually a reservoir created by the flooding of the Glen Canyon by the Glen Dam. It’s also a major vacation spot for Americans.

The view from above is unbelievable. It looks like something you would see on Mars (if Mars had water).

STAY


There are a few budget hotels in Page to choose from if you decide to stay the night like I did. A lot of people take day trips to the area and then head home. But if the driving is too much for you, or if you decide to visit more than just the Antelope Canyon itself, it might be a good idea to book a hotel.

I chose the Best Western Plus At Lake Powell because of a good deal I fished out from booking.com. Now, when I say budget hotels, I’m not referring to the room prices. Hotel prices in this area are a bit spicier due to the number of tourists that visit, especially in the summer.

There’s really nothing else to consider when choosing a hotel here. Page is a very small town. There’s no public transportation that you need to be close to and most hotels are on the same level comfort-wise.

EAT


While here, I had at most two meals and snacks here and there, as there wasn’t a lot of time to spend eating. Nor are there a lot of restaurants around. Plus, I was so exhausted after the drive and the tours the first day, that I just ordered some Pizza Hut to the room. Don’t judge me.

CONCLUSION


I absolutely loved this trip! The desert looking area, the red canyons, even the heat…! I would definitely suggest making your way to this beauty if you can, even for a day. If nothing else, but for the number of places you can see in a day.

EXTRAS


  • If you go during the summer time, I cannot stress this enough: bring water and a hat. It’s incredibly hot out there! Treat the area as if it were a desert. Because it is.
  • Make reservations in advance during the in-season, if you can.
  • Bring some cash with you and tip your guides. They are totally worth it!
  • Make sure you bring a GPS with you on the road. There are long stretches of the highway where there is no service whatsoever.
  • Wear sneakers. Although flip flop or sandals help with the heat, they are a pain to hike in!
  • Camera settings for the Antelope Canyon:
    • Use the P setting.
    • ISO between 200-400 during the day. If it gets darker in the canyon, you might need to up it as high as 3200.
    • Set your White Balance (WB) to cloudy.
    • You can play with the Exposure, mine alternated between -3 to 0.

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