The morning was magic, even though we had barely slept due to a fellow camper wandering about the grounds at 3:30am declaring how he couldn’t go on due to intense heartbreak…Thank you, but go away. We all have problems, yet you are the only one alerting the entire campground about it. Anyways, we woke up at Lake Powell to white-washed light on the cliffs near the lake. Unsure of what time we were even operating on (since we were camping a mile from the Utah border, and AZ doesn’t do Daylight Savings Time, our phones were constantly switching back and forth), we left for our tour of Antelope Canyon.
After meeting our guide and getting our group together, we were off. I kept expecting to see something majestic as we made our way to the canyon, but it just looked like level ground all around us. I couldn’t believe this gorgeous slice of a canyon was hidden beneath an opening in the rock narrow enough that you could have jumped from one side to the other. This is a thing that struck me throughout my entire trip; the bizarreness of the context of a majestic place next to the every day mundane, or just completely hidden from sight until you were right upon it. It would have been so easy to overlook this wonder, especially since it was right next to a GIGANTIC power plant that supplies the Navajo Nation and two other states with all their power. Gross but necessary, I guess.
We descended the steep metal staircase into the bowels of the canyon. It felt so safe and quiet; almost holy in there. The warmth of the sandstone walls and closeness of the space made me feel like I had stepped into the womb of Arizona herself. Soft rust colored sand covered the floor, muffling our footsteps. The lines of time were etched on the rock and made the whole canyon feel like it was flowing. A slash of blue sky was visible above us as the sun rose and the light began to creep in, igniting the sandstone on fire. It is the kind of place that invites a whisper and hush at the same time. You have to keep exclaiming how amazing it is around every turn, as each new breathtaking view comes into sight.
Our guide moved us along at a nice pace throughout the canyon, as the duration of the tour was about an hour and he needed to keep to his schedule. There was a tour group in front of us, and a tour group behind us, but it didn’t feel too packed or crazy. What surprised me most about this tour was how incredible the guides were, and not even necessarily with providing information about the canyon itself, although they did do that, but for their incredible photography skills. I booked this tour to see Antelope Canyon, and see it we did, but it was also a crash course in iPhone photography. Our guide, Karry, would gather us all in one space, point out a rock formation, and then one by one, offer to have us pose in front of the formation and take our picture. But the even better part was when he would take your phone and take some specific shot, with an angle that he knew, and create a beautiful picture on your phone for you to keep of something amazing. For example…
He showed me how to change to the vivid warm setting to bring out the colors of the rock, he took a vertical panorama to get the full height of the canyon, and explained what HDR is. And because he stopped us at specific sites in the canyon and took pictures for us, it really freed me up to just look and soak up the beauty of the canyon without the pressure of trying to capture it.
The first half of the tour was before the sun had fully risen, so the lighting was dim, yet everything was still so achingly beautiful. As we made our way through the canyon, the light completely changed and began to sneak its way in as the sun rose. It was completely breathtaking and surreal. I have never seen anything like this canyon. It is absolutely crazy to think about how water erosion shaped the rock into what it is today. Before we knew it, our hour was up, and we were ascending back to reality, in complete awe of what we had seen.
First of all, the only bathroom facilities were portapottys, all of which were out of toilet paper. Make sure you have your own tp!
Tour groups were small (we went through the canyon with our guide Karry, and 8 other people) and they mean it when they say that no bags are allowed in the canyon (for whatever reason). That meant I hiked with my phone shoved down the leg of my leggings. Wear something with pockets, or be prepared to improvise.
The fee is about $50, once you pay for the ticket, taxes and the Navajo Land use fee, but it is completely worth it.
The two options for guided tours in Lower Antelope Canyon are Ken’s Tours and Dixie Ellis tours. Both depart from the same parking lot. I booked with Dixie Ellis because they had the only opening that worked for us late in the game ( I booked just a week before we arrived so the 6:45am tour was the only one available). At first I wasn’t sure that we would have enough light in the canyon, but I am SO glad we went when we did. It wasn’t super busy or hot yet, and we got the magic of seeing the sun come into the canyon after sunrise.
We opted for the Lower Antelope Canyon tour because I had heard it was less crowded than the Upper Canyon. Here is the difference between the two, straight from the mouth of our guide. Upper Antelope Canyon is famous for the light beams; when the sun is high overhead, a ray of light pierces the canyon in the most beautiful way. The upper canyon is narrow at the bottom, but opens up and gets wider towards the ceiling. Lower Antelope Canyon is the opposite: wider at the bottom but narrower at the top. The Upper Canyon tour takes about 90 min, while the Lower Canyon tour was an hour. The Lower Canyon also has the staircases to get in and out of it, so something to consider if you are traveling with people who might have some mobility issues. Other website link here.
I cannot recommend this tour highly enough, whether you choose Upper or Lower. The guides were excellent, the souvenir photos were an unexpected bonus, and the canyon itself is unforgettable. Worth every penny. GO if you can. This canyon is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.