If you are heading anywhere near Page, Arizona, I highly recommend taking a tour through either the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon. The canyons are amazing and a must see. 

The canyons are managed by the Navajo Nation, so the only way to visit the commercialized slot canyons are through a tour guide company. The most difficult part will be selecting which canyon you want to see (Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon) and which company to go with since there are a plethora of choices. 

We narrowed our choices down based on what we wanted:

  • Time of day – between 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. are the best times since the sun will be directly overhead, casting its rays into the slot canyons. And the light is best from April to October, with the best months being mid-May through mid-July when the sun is directly over head.

  • Photography tour – this was high on our list since many of the guides will strategically position everyone on the tour so everyone can get photographs. They will even politely ask people on other tours to please move out of the way once they are finished taking their photograph to allow members of their tour to take photographs without people.

  • Point and shoots welcome – Kristin uses a small hand held camera (often called “point and shoots”), so we selected a tour that didn’t require a fancy camera with a tripod. We did find one photography tour that didn’t allow point and shoot cameras, so be sure to read before you sign up.

  • Reviews of the tours – as with any hotel, tour or other reservation, read reviews so you know what to expect and there are no surprises.

  • Guide experience – having a guide with knowledge of various camera equipment. These canyons are difficult to photograph, especially if you want pristine exposures.

  • Reserve early – these tours fill up early. If you expect to arrive the same day and go on a tour, you might not get to go, so plan ahead.

  • And, be prepared for the unknown – if there are threats of storms in the area, these canyons are evacuated and tours canceled. It was in the Lower Antelope Canyon where a flash flood in August 1997 killed 11 people when water 50 feet deep from a thunderstorm 5 miles away swept through the canyon. At the end of our tour, the guides were beginning to gather people up to leave because of area thunderstorms and flash flood warnings.

We chose Antelope Canyon Tours by Chief Tsosie and his guides. Our guide loaded us into his truck and off we went to the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park – Upper Antelope Slot Canyon.

Entrance to the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park – Upper Antelope Slot Canyon

"Warning! Flash Flood Area" sign just inside the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park – Upper Antelope Slot Canyon

Our Antelope Canyon Tour guide getting out of the truck to take us into the slot canyon

Once there, our guide explained what settings to have our cameras on in order to get the best photographs. Gave the tripod photographs some tripod tips so no one would trip over us and he helped the people with the point and shoot cameras set up their cameras. The slot canyon was full of people and composing the perfect shot seemed completely out of the question. I was certain that most of my pictures would include a complete stranger who had walked in front of my camera.

Entrance to the slot canyon. Yes, the clouds actually reflected the orange color from the sandstone inside the canyon!

Once inside, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees as my eyes looked upon one of the most beautiful, natural formations I’ve ever seen. The sunlight filters down through the curved sandstone walls creating patterns and shadows that constantly change in numerous shades of color. There are sections that are wide and bright, while others are narrow with little to no light.

(Note: The canyon is full of dust from all the people walking around, so be sure to have a clear lens filter to protect your lens.)

Our guide obviously has done this for a long time, but he was the most patient man. As we made our way down the slot canyon, he would set all of the tripod photographers in front, low to the ground, then place the other members of our group in between all the tripods so everyone in our group could get a great photograph. If there was another tour in front of us, in our shots, he would wait for a bit to make sure they got their photograph, then ask them politely to move out of our way.

Keep in mind, the canyon was full of tour groups, my guess is that there were at least 12 truckloads of people in the canyon, so about 145 people in this small canyon that is about 150 yards long.

The sun struggled to show its beams into the canyon as we walked through the cliffs only a few feet wide. This made taking photographs even more challenging, since the sun’s light is what makes photographs in Antelope Canyon so impressive. 

The canyon isn’t very long, so once we reached the end, we stepped outside to take some photographs. Then, we went back into the canyon and made our way back toward the entrance.

Entrance at the end of the canyon

When I reached the biggest room at the front of the canyon, I waited for our guide and the rest of the group. As I took pictures of the big room, the sun burst through the clouds down into the canyon where I was. I started taking tons of photographs, and so did all the other tripod photographers that had joined me from our group.

Here is one photograph from Antelope Canyon. Be sure to check back next week to see several more photographs of what I consider to be one of my most amazing travel experiences. The photographs will include curves, waves, a shapely figure and a wolf, (but no antelope), all captured in this beautiful slot canyon.

"Beam of Light" - Click on the photo to see a larger image. To come back to the blog, there is a "Back to Blog" link at the top of the photo on that page.

In order to create the “beam” effect, our guide threw sand into the air. To my shock, the first time he threw the sand in the air, all the sand blew/fell onto us. My camera crunched on sand fragments for months every time I zoomed in and out. But, my lens was covered with a lens filter, so no harm done.

Once the rest of the group caught up with us, we heard two guides from another group talking about a flash flood warning and how they had to start getting people out of the canyon in the next half hour. 

As I heard him talk about the approaching storms, I hoped that our luck would hold out for our next stop, Horseshoe Bend, just outside the city of Page.

More on that story in an upcoming blog.

Photograph showing all the tour trucks outside the entrance as we left Upper Antelope Canyon for our next adventure.