One item on my bucket list was to photograph the Antelope Slot Canyons in Page, AZ. It all started on a trip to South Beach in Miami with my then fiancé. We toured some art galleries, and I fell in love with the vibrant colors photographed of these slot canyons. I had no idea where they were located at the time, but I knew that I needed to find them and experience it in person. While these photographs were stunning in every way... The thousands of dollars spent on a beautiful piece of art just wasn't anything I could swallow. Instead, I sought out a plan to see it in person and attempt to photograph it myself.
This past week my father and I actually had a trip planned to Peru. We were going to cross off another one of my bucket list items, hike Machu Picchu. When our flights didn't work out, we went with plan b. Luckily enough, my research of the Antelope Canyons was already completed, so all plan b needed was execution (I always have another trip planned and ready to go).
The Antelope Slot Canyons are located in the very small town Page, AZ in the middle of Navajo country. Page is located at Lake Powell, near the Utah boarder. To get there you can fly into either Phoenix or Las Vegas, rent a car, and drive, drive, drive. We decided to fly into Phoenix, before starting our 4-5 hour trek to Page. There is a ton to stop and see along the way, but we were on a mission and decided to make it to Page before getting side tracked. Upon arriving in Page, we first stopped at the visitor center to collect maps and schedule our tours of the slot canyons since this was the whole purpose of our trip.
At the visitor center I learned that there is a ton of misleading and incorrect information on the Internet about touring the slot canyons. Many websites are trying to draw in customers and fill their tours to make more money, thus not telling the whole story.
There are two Antelope Slot Canyons, Upper and Lower. It is best to tour the canyons between 8:30am and 3:30pm for the lighting. The prime time for pictures is actually mid-day, making the Upper canyon tours more expensive during that time. Upper canyon is more popular than Lower, but either can be shoulder to shoulder during the peak, summer months. The summer is the peak time because the light is more directly overhead making the canyon colors more vibrant than other times of the year. Our tours took place on November 6th, and I couldn't imagine it being any more beautiful than it was. The weather was pleasant, not scalding hot, and the crowd wasn't too bad. As you can see from my pictures I was able to take plenty of photographs in this confined space without anyone in them.
|Entering the Upper Canyon|
The Upper canyon is only accessible by booking a tour in advance (depending on the time of the year, same day booking is completely possible). This canyon is only accessed by a drive through a very sandy riverbed, thus the requirement of a tour company. All tours depart from Page. There are several tour companies that give these tours, and it all depends on the time you want to tour.
Here is a list of the tours:
8:00 am Ekis' Antelope Canyon Tours
8:15 am Overland Canyon Tours
8:30 am Tsosie's Slot Canyon Tours
9:30 am Ekis' Antelope Canyon Tours
10:15 am Overland Canyon Tours
10:30 am Tsosie's Slot Canyon Tours
11:30 am Ekis' Antelope Canyon Tours
12:15 pm Overland Canyon Tours
1:00 pm Tsosie's Slot Canyon Tours
1:30 pm Ekis' Antelope Canyon Tours
2:15 pm Overland Canyon Tours
3:00 pm Tsosie's Slot Canyon Tours
3:30 pm Ekis' Antelope Canyon Tours
I preferred the experience at the Upper Canyon over the Lower because my father and I ended up being the only people on the tour, and at one point we had the entire canyon completely to ourselves. Words cannot describe the solitude in this location. I understand why it is so sacred to the Navajo people. It was so peaceful, quiet, cool, and meditative. We also enjoyed the acoustics of the canyon, as our guide played a wooden flute for us, and the pointers she provided in taking pictures (she was also a professional photographer). We did the 8:30am tour with Tsosie's, and it is very unusual to have this canyon to yourself, even off season. We definitely lucked out! The Upper canyon is accessed at floor level, and the entrance is also the exit - you walk through, and then return back the same way. This price of this tour is $35.00, no matter which company/time you select. Unless you book a tour during the peak hours of 10:15 am - 1:00 pm, then the price is $46.00. Built into this price is a $6 fee for entering Navajo land. If you save this receipt, you will not have to pay this fee again when entering other parks on the same day (ie: if you go to Lower canyon the same day).
|Entering the Lower Canyon|
While our overall experience at the Upper canyon was more favorable, I actually preferred the Lower canyon itself more. The Lower canyon was accessed from a slot in the ground, it was more narrow, and there were some stairs to get around the canyon. It felt more adventurous. This is a much longer canyon, with a different entrance and exit, ensuring you never see the same rock once. :) To see the Lower canyon, you must purchase a tour ticket at the entrance of the canyon. Do not by a ticket from anyone until you are actually at the entrance to the canyon, after you've parked. Parking is free. These tours leave every 30 minutes between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm (times may vary with season), and while they start off guided, you'll end up spreading out within the canyon over time, allowing everyone to take pictures and experience the beauty. This "tour" did not feel guided once in the canyon. Even though you purchase a "tour," it is more of an entrance fee or ticket that you purchase. Supposedly this tour is only an hour long, but not once was time ever mentioned or were we pressed along. Additionally, if you have an SLR camera AND tripod, they will give you a tag to hang on your tripod, allowing you to spend a total of two hours in the canyon. They are very specific on this rule when purchasing your tour, and only one person in your group can get this photographer's pass. But, like I mentioned, without this, we were never pressed to move along, and definitely spent more than an hour in the canyon. The price of this tour is $26 CASH (no credit cards), no matter what time of the day. Also, it does not cost any more to obtain the photographer's pass. You can reduce the cost of this ticket by $6 if you saved your receipt from a previous tour that same day on Navajo land.
|Thanks Dad for throwing sand in the air so I could catch those light beams! :)|
This was an amazing experience, and it was wonderful to get off the beaten path and enjoy the beauty of the southwest without the typical tourist trap. If you plan a trip to photograph these beautiful canyons, pack an extra camera battery, make sure they are both fully charged before starting your day, bring a tripod, and play with the ISO and resolution settings on your camera before the trip. A great website with advice on photographing the canyon is: http://www.bobestrin.com/antelopecanyon.htm. Last, but not least, don't even attempt to take a picture with flash. Turn that baby off! :)
Now I'm off to sort through my 673 pictures of rocks (just kidding.... kinda... Lol!) Here's to hoping I have a picture worthy enough to hang above my couch!!!
NOTE: If you are looking for other things to do in the Page/Lake Powell area, check out my post: Toadstools.