Antelope Canyon is about two hours from the Grand Canyon, and as a result, it’s a very popular day trip for those spending time at the north or south rim. Antelope Canyon, called “the slot canyon,” has always drawn tourists who flock to Utah and Arizona in pursuit of natural wonders. In the Instagram era, it has become especially popular because it’s a highly coveted photo op. Upper Antelope Canyon is the classic slot canyon you’ve seen in the photos, while Lower Antelope Canyon is more of an exploration spot, where travelers can climb through the canyon, sliding through the narrow red canyon walls.
Antelope Canyon isn’t the only obvious add-on to a Grand Canyon adventure, of course. Often, travelers will do the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park all in one fell swoop. Hitting the Grand-Bryce-Zion trifecta is more of a Utah-based trip because Bryce and Zion draw travelers north. To do all three, visitors often use Kanab, Utah as their home base and just pop down to Arizona for one day to see the Grand Canyon.
Alternately, if you’re spending a few days at the Grand Canyon and staying in Flagstaff, Arizona, Antelope Canyon makes for a terrific addition to your wilderness vacation. In fact, the Arizona-only itinerary could further inspire you to spend more time getting acquainted with the state, and continue on to Sedona. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering adding Antelope Canyon to your Grand Canyon vacation.
Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon
First, Antelope Canyon is divided into two separate slot canyons: upper and lower. “Slot canyons are tiny canyons formed when water finds its way into a crack or fissure in the bedrock,” explains Antelope Canyon’s website.
Upper Antelope Canyon is 100 yards, length-wise. Most of the photos you see of Antelope Canyon on Instagram are of the upper canyon. The quintessential view of light pouring into the canyon is best seen around noon. And because of this coveted sight, upper canyon tends to be a more popular attraction. Booking a tour during the prime-light hours (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) can require reserving tickets for Upper Antelope Canyon months in advance.
While it’s not quite as photogenic, Lower Antelope Canyon is still stunning and much more of an adventure. You can climb within the canyon’s grooves, ladders, and passageways. Much like the upper canyon, the close quarters of the lower canyon are not claustrophobia-friendly. And because of the ladders, visiting the lower canyon isn’t ideal if you have a fear of heights or steep ladders.
Tickets to Antelope Canyon
One of the biggest asterisks on the Antelope Canyon itinerary is that you must be on a guided tour to see the canyon. Visitors can’t visit the upper or lower canyon by themselves.
Because tour availability is limited and demand for tickets is high, you’ll want to book Antelope Canyon tickets well in advance. Tour packages can be purchased through Antelope Canyon’s site, and they offer bundle deals including the lower and upper canyon, or one of the two followed by a boat tour of the water-side of Antelope Canyon. As of recently, Antelope Canyon opted to end all photography tours of the canyon. While you can still snap photos on your phone or hand-held camera during guided tours of the canyons, tripods are no longer allowed, nor are photo-specific tours.
Driving to Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is about two and a half hours driving from Flagstaff and either rim of the Grand Canyon. And it’s about four and a half hours from Las Vegas. If you’re charting out a Grand Canyon itinerary, using Flagstaff as your home base is prudent. Antelope Canyon doesn’t have as many hotels or places to stay near the adjacent town of Page, Arizona.
While driving to Antelope Canyon, keep in mind that it’s very close to Horseshoe Bend—just seven miles away, to be exact. Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are often mentioned in the same breath, but they are in fact two entirely separate areas. Horseshoe Bend is where the Colorado River splits into a horseshoe. The Horseshoe Bend Overlook parking lot is off Route 89. You can pay $10 to park, and then walk about half a mile to see the nearly 1,000-foot cliffs divided by the Colorado River.