You have seen pictures of the beautiful, swirling, red sandstone rock formations that look like they are from another world. You’ve heard your friends rave about how amazing Antelope Canyon is. Now you’ve decided to see for yourself what those rave reviews are all about! We will share with you some recommended things to do based on our own experience. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it should get you started on planning your trip to Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is located east of the town of Page, Arizona and lies a little over one hundred miles northeast of the Grand Canyon. It is what is called a “slot canyon”, which is a narrow canyon, formed by the wear of water rushing through rock. Because of this, slot canyons are usually significantly deeper than they are wide, which is what differentiates Antelope Canyon from Grand Canyon.
Slot canyons are unique to the Colorado Plateau of northern Arizona and southern Utah. There are several amazing routes and tours you can take when you plan your trip to Antelope Canyon.
But not only that, the Canyon is within a quick trip of many other Navajo sites and tourist attractions, making the area a goldmine for photographers and history buffs alike.
1. The Upper Antelope Canyon
The Navajo call the Upper Canyon Tsé bighánílíní. In their language, this means ‘the place where water runs through rocks’, which is quite literally how slot canyons are formed.
It is home to an intermittent creek flowing into the Colorado River. It used to erupt in turbulent flash floods that wore away the sandstone rock face like sandpaper. These floods were immediately followed by sandstorms that slammed against the canyon walls, as the water evaporated in the intense desert heat.
Though it’s immensely popular with tourists, Upper Antelope Canyon is actually only about 100 yards long. But don’t let that fool you; this is the most photographed portion of the canyon. Twisted figures of vibrant colors dance in the sunlight in hues of yellows, peaches, pinks and greys; a truer desert palette you’ll not find!
2. Lower Antelope Canyon
In Navajo, the Lower Canyon is named Hazdistazí, or ‘spiral rock arches’. As with the Upper Canyon, it is accessible by guided tour only. Even after the tribe installed a series of stairways, it is a more difficult hike than Upper Antelope. It is longer, narrower, and uneven footing molests you for a good portion of the hike.
The trail is now home to five flights of stairs to aid in descent and ascent. One recommendation is to purchase the guided tour of the river and the Lower Canyon together. Throughout the 2-hour tour, your Navajo guide will make sure to point out beautiful carved formations in the rocks, such as the Lion’s Den, the Eagle, and Lady in the Wind, the Seahorse and the Goldfish.
3. Horseshoe Bend
Strictly speaking, Horseshoe Bend is not part of Antelope Canyon. But it is only 5 miles down the road and is often included in many visitors’s trips. It’s free to visit and is only a quarter-mile hike to the overlook that looks at the aptly named bend in the meandering Colorado River. It is also just 7 miles upstream from the beginning of the Grand Canyon.
4. Wire Pass Slot Canyon
If you’re like us, and prefer a place with less crowds, you will love Wire Pass. Located only a short drive from Page, AZ, near the town of Kanab, it is one of the lesser known slot canyons in the area. Although the last 8 miles of the drive is off road, the trip is definitely worth it. Be very mindful of the local weather conditions before you go there to avoid getting trapped in the canyon during flash floods. Read about our experience hiking the Wire Pass.
5. Steer 89 Steakhouse
If you’re looking for a good place to eat, check out the area’s best Navajo Steakhouse, Steer 89. Boasting an eclectic menu of steaks, salads, burgers, sandwiches and traditional Navajo dishes, it’s a fantastic atmosphere rated with friendly staff. They also have a fully stocked saloon with a great selection of wines, local beers, and premium spirits.
Their signature dish is actually a local favorite to the Navajo people; the Navajo taco. It was created in 1864 using the flour and salt from the United States government rations given to the Navajo in Arizona when they were forced to march 300-miles in what has come to be known as the “The Long Walk” to New Mexico. As sad as that tale is, it gave birth to a Navajo staple food and is now a celebrated piece of the culture in the Antelope Canyon area.
6. The Navajo Heritage Center
The Navajo Village Heritage Center is a recreation of a traditional Navajo home site. The center provides in-depth tours through authentic Navajo hogans, or dwellings, giving information on how their construction and stories.
The site also provides Navajo rug weaving demonstrations on how Navajo people dye yarn and share the importance of the role women play in the Navajo nation. They do presentations, films, and even dance performances to teach the Navajo culture to visitors.
Are you Ready?
Antelope Canyon is one of the most picturesque places in the American Southwest. The tours, local businesses, and vibrant culture of the Navajo people that run the site is a testament to the enduring spirit of this desert’s First Nations people.
Like the people who discovered it, the canyon has also endured eons of floods, weather, and violent storms, and yet has come through the other side a masterpiece of nature’s tapestry and some of the finest landscapes you’ll find on this earth. It’s worth the price of admission, because you’ll not find views like this anywhere else. And you’re helping to keep alive the vibrant culture of the Navajo nation, the caretakers of this piece of earth. Just be sure to empty your phone’s gallery, because you will want as much camera memory as you can get!
Here are some of our other posts to help you plan your trip: