My first introduction to the Antelope Canyon was a Windows Desktop wallpaper that came prepackaged with the operating system. Every day, as my system booted up, I remember staring at the water-carved lines of the vibrant slot canyon without knowing where this mysterious place actually was! Never had I imagined then, that I would actually visit Antelope Canyon someday.
Fast-forward to December 2019, a few days before Christmas, I was bored of the Las Vegas Strip and wanted to explore the surrounding desert landscape of Nevada and Arizona. So, I looked up my favorite booking site, GetYourGuide.com for day trips.
Which Antelope Canyon is the best? Upper, Lower or Canyon X?
A tour to the Antelope Canyon immediately caught my attention. The number of hours for the journey, 14 hours, back and forth didn’t deter me as I was so excited to see the Canyon. What surprised me was that there were a variety of tours available. You could either see the Upper Canyon, the Lower Canyon or Canyon X. A quick search on Google showed me that the Upper Canyon and Lower Canyon were both popular with the tourists and promised amazing pictures. So, I was torn about which one to choose?
The Upper Antelope Canyon
The Upper Antelope Canyon is the most popular of the slot canyons in Page, Arizona. The Upper Antelope Canyon is famous for the “beams of sunlight” that shine through the roof of the slot canyon which make for some of the most beautiful pictures of the canyon. However, these beams of light are mostly assured on clear days in the summer at noon. If you are visiting the canyon in winter, like me, you’ll probably miss the “beam of light” phenomenon. The Upper Canyon is also a better choice for people who are unable to climb stairs and ladders which you’ll need to do in the Lower Canyon. The disadvantage of visiting the Upper canyon is that the Upper Antelope Canyon is usually very crowded and is more expensive than the other canyons.
The Lower Antelope Canyon
The Lower Antelope Canyon is a good choice for people who are looking for lesser crowds. Lesser being the operative word as the Lower Canyon is fast gaining in popularity and the crowds are steadily increasing in this canyon as well. The entrance fee to the lower canyon is also less expensive than the Upper Canyon. The cons of visiting the lower canyon are that the lower canyon is narrower than the Upper Canyon and you have to climb down a series ladders to get to the canyon. A moderately fit person can easily do use these ladders and stairs.
Antelope Canyon X – A less touristy Canyon
Antelope Canyon X is the least crowded of the three canyons at the time of writing this article. Since this is a newer canyon to be opened to the public, it hasn’t yet gained the popularity of the other two canyons. However, it’s just as beautiful.
I gravitate more towards hidden gems when it comes to travel. So, among the three, I chose to visit Antelope Canyon X. Below, I’ll give a more detailed account of my trip. If you want to skip the description and want to buy the tour, here’s the link
Las Vegas to Antelope Canyon
For the day trip from Las Vegas to Antelope Canyon X, I chose a small group tour that had no more than 15 people on board. The tour offered pickup from many hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. The tour was an early start at 5:40 AM. I’m an early riser, so this wasn’t much of a problem for me.
The 12 seater minibus arrived at the hotel promptly. After checking our confirmation and brief hellos to the people on board, the driver proceeded to pick up other passengers. We were fortunate that almost all the people on the tour were on time and ready to go when the minibus arrived at their hotel except for one person. This person was not only not ready to go but was slobbering drunk when the driver called him up. He didn’t even remember booking the trip! To the relief of everyone on board, after a 10-minute wait, the driver decided to leave.
The driver was mindful of the early start and that most of us probably preferred a quiet ride to the Antelope Canyon. He spoke up only when there were interesting things to see on the way but didn’t feel the need to constantly recite unnecessary facts or jokes to “entertain” us. This was perfect in my view and just the type of tour I prefer.
Breakfast and Lunch Provisions on the tour
On the way, we made a stop at a gas station for some coffee and snacks. Though the tour description said there would be snacks, fruits, and water on board, we were not offered any snacks on the tour nor did we ask for it. If you are purchasing the tour through GetYourGuide.com, the entrance fee to the canyon is already included in your price. However, if you have bought the same trip through some other booking websites, you’ll have to pay the driver, the entrance fee in cash. If you don’t have cash with you, there’s an ATM at the gas station.
The lunch stop was at Subway. The cost of the 12-inch Subway sandwich with a large drink and chips are included in the price of the tour. I enjoyed the 45 min stop for lunch. There was enough time to eat the sandwich and stretch our legs before continuing.
Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam
On the way to Antelope Canyon, the driver promised us two surprise stops that were technically not part of the tour. The first stop gave us a view of Lake Powell in the distance. Though the capture here doesn’t do it justice, this was a great stop. The driver encouraged us to take a slow-motion video while jumping, which I haven’t posted here because it didn’t come out well. However, I had a lot of fun jumping for the video.
The second stop was at Glen Canyon Dam which looks remarkably similar to the Hoover dam. The more interesting sight, in my opinion, was on the other side of the road where you can see the Colorado River. I have to admit, however, that this sight which excited me so much at the moment, dulled in comparison once I saw the Horseshoe Bend. It was still worth the stop though.
Finally, Antelope Canyon X
After nearly 6 hours on the bus, with some stops in between, we finally arrived at our destination, Antelope Canyon X. The Antelope Canyon X, just like the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are owned by the Navajo Indian Families. So, at this point, your minibus driver/tour guide leaves you and the job is taken over by a Navajo Indian guide.
First, at the parking lot, you transfer to another minibus. This minibus takes you from to the entrance of the Antelope Canyon. Then, the Navajo India guide leads you down the stairs to the slot canyons. The steps here, as you see in the picture, are not as steep as the steps at the Lower Antelope Canyon. There’s also an unpaved path beside the stairs. Whether this path is suitable for a wheelchair, I don’t have any idea.
There are two slot canyons at Antelope Canyon X within a short distance of each other. They both are beautiful. The Navajo guide who led us into the canyons was very friendly and help everyone take photos. He also taught us some cool photography tricks to get the best photos of the canyon.
Since the Canyon was not crowded with tourists, we had plenty of time to get some great shots and explore the canyons at leisure. If you are visiting during winter, there’s snow on the ground and the temperature inside the canyon is cooler than outside. So, remember to wear warm clothes and comfortable shoes.
There are some wide and narrow areas in the canyon. However, even the narrow areas are not too much of a squeeze. It’s comfortable to walk through.
After about 45 minutes of exploring both the slot canyons, we were ready to head back to our minibus. I was extremely satisfied with the tour of the canyon and I had a great time.
If you thought this was the end of the day trip, you’re wrong. There was another wonderful destination to explore i.e. the Horseshoe Bend. The drive from the Antelope Canyon to Horseshoe Bend was just around 20 minutes. Once at the location, we had to hike a little, somewhere around 15 minutes to reach the Horseshoe part of the Colorado River.
The view that awaited us was amazing, to say the least. The Colorado River snaked around the Canyon carving a Horseshoe shape which was glorious to see. I know the scene before you at this point is so beautiful that you are bound to forget precautions. So, I say it here, please beware of edges of the canyon at all times. Don’t be too engrossed in clicking pictures.
This view of the Colorado River was the perfect ending to a perfect day trip. After this stop, we headed straight back to Las Vegas. If you want to go on the same tour as I did, you can purchase the tickets here.
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