At first glance, Page, AZ looks like an old washed up desert town with bad diners and cheap motels (this part is true in my opinion). Then you start digging a little deeper and you realize it is one of the most fascinating vacation spots in the United States. Page is home to the infamous Antelope Canyon. What is so fascinating about Antelope Canyon? It is one of the most gorgeous slot canyons in Utah and is located on land owned and managed by the Navajo Nation.
The Canyon itself is made up of Navajo Sandstone and over time has been eroded and formed by wind and flash flooding. There are 2 parts to Antelope Canyon – the Upper and the Lower. I would recommend the Lower Canyon simply because it can be a little more difficult to get into, therefore, the crowds are potentially smaller. You have to climb down and out on a solid ladder system and some of the pathways can be a little tight. The total distance underground is about .25 miles.
If you are a photographer or interested in geological formations, this is akin to heaven on earth. Since 1997, you are no longer allowed to enter the canyon without a Navajo Guide. Eleven tourists were trapped when a rain shower blew through the area and flooded the canyon. You can guess what happened next – it was quite tragic.
Key Tip: I would not recommend going during the monsoon season (July through September) which is in the summer time. It is hotter than hades and the chance of a flash flood occurring is high. Please, please, please check the weather before you venture into any slot canyon. Do not attempt if there is a chance of a flash flood unless you have a death wish. I cannot stress this enough.
How do you get there? Drive a few miles miles outside of Page and search for ‘the signs’. If iI remember correctly, it was not well marked and Greg and I seemed to miss the turn off a few times (that made for some fun car conversation). Double check with folks at the hotel for specific directions as markers and signage may have changed since we were there. Once you find the correct turnoff, you will quickly see a shack where you pay and hire the first available guide for the tour. Here is a pretty good link to describe hours of operation, etc. Antelope Canyon Logistics.
After walking just a few hundred yards, you will come upon a mysterious crack in the ground and descend a ladder about 25 feet under the surface of the earth. The scenery is one of the most stunning I have ever seen in my life. A combination of orange, red, pink and violet swirls adorn the walls of the Canyon and are significantly highlighted when the sunlight seeps through the cracks from above.
If you have an exceptional guide, he or she will take you through the canyon at your own pace and share the rich history and major landmarks. You have a 2 hour limit in the canyon, maximize it – it is truly an unbelievable experience and one you may never have the chance to see again. Who knows, the Navajos may get sick of the tourist industry and shut the whole thing down or you could violate the rules of the Life Bus and hoard your vacation until you are on your deathbed (not recommended).
Key Tip: Bring a good SLR camera with a wide angle lens, a tripod, a remote control release, a very large memory card, and a backpack with water and snacks. If you come across a particular spot where the sun is shining directly down to the bottom of the canyon, have your travel partner or guide throw a fistful of sand into the air. I missed out on this tip and therefore was not able to experience one of the most unbelievable photographic moments of my life. This just means I have to go again. If you are a photographer, go in the early hours and late afternoon in order to maximize your chances of a National Geographic moment.
How do you get to Page? You can fly into the local Page airport on Great Lakes Air, Las Vegas International Airport, or the Phoenix International Airport. I had the fortunate experience of a solo road trip from Denver – Greg met me in Page. It was a lovely, peaceful drive and one I will never forget.
Where does one stay in Page? There are not a whole lot of options – we stayed at the Best Western – pretty unremarkable really, but cheap and I got frequent traveler points. One guy actually had the audacity to gripe out the hotel manager because the breakfast was not to his liking. I figure, what do you expect from a Best Western? You will get a load of sugar and carbs and like it.
This experience was everything and more for me. All of the images you see in magazines, books, and websites are true to form and even more stunning in person. If you are an amateur photographer, it is really difficult not to get at least one good shot – you will feel like a pro. For you couch potatoes, this is not a physically challenging adventure, but is definitely Life Bus worthy – get out there and give it a go.