Living in Arizona, I get a lot of questions regarding the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. Although I’ve been to both several times, there’s still so much more I want to explore of both the Grand Canyon and Page (the city where Antelope Canyon is located about a 2 hour drive from the Grand Canyon). I thought I would share some tips and information I learned from my visits
The Grand Canyon
At a whopping 277 miles in length and a mile deep, the Grand Canyon makes is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. If you are traveling by car, it costs $30 to get into the park and your park pass is good for 7 days. The park also has a couple of entry fee free days and they can be found here.
If you’re looking to take some epic pictures and just admire the view, then your first stop should be Mather Point. Located at the South Rim, it is the most popular viewing area for tourists and offers some stellar views. The only downside is that this viewing area can get pretty crowded during peak season (May-September) but it is still totally worth the stop. In my opinion, one of the best ways to experience the Grand Canyon is to spend the night in the park. They have both lodging and campsites available. The reason I recommend this is because experiencing the night sky out there is truly incredible. Because there aren’t any big neighboring cities, there’s hardly any light pollution and it makes for some phenomenal star-gazing. The other best part of staying inside the park? Sunrise over Mather Point. I remember taking a solo trip out to the canyon and just sitting there by myself, wrapped in a blanket watching the sun come up over the canyon. Definitely made the list for one of the top 5 sunrises of my lifetime.
South Kaibab Trail
If you’re up for it, the South Kaibab Trail is one of the best ways to experience the canyon up-close. The trail descends into the canyon is a total of 7.1 miles. You can find a detailed description of the trail here. After a long series of switchbacks, the entire trail offers absolutely STUNNING views of the canyon. Just remember that because the trail descends, you will be going uphill on your way back so be sure that you bring PLENTY of food/water. I wouldn’t recommend hiking this trail in the heat of the summer when it is 100 + degrees out. However, if you do decide to go during the summer or just aren’t in the best hiking shape, it is still worth it to go a mile or two on the trail because even the views from the beginning of the trail are amazing.
Note: During tourist season and weekends the only way to get to the trail head is by parking at the visitors center (Mather Point) and then taking the bus to from there. (buses run every 15 minutes).
If you have the extra time and money, I would recommend taking a helicopter tour of the canyon. It offers a different perspective and lets you see just how massive the canyon truly is. The first time I ever laid eyes on the Grand Canyon was from a helicopter. One thing that you can’t see from the ground is how much of a drastic drop-off and change in landscape there is. You’re just flying along, everything is flat and green and then BOOM, a plummeting drop of red and orange rock. Once over the canyon, you can see the Colorado River and how the landscape changes. Some rock is orange and red while there is some that is white and green. I used Papillon Helicopter Tours and you can find more information on them here.
Page is a small town in northern Arizona, located close to the Utah border and on the southern shores of Lake Powell. It’s about a 2 hour drive from the Grand Canyon. You can also book a tour that flies you into Page from the Grand Canyon. I’ve both driven and flown to Page and the flight offers some of the most amazing views of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River, but it is really nice to have your car there so you can go at your own pace and make stops. One of the most popular things to do in Page is to visit Antelope Canyon. Because this has become such a popular destination over the years, there are some things you need to know before taking a visit:
1. Because Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land, it is impossible to see Antelope Canyon without a tour and a guide. Most of the guides are very nice and knowledgeable. They also are know the good picture spots and will help you take them. The sightseeing tours are designed for tourists so if you want a slower-paced tour to take serious photos, you can book a photography tour here.
2. If you are going during peak tourist season (May-September), I would recommend making a reservation ahead of time. When I went in September we didn’t have a reservation and got in, but we did have to be a little bit flexible with the time and wait for a couple of hours. You can find more information on making reservations here.
3. Because the canyon has grown so much in popularity over the past couple years, you will have other people in your photos. Most of my pictures were snapped at the last second before another person came around the corner. I would wait for gaps of people or try to stay at the end of my tour group because in the summers, the canyons are basically a constant flow of people. This is why it is best to try to reserve the first tour of the day. I did that in the off-season a couple of years ago and we pretty much had the canyon to ourselves.
Upper Antelope Canyon vs Lower Antelope Canyon
There are two different canyons that you have the option of touring, Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Out of the two, I personally prefer Lower Antelope Canyon. This is because it tends to be a little bit longer of a tour, less crowded, and you get to enter the canyon through a series of stairs and ladders that upper doesn’t have. Upper tends to be a bit more popular and is a little bit more expensive to get into. When I went, Lower Antelope Canyon was around $30 and Upper Antelope Canyon was about $50. At lower, you can park near the canyon and walk to you tour. At upper, your tour company will take you on a jeep from the parking lot to the canyon opening.
One cool thing about Upper Antelope Canyon is that around mid-day (exact times vary depending on the season), beams of light shine down to the floor of the canyon which you don’t get at lower. A guide will usually throw a shovel of sand into the light, so you can capture and amazing picture. So if you do visit upper, I think it’s worth it to research and go during the time of these light beams. If you’re visiting lower, the best time to visit is closer towards the morning or afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky so the lighting isn’t as harsh. If you have the whole day, this makes it convenient to plan a visit to both canyons.
Located only 5-7 minutes from Antelope Canyon is Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe Bend is a drop-off that you can park and walk to. It’s a viewpoint of the Colorado River and is shaped like a perfect horseshoe (imagine that). Horseshoe Bend is totally free and super accessible so there is no excuse to miss it if you’re in Page. The parking lot can get a little crowded during weekends and in the summer, so I would recommend getting there before 9 a.m. or so. I went around this time and there were still a good amount of parking spots left and it wasn’t too crowded down by the edge. Once you park, the viewpoint is a short walk from the parking lot. (about 10/15 minutes).
Tip: It’s good to bring a GoPro or a wide-angle lens or if you have one. Depending on where you stand, it can be difficult to get the entire view of the bend in the picture. I know because every time I go here I forget my GoPro so bring yours if you have one!
If you are spending more time in Page, here’s a list of other things nearby that are worth checking out:
1. Lake Powell
2. Rainbow Arch
3. Old Paria
4. Glen Canyon Dam