Lower Antelope Canyon
If you are planning a trip within the Navajo Nation to see Monument Valley, you may also want to include a two hour side trip to Antelope Canyons…unless you are claustrophobic. The northern Arizona route to Antelope Canyons (routes 163, 160, and 222) is no straight line but is easy to follow and it does provide some unique landscape and wildlife photo opportunities along the way.
It is important to note that there are two separate Antelope Canyons each with different LeChee chapter of the Navajo Nation management and fee structures. They are separated by approximately a mile. Both canyons are located just off route 222, prior to entering Page, Arizona.
Each of the canyons require a guide, though neither is a difficult climb or hike (once within the canyons). That is not to say that there are not potential risks, particularly during inclement weather (see “Flash Flood” video at end of this post). I would recommend visting either of these canyons on “sunny” days, in particular when the sun is high in the sky in order to appreciate the light and color projected through the tiny openings above.
Coming from Monument Valley. you will reach the entrance to Upper Antelope first. You will likely note that most comments found on the web seem to indicate a preference for Lower Antelope Canyon. The Lower Antelope Canyon is the focus of this post.
Upon arrival at the Lower Antelope Canyon admissions booth, you will be informed of the time of the next guided tour of Lower Antelope Canyon. Our guides called himself “Truman”. He was a very pleasant and informative guide. He noted that this particular area was discovered by accident. During the construction of a nearby Electric Power Plant, someone fell into the canyon and had to be rescued…thus the discovery. He noted that since the 1987 tragedy, a “guide” is mandatory for entrance into the canyon, though it appears some days it is…others it is not.
You will note, as you walk towards the entrance to the canyon, that this is unlike most canyons you will visit. There is nothing but flat rocky terrain in front of you, no side walls or cliffs visible above or below…just a very narrow crack or separation in the stone is visible. This is the entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon. The intial decent into the canyon requires squeezing into the crack, turning 180 degrees and descending down a set of steel stairs/ladders. It may be necessary to remove a backpack or camera bag in order to squeeze through the slot and make the turn towards the stair/ladder.
Once you’ve made it down into the canyon the fun begins. The diameter (wall to wall) ranges from narrow…to extremely narrow. It is a downhill hike within the canyon, with an occasional further decent on stairs or ladders. The play of shadows, color, and light changes throughout the canyon. It is a challenging place to attempt to photograph, particularly amongst larger groups. Dust (sand) can be extreme, and due to the narrow confines…an occasional head or arm may bomb your shot. But, even with an iPhone or pocket camera, you should be able get a couple of memorable shots to remember your day. Along the way, your guide will likely point out various rock formations that take the shape of cartoon characters, animals, and famous people along the way. The end-to-end tour takes about an hour.
Is it worth a two hour (or more) diversion to see? In my opinion, yes. While it is expensive (> $25.00 per person compared to the $10.00 vehicle entrance for Canyonlands National Park), it is very unique and beautiful. It was a place on my personal “bucket list” and I’m glad I had the experience. Additional photos are posted under the Images menu above.