Antelope Canyon not only met my expectations, but far exceeded it. I’d seen the pictures, and I assumed it would be something Jason and I would enjoy, but it was so much better. This is why I love to travel--some destinations just can’t be translated into photos or videos, they really must be experienced in person.
But it would be a shame to go all the way to Page, Arizona, and only visit Antelope Canyon. So I decided to combine it with a nearby sight that had been disappointing during my first visit--Horseshoe Bend. I had been here earlier this year, but thanks to the crowds in the late afternoon it was hard to even see the bend. So I decided to give it another chance, this time at sunrise.
So if you have just one day in Page, I suggest an itinerary from Horseshoe Bend to Antelope Canyon. Then if you’re interested in more sights, I’ll give a few suggestions. But these two experiences at the right times of day will make it a great day.
How To Get To Horseshoe Bend And Antelope Canyon
There’s no quick and easy way to get to Page, Arizona. If you live on the West Coast, this is a popular road trip destination that can be combined with one or more of the nearby national parks like the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. If you’re coming from a further distance, the best bets are to fly into Las Vegas, Nevada, or Salt Lake City, Utah, and then rent a car. Each airport is about four and a half hours from Page.
Start Your Day With A Horseshoe Bend Sunrise
Horseshoe Bend is a deep reddish-brown canyon carved out by the Colorado River in the shape of a horseshoe. The steep and colorful sandstone walls contrast with the green/blue waters of the river. In the middle is a foreboding rock formation. Over the past few years this has become a popular spot on Instagram and the crowds have followed.
During my first visit here around 4 p.m. in the afternoon, there were hundreds of people, many who had come prepared for a photo shoot with tripods, multiple phones and cameras, and very stylish clothing and hats. I was tired after a long day of sightseeing, so I’m sure that impacted my experience, but I also found it hard to find a spot to look down into the canyon.
So this time Jason and I woke up early, made ourselves coffee in the hotel room, and drove towards Horseshoe Bend in the dark. We arrived at the entrance just as the sun was coming up, paid our $10 entrance fee and parked. The walk to the bend is .6 miles, and this time was blissfully quiet and empty. When we reached the rim there were just four other people present.
Now let me be clear, visitors will be facing West at the viewing spot, so the sun actually comes up behind you. The sunrise is not particularly dramatic. But what makes this all worthwhile is the gradually changing light that slowly illuminates the bend. This time I had the opportunity to take photos from any vantage point I chose. When I had all the pictures I wanted, Jason and I just held hands and observed this beautiful spot in peace.
We returned to our hotel where breakfast was being served and relaxed until it was time for our tour of the canyon.
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Tour Lower Antelope Canyon
Let me start by clarifying that there are two parts to Antelope Canyon; lower and upper. We toured the lower canyon this time. These slot canyons were formed by water over millions of years. Combined they are over a mile and a half long. Both are made of Navajo sandstone, a soft, reddish-brown rock that bends and curves gracefully throughout.
Both canyons are located on the Navajo Nation, and there are just seven approved tour providers; five companies for the upper canyon and two for the lower. It is possible to tour both on the same day, but that requires reservations with two different companies.
Upper Canyon is the more popular photography spot due to the shape of the canyon and how the sunlight shines into it. So if you are coming to get the best possible photos, be sure to book the upper canyon tour. The trade off is that this is the busier canyon as well, so be sure to make your reservations far in advance, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend.
Lower Canyon is longer--about a mile--so we enjoyed the opportunity to remain in the canyon for almost an hour. We walked through dozens of chambers with curved walls reaching 120 feet into the air. In fact when it was time to climb out, I was disappointed. I didn't want to leave. And even as an amateur photographer using mostly my iphone, I think the photos here look awesome.
Do be aware there are five flights of stairs to climb down into the lower canyon, and subsequently climb out. Don’t select this option if you have a fear of heights.
Ken’s Tours hosted us for this experience and we would definitely recommend them. Currently masks are required at all times in the canyon and group sizes are limited to seven.
Tips For Photographing Antelope Canyon
If you’re eager for viewing--and photographing--either Antelope Canyon during the best light, then plan to visit March through October between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Choose your tour time accordingly. However, if you are visiting in the summer when temperatures can often be above 100 degrees, then this may not be wise. But we visited in late September at 11 a.m. on a clear, sunny day, and the lighting was perfect. The temperatures were about 70 degrees, so we were always comfortable.
Really good amateur or professional photographers may want to consult their tour company for even more specific recommendations. Better yet, try booking on the photography tours available in the upper canyon.
Finally, do a little research in advance about the best settings for your camera or phone. My first few photos looked washed out, but fortunately our guide was able to help with a few quick tips.
Other Nearby Activities
When my sister and I visited Page earlier this year we managed to visit five sights in nine hours and this didn’t even include Antelope Canyon. Needless to say, there is plenty to do around the area. Here are a few suggestions;
Toadstools Trail--This 1.5 mile out and back hike ends at rock formations that look like mushrooms. This is an easy trail perfect for all ages and is pet friendly. From Page, you can reach the Trailhead in thirty minutes.
Navajo Bridge--For dramatic views of the Colorado River head to Navajo Bridge, opened in 1929. For a brief time this was the highest steel bridge arch in the world. From Page this is a forty minute drive, but in the opposite direction of Toadstools.
Lee’s Ferry--Below Navajo Bridge is Lee’s Ferry, the spot where pioneers, miners, Indians, and tourists crossed the Colorado River from 1872 until 1928. Take a break from sightseeing and dip your toes in the water.
Zion National Park--Jason and I combined this trip with a day in Zion National Park which is two hours Northwest of Page. If you can, set aside at least two days for this park.
Hotels Near Antelope Canyon And Horseshoe Bend
For both of my recent trips we stayed at the Hyatt Place Page/Lake Powell. I truly appreciate their willingness to host us both times, but all opinions are my own.
The Hyatt Place isn’t always the cheapest hotel in the area, but it is clean, stylish, and offers great sunset views over Glen Canyon Dam. It also includes a hot breakfast each morning. They have a restaurant on site that serves delicious food, and weather permitting, can be enjoyed on their outdoor patio. And I really appreciate a place that doesn’t charge either a resort fee or parking fee. Even if I’m paying next time, I’ll stay here again.