Is Antelope Canyon Really Worth Visiting?

Last updated on:
Travel looks very different right now depending on where you're from and where you're going. Be sure to check local restrictions and be willing to adhere to any and all safety regulations before planning a trip to any of the places you may read about on this site. Also, some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure policy here

Even if you didn't realize it at the time, chances are you've seen a photo of Upper Antelope Canyon.

It's a narrow slot canyon located in northern Arizona known for is smooth and curvy orange walls and the light beams that shine down between them at certain times of year.

It's also become an incredibly popular tourist attraction.

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon

I first visited Antelope Canyon on a scorching day in August in 2011. My sister and I were mesmerized by the slot canyon, and barely even noticed the abundance of people inside it with us. It was a magical place carved out by Mother Nature, and I came home singing its praises.

Upper Antelope Canyon
My sister and I in 2011

The second time I visited was almost 5 years later, during a road trip through the American Southwest that Elliot and I did in April 2016.

Five years is a pretty long time, and in that time I've changed a bit both as a person and a traveler. I've been to dozens of new countries, have honed in on my ideal travel style, and have turned my blog into a business. It's only natural that along the way I've begun to approach touristy spots a little differently, too.

Here's the thing about tourist attractions: usually they are popular for a good reason. I never skip them even when I know I'm likely to be met by large crowds or long lines because I always like to come to my own conclusions about a place.

But I definitely went to Antelope Canyon the second time around with a more critical eye.

Upper Antelope Canyon

It's kind of like Stonehenge in a way – the photos of it look really cool and probably make you want to visit. But is it really worth it to go?

Let's look at the good and bad of a visit to Antelope Canyon:

The bad

It's crowded

Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona
The scene outside the canyon in 2011

Antelope Canyon has become a hugely popular attraction in the Southwest, especially from April to October when you can see the light beams shine down into the upper part of the canyon. And, even though the amount of people going into the canyon each day is regulated by the fact that you have to visit on a guided tour, the number of people visiting each day has certainly risen in recent years. The size of the canyon, however, has not changed, meaning you can often find yourself elbow-to-elbow with others.

Upper Antelope Canyon
The canyon also gets super narrow in parts – which you notice 10x more with lots of people inside.

Tours sell out

These canyon tours also sell out quickly. Elliot and I hoped to do a longer, photography-based tour this time around, but found that every space with every company was booked weeks in advance of our visit – and we weren't even going in the heart of high season! Midday tours also sell out fast, and we barely got ourselves on one in time. (Midday tours are the most popular because you can only see the light beams between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on most days.) This is not the type of tour that you could just rock up to on the day you want to go and expect to get a spot at a prime time of day.

It's not cheap

Tours of Upper Antelope Canyon are not really cheap, either. Prices range from $40-$60 per person for a standard tour, with midday tours being towards the more expensive end. These standard tours include transport from downtown Page, a Navajo park fee, and an hour-long guided tour of the slot canyon. Photography-focused tours (which allow you to bring a tripod and give you two hours inside the canyon) cost $80-$90 per person.

Upper Antelope Canyon

You might feel rushed

I don't know how it is on the photography tours, but I know that things can feel rushed on the standard tours of Antelope Canyon. This is because everything is on a timer, and they don't want stragglers throwing things off. This unfortunately means that if the light beams don't show up until the last 10 minutes of your tour, you won't get any extra time to see/photograph them.

The good

THESE VIEWS.

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon
Magical, magical light beams

It's pretty well-organized

Considering the amount of people that they shuttle through the canyon each day, things actually run pretty smoothly. You move slowly through the canyon one way, stopping frequently for your guide to point out cool rock formations or help you take photos. Then you move back through much more quickly on the way out (so quickly that you're not supposed to stop at all – though our group did stop briefly to see some light beams).

Upper Antelope Canyon
Can you see the bear?

Photographers get priority

If you do manage to book a longer photography tour, you get priority when it comes to the best spots to take photos. Guides will try to shoo people out of your shots, and people generally respect the fact that you've paid a bit more in hopes of getting better photos in the canyon.

The verdict

So what's my conclusion? Well, I can say that there was definitely a difference between my very first tour of Upper Antelope Canyon and my second. In the last 5 years, the slot canyon has become MUCH more popular, and I definitely felt more rushed the second time around.

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon is not the only slot canyon near Page. You can visit Lower Antelope Canyon, for example, which is just across the road. It's much easier to visit (you can more or less just show up and hop on a tour), and entry is considerably cheaper.

BUT, Upper Antelope Canyon is the only place where you have a chance of seeing those iconic light beams.

Upper Antelope Canyon
You won't see this in Lower Antelope Canyon

Of course, since you have to book tours in advance, there's no guarantee of clear, sunny skies to allow for those light beams to shine down between the canyon walls… But the chances of seeing them are pretty good during the summer months.

Upper Antelope Canyon
Though, the canyon still looks cool even without the beams

So would I recommend going?

To be honest, I think I still would. Upper Antelope Canyon is so unique and so incredible that I think it's possible to look past the crowds and still be able to appreciate the beauty of the place.

Upper Antelope Canyon

However, if you don't like crowds and aren't too concerned about seeing those light beams, then I would probably suggest skipping this one.

IF YOU GO…

Elliot and I booked a 10:30 a.m. tour with Chief Tsosie's Antelope Slot Canyon Tours for $58 each. Most of the companies in Page give similar tours (and also have similar names), so I don't know that it really matters all that much who you go with. Just be sure to book your tour online ahead of time if you plan to visit during peak season (which starts as early as April each year). Also note that, unless you book a dedicated photography tour, you are not permitted to bring a tripod into Upper Antelope Canyon.

If you're more interested in Lower Antelope Canyon, check out Ken's Tours.

So what do you think? Would you go, or would you skip this one?

 

Is Antelope Canyon worth visiting?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

42 Comments on “Is Antelope Canyon Really Worth Visiting?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Have traveled around the world and this is one of the best places I have ever been. I would go back a few more times. You are so taken aback by the natural beauty that engulfs you that you don’t even notice that there is a group of people with you. Native American guides are fantastic too. Go! Go!Go!

    Incorrect, light beams can be seen in all of the slot canyons un the Page area. There are a total of 11 commercial slots in the area, all being closed due to the Navajo Nation closure.

    I took a photo tour in 2019, to Zion, Grand Cyn and Horseshoe Bend/Slot Cyns. By far, I enjoyed the slot canyons the most. It was definitely worth the money. I can’t wait to go back again.

    More than WORTH visiting. I’ve visited the Lower. Planning to visit the Upper Canyon. Thanks!

    If you book with Chief Tsosie, you don’t arrive at the Canyon with a layer of dust on you. It is a nice bus with AC. HOWEVER, if you like the thrill of riding in the back of an open truck, go for it..!! Lol

    Any experiences going to the canyon from Las Vegas…thinking about it but its a long day

      As a day trip? No, I’m not sure I’d recommend that. It’s at least 4.5-5 hours from Las Vegas to Page, making for a super long day if you tried to do it without an overnight!

    It looks like lower antelope canyon is no longer offering photography tours due to “increased crowds” …. sorry to read this; thought it might be a way to see the canyon(s) with the crowds of the Upper Antelope. Thank you for your blog 🙂

      Ah that’s too bad! It has gotten really popular in the last few years – I know they’re still doing photo tours at Upper Antelope Canyon, though.

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On