Thinking about hiking Antelope Canyon outside of Page, Arizona?
As a resident of Arizona, I often get asked about the most essential hikes in Arizona by visiting friends and family. One of the first places that come to mind is Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is a special place for hiking for a number of reasons- the biggest being that there’s actually not a lot of hiking you can do. When I tell my friends and family this fact, they often scratch their heads and ask, “Why would I ever want to hike there then?” “Because it’s the most famous slot canyon in Arizona and potentially the world!”
Here’s a quick guide on what to expect when planning your hike at Antelope Canyon:
What you should know about Antelope Canyon:
Out of all the slot canyons in Arizona, Antelope Canyon is split into two sections Upper and Lower. While each canyon has its own features and sights, there is only one hike in each one. This small slot canyon outside of Page, Arizona packs a big punch when it comes to the extraordinary sights that are inside. It is important to note that you must make a reservation for a tour of this canyon because that is the only way that you can walk towards it and get inside.
Antelope Canyon is on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands, which is why you can only enter with a tour guide. It is best to visit this canyon during the early morning hours, as that is when the sun shines into the canyon and creates a spectacular glow. When you see it, you will be thrilled that you got up early enough to experience the magic inside!
This canyon is the most photographed one within the entire southwest and tens of thousands of people visit each year to see the beauty that seems to change every day. You must be prepared to climb up and downstairs and ladders during this hike, so make sure you are wearing the proper hiking boots.
Due to Antelope Canyon being on Navajo Land, you must be with a certified tour guide when you visit. Without a guide, you will not be allowed to enter the canyon, or the area surrounding the canyon. This was not always the case, but the rules changed when a few individuals chose to deface and destroy the property.
#1 You have to hire a guide to hike Antelope Canyon
The regulations of the Navajo Tribal Parks Authority require you to have a Navajo guide in order to visit Antelope Canyon. Tours are available throughout the year, and you should make a reservation and pre-book your tour through one of the official tour guide companies to visit the Canyons. You can choose between a general tour which lasts usually around an hour or take a longer photography tour which can last up to two hours.
#2 There is both a Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon to hike
Yes, there are two canyons to hike – Lower Antelope Canyon and the Upper Antelope Canyon. Upper Antelope Canyon is an A-shaped slot canyon, while Lower Antelope Canyon is a V-shaped slot canyon. Both are equally popular, equally beautiful, and equally packed in the peak months.
One thing to note is that Lower Antelope Canyon tours are usually less expensive than the Upper Antelope Canyon tours, but honestly, they’re both just as beautiful.
However, if you’re looking to save a little money on your trip, Lower Antelope Canyon is the better choice.
#3 There are both hiking and photography tours of Antelope Canyon
There are two kinds of tours you can take of the Lower Antelope Canyon. You can take a general hiking tour which lasts approximately one hour, or you can take a photography tour which lasts a little longer, approximately up to two hours. Different tour companies offer different types of tours and have their own restrictions on what you can and can’t bring, so definitely shop around to find the best tour that fits your needs and desires.
#4 The Antelope Canyon hike is rather short
Between the Lower Antelope Canyon and the Upper Antelope Canyon, the Lower Antelope is a shorter hike. After leaving the parking lot with your group, it will be less than a 10-minute walk to the canyon entrance. There you will descend down the staircase, approximately 76 steps, to the base of the canyon. The hike is ¾ of a mile and you will be able to spend around one hour down in the canyon. Since the Lower Antelope Canyon is a V-shaped canyon, it has a narrow base but a wider opening up top which allows more sunlight to enter providing great visuals of the colorful walls.
Hiking trail details of Antelope Canyon
For Lower Antelope Canyon, you will take a 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the canyon entrance. There you will descend down the staircase, approximately 76 steps, to the base of the canyon. The hike is ¾ of a mile and you will be able to spend around one hour down in the canyon.
For Upper Antelope Canyon, your tour guide will drive you out to the entrance of the hike- about 30 minutes. From there, the trail starts and is the same relative distance as Lower.
- Distance: half-mile hike round trip
- Estimated time needed: 1 hour
- Elevation change of the hike: Lower: 4,000 feet; Upper: none
- The difficulty of hike: super easy
- Trail conditions: both compacted and loose sand
- Recommended supplies to bring: 1 liter of water and camera
- Permits needed: you are required to go with a licensed guide for both Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon
What we love about Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is definitely beautiful and worth experiencing. Here are some of the things we love about Antelope Canyon:
- Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are incredibly beautiful.
- The hikes are very short- allowing you to explore both canyons in one day or explore more of nearby Page, Arizona.
- If you come specifically during the early morning and later afternoon hours, you will be able to see the iconic color and light that makes Antelope Canyon famous.
- You can take a photography tour or a walking tour.
What we don’t love about Antelope Canyon
However, there are pros and cons to everything. Here are a few things we don’t love about Antelope Canyon:
- Both Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon are very popular slot canyons. It may be difficult to get permits during the busy times of the year: Spring and Fall.
- There is a lot of waiting around. Depending on the time of your tour group, you may have to wait up top in the Arizona sun while your group waits to start the hike. Bottlenecks on the trail are common sights during the busy times of the year.
- It’s expensive, prices $40+ per person for the ¾ mile experience.
Can you camp at Antelope Canyon?
There is no camping directly in Antelope Canyon but there are several campgrounds and dispersed camping outside of Lake Powell and Page, Arizona.
When to visit Antelope Canyon
It is possible to visit Antelope Canyon at any time of the year unless there is inclement weather. The months of April through September will be the busiest and have the most crowds, while the rest of the year is a little slower. However, it is important to note that from the middle of October until the middle of March, the light from the sun will not enter the canyon.
We recommend going in Spring or Fall to avoid the heat of summer.
Lower Antelope Canyon vs. Upper: which is better?
You can’t go wrong with either!
They both have pros and cons of each. Both are equally popular and equally busy, so it’s not like one is less crowded than the other. One thing to note is that if someone if your group is not comfortable climbing a ladder/stairs, then go with the Upper Canyon. However, if you’re able to do the ladder/stair then Lower Canyon gives you a great experience at a lower price point.
Antelope Canyon can be found on Navajo land in Arizona and it is important to reserve your spot within a tour group if you want to see it. Being a part of the tour will not have you missing out on any of the special places within the canyon, it only ensures that this part of the world stays as beautiful as it has been for generations. While there is not much hiking to be done within Antelope Canyon, you will love what you see when you are inside if you time it right.
Resources for Antelope Canyon
- Antelope Canyon Microadventure guide
- FAQs about Antelope Canyon
- Hiking Antelope Canyon without a permit
- Our favorite slot canyons in Arizona
- Our favorite slot canyons in Utah
- Lake Powell free dispersed camping
Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.