Forewarning: you cannot hike Antelope Canyon without a permit
Unlike other places around Page, Arizona and southern Utah, Antelope Canyon cannot be visited or hiked without an issued permit and tour by a licensed guide. There is a misconception that you can hike or visit Antelope Canyon without a permit. This is not the case at all.
Because both Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon are located on the Navajo Reservation and are managed by the Navajo Parks and Recreation department, this organization restricts the number of individuals who hike in this famous slot canyon in northern Arizona.
Here’s a quick guide detailing out proper ways to hike and visit Antelope Canyon with a permit and licensed tour guide:
The misconception of hiking Antelope Canyon without a permit
As mentioned before, there is a common misconception that you can hike and visit Antelope Canyon on your own without a permit. In my personal opinion, I think this belief stems from the number of hikes around Page, Arizona and southern Utah that can be accessed without a permit or licensed tour guide. Some of those hikes include Buckskin Gulch, the Toadstools, Horseshoe Bend (entry fee still required but no permit necessary), Lee’s Ferry, and various points along Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Due to the number of permit-less hikes around the area, tourists and Microadventurers alike believe that Antelope Canyon can be hiked without a permit.
In fact, I personally experienced an older woman asking the front-desk staff at Antelope Canyon Tours, Can’t I just buy a permit and go?” Thankfully, the manager behind the counter responded with a firm, “No.”
Plain and simple, you cannot hike Antelope Canyon without an issued permit from the Navajo Parks and Recreation department and without booking a tour reservation.
Why permits and guide requirements at Antelope Canyon are good things
While that might seem silly or frustrating, I view the permit and guide requirement at Antelope Canyon as good things.
During my visits to Antelope Canyon (both Upper and Lower), the tours were a blast. The guides are highly informative, have a great sense of humor, offered photography tricks and spots, and actually point out features and sights within the canyon walls that I would have missed otherwise.
In addition, the permit and guide requirement pumps much-needed money back into the Navajo Reservation and its residents that are used to both create jobs, infrastructure, and schools- all for the betterment of the Navajo Nation.
For those who have not been hiking in either Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, the slot canyons themselves are very narrow and short in length. Even with the guided tours, bottlenecks of hikers have occurred at nearly even turn during the hike. The permitting system also allows the hike to be regulated with a cap on capacity.
Can you imagine hiking Antelope Canyon with every Instagram influencer, travel blogger, and Microadventurer in the Page, Arizona area? Without a permitting and guide system, Antelope Canyon would be an absolute zoo most of the year.
Also, I don’t even want to think of the damage that would potentially occur thanks to crowds of people.
Why you should hike Antelope Canyon with a tour guide
Summarizing again, permits are required in order to hike and visit both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Permits are issued by licensed guides and organizations that provide hiking and photography tours in Antelope Canyon. The permit fee through the Navajo Parks and Recreation is $8 per person on top of what your cost would be for your licensed guide.
Hiring a tour guide is a great way to get the most out of your visit to Antelope Canyon and support the Navajo Nation’s residents.
Here are some ways that hiking a tour guide is beneficial to both yourself and the Navajo Reservation:
#1 Benefits the Navajo Nation
Since both the permits and tour guides for Antelope Canyon are part of the Navajo Nation and Navajo Parks and Recreation, hiking a tour guide puts money right back into the Navajo community and residents.
In addition, the tour guides are Navajo themselves, so the more support they receive from hikers and visitors, the more jobs are created providing a much-needed income to the Navajo.
#2 The tours are really fun and educational
During both of my visits to Lower Antelope Canyon, the tour guides were amazing! I honestly don’t think I would have gotten as much out of a hike through the slot canyon hiking without a tour guide.
My guide (both times) offered great advice on how to configure our camera’s white balance to capture the true colors of the slot canyon’s walls and even showed us the best spots to take photos. The guides were highly informative, had a great sense of humor, and were local members of the Navajo Reservation living in nearby Page, Arizona.
#3 It’s disrespectful to the Navajo Nation to hike without a permit
Not to end on a negative note but the Navajo residents have had a rough history with the American system and its citizens. Antelope Canyon is a sacred slot canyon to the Navajo and it’s incredible and heartwarming that they are willing to share this incredible feature with the world. The least us Microadventurers and hikers can do is respect their rules and continue to foster a great relationship with the Navajo Nation and its residents.
Don’t be an asshole and sneak around to hike Antelope Canyon without a permit.
Again, you cannot hike or visit Antelope Canyon without an issued permit from the Navajo Parks and Recreation department and booking a tour reservation, plain and simple- so don’t even ask when you’re booking a reservation.
The need of a permit and guide, in my experience, is not a necessary evil, but truly a great experience and creates more than it takes away. The permits and tours protect the beauty of Antelope Canyon all while providing much-need income and jobs for the Navajo Nation and its residents. So get out there, book a reservation with a tour company, and enjoy the majesty of breath-taking Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon resources:
- Can you hike Antelope Canyon on your own?
- Antelope Canyon without a permit
- Page Microadventure Guide
- Information about Antelope Canyon
- Best slot canyons in Arizona and Utah
Which Antelope Canyon tour company do you like the most? Who’s your favorite guide?
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.