There are a handful of places in the Southwestern United States that are identifiable by one photo. Many of those are located in Arizona, home to indefinable grand formations such as; The Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls, and the lesser-known Antelope Canyon. It is lesser-known by far, primarily because of the distance from other natural attractions. Here’s what you need to know about planning an adventure through the radiant light of Antelope Canyon.
Finding Antelope Canyon
If you have visited Lake Powell in Utah or the Grand Canyon’s Northern rim, you have driven right past Antelope Canyon. Its tucked away, deep in Navajo Nation Reservation Land. This bit of information means that there is no public access to the canyon. Therefore, even if you drove by it, you couldn’t just stop. This stunning canyon sits right on the border of Arizona and Utah.
Navajo Nation Land
The majestic Antelope Canyon is actually two separate canyons. One is known as the Upper Canyon or “the place where the water runs through the rocks” by the Navajo people. The Upper Canyon is the most visited portion of Antelope Canyon because the entire canyon and its entrance are at ground level. There is little to no elevation change or climbing necessary. Thus, making the visit to the Upper Antelope Canyon easy. A much sounder choice for the very young, even and very old members of your party.
The Lower Canyon, located a few miles from the Upper Canyon is also known as “Spiral Rock Arches” by the Navajo people. A significantly more treacherous adventure than Upper Canyon. Lower Canyon requires many levels of stairs to get in and out. These series of metal stairs are varying in widths and steepness as the levels of the canyon change, but the metal stairs are a huge improvement from the wooden ladders that were in place only a handful of years ago.
Shortly after the opening of Antelope Canyon to the public in 1997, eleven tourists were killed in a flash flood in the Lower Canyon. The only way out at the time—wooden ladders—were swept away. When the Canyons reopened, new metal staircases, secured and bolted into the natural landscape had been put into place. Flash flooding is a continuous concern for the Lower Canyon specifically and that paired with the challenging climb can deter a lot of visitors. Not the professional photographers though! Lower Canyon offers daily (mid-day) photography only tours when the light in Lower Canyon is at its best.
Geology of a Nation
Antelope Canyon (Upper and Lower) is a type of canyon known as a slot canyon. Formed by erosion of the Navajo Sandstone. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, fills the extensive basins sitting on top of the canyons and seeps down through them via small narrow passages. The force with which the water plows through the narrow passages causes immense erosion and the smoothing of the shaper sandstone edges. Thus, leaving the “flowing” wave appearance that both canyons are so famous for.
Booking Tickets to Antelope Canyon
Acquiring tickets for Antelope Canyon is not the challenging part, but booking them far enough in advance can be. In November reservations open for the following year. The tickets are surprisingly affordable beginning at approximately $44, but many people opt to book tours via pickup from Las Vegas. These tours are significantly more expensive ($180-$240) but also include Grand Canyon Northern Rim entrance and Horseshoe Bend.
Considering the value of the tickets, they are incredibly affordable and value heavy. The concern is that they sell out quickly and if your party errs on the flaky side you may have people bailing or trying to join later in the planning. The Antelope Canyon tickets do not allow for that kind of flexibility as they are gone quickly. In other words, book with conviction!
It is very important to remember that the land in which Antelope Canyon is a part of is sacred. The ground, the water, the caverns, and passages are home to the spirits of the Navajo people. They are full of thousands of years of tradition and sacred rituals. When we, as non-Native tourists enter these spaces, it is our duty to hold space for the cultural importance of the region.
So, do your due diligence to be respectful and aware. So many of these beautiful natural wonders are no longer open to the public because of the decimation caused physically and spiritually to these spaces. If we, as the public, want to continue to have access and an opportunity to enjoy the Canyons, we need to do our part to make that possible.
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