I’ve seen plenty of pictures of Antelope Canyon on pinterest and always thought “I’d like to go there” without really paying attention to where it was. It recently popped up again on my pinterest feed and I did a bit of investigating. It turns out Antelope Canyon is by Page Arizona, only about 3 hours from where we were visiting my dad in St. George UT. I was in luck! The seed was planted and plans were made.
We packed ourselves up for a relatively early start and hit the road. There was not much to the drive other than a stark blue sky and rolling tumbleweeds. It was strangely beautiful and I could almost picture the ghosts of ancient Navajo hunting antelope amongst the sage brush. We passed into Arizona, then back into Utah and finally Arizona again, stopping for a photo by my favourite sign, in Fredonia, along the way.
Page, AZ is a cute town just off the shores of Lake Powell. In the summer I am sure it’s a hoppin’ place however in February it was a sleepy little town. Antelope Canyon is about 2.5 miles East of town along Hwy 89, and is divided into Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. They are both on Navajo land, however owned by two different tribes. We elected to check out Lower Antelope Canyon as it seemed to be the less busy of the two. Just North of Hwy 89 we turned into the parking lot for Ken’s Tours (it’s necessary to take a guided tour in order to visit either of the canyons). It was just about 1pm as we pulled up and luckily we were just able to sneak in on the 1pm tour.
Our group was small, the 7 of us and another 6 guests. Our guide was a young, friendly, easygoing guy who was happy to proceed at a pace that our 2 & 4 year old could keep up with. Kacela started strapped to Randy’s back in the hiking pack while I had a death grip on Calais’ wrist as we descended a set of secure but rather treacherous stairs into the canyon. I am slightly (okay, REALLY) afraid of heights and any time I see my girls close to something high my stomach flip-flops like I am riding a six-flags rollercoaster. Needless to say that staircase was like an extreme rollercoaster ride, while Calais kept assuring me that she “wasn’t even a little bit scared!”
Stepping down into the canyon was like walking right into those pictures on pinterest. The sunlight danced against the walls of the canyon revealing rippling waves in infinite shades of reds, oranges and purples. At points the floor was barely a foot wide while the walls towered over us, ballooning out just enough so that there was never a feeling of claustrophobia. The guide demonstrated how the canyon was created over thousands of seasons of rain/draught/rain cycles in the sandy desert. The girls of course, took his demonstration as permission to play in the sand for the remainder of the walk.
The entire tour took just over an hour with 98% of that time being spent in the canyon. Calais was able to walk the entire way other than a short piggyback ride just because she could! Kacela alternated between walking and riding in the carrier when she got a little unruly. Every few min she would exclaim “Neato” or “It’s SO beautiful”. That was an understatement. At the end we poked up out of the ground through a narrow slot back into the hot sun and red sand. Looking back the canyon was an unremarkable fissure barely visible on the desert floor. The treasure below a hidden wonder waiting for those willing to look beyond the obvious (and willing to climb down the treacherous staircase).
Tips for visiting Antelope Canyon with kids:
- Wear good walking shoes and expect that your kids may end up covered in sand.
- Be prepared to take a guided tour (ours was $28 for adults and free for the girls.) Visit navajonationparks.org for information on both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons.
- Call ahead and find out when tours are offered. The website says that they go every 30min however this likely depends on the season and abundance of tourists.
- If you visit both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons in the same day you save $8 on the second tour as there is an $8 Navajo Park fee that covers both parks and is included in the cost of the tours.
- Prepare yourself for the walk down the stairs. It’s doable…and my four year old had no problem, however I could have used a bit of mental preparation myself! If you have a littler one who is not as stable on their feet, a carrier of some kind is recommended just to be on the safe side.