From above, Antelope Canyon doesn’t look like much. I’m used to things like Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon – where you stand at the edge of a massive expanse. Antelope is little more than a crack in the ground. If I was strolling by, I’d probably miss it or dismiss it.
But if you venture underground, there’s a landscape unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
The hour we spent walking down this narrow canyon was my wife’s favorite stop of our trip. We were escorted by a tour guide like everyone else – we chose Ken’s Tours after a little digging online.
Here’s what to expect – you’ll pay a fee to enter the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park and a fee to take a tour. I highly recommend reserving a spot – it’s crazy busy. In fact, the bottom is basically a conveyor belt of tourists with no gaps between groups. Figuring out what time to show up is also confusing – the park observes the America / Shiprock time zone, which is different than the surrounding area. Make sure to call ahead and figure out what their time is in relation to wherever you’re traveling from.
There’s also no running water, which we didn’t know ahead of time. Luckily, I keep a gallon of water in the car for emergencies. Even though the canyon is shaded and underground, it’s still the desert. Bring a water bottle for everyone.
Once our tour descended into the canyon, it was wall-to-wall amazing. From start to finish, the canyon walls resemble flowing water that’s been frozen in sand. They undulate and curve and bend around each other to form naturally beautiful structures and features. The guides were also great about helping everyone find the right setting on their camera. Every single one of my pictures was properly exposed and colored thanks to our guide.
Our kids struggled with staying off the canyon walls and rocks – they usually want to climb on everything, and the sandstone in the canyon is very fragile. They did love the demonstration our guide did at the end of the tour. He showed us how the canyon formed by using the sand on the ground and a water bottle. It’s hard to explain without the demonstration, but he basically made a rock out of nothing more than sand, water, and a little bit of time.
Since we were confused by the time change in the Tribal Park, we had almost two hours to kill. Luckily, Horseshoe Bend is only 15 minutes away from the park. After a quick drive, we were able to take in one of the most photographed spots on the Colorado River. It’s about a mile-and-a-half round-trip hike with a hundred or so feet of elevation change to the overlook, but it’s well worth it. We even saw a huge jackrabbit scamper across the trail on the way down!
The river sits 1,000 feet below the cliffs, making for an awesome vantage point. Check your fear of heights in the car – there are no railings here!
Glen Canyon Dam and Vermillion Cliffs
The drive into Page, Arizona is very easy on the eyes. The highway meanders past the Vermillion Cliffs, endless edifices of rock that are all sorts of different colors. Somewhere in there is The Wave, which looks even more amazing than Antelope Canyon. However, I understand it’s a 3-mile unmarked hike across open desert to find it, so we decided not to try it out.
As you near Page, you’ll see Lake Powell, a massive desert oasis that looks impossible amid all the barren, red rock. Even though the drought has knocked the lake behind the dam down quite a bit, it’s still impressive. And the dam itself is giant – I think it’s more impressive than Hoover Dam. Probably because you can get a better view of the size by walking out on the bridge crossing just in front of it.
Later in our trip, we heard from our guide that they are debating whether or not to tear down this engineering marvel, and return the land to its natural state. So if you want to see it, go soon, because it might not always be there.