Your essential guide to visiting the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

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Antelope Canyon is arguably the top must-visit attraction on your US travel itinerary. I say arguably here because the United States has so many amazing places to see, from the volcanoes and lush forests of Hawaii, to the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls, to the incredible Broadway productions of New York. The Antelope Canyon however is something else, and if it doesn’t top your travel itinerary, it definitely needs to be a part of it!

We visited Antelope Canyon from Phoenix, Arizona. There are a number of ways you can get to this area – whether you’re driving from Nevada, down from Utah, or more ambitiously, coming from Colorado or New Mexico (though in this case, we do recommend flying in, unless you are doing a coast-to-coast US road-trip!)

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An important note about accommodation:

A lot of people rent an RV and drive to the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon over two or three days. We however, drove from Phoenix to Grand Canyon and back on one day, and then did a trip from Phoenix to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend two days later. This is because we were doing a three week US trip with our family, and for us, an RV didn’t work for the few days we were in Arizona (due to space, and rental issues). We also had a few activities (see: Hot Air Ballooning!) planned in Phoenix in between our trips so staying in Flagstaff, Page, or any of the surrounding areas around the Canyons were not an option for us. If you decide against an RV though like us, we strongly recommend you finding a hotel, motel, or campsite, whatever your wish, somewhere close to the Grand Canyon or in between the Grand and Antelope Canyons and spending a night there, instead of driving to Phoenix and back. It’s a nine hour round trip (driving only) between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon and ten hour roundtrip between Phoenix and Antelope Canyon so it makes much more sense to stay somewhere in between if you can! It is do-able though if you wish – we started driving at 6am on both mornings and were back by 9pm, so if you’d prefer to, or have to, stay in Phoenix for your trip, it’s possible. You’ll be exhausted but at least you’ll plenty of shots of the Arizona sunsets as you drive back!

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Reminder: Accommodation costs

Hotels and motels in the Grand Canyon area can be extremely expensive for the quality of accommodations you get (since it’s obviously a tourist attraction). Try to find something in Page or in the outskirts of this area for a low-budget but value for money option. If you’re staying in Phoenix, the Wyndham Garden Phoenix Midtown offers spacious, clean, comfortable rooms, a good, complimentary breakfast, and free parking. Book early on Booking.com for cheaper deals!

Of course, if you’re renting an RV, accommodation costs are built into your rental! It may be a pricey option though depending on how long you’re staying in the area.

Visit in the summer (May – October)

We suggest you visit during the warmer months. We visited in May, which was the perfect weather for our trip – warm but slightly breezy. Arizona gets pretty hot, so it may be better to try to visit during May or September/October, when it is cooler.

Getting there

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You definitely need a set of wheels, whether a car, SUV, or RV, to get to Antelope Canyon. We drove up from Phoenix as mentioned above, but we recommend doing this trip in conjunction with the Grand Canyon if possible i.e. fly into Phoenix, drive to the Grand Canyon, spend a night in Flagstaff or the surrounding areas, and then drive along to Antelope Canyon the following day. It may also be worth your while visiting the Meteor Crater in Flagstaff, which is a quick detour if you’re staying in the Flagstaff area. Read our guide to Grand Canyon for a full itinerary in the area.

Spend a full day at the Antelope Canyon

We recommend setting aside a full day to explore Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, especially if you’re driving in from Phoenix, Vegas, etc.

Note that it is possible to do the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon in one day if you so wish, or rather, if you so must! This would entail though that you don’t hike down the Grand Canyon, and arrive as early as possible at the Canyon (Visitor’s Center opens at 9am), do a quick tour (definitely do-able, by the way, read our guide for more!) and then head to Antelope Canyon by noon at the latest. This would mean that you miss out on possible river tours through the Canyon as well, so we recommend this option only if you cannot spare a day at each of these beautiful sights.

Don’t try to GPS it

Antelope Canyon is located on Native American Navajo territory. We strongly urge that you respect and keep this in mind when driving through. There is little to no GPS signal in this area so you will have to use maps to get around – we learned that the hard way! The roads are pretty straight to Page, Arizona, the town closest to the Canyon, and you’d need a map or verbal directions from there. We strongly recommend you map your route ahead of time.

The drive through to the Antelope Canyon is beautiful.

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Don’t get confused once you get there – it’s mostly a dirt road that leads you to a closed off entry gate. There’s no large “official” sign saying Antelope Canyon like at the Grand Canyon, for example. You have to bear right for the most part from Page, and you’ll arrive at Antelope Canyon (again, map your directions beforehand). Specify the Lower Antelope Canyon when asking for direction: you have to drive elsewhere for tours to the Upper Antelope Canyon.

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Don’t buy the tours from Page

If you stop off at Page for information or directions, a lot of folks will try to get you to buy a tour of Antelope Canyon from the town itself. This is not necessary. Tours of Antelope Canyon organized by local guides are set up at the entrance to the Canyon itself. You don’t need to rent ATVs or guides from the town.

Do visit the Lower Antelope Canyon

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There are two parts to the Antelope Canyon: the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. If you don’t have the time to visit both, we strongly recommend visiting the Lower Antelope Canyon.

The last tour during the summer months leaves at 4pm, so it’s something it keep in mind for when to arrive (last tour during winter months leaves at 3pm). We arrived at 1pm, which gave us plenty of time for the tour. Note that tours tend to get extremely busy past 2pm; certain people were even turned away due to time constraints. Tours are roughly 1 hour in length (includes walking to and from the Lower Antelope Canyon), but this does not take into account waiting time at the visitor’s center. Once you arrive at the visitor’s center, you will park and sign up for a tour (by time). Tours leave roughly every 20-30 minutes. The cost per adult is US$25. Children between 7 and 12 get in for $17, and children below the age of 6 get in for free. There are refreshments and souvenirs on sale for while you wait (though, of course, they are extremely overpriced!) There’s outdoor seating for when the center gets crowded (and it does!)

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We had to wait around 40 minutes

Don’t venture off too far though, guides usually call to bring you back as it is Navajo territory.

Once your tour is called, you are rounded up by a small group of local guides who will give you a quick briefing of the Canyon, and the do’s and don’ts of getting in, through, and out of it.

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Walking to the entrance of the Lower Antelope Canyon

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As always, we ask that you engage in conscious tourism: take nothing, and leave nothing behind. The Antelope Canyon is too beautiful for litter of any kind.

The guides do a great job of guiding you through the Canyon. It’s not an adventurous hike or anything of the sort, but we do recommend sneakers, as there are a lot of winding steps going down to the Lower Antelope Canyon.

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Entering the Lower Antelope Canyon

Consider wearing a cap and tshirt

There is a lot of sand falling into this slot canyon as you walk through so we suggest you bring a cap and wear a tshirt if possible. Either way, a shower would be in order after your visit! 😉

Other than that, take your time to enjoy this beautiful, natural, almost surreal phenomena in the Lower Antelope Canyon.

The tours do tend to move quite fast, but the guides are pretty good at letting you pause to marvel and take pictures during your trip. They even offer to take pictures of you at especially scenic spots. Take your time, and take it all in – don’t feel rushed by your group or your guide.

The guides do point out a lot of interesting formations in the Canyon, so it might be worth your while to keep up with their spiel a bit!

You’d think my photos are edited. But no – I just used my Samsung S5. That’s pretty much it. It’s CRAZY how beautiful this place is. No editing necessary!

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I kept thinking, where are the cracks in the sand? This is surreal! The colors, the smoothness of the Canyon walls… incredible.

It is interesting how the rock inside the canyon walls is different in color to that outside.

Once you have walked the length of the canyon, your guide will lead you out and back to the parking lot of the visitor’s center.

You may then want to use the bathrooms at the center if necessary, and then head to the nearby Horseshoe Bend. Note that gas stations and bathrooms are few and far between in this area so you may want to pump in Page, or before your trip in Phoenix/Vegas/Flagstaff.

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Horseshoe Bend, a sight worth seeing!

Horseshoe Bend is not to be missed on your trip to the Lower Antelope Canyon. You can park your vehicle at the base of the hill (there’s plenty of parking space) and walk up the quick twenty minutes to see the Bend. Consider wearing sunglasses and maybe a scarf as the walk up tends to be extremely dusty due to the wind and sandy surroundings.

Remember:

That these sights do tend to attract a lot of tourists. Be mindful, and careful when taking pictures and leaning over the bend. You can also hike up further past the first sight of the bend to get to a more secluded spot to view the bend if you prefer. The trail up to Horseshoe Bend and further is clearly marked.

In summary:

Do: Rent an RV if you can, and visit the Grand Canyon on one day, and the Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend on another.

Do: Spend a full day at the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Do: Wear a cap and tshirt. Bring sunglasses and a scarf for the walk up Horseshoe Bend.

Do: Plan your route ahead. Ask for directions in Page, Arizona, if necessary. Get a physical map of the area.

Do: Pump gas and get food beforehand.

Do: Visit in the late spring, summer, or early autumn.

Don’t: Buy tours ahead from Page.

Do: Visit the Lower Antelope Canyon.

Do: Arrive before 2pm for the tours.

Don’t: Forget to stop off at Horseshoe Bend on your way back!

Do: Enjoy yourself!

Do: Be a conscious tourist!

We personally found the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend even more impressive than the Grand Canyon. These are definitely must-see destinations when planning your road-trip or tour of the beautiful United States of America.

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The drive back to Phoenix from Antelope Canyon

Been to Antelope Canyon or Horseshoe Bend? Planning a trip there? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Share your stories with us below!

As always, be a conscious traveler: Take nothing, and leave nothing behind. Be conscious, be welcome! Read more about conscious travel here.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. alleyk26 says:

    Nice piece, you guys! We’re flattered and humbled to hear that you regard Antelope Canyon so highly. Hope you get to visit the area again, and if you’re up for something a little more adventurous, check out these Antelope Canyon Alternative Tours ->: http://antelopecanyon.az/antelope-canyon-alternative-tours/

    1. Thanks so much! We’re actually thinking of taking a trip to Santa Fe + Monument Valley later this year and could definitely check out an Alternative Tour, especially if it’s on the adventurous side! Would love more information at acoupleonabudget@gmail.com !

  2. Jo says:

    Thank you for your detailed write-up.
    We are a couple on a budget too!
    With very less vacation.
    Here’s what we are thinking of doing.
    Fly down to Las Vegas on a Friday Night.
    Start driving down to North Rim early Saturday morning.
    Visit North Rim and then drive down to South Rim towards Saturday evening or night.
    On Sunday, cover East and West Rim.
    Drive down to Vegas during Sunday Night.
    Our flight is on Monday 11.30 Am.
    Does this sound feasible?
    We are on a very tight schedule:/

    1. Hi! That’s exciting that you’re headed down there. That is a completely feasible itinerary to us. We did it in a day and there are plenty of day tours there so you’ll really be affording yourself plenty of time! We would also consider budgeting sometime to explore Death Valley as you drive back to Vegas on Sunday. Not to be missed. Have you considered doing North then East and then South to West Rim? Then you can catch the sunrises and sunsets as advertised!

Thoughts?