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Visiting Antelope Canyon – Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon – Which one is better?

 upper vs lower antelope canyonUpper vs Lower Antelope Canyon

What is Antelope Canyon and why do people visit Antelope Canyon –  slot canyon Page AZ?

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located in Page, Arizona, USA.  Antelope Canyon is a sacred place located on Navajo land, within the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park in the northwest of Arizona.

 phoenix to antelope canyon

Many people visit the area just to visit Antelope Canyon or as part of a trip which can also include National Parks nearby such as the Horseshoe Canyon, Grand Canyon or Zion National Park.

Page itself is a small town which is filled with visitors who come to see the Canyon. The native Navajo tribe consider the canyons sacred places and they often pray before entering the canyons. The location of Antelope Canyon meant that for a long time the canyons were closed off to the public before becoming a national park and offering tours for tourists.

best time to visit antelope canyon

Visiting Antelope Canyon – how to get to Antelope Canyon?  What is the closest airport to Antelope Canyon?

Antelope Canyon is a natural picturesque wonder, geological formation, and a slot canyon. This canyon was created over millions of years through water erosion.

The canyon is located within an area of cultural wealth and historical wonders in the Navajo Nation or native tribes land. Native buildings and houses are still present in the area as well as the tribes.

Antelope Canyon is on Highway 98 fifteen minutes outside of Page, AZ.  It is very near Horseshoe Bend as well.

Antelope Canyon is a 5 hour drive from Las Vegas and a 4 hour drive from Phoenix.  These are the closest airports to Antelope Canyon.

HOW TO VISIT ANTELOPE CANYON

  • Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon?: I’ve listed out the pros and cons of each one for you to decide based on price, activity level and photography.
  • Best time to visit Antelope Canyon: Visiting Antelope Canyon in the summer is the best time.
  • Book an Antelope Canyon Tour: You cannot visit Antelope Canyon on your own and you must take a tour.  I have listed tour operators below.
  • Travel to Antelope Canyon: How to get to Antelope Canyon on Highway 98 outside of Page, AZ
  • Antelope Canyon surroundings: Enjoy other slot canyons in Arizona near Antelope Canyon or visit Horseshoe Bend.
  • Closest airport to Antelope Canyon: Las Vegas Airport is 5 hours away and Phoenix Airport is 4 hours away

The Antelope Canyon attracts visitors from all over the world especially photographers and nature lovers who want to experience this canyon and its wave-like tall sandstone winding walls. Tour operators offer tour for photography where they advise visitors on the best lighting and filters, as well as photo locations and angles.

closest airport to antelope canyon

Page, Arizona is located approximately two hours east of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and four hours north of the city of Phoenix. The canyon isn’t accessible by public transport so a car will be required.

What’s the difference between upper and lower Antelope Canyon?

Antelope Canyon has both an upper and lower canyon which are located 15 minutes apart but both within the same national park and can be accessed from Highway 98 heading east out of Page.

Both canyons have to be visited with a tour guide or tour operator due to the facts its located within Navajo land, so each tour operator will have car parking offsite and lead the way to the entrances (by car or walking) for both the Upper and Lower Canyons. Visitors are not allowed to visit the area alone and there are no visitor facilities at the entrance to either canyon.

upper and lower antelope canyon tours

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons have very different feels and features, so although you can visit both canyons in one day it can be rushed trip. So if you have to only choose one to visit here are the perks and drawbacks of the Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon.

So which is better?  Should I visit Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon?

Lower Antelope Canyon

The Lower Antelope Canyon is longer than the Upper Canyon with fun narrow passages to explore and walkthrough.

Pros:

  • Longer than Upper Antelope Canyon
  • Cheaper than Upper Antelope Canyon at $25 plus $8 Navajo permit

Cons:

  • No light beams
  • Steep Stairs

Lower Antelope Canyon can only be accessed by descending steep steps which makes it inaccessible for wheelchair users or those who cannot walk up and down steps easily.

antelope lower canyon

The descent makes the canyon cooler inside and is often less crowded due to the initial descent and the exit is at the other end of the canyon meaning people are all walking in one direction.

It is cheaper to visit than the Upper Canyon and only a small number of tours visit the canyon, the canyon is also less popular than the Upper Canyon so acquiring tickets is easier than the Upper Canyon and tours are less likely to sell out.

The best time to visit the Lower Canyon is any time of the year, as no light beams are shining into the canyons, but with the change of seasons the colors of the canyons vary, between blues, purples, and reds depending on the season.

antelope canyon lower

Many people often say that the Lower Canyon provides and much more relaxed feel along with a real connection to nature and the canyon formations.

Upper Antelope Canyon

In contrast to Lower Antelope Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon has no descent, it is located at 4,000 feet but is the same elevation the whole way through with canyon.

Pros:

  • Light Beams
  • No stairs

Cons:

  • More crowded
  • More Expensive at $40 plus a $8 Navajo permit

They say it was the location of a stream with water running through it, which gave it its Navajo name Tse’bighanilini which translates to “the place where water runs through rocks”. The canyon walls rise 120 feet above the ground which occasionally has sand falling from the top.

visit antelope canyon

The Upper Canyons have light beams or sunbeams which shine through the top of the rocks at certain times of the day. The canyon has a mix of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns which vary throughout the day depending on the sunbeams.

The sunbeams are present within the canyon between March and September with the prime season being between June and August when the sun shines higher in the sky between 11 am and 2 pm.

The Upper Antelope Canyon is a photographers dream with rock formations waving around the ground below and the sunbeams shining through the top of the rocks. But while the sunbeams make for excellent photographs the Upper Canyon tends to be darker in general than in the Lower Canyon.

visiting antelope canyon

Upper Canyon is often more crowded and feels more crowded because everyone is walking in and out the same way unlike Lower Canyon and tours tend to sell out quicker (sometimes months in advance) even though there are more tour operators offering tours.

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon Tours – how to visit Antelope Canyon

No matter which Canyon you decide to visit, either the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon or both, the Canyons have to be visited on a guided tour. There are only a small number of reputable tour guides who are allowed to operate within the area.

lower canyon antelope

This is to protect the land and restrict visitor number into the canyons, and the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park. This includes car restrictions and visitors cannot bring bags inside the canyons, although this is true you are allowed to bring in water bottles.

Parking is available in the tour operators headquarters and they will then transport groups to the canyons. The list of approved tour operators in the area are;

Upper Antelope Canyon Tour Companies

Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours 
Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours 
Antelope Canyon Tours 
Antelope Slot Canyon Tours 

Tour companies advise booking early as they can sell out up to six months in advance especially during the holiday periods, so book early to avoid being disappointed. Tour companies offer a variety of tours including photograph tours and sightseeing tours, prices vary depending on the tours but range from $58 to $78 which includes tax and the permit into the park.

Tour prices are increased during busier periods and every day when the sunbeams are present in the canyons. These are often the times which book up the quickest, but tours are offered all day long everyday with all of the tour companies.

Lower Antelope Canyon Tour Operators – Antelope Canyon tours lower

Ken’s Tours 
Dixie Ellis Lower Antelope Canyon Tours 

antelope canyon tours lower

Lower Antelope Canyon tours don’t sell out as quickly as the Upper tours but it is still advisable to book in advance of your visit. Prices range from $40 + depending on the size of the group and time of the day.

When is the best time to visit Antelope Canyon?  Antelope Canyon Weather Conditions 

Antelope canyon best time to visit?  Summer.  You can visit Antelope Canyon any time of the year and weather conditions vary throughout the year.

During the summer months and when the sunbeams can be seen is in the hot season where the average temperatures are between 69F and can reach above 95F.

how to get to antelope canyon

Be aware that thunderstorms can occur during these months specifically in the afternoon. The thunderstorms can bring with them lightning and rain, while very rare flash flooding can occur with an unforeseen amount of rain.

The Canyon will be closed if weather is unsafe for visitors, but it is very unlikely.

During the winter months which is a much quieter and less crowded, the weather is cooler and can even be cold. Temperatures can range from 60F to 43F, and while rare snow has fallen in the area.

Physical Activity Levels

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons require a bit of walking. Lower Antelope Canyon also requires walking down several steps to reach the canyon, but for those who can manage steps in everyday life, these steps should be no problem at all, they are not treacherous or dangerous steps. Those who have mobility limitations or the elderly could find these steps challenging.

Can you visit Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in one day?

antilope canyon antelope valley arizona

It is possible to visit both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in one day, with some planning and while also incorporating the best time to visit the Upper Canyon with the sunbeams.

A great sample itinerary for visiting both canyons in one day is the following. Aim to visit the Upper Antelope Canyon when the sunbeams are present (11 am – 2 pm) so ideally, it is best to visit the Upper Canyon first, for example between 10:30 am and 12:30 or 1 pm.

Then move on to the Lower Canyon and enter at 2 pm. This gives visitors the chance to see the sunbeams while also escaping the afternoon sun in the cooler temperatures of the Lower Canyon.

The tour operators will have different starting points so time between tours will allow for time to travel between the canyons and to different tour companies if required.

Visitors are only allowed to spend up to two hours within the canyons so times will be restricted with the average tour company offering 60 to 90-minute tours. In addition to those two canyons, you could also visit Horseshoe Bend in the evening for great views in time for the sunset.

Conclusion: So which one is better Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon?

If visitors only have time to visit either the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon the most popular choice would be the Upper Antelope Canyon if visiting during March and September when you can see the sunbeams shining through, as it truly is a wonderful and unique experience.

Photographers and those who like to take photos should visit the Upper Antelope Canyon as it is a dream location to take photographs, whether you have a professional camera or smart phone every photo within both canyons are beautiful, with the sunbeams of the Upper Canyon or the colors of the Lower Canyon it is easy to take unique photographs.

However outside of the sunbeams months and if photography isn’t your thing then the Lower canyons offer a similar experience with fewer crowds, more relaxed, and tours don’t have to be booked as far in advance which is perfect for a spare of the moment trip.

The Lower Antelope Canyons are still as beautiful as the Upper one, it just depends on your preference and the amount of money visitors are willing to spend on a tour.

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upper vs lower antelope canyon

Continue Reading other articles on my website:

  • Arizona Road Trip
  • Horseshoe Bend Hike
  • Hikes in Arizona
  • Hikes in Bryce Canyon

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