I had grown up watching John Wayne movies with my parents and loved them. When planning a road trip across the western States of the US I simply had to put Monument Valley on the schedule.
Antelope Canyon is an unbelievably beautiful place that has been carved over time by the passage of water
I think most people have seen photographs of Antelope Canyon; it is a very popular place for photographers. In fact it was these images that drew me here.
Also known as “corkscrew” canyon, Antelope is a slot canyon in Arizona, close to Lake Powell and the city of Page.
The canyon was formed by the erosion of Navajo Sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic “flowing” shapes in the rock.
What makes Antelope Canyon special is not just the amazing contorted shapes and patterns that have been carved in the sandstone, but it is the light that comes into the canyon through narrow slots, often projecting as beams.
The Canyon lies on Navajo land east of Page and the only way to explore it is with one of the guided tour companies that operate out of Page. We arrived on a wonderfully sunny day and joined one of the 4 x 4 vehicles that headed out into the desert towards Antelope Canyon. The tour companies offer different tours ranging from a basic tour of the Canyon to more adventurous journeys into the many slot canyons and trails that run through the area. There are also tours more dedicated to photography, which gives you more time in the Canyon to get those perfect shots.
As we had our kids with us we decided on the basic tour, not wanting to stretch the limits of their patience (or ours). There are better times of day and times of year to visit the Canyon which is dictated by the angle of the sun. The optimum times of year to visit are May through September (which is also the busiest) and the best times of day are between 10 am and noon. We went during May and the crowds we not bad, so we got a lot of shots without many people photobombing. During the tour, we spent about an hour in the Canyon, but that was plenty of time to take a lot of photos.
Planning the journey
Antelope Canyon is in a remote part of the United States. The nearest airport is in Las Vegas which is about 280 miles (4 1/2 hours away). Other major cites are further afield, 280 miles (5 1/ hours … not so good roads), Salt Lake City (400 miles) and Albuquerque (391 miles). Yes essentially in the middle of nowhere.
The only way of realistically getting here is to drive or take a tour bus, most likely from Vegas. The good news is there are plenty of other things to do not so far away (relatively!)
Best time to visit Antelope Canyon
When deciding when to visit Antelope Canyon there are two factors – seeing the light beams and crowds.
The light beams usually occur at midday in the busy season which runs from mid-March through mid-October. However, when you can see the light beams is the busiest time in the canyon.
If you want to see the light beams, you will need to be in the canyon between 11 AM and 1:30 PM. The best months for the light beams are June, July and August.
If you don’t care about the light beams and want to avoid the crowd, the best months to visit Antelope Canyon are from November to February
Other places to visit close by
1. THE GRAND CANYON (136 MILES)
The McLeod Inn is a family-run homestay that sits on the hills overlooking central Kandy. The views are amazing from the shared balcony. The Inn has been around for 25-years and the owners are very welcoming and helpful. It has 10 delux double rooms with air conditioning, satellite TV, hot water and free Wi-Fi.
The main tourist attractions and shopping areas are only minutes away on a tuk-tuk.
The continental breakfasts are hearty and the owners make tasty Sri Lankan meals on request.
2. MONUMENT VALLEY (120 MILES)
Before human existence, the Park was once a lowland basin. For hundreds of millions of years, materials that eroded from the early Rock Mountains deposited layer upon layer of sediment which cemented a slow and gentle uplift, generated by ceaseless pressure from below the surface, elevating these horizontal strata quite uniformly one to three miles above sea level. What was once a basin became a plateau.
Natural forces of wind and water that eroded the land spent the last 50 million years cutting into and peeling away at the surface of the plateau. The simple wearing down of altering layers of soft and hard rock slowly revealed the natural wonders of Monument Valley today.
From the visitor center, you see the world-famous panorama of the Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. You can also purchase guided tours from Navajo tour operators, who take you down into the valley in Jeeps for a narrated cruise through these mythical formations. Places such as Ear of the Wind and other landmarks can only be accessed via guided tours.
3. LAKE POWELL (10 MILES)
Lake Powell is located in northern Arizona and stretches up into southern Utah. It’s part of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. With nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, endless sunshine, warm water, perfect weather, and some of the most spectacular scenery in the west, Lake Powell is the ultimate playground. Rent a houseboat, stay at our campground, or enjoy our lodging and hop aboard a guided expedition.
Where to stay near Antelope Canyon
1. UNDER CANVAS LAKE POWELL
Under Canvas Lake Powell-Grand Staircase is an ideal spot to discover the splendour of the American Southwest. Perched on a Canyon Rim Plateau with its own on-site slot canyon and sweeping views right outside your tent, there are endless unique experiences waiting for you here—from hiking towering mesas and unwinding in a red-rock oasis to chasing sunsets at Horseshoe Bend and walking with dinosaurs at Grand Staircase-Escalante. Only a 10-minute drive to Lone Rock Beach and just 14 miles from the main Lake Powell Marina, Under Canvas Lake Powell-Grand Staircase, will be your hub for adventure as you explore all that this awe-inspiring location has to offer.
2. SHASH & DINE
Shash Dine EcoRetreat is an off-grid Glamping B&B on the Navajo nation that offers guests the chance to experience Navajo culture and the quiet magic of the great outdoors. Located just minutes from some of Arizona’s attractions, including Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, and Horseshoe Bend, this unique stay is situated on a working sheep ranch. There is a rich history and story to be told of the property, which hosts Baya and Paul, enjoy telling to those who come to stay at Shash Dine. During their stay, guests are given the chance to stay in a Hogan, which is a traditional Navajo Dwelling with an earthen floor that paints a picture of how the Navajo lived not too long ago. In fact, there are Hogans on the property that was built by Baya’s ancestors. With this retreat’s rich cultural history and serene natural surroundings, Shash Dine truly offers an immersive cultural and natural experience like no other.
3. DESERT CANYON INN
Located in Page, Desert Canyon Inn is 7.5 mi from Lake Powell and Antelope Campground. The property is located 4.5 mi from Horseshoe Bend and 29 mi from Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Guests can make use of a garden and BBQ facilities.