When I saw the photos of the famous Antelope Canyons, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to experience. So, when our travels routed us through northern Arizona, I was very excited and started doing some research on how to see them. Some of the questions I searched were: do we really need a tour guide, which one is better, what are differences between Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon and which one should we visit?
So after my research and a visit to both the Antelope Canyons, I put this together to help compare the Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyons. And hopefully this will answer most of your questions and help you decide which canyon is the best for you!
About The Antelope Canyons
There are so many great things to see and do in Page: Experience The Best Things To Do In Page AZ, but one of the best things is to visit the Antelope Canyons. Because they are protected by the Navajo Nation you must follow the rules and guidelines of the Navajo land. And as of May 2022 this includes a mask mandate still requiring everyone to wear a mask at all times, so make sure to bring one. The canyons have been closed to the public since 1997 due to flash floods and also to protect against vandalism. So that means the canyons are only accessible through approved tour operators.
Also, since covid, the upper canyons are now a one way tour like the lower canyons. Before covid you would walk back through the way you came in and it made for a very crowded experience. Currently the tour companies are operating at a less capacity which means fewer crowds. It’s making for a better and less rushed experience and maybe it will just stay this way. But unfortunately also due to covid, the photography tour that was once available is not currently operating.
Do I Really Need A Tour Guide?
YES! The only way to see the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyons is by an approved tour guide and this is a mandatory rule. So to make it easy and helpful for you, I included this link for approved tour guides: https://navajonationparks.org/guided-tour-operators/antelope-canyon-tour-operators/. Different companies operate tours for the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. So If you would like to tour both, you will need to coordinate with two different tour companies.
What is the cost of Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon Tours
Upper Antelope Canyon Tours
For the Upper Antelope Canyon tours there are five different tour companies. We used Antelope Slot Canyon Tours and although it is one of the more expensive options, but not by much. They provide luxury air conditioned vans for transportation to and from the canyon. And when it is hot outside, it is a really nice feature. Antelope Slot Canyon Tours are priced at $112 or $120 per person depending on the specific time. We made our reservation many months in advance and even then the available peak times were limited, so I would suggest making reservations as far out as possible. Other tour companies range in price from $90 up to $120.
Lower Antelope Canyon Tours
For the Lower Antelope Canyon, you only have two options to select from; Dixie Lower Antelope Canyon Tours or Ken’s Tours Lower Antelope Canyon. We decided on Dixie Tours and made the reservation the day before, as we decided last minute to tour the lower canyon in addition to the upper. Both tour companies cost $50 per person and are about the same, so I would select the one that has the right time available for you. But again I recommend making a reservation in advance for any of the tours.
What’s the best time to visit Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyons
The prime time to visit the Upper Antelope Canyon is between 11AM and 1PM with the peak season including the best months of June, July and August when the sun is high and allowing for the best lighting. Note that this time slot fills up fast and for good reason, so it should be made as far in advance as possible.
The best times of day to visit the Lower Antelope Canyon is when the sun in not high, so you can see the color and reflection not direct sunlight. We were told by the upper guide that earlier or later is better for viewing in the lower canyon.
What should I wear to the antelope canyons
What you wear will depend on the current weather and temperature. Most importantly you should wear comfortable walking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. I would suggest casual, outdoorsy attire. Jeans, shorts or hiking attire are all appropriate. For the lower canyons, I would suggest you do not were a dress or skirt as you will have to climb stairs. You may also want to wear a hat for sunshade while walking. Please note: No bags are allowed on any tour, so do not bring a purse or other bag. You are only permitted to carry a phone or camera and a bottled water.
The Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon
So let’s get into the canyon and explore what these amazing canyons are like to visit!
Upper Antelope Canyon
Because you can not drive to the entrance of the canyon, your tour operator will take you there. The ride there is a fun start to your canyon adventure. We had an air conditioned van, which made our ride cool, comfortable and dust free.
When you arrive at the canyon, you wait for your turn to enter. Yes, there are a decent amount of people but it didn’t feel too crowded and we felt like we had enough time in the canyon, which is about 30 minutes. We had a tour guide with a group of 8 people. Our tour guide was wonderful at showing us unique things about the canyon, taking photos of us and for us while capturing well known spots within the canyon.
The upper canyon entrance is located on the ground level. And is an easy 100 yard walk through the canyon. It’s known for the famous light beams. They shoot down through the canyon at certain times of the day because of its narrow width at the top. The canyon is such a beautiful place with its surreal rock formations that are constantly changing as you walk through it. We were just in awe at every turn and felt like we were in a magical and sacred place. Because of the limited light within the upper canyon, it gets a little darker as you walk trough it. But then lightens back up at towards the end of the canyon.
After the canyon tour you walk back to the canyon entrance via a path over the canyon and then down some stairs. There is a little shade on the path if you need to stop to take a break from the heat. Once you return to your vehicle the tour company will drive you back to your starting location.
Lower Antelope Canyon
As for the lower canyon, the tour companies are located near the canyon entrance so you can drive there, park, check in and then its just a short walk to the canyon. The walk to the canyon is not shaded and can get hot, so make sure you bring some water. After the flat walk, you must then walk down 5 flights of stairs, some of which are very steep to get into the canyon and then the canyon walk is about 600 yards and lasts about 30 minutes.
Having done the upper canyon just a few days prior, I imagined they would be a similar experience, but they ended up being very different experiences. The lower canyon has stairs scattered through out with some very narrow passageways to squeeze through. So it felt like more of an adventure walking through the narrow canyon with all the climbing and manuvering.
And because this canyon is wider at the top, you can see more of the sky and it made for some really colorful photos. I felt there was a new photos opportunity with every turn. Our guide was also great at pointing out well known visuals in the canyon and taking photos for us and of us!
And at the end, you just walk back to the tour office where you started from.
Differences between Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyons
With either tour, you should be prepared for a short walk to or from the canyon and most of it in the sun. The lower canyon has stairs to climb throughout the tour and the upper canyon is a flat canyon floor. If you have mobility issues, then the upper canyon is a better option. Below are some differences with the two canyons.
Upper Antelope Canyon
- You do not have to climb any stairs, so its a flat walk through the canyon
- The walk back to the vehicle after the canyon is mostly sunny and you do have stairs to walk down
- The Canyon is narrow at the top and wide at the bottom hence the beams of light
- Beautiful easy walk through the canyon
- More expensive
Lower Antelope Canyon
- You must walk down 5 flights of some steep stairs to get into the canyon
- There are stairs and narrow walk ways throughout the canyon
- The Canyon is wide at the top and narrow at the base, so the canyon is brighter
- More of an adventure through the canyon with stairs and narrow passages
- Less expensive
Which one is best
Regardless of which tour company or Antelope Canyon you decide, you will have an amazing time and enjoy some jaw dropping scenery and experience something truly unique. Whether you see one or both, they are definitely worth visiting. The Upper Antelope Canyons seems to be the popular choice, but if I could only see one, from what I know now, I think the better choice is to see the Lower Antelope Canyon. It is less expensive. more adventurous and my photos were just as good, if not better than the Upper Antelope Canyon.
But again, either canyon will provide a unique once in a lifetime experience. And then afterwards you can go enjoy another great Page Arizona experience and visit Horseshoe Bend Overlook, which is located about a 15 minutes drive by car.
I hope you enjoyed the canyons as much as we did. And I would love to hear from you on the comments below:
Other Day Trips from Page, AZ
- Grand Canyon would make for a great stopover for a few days either before or after your visit to Page. But you could also visit it in a full day.
- Monument Valley: is about a 2 hour drive away with a 17 mile scenic loop drive. The area is part of the Navajo Nations and masks must be worn indoors and outdoors.
- Zion National Park is about 2 hours away and would be a great 2 day stop in addition to Page, AZ.
- Las Vegas is the major airport people fly into to visit this area of the country if they are including Zion National Park on the road trip.