I knew I wanted to visit the famous Antelope Canyons after I saw the world’s most expensive photo, which is a photo of the canyons. So, when our Airstream travels routed us through the southwest part of the country, I made sure to include northern Arizona as part of our travel destinations. Upon my research, I learned that there are two separate slot canyons that make up the Antelope Canyons. The upper and the lower canyons. And each canyon is unique in their own way. So, at that point, I had to determine between the upper vs lower antelope canyon, which one to visit?
Luckily, as time permitted, we were able to see both the upper and lower Antelope Canyons. And I can state from experience that both canyons are beautiful and unique in their own way. So if you have time, I would recommend to see them both because they are different. However, if you are only able to see one, my suggestion would be to see the lower canyon.
This guide will help you determine the difference between the upper vs lower antelope canyon. And also give you a better perspective on which one is best for you.
Where are the Antelope Canyons?
Antelope Canyon is part of the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park. Which is about 10 minutes east of Page, Arizona, where you will also find the closest airport. And also find the beautiful Horseshoe Bend landmark.
The canyons are located in Arizona, close to the Utah-Arizona border.
Other nearby points of interest include:
- Glen Canyon Recreational Area encompasses 1.25 million acres, with some of the best highlights located 10 minutes or less from Antelope Canyon.
- 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.
About The Antelope Canyons
The canyons were shaped millions of years ago by water erosion. The name, Antelope Canyon came from the pronghorn antelope that once roamed the land.
The Antelope Canyons are now protected by the Navajo Nation. The canyons have been closed to the public since 1997 due to flash floods. And also to protect against vandalism.
So when visiting the canyons you must follow the rules and guidelines of the Navajo land. Including things such as mask mandates which has since been lifted. And also using only approved tour operators to visit the canyons.
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. And making it a better and less rushed experience and maybe it will just stay this way. But unfortunately also due to covid, the photography tour in the upper canyon that was once available is not currently operating.
Tour Guide Information
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 finding a tour guide easy, I included this link for approved Antelope Canyon guided tour operators. Different companies operate guided tours for both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. And therefore if you would like to tour both, you will need to coordinate with two different tour companies.
Cost of Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon Tours
Upper Antelope Canyon Tours
For the Upper Antelope Canyon tour, there are five different tour companies (see link above). We used Antelope Slot Canyon Tours. It was 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 tour, 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 it was 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 would recommend making a reservation in advance for any of the tours.
Best time to visit Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyons
The canyons are open year round. However there are certain times of the year that offer a better experience. Such as cooler temps, less crowds and or a better chance to see the light beams.
Best time of year
For the best weather with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, the months of April, May, September and October are best to visit. And to avoid the crowds, the best time to visit is November until late March, during the winter months. However, at this time you have a less chance of seeing the light beams.
Peak season is during the summer months of June, July and August. This is when the sun is high and offers the best chance to see the light beams shooting into the canyon walls, with that being said, it is also the hottest time of year.
Best time of day
So, for the upper canyon, if you want to see the light beams, you can visit anytime during the months from April to early October (with best light beams during peak season).
And if you want to see the shafts of light, schedule your visit on a sunny day during prime time which is between 11AM and 1PM when the sun is high and allowing for the best lighting. Try to make your reservation as far in advance as possible if you want to see the light beams. Because this time slot fills up fast and for good reason.
As for the lower canyon, the best times of day to visit are the opposite. It is when the sun in not high, so early morning or late afternoon. That way you can see the color and reflection not direct sunlight. So you should book your lower canyon tour either earlier or later in the day for better viewing.
The rainy season in Arizona falls between June and September. During this time, severe storms could take place and that means potential flooding. However the tour companies keep a close watch on the weather conditions. And if alerted, you may have to evacuate the canyon suddenly for potential flooding. Also uncommon, although the canyon could close due to flooding.
What should I wear to the antelope canyons
The current weather and temperature will play a factor in what you wear to the canyons. Most importantly you should wear comfortable walking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. I would suggest casual, outdoorsy attire. Active wear, jeans, shorts or hiking attire are all appropriate.
The upper canyons are a flat walk, so you could wear a skirt or a dress if you wanted. However there are stairs to climb at the end.
For the lower canyons, I would suggest you to not wear a dress or skirt as you will have to climb up and down many stairs. You may also want to wear a hat for sunshade while walking if it is a sunny hot day.
Please note: Bags of any kind are not allowed on the tour. So please do not bring a purse or other bag. You are permitted to carry a cell phone or camera and water bottles.
Visiting Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon
So now that we have covered most details about how and when to visit the canyons. Lets explore which canyon to visit: the upper vs lower antelope canyon. As I stated before, both offer a beautiful and magical experience. However there are some things to consider to choose the best one for you.
Touring the Upper Antelope Canyon
The entrance to the Upper Canyon is only accessible by your tour operator. So you need to meet them at the tour agency location and they will drive you to the canyon entrance. We selected Antelope Slot Canyon Tours and traveled by an air conditioned van, which made our ride cool, comfortable and dust free on the bumpy dirt road. As the ride there is a fun start to your canyon adventure.
When you arrive at the canyon, you’ll 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 the guided tour is an easy flat 100 yard walk through the canyon. The Upper Canyon is known for the famous light beams. The light beams 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. However still an easy walk. And then the lighting gets brighter again towards the end of the canyon.
After the canyon tour you will walk back to the canyon entrance. The walk is a pathway over top of the canyon and then down some stairs. The walk gets warm, however there is a little shade on the path if you need to stop and take a break from the heat.
Once you return to your vehicle the tour company will drive you back to your starting location.
Touring the 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 from the parking lot.
On your walk to the lower canyon entrance it can get hot because it is not shaded. So make sure you bring a bottled water and a shade hat. 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. It felt like an adventure walking through the narrow canyon with all the climbing and maneuvering.
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
You should be prepared for a short walk on either tour to and 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. As the lower canyon has many steep stairs to climb and narrow passages to squeeze through.
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
Lower vs Upper Antelope Canyon: 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 enjoy the canyons as much as we did!
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