Orange, red, yellow & purple hues: All the warm colours of nature at Lower Antelope Canyon

Visting the Lower Antelope Canyon was initially not part of our family trip to Arizona. I was planning the 2-day itinerary for Grand Canyon National Park and realised that even the shortest hike would be more than what we could do with our 7-year-old. And if you are not hiking this natural wonder, than a day is good to walk, bike and explore the rim and the main points.

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Imagination is a powerful thing. Can you see the Dancing Girl carved out of the rock?

While researching on what to do on the second day, I stumbled upon the Antelope Canyons. I saw some beautiful images on the net and they created quite an impression. Voila, without overthinking, I had booked one of the Lower Antelope Canyon Tours.

Lower vs Upper Antelope Canyon

Arizona has many slot canyons – the most famous being the Lower and Upper Antelope Canyons. There are many other slot canyons in Arizona that you can visit for free sans crowds.

What are slot canyons, you may ask?

Wikipedia defines it – ‘A slot canyon is a narrow canyon, formed by the wear of water rushing through rock. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide.’

The Lower Antelope Canyon is underground. You need to climb down to see this canyon with its soft rocks chiselled by water and wind over thousands of years. The Upper Antelope Canyon is above the ground, much bigger and wider. But the same forces of nature have shaped its colourful soft rocks into the wonder that it is today. The Upper Antelope Canyon is the more famous of the two canyons. The perfect light beam shots at noon are from the Upper Antelope Canyon. But with its fame comes the crowds.

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Can you believe these ‘sand dunes’ are one just the way the carved rocks look at one side of the Lower Antelope Canyon?

We chose to visit the Lower Antelope Canyon. Our choice was based on these reasons – it is a shorter trip (the Upper Antelope Canyon takes 2 hours and you need to report 1/2 hour before your slot), cheaper and also with lesser crowds (though I am not sure if it was less crowded if you take into account the difference in sizes). 

It is possible to see both the canyons within a day, though that would make for a long day.

Booking the Lower Antelope Canyon Tour

You cannot visit the Lower Antelope Canyon by yourself. It is on Navajo land and there are 2 local tour companies run by Indians that offer a 1-hour tour. We booked via Ken’s Tour and were really happy with our experience. 

We had got the 2 pm slot, the earlier ones had been sold out for that day. Though noon is supposed to be the best time to visit the Antelope Canyons because of perfect light conditions, anything around noon or in the evening would be good as well.

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Sunlight brings out the colours of the rocks.

To be honest, when we reached the Ken’s Tour building – it is in the middle of nowhere in vast Arizona land – we were a bit apprehensive. I already knew that the Lower Antelope Canyon is small and narrow. And when I saw a large group of tourists for the 2 pm tour that we were booked on, my heart sank. I knew we couldn’t expect to be alone for this increasingly popular site but do we really have to jostle amongst so many other people underground?

We queued up 15 minutes before the start of the tour. I felt a bit of relief when our guide separated a large group of people from the independent travelers like us and gave them a different guide. So finally there were 3 or 4 manageable sub-groups, each led by a different tour guide. We got a short briefing and the adventure began!

Also, read – Salkantay trek in Peru: A once-in-a-lifetime experience hiking to Machu Picchu

Going down the Lower Antelope Canyon

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My daughter could manage the climb down the steps.

After the short walk from the Ken’s Tour building, there are steps to enter the canyon. It didn’t feel so short though in the blazing dry heat.

In earlier times, people would climb down using ropes!

These steps are steep but nothing that can’t be managed holding the railing on both sides and going down slowly. This Canyon is narrow and a tight squeeze in few spaces. Again, nothing that cant be managed unless you are very claustrophobic.

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The Lower Antelope Canyon at times is a real squeeze.

At every turn – and there are many twists and turns – the Canyon opens itself to a new vista. Our guide kept the small group together and although we didn’t stop at any point for too long, there was enough time to see the unusual shapes the rocks had taken, the absolutely stunning colours as we went deeper and take some family photos as well in the more open spots.

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I was enthralled with this natural wonder.

The guide matters

We had a very good experience with our guide at the Lower Antelope Canyon. I realised that the individual guide does matter to your overall experience here. The better guides will point out interesting rock formations and take pictures for you. The lesser ones are silent and basically just herd you through the Canyon. 

Our guide stopped at several times to point out interesting and at times, funny shapes that the rocks had taken. He also pointed out cool spots to take photos of.

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The majestic Eagle made naturally.
visiting antelope canyon, lower antelope canyon tours
I wouldn’t want to encounter this grinning shark underwater!
visiting antelope canyon, lower antelope canyon tours
There was enough time to take photos. See the bull head up there!
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My guide pointed out the Sea horse in the sky. Can you spot it?

At the end, after exiting the canyon, the guide took some sand and water and showed us visually how the natural forces worked to make Monument Valley and the Antelope Canyons.

His visual description was really engaging, I wish I had shot a video of it.

Tips for visiting the Lower Antelope Canyon

  • It is quite hot both on the ground and inside the canyon. Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes and sensible walking shoes / sandals.
  • There is no shade outside the canyon, so carry a cap, sun glasses and a bottle of water. You are not allowed to take any bags / large backpack in the canyon in order to protect the walls of the canyon.
  • There is no clean toilet facility around that area. Only pits with no running water. Nothing much can be done but to chin up, stop your breath for a few seconds and finish your job quickly.
  • The 2 companies that run the Lower Antelope Canyon tours have stopped their longer photography tours. There is only one option now – the approximate 1-hour tour that allows for hand-held photography.
  • You book a spot online, but don’t forget to confirm your spot a day before the tour. They advise to pay the tour fee in cash although I did see a card machine on the counter. I am not sure if it was working so best to take cash with you.

 

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Author: Shweta Singhal

Hi! I am Shweta, the zest behind this blog . I play several roles – parent to a 6-year old, adventure enthusiast, travel blogger, generally open to trying out new things in life. Besides travel, I love books and theatre and art. I would love to hear from you; do drop a comment. Join me on Instagram / Twitter @zestinatote.

31 thoughts

  1. Lower Antelope Canyon looks like something out of a sci fi film, those colours are incredible! I can’t even imagine a place like that living in green (and often grey) UK! I like that you got a tour, as I would do that too, to find out more about how it all came to be!

  2. The colours of those rocks are spectacular! It’s good to know that one cannot visit the Lower Canyon on their own and has to take a guided tour. Also, thank you for recommending Ken’s company, as an independent traveler, if I do make it to Arizona, I would also prefer to have a small group to tour the canyon rather than a massive one. Your blog post is very helpful in planning a trip.

  3. What the hell!!! It is so beautiful!! It’s kind of hard to believe it’s in the same planet where I live! The place looks like a painting! Definitely putting this in my bucket list!

  4. Beautiful photos! I also booked with Ken’s tours when I went to Antelope canyon. I didn’t realize that noonish was the best time to visit. I went on the earliest tour trying to get there before the crowds. I see why the crowds book around noon! Haha I’ll try for that next time!

  5. This place looks so so unreal. It looks like it is in another planet. If I go there, I want to visit Lower Antelope Canyon same as you did. It is good to know that we have to book a tour to be able to do so.

  6. The pictures of Lower Antelope Canyon is surreal and mind-boggling. We had no idea that the tour of the canyon has to be a guided tour you have some great information and tips in the post. And I agree it wouldn’t have been a better experience without a guide.

  7. The Lower Antelope Canyon looks amazing. Those colours, those waves of rock. Good to know that the lower canyon supposedly has less visitors, but as you say maybe due to size, the ratio is the same.

    A place well worth discovering, it is simply stunning.

  8. The colours look amazing, are they really as vibrant as that in real life? Although busy, it’s good that they break up the groups into smaller parties and yes, getting a good guide is important. They can sometimes even make or break a trip.

    1. Oh yes, I think in this place a guide makes or breaks a trip for sure. The way the sunlight filters in makes the top part glow in yellow and orange hues and the bottom part in red / purple shades. I did brighten up the photos (they were taken with less light inside) but did not change the rock colours.

  9. I like the fact that the Navajo protect the canyon, and you have to take a guided tour to see it. It looks incredible – a real precious gem.

  10. I have been to many national parks in the US but never to Antelope Canyon! I have seen many pictures of this place and it looks stunning every time. Thank you for sharing all the tips!

  11. Antelope canyon looks so incredible.absolute wonder of the nature..those colours are really amazing. Loved all your pics and offcourse the information provided. Hope i could visit some day and explore Antelope canyon

  12. Antelope Canyon is a great consolation prize. You should totally thank your 7-year old for being so young. I’m obsessed with going here. I believe pictures just can’t do it justice.

    1. You will enjoy it even after seeing all the beautiful photos. I didn’t get the part about it being a consolation prize. It would be great with older kids as well, no?

    1. I loved that explanation. The guide just used a mound of sand and water from his bottle to explain in a simple way that even my 7 year old grasped it fully.

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