Discovering Antelope Canyon, Arizona: An Ancient Navajo Treasure
You probably don’t spend much time in your day thinking about slot canyons, but there’s a good chance that if you let your screensaver start, you’ll be looking at one. Slot canyons are amazing, natural, works of art, and one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world, Antelope Canyon, resides in the southwestern United States – just outside of Page, Arizona.
My wife and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon several years back. We traveled north from Phoenix. We knew that we had to get our own personal picture inside Antelope Canyon. I can definitely say that the tour of the canyon was one of the most memorable moments of the trip. Slot canyons are formed when monsoon rains rush through the rock, forming and smoothing the stone, to give it that unique washed look. Flooding still occurs to this day, and every few years or so, the park is shut down.
Antelope Canyon resides on Navajo nation territory. The Navajo are the largest Native American tribe in the Southwest. In order to visit the canyon, you must register with a Navajo tour guide. Plan ahead to make sure you can do it. In a somewhat unorthodox manner, our guide met us at a gas station in Page, Arizona. We then jumped in his truck and headed towards the canyon. A 4×4 is definitely necessary, as the 30 minute trip out there was bumpy, but the soft sand is the real killer. After showing off some nifty driving skills, our guide got us to the entrance of the Upper Canyon – which the Navajo call “Tsé bighánílíní,” which means “the place where water runs through rocks.”
When you start to navigate through the canyon it’ll feel similar to an underground cave viewing. Space is tight and dark, but sunlight entering the canyon makes these magical shafts of light that look straight out of an Indiana Jones flick. It is important to do this trip in the Summer or Spring. That is when the sky is high in the sky, and will make sure you get the experience you’re looking for. Upper Antelope Canyon is one of the most professionally photographed locations in the US, and don’t worry if you don’t know how to use your camera. After taking several shots that didn’t do it justice – due to the incredibly wide exposure range – our guide helped us with the settings and got us an amazing photo that resides on our livingroom wall.
There is a two hour limit in the canyon, so explore and get your shots. A tour through Antelope is about $25 for adults, ages 4 or younger are free. The price can go a little higher if you want to see Lower Antelope Canyon as well. Upper is the more popular one, but Lower Antelope now has an installed stairway to help with the once treacherous climb. There are professional photographer guided tours, with increased time limits, as well. Those go for about $80/person.
For more information on a trip to Antelope Canyon visit Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation.
Photos courtesy of Dollar Photo Club and Wikimedia Commons.