Our Spring Break trip continued as we moved from Utah to Arizona. We still had many exciting places to see before returning back home to California. So far, the most memorable things we had seen on this trip were the amazing hoodoos in Kanab, but we also really liked beautiful Snow Canyon in Utah. After I injured myself in Zion National Park, I had to be really careful not use my thumb, but the swelling had already gone down. I also found a brace for my finger from Walmart which helped a lot. We had now driven to Page, Arizona, and our plan was to visit Antelope Canyon which had for long been on my secret bucket list. I have actually never written down a bucket list, but I have always wanted to visit Antelope Canyon.
DEADLY BUT GORGEOUS ANTELOPE CANYON
Antelope Canyon is located close to the border of Utah and Arizona, in a small town called Page. It is a slot canyon shaped and carved by water. The canyon is on Navajo indians’ land, so when visiting, people need a permit from the Navajo tribe. There are actually two separate canyons; Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon, and both of them can be visited by purchasing a tour.
Over many years the canyons were formed due the rain water accumulated on the top of the canyons. After building up some power at the top, the water then runs through the canyons with force bringing sand at the same time. This erosion has carved a path, a slot canyon, which is big enough for a man to walk through. In 1997, 11 people died while visiting Lower Antelope Canyon when it was suddenly filled up with water. After that, the safety of visitors has been improved by building a medal staircase in the canyon and by building an alarm system. People are also not allowed visit the canyons by themselves anymore; everyone is required to book a guided tour. In 2010 the flooding scared some visitors in Upper Antelope Canyon. No one died, but some of the visitors got stuck on ledges until the water level lowered again.
Antelope Canyon has fast become very famous after people have seen the magical pictures of its’ red wavy walls.
ANTELOPE CANYON WITH KIDS
Before our visit, I was desperately trying to find information about visiting Antelope Canyon with kids - Especially with toddlers. Few tour operators would take kids at all, and after reading many reviews and searching for the information, we decided to go for Upper Antelope Canyon. We ended up booking a tour with Navajo Tours since they seemed to have been hosting tours with kids before and we wanted to support the Navajo tribe’s business since we were on Navajo land. I think bigger kids do fine on this tour, like for example our six year old, I was more worried about our toddler. We always want to be considerate to other people on the tours as well.
We chose the Upper Antelope Canyon because the Lower Canyon has a little bit of climbing to do. You will have to walk some metal stairs up and down, and sometimes a small amount of sand might be falling on you.
For the tour they wont allow any bags or backpacks, so carrying the baby or a toddler on your back is not an option. We figured that our toddler must be able to walk along with us or we will have to carry her. We did see a dad there with a very small baby who was in a front carrier though…and to be honest, the canyon is very narrow, so carrying a child on your back would be kind of difficult and dangerous. Walking through the canyon is not hard or long, maybe 15 minutes total if not counting photo breaks. So in that sense, we were sure we would be able do it. However, every toddler is different, so before booking your tour just remember, that kids can’t run around in the canyon or stop whenever they want.
There were some websites that said you must bring your own car seat for the child, but I think most, if not all of the tour operators now use trucks. People will sit on the back of the truck and the toddler or a baby can sit on your lap. The drive was quite short and they drove very slowly.
THE AMAZING UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON
Our tour went really well. 15 minutes before the tour, we were led to the trucks and then we drove about ten minutes in the sandy river bed. At the canyon we had to wait a little while, since it was pretty crowded. Our guide told us about how the slot canyon was formed and something about its history. He also showed us the best spots to take photos and took group photos for people. Tour guides seemed to know all the best filters and settings to use your camera or phone in the canyon.
The canyon is quite narrow and here and there we had to give room for people coming out. The fact that it really is pretty crowded can be a buzz kill, but the guides had everything under control. However, everyone had to really follow the rules and move along with your own group. We didn’t care so much, since the canyon was so mesmerizing!
THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE VISITING ANTELOPE CANYON
Visiting Antelope Canyon is extremely popular and the best times for the tours are sold many in months advance. You should book your tour as soon as your trip to Page is confirmed. The best time of the day is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., when the sun is high up and you can see the sun beams shine down inside the canyon.
When we arrived, we first had to sign up to our tour and pay. Since we were there quite early, I asked if there was any room in the earlier tour. They told us that all the tours for the day were sold out, and everyone had showed up to the tour before us. You are required to check in to your tour an hour earlier, and I had read from somewhere that if you come even one minute late, they might have already given your spot to others. So of course, we were there way earlier than needed. They don’t offer an indoor spot to wait around, and it was getting hot outside, so we decided to go for a little drive after checking in. This allowed the baby to take a little nap in the back seat, and we were able to get a quick lunch. Our tour started at noon and we were guided to our tour truck at 11:45.
The price for the tour was $60 for adults and $30 for kids. And even our toddler had to pay. I knew that in recent years the prices have gone up, but most of the tour operators charge the same price. However, some charge more during the middle of the day to see the sun beams. An $8 permit fee for the Navajo tribe is included in the price, but has to be paid separately with cash. Otherwise you can pay with a credit card too. Also, don’t forget to tip your tour guide. Bring your ID and your confirmation of the reservation at check in. The tour takes about 1.5 hours.
Since there is a little bit of a wait before the tour starts, make sure to bring some water with you and maybe some snacks too. They don’t allow any bags or backbacks on the tour, and no selfie sticks or tripods. A water bottle was OK. There is no video taping in the canyon, so they also didn’t allow GoPro cameras. Sunscreen might be needed while waiting, but the canyon itself provides shade. Some kind of a hat, and even a scarf or bandana is really good on a drive, and sun glasses to protect your eyes. The sand is flying everywhere, and it made people cough and wipe their eyes.
Despite the crowds and the waiting, we really enjoyed visiting Upper Antelope Canyon. What a surreal place! Everything went well, and as memorabilia, we got some beautiful photos from the canyon. If you visit Page, you don’t want to miss this! And next time… another amazing place from our visit to Arizona!