After coming across the mention of southern canyons a zillion times, it was finally time to go and explore them.
The pictures of the Antelope Canyon had pleasantly haunted me for two years now and Page, AZ was thus added to my travel bucket list.
Not to mention the beautiful wallpapers of these canyons floating around on our windows desktops!
What are Slot Canyons?
Let me first take a step back and talk about what are these Canyons? Thanks to Wikipedia it’s easy to find out-
- Antelope Canyons are basically slot canyons and are formed by the wear of water rushing through the rocks
- There are two slot canyons that are particularly famous Upper Antelope Canyon or the Crack and the Lower Antelope Canyon or the Corkscrew
- These canyons are the property of the Navajo nation and are accessible only by guided tours. Did you know that Navajo nation is a native American territory and has the largest land area retained by any native American tribe?
The photographer in me wanted to visit the Antelope Canyon in the summer months to capture the famous light beams (the light beams are shafts of direct sunlight entering the canyons and can be seen in the slot canyons between March to October), but the mommy in me wanted to take kiddo to this surreal place when it is least crowded and December gave us the perfect opportunity.
On the day-2 of our Arizona trip we decided to explore this nature’s marvel in Page, AZ.
The previous day we drove north from Sedona to Page, crossing the noteworthy Flagstaff – the AZ town known for its ski resorts ( yup, it does snow in the desert state 🙂 )
Just like the drive from Phoenix to Sedona, the drive from Sedona to Page was quite an eye catcher. We saw the snow covered peaks in Flagstaff and then for the longest time we did not see anything and then the landscape changed again and desert mountains were adorning the sides of the road.
The habitation really thins out after Flagstaff and if you are driving from Flagstaff to Page, the town Cameron would be a good stop to get the gas, some snacks and use the restrooms. After Cameron until Page the road is pretty much deserted. You can take a break at the Cameron Trading Post, its a huge Trading Post, the biggest I have seen with a lot of native American crafts, its also the only lodging option between Flagstaff and Page.
We reached Page late evening and checked in at the Courtyard Marriott, Lake Powell. The hotel was comfy, had a cute campfire and was a convenient distance from all the eateries.
The hotel manager shared with us a list of the eateries near by and marked the popular ones. We had dinner at the Dara Thai Express and the food was OK, not the best Thai I have had, but given the limited options, seemed pretty decent. The good thing was that there was a Safeway store in the same complex and we bought some fruits and snacks for our stay.
The weather in Page averages around mid 40’s in December and can go low in 20’s so you do need to carry winter wear (jackets, caps & gloves).
We started our day early with the sumptuous breakfast at the hotel itself, they had a decent buffet. The first thing on our itinerary was the tour of the Upper Antelope Canyon at 10 AM.
Lower vs Upper Antelope Canyons?
We knew we had only a day in Page and had to choose between the Upper and the Lower Antelope Canyons. While both Canyons are amazing and you can’t really go wrong with either one, we chose the Upper Antelope Canyon primarily for the easy terrain for our five year old munchkin. The Lower Antelope Canyon requires climbing up and down multiple ladders and could be a challenge for families with kids.
There are multiple guided tours operators that offer Upper Antelope Canyon tour and a good source of information is the Navajo national parks website. The tour operator we went with was the Antelope Canyon Navajo tours. We booked the tour 15 days in advance which was highly recommended for summer months but we didn’t want to take the chance!
Upper Antelope Canyon Tour
We arrived at the tour operator site at 9 AM which is one hour before the scheduled tour time as suggested but it wasn’t much crowded I guess due to the winter season.
Their systems were down, so we had to pay for our tickets in cash which if you’re not prepared for, can be a problem because the town is a little far away. Luckily we had enough to cover up our tickets. The tour operators ask you to come at least an hour back but there’s nothing much to really do here it’s all outdoors with some little covered waiting area and it could really get chilly if you are here in Winters. That was perhaps the only thing we didn’t really like about the experience.
The site has restrooms and since the tour takes a total of an hour and a half, it’s a good idea to use them before beginning the tour. From the tour operator site we got into trucks with the tour guide. Our tour guide was extremely nice and she had a good knowledge about the canyon.
The first part of the tour was a 10-15 minutes fun bumpy ride to the site of the Upper Antelope Canyon.
The entrance of the Upper Antelope Canyon is not that impressive but once we entered, we were in total awe.
It was like entering a unique world of abstractions formed by the gracefully carved sandstone walls of the Canyon. The place is totally surreal and mesmerizing. Our guide pointed out some of the key notable shapes – there is the Heart of the Antelope Canyon, the Lincoln’s face, the Indian chief, the Eye and many more as goes the imagination.
Our Tour guide offered to take many pics in the Canyon and out of curiosity, I asked if that is something they normally do. She told mostly yes, but in the peak summer months when the light beams occur, the place gets really packed like Disney and they can hardly do this.
In my mind I was delighted again to make a decision to visit this place in December. We admired and walked through the length of the canyon uttering the word “WOW” at every nook and turn. Soon we reached the end of the Canyon where there was an opening. Our guide gave us some time to wait and perhaps soak in the sun on this fine winter morning.
While outside we clicked some more shots and then were headed back into the Canyon since there is only one entrance and exit point for these canyons. On our way back we marveled at this amazing place one more time and captured some beautiful memories here. Once outside we boarded the tour trucks and we’re on our way to the tour operator site.
Having checked off the Upper Antelope Canyon from my travel bucket list it was time now to visit another one in the close proximity the world-famous Horseshoe Bend (Coming Soon).