Continental US

Labor’s Day Weekend Trip: Antelope Canyons

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I originally plan to stay the full two days in Grand Canyon but as I was searching for photos of the Grand Canyon to see where has the best angle, I found photos of colorful canyon and that is the Antelope Canyons right outside of Page, Arizona. It made me start to debate since Page is less than 3 hours away from the South Rim! Since we made all the way out to the west, how can we miss the amazing photographing opportunity? I made the decision to sacrifice one day from the Grand Canyon to visit the Antelope Canyons. There are two Antelope Canyons: Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope.

Upper Antelope Canyon: The more famous one with the sunbeams but only visible during the “prime time” which is around noon and be prepared to pay extra and extra crowded during the prime time. Two ways to access the Upper Antelope Canyon, show up at the entrance and join the next available tour or pre-book one from Page. Each tour operator offers two types of tours – the “scenic tour” which last around 1.5 hours (no tripod allowed) and the “photographer’s tour” which last around 2.5 hours. Tripod and DSLR cameras are required for the photographer’s tour and space is limited so need to book in advanced. I contacted Overland Tours: and they were fully booked! Then I contact Chief Tsosie’s Tour and luckily there have spaces for 3 of us:!

Lower Antelope Canyon: This one required climbing some stairs to reach down to the slot canyon and it’s more colorful, unlike the Upper Antelope Canyon, its best times for photos are early in the morning and afternoon. There’s only one tour operator: Ken’s Tour and they don’t take advanced reservation nor credit card so you have to drive there (located right across from the Upper Antelope Canyon entrance) and have cash ready and join the next available tour. They do however offer two types of tours as well, the regular guided tour (no tripod allowed) last around 1 hour and the Photo Pass (pay extra and allow to bring tripod) but you’ll have 2 hours in the canyon without a guide. However, as I was writing this post, they do take reservations now but they didn’t mention about the Photo Pass so wonder if they no longer offer the Photo Pass!

Logistics done, here’s the trip report 🙂

We woke up at 5:30 am and need to leave the Grand Canyon by 6 am to make it to Page before 10 am to join the Photographer’s Tour that I pre-booked with Chief Tsosie’s Tour. The sun just raised and it was still a little bit dark out as we load our luggage into our rental car. Driving out of the park, we spotted a family of deer!!!

We stopped for a second, lowered the windows and took this photo, the little one was looking at me so cute! We drove the whole Desert View Drive to exit the park from the west which is on the way to Page. The 25 miles scenic drive – how can we not stop here and there for photos! I know I know but we still have time to make it to Page so we did a quick stop, take some photos and move on 🙂 The view of the Canyon right after sunrise, the golden color was amazing!

We were very quick ran out, yes we were running, snap few shots and ran back to the car and keep going! I guess pretty good morning exercise!

The end of the 25 miles is the Desert View Tower! I wish we could stay longer till it opens!

Goodbye Grand Canyon, we’ll be back if we ever have a chance to visit you again!!!

The drive to Page was pretty interesting….we left Grand Canyon at 6:00 am and from Google Map it said it’ll take 2 hours and 36 minutes for 133 miles so despite the half an hour we stopped on the Desert View Drive, we should be there around 9:06 am. The GPS said we’ll get there at 10:06 am which freaked my husband out and he was speeding (not dangerously speeding though) the whole way LOL! The road was pretty much empty!!!

Outside of the park, on our long way to Page, the landscape looked like this:

Once we approached Page, the landscape is almost all red sand!!! We reached Page at …urg we really have no clue on the time and I remembered some people online mentioned about Page does not observe daylight savings so it’s different time than other places in the Navajo reservation. We parked our car and walked into the Chief Tsosie’s shop, first thing I asked is what time is it LOL! It’s actually 9:10 am! We checked in, made our payments $80.70 each and meet back at 10 am. We walked across to check out some gift shops and then went to El Tapatio for a full breakfast to fill us up before the tour knowing that we wouldn’t be back until 1 pm. Their beef burritos were good! Breakfast for three: $19.38.

We walked back to the store and asked the lady where to gather for the Photographer’s tour, she said outside the parking lot where the benches are. Before the start of the actual tour, there are two people who performed a grass dance and a hoop dance.

Grass dance:

Hoop dance where this guy started with no hoop and grab one by one until 10 hoops and each time he added a hoop, he’ll create some sort of recognizable pattern like a butterfly, a flower, and even Micky Mouse! We thought the hoop dance was more entertaining and challenging!

Don’t know how he can manage so many hoops without tangling them!

The guy who did the grass dance on white said the guy who performed the hoop dance will be participating in a competition so asking for donations to support him. Hubby gave him a very nice tips because he is talented 🙂 After the performance ended, everyone went to the guy with the list to see which group they are with. Those on regular tour got on an open back safari jeep while our Photographer’s Tour people got on a van. There were only 7 of us!!! Our tour guide’s name is Rob, he definitely has his own character haha! He said thanks to the internet, the Antelope Canyons are no longer a secret and thousands of people visited everyday so be prepared for the crowds! The Upper Antelope Canyon is more crowded due to more famous, easy to access without any climbing stairs, and only one way to get in so entrance and exit are the same. He drove us through this red sand road and on the road was two other safari jeeps, oh my, the sand blew all over, it was very sandy! The ride was bumpy too and two photographers in our tour said the drive to Monument Valley was even worst than this! Rob also said there’s around 10-12 flash floods every year so they monitored the weather closely and whenever there’s rain, they’ll not let anyone in after the incident years ago. He also said be prepared and learn how to photograph with as narrow as the tripod can be because there’ll be not enough room inside to have the legs wide open and with people walking in and out, more chance that people would knock down the tripod! And sometimes need to use it as a monopod!!!

Our tour guide – Rob on the right!

Here’s the entrance to the slot canyon, I was getting very excited!

The next two hours was intense! My brother described it as like we were in a battlefield “ready, aim, shoot, go, go, go, move!” He couldn’t have described it better LOL! Rob is very knowledgeable on the exact timing of the sunbeams on each “chamber” so we followed him here and there and then go back. Inside was a lot tighter in space than I expected and VERY crowded. Rob tried his best to position us individually so we wouldn’t waste any previous time on waiting. “You stay here, you go there, you on that corner, take some photos and swap, just yell out if your shutter is open!” Inside is a lot darker than I would expect and shooting at f/11, exposure ranged from 2-8 seconds, tripod is a must if you want low noise photos! My first pic:

The lens captured more colors than our naked eyes can see! It was truly a photographer’s dream place to be! I felt like we were in a challenge, each picture we have less than 10 seconds to compose, set the tripod in position, hit the shutter button, and pray no one walks into your photo. Rob did an excellent job holding back crowds by coordinating with other tour guides in there and sometimes need to ask people to walk out of the way for a minute so we could have pictures of no one in there. While waiting for Rob to do that, I wasted no time and shooting up so no need to worry about heads 🙂

The sunbeams…two of them too!

The beams in this chamber were hitting the rocks not the floor so that was the best I could fit both 🙂 Rob finally emptied out one of the chamber, action time!!! The craving of the rocks and the orange, red, and purple hues were so beautiful!

We constantly moving back and forth so I have no clue how long was the slot canyon! In another chamber, Rob scooped some sand and tossed them up, I waited till the sand/dust settled down a bit before starting to shoot 🙂 I love how there’s a little tree in there!

We walked into another one where was a tree trunk up there, pretty cool!

Rob positioned us and said in 8 minutes the famous beam will be hitting there so get ready!!! The beam showed up few minutes early today but no problem, we were ready! Here it is the postcard picture!

Mother nature is just incredible!

The 2 and a half hour went by quickly! By the time I got out of the canyon, my lens had a layer of sand omg it was that “dusty” inside!!! I should’ve put a plastic bag over my camera! We tried to clean our lens as much as we could. Do not attempt to change lens in there, it’s that dusty!!! Before I got in the van, I took a shot of the safari jeep parked outside the entrance!

Once we got back to Page, we walked to the nearby Asian Cuisine – Indian/Thai restaurant, don’t waste your time there let me tell you! We were so thirsty but waited at least 15 minutes before the waitress deliver the water! Come on, shouldn’t that be the first thing to do bring out water to your customers? Service was SLOW!!! The food, what a ripped off it was! It was not even tasty for the price they charged, wrong choice! My brother and I both ordered the Drunken Noodle, it was by the far the worst Drunken Noodle I ever had! I had low expectation when going out of big city, but this is below average! Hubby ordered the fried rice, he wished he didn’t! Our lunch was the 2nd most expensive meal we had during our long weekend trip – $55.32 excluding tips for bad food!

After lunch, we drove immediately to Ken’s Tour for the Lower Antelope Canyon tour, it was 2:00 pm when we got there. I asked for the Photo Pass and the lady said we might not even able to use our tripods because there’s limited space in there and there’ll be a group of 40 people coming in every 30 minutes. That made us to rethink and we decide to just join the normal tour. I showed them our receipt from the Upper Antelope Canyon and got $8 discount each since we don’t need to pay the Navajo Park Fee again since our tours are on the same day – with the discount it was $20 each cash only. The next available tour is 3 pm, we had an hour to spare. We decided to drive to the hotel to check in since the hotel is less than 8 minutes away! We stayed at the Best Western Lake Powell. It was our first time staying at a Best Western and the room was clean and nice!

We rested for 20 minutes and drove back to Ken’s Tour.

Here we go again! The guy dressed in blue in front of the line was our guide, he basically gave us a brief history and go over the rules, it was a short walk to the entrance. I was wondering where is it??

You can’t really imagine there’s an amazing slot canyon down there!!!!

The stairs down there was very steep so hold onto both rails! Once I got down there, it was all worth it!!! The tour guide said that geologists estimated this canyon to be 1.5 billion years old while the Grand Canyon was 1.3 billion woah!!! We were ahead of our group and were free to be on our own pace! The 1.5 hours felt much longer than the 2.5 hours in Upper Antelope Canyon and less crowded. There were more lights in the Lower so it was not an issue without a tripod!

I love the colors of the Lower Antelope Canyon, more light purple and pink, great for taking abstract photos!

Some areas are so narrow that you could only fit one foot in, I took a pic just to show that LOL!

There was a wave of wind came by and it “rained” sand on us, it actually hurts, and people were finding a cover to hide! Those were the ones with Photo Pass, it should’ve pay extra for the Photo Pass to have more time!

It’s such a unique place!

Our cameras were nonstop clicking. Three of us and none of our photo looked exactly alike, that’s how unique this place is!!!

It was near the end, few stairs to walk up to get out:

The colorful slot canyon we just walked through is down there, hard to believe!

Words could not describe how beautiful and an incredible experience it was, it’s definitely one of the must visit place in a life time, even if it’s just a one day trip! We actually spent a little bit more than 1.5 hours in there, the tour guide didn’t even rush us out! On the way driving back to our hotel, I asked my husband: if he could pick again, would he sacrifice one day from the Grand Canyon to visit the Antelope Canyons? He said yes! We passed by a trading post on our way and stopped to get iced-cold drinks!

We got back to the hotel and hubby went out to the swimming pool area to take some photos of the view:

Lake Powell is on the right! We took a short break in the hotel room, hubby took a power nap while I searched for good sunset view location. I found Wahweap Overlook in Lake Powell! We decided to go there for sunset at 6:55 pm…….it didn’t happen as planned thanks to our GPS! It completely got confused and made us drove around circle GRRR! We got to Glen Canyon Dam and knew we wouldn’t make it to Wahweap Overlook by sunset so we stopped at the dam!

It was still pretty 🙂

It was definitely not our good planning night…..we drove all the way to Blue Buddha Sushi Lounge to have our dinner and found out they are closed on Sundays!!! Oh well, we headed back to Big John’s Texas BBQ! We got a seat outside and they have a live band performing!

It was good food, good value, good atmosphere, just the service is a bit slow…….is that how it is in Page?

Hubby ordered 1/2 a lb of beef brisket, brother had his first ever pulled-pork sandwich, and I ordered beef brisket sandwich, bbq dinner came to be $44.01 excluding tips, much better than our lunch! We certainly had a long day today, we went back to the hotel taking turn to take shower…..I couldn’t believe how much sand inside my sneaker!!! SO if you plan to go, be sure not to wear your favorite sneaker because it will get dirty with red sand!!! Then I think I fell asleep right away LOL I was that tired! We could take it easy tomorrow since we don’t have much plan besides making a short visit to Lake Powell then Horseshoe Bend before heading to Sedona!

11 thoughts on “Labor’s Day Weekend Trip: Antelope Canyons

  1. Wonderful pics, as usual! I think I will try to follow you whereever yo go, LOL! I am currently planning a 5 day week-end flying into Flagstaff. Grand Canyon, Page, then driving to Las Vegas, maybe stop by Zion Nat’l park on the way. I will taking my 6d and a couple of lenses, my 16-35mm f/2.8 and my workhorse 24-70mm f/2.8. I was thinking of taking along my goPro to time lapse the sun rising and setting in GC. I am a gadget girl by nature and will be taking my mini and air Ipads and GPS. Luckily I applied for my TSA pre check, so it makes it a little easier to go thru security. I hope I have everything covered.
    I’ve been to GC before, but never Antelope Valley,so I was wondering,If you could take any tripod or monopod with you to Upper/Lower Antelope valley which would it be? Was there anything different you would take with you to make things easier? I am visiting Upper canyon twice. First in the late afternoon (some say, there may be less people elbowing you for the perfect shot), the in the primetime around 11a-1p time for the sunbeams. Is there a better time to tour the Lower part?

    Thanks for all of your help and the awesome pix!!

    1. You’ll need to join the photographers tour for the upper antelope canyon in order to bring your tripod in, book in advanced those sold out fast! For the lower antelope canyon you can apply on the same day, photographers pass for bringing your tripod and longer time inside. The afternoon is better for lower antelope canyon because more light to bring out the purple hue of the rocks! Remember to share your pics afterwards 😉

  2. Thanx for the tour.I will skip rainbow bridge and go here next time.Looks like you are willing to do almost anything to get your photos.There are a lot of great opportunities if you search hard enough.Glad to see that you are a little twisted.

  3. Hi Lisa,
    Was lower antelope your favourite? If you could only do one of them, would that be your recommendation?

    1. Hum….hard choice. If you are not a professional photographer and not planning to take the photographer tour to the Upper Antelope Canyon then the Lower Antelope Canyon would be my choice because it’ll be impossible to take photos of the light beam without the photographer tour 🙂

          1. Yes we’re doing a 7 day roadtrip from Vegas in April around the Grand Canyon…so much to plan 🙂

          2. Oh yes plenty to see in that area for 7 days is a hard choice to split the time 🙂 Monument Valley was worth a side trip as well!

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