I travel to escape crowds and structure, so when I found out that in order to cross off a childhood bucket list item required a guide I was disappointed …
Antelope Canyon is a world famous slot canyon located in Page, AZ on the border of Arizona and Utah. Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land and can only be seen via a guided tour. I remember seeing my first picture of a Antelope Canyon in an elementary science book and it seemed so remote and untouched, fast forward 20 something years and the words “guided tour” clouded that image with selfie sticks and Disneyland-like numbers … But still the slot canyons are calling and I must go.
eeming as how they require a guided tour, it’s safe to say they are NOT dog friendly. As you know most of my adventures involve my little adventure pup, Butters, so the 5 plus times I’ve been near the canyon, so has Butters and I was not about to leave her in a car for 2 hours in the Arizona desert so I can take some Instagram worthy pictures.
When one of my oldest girlfriend’s told me she was getting married just outside of Phoenix, I knew that this may be one of the only times I’m in the state of Arizona without Butters. So I did three things that day, I RSVP’d to see Rachel get hitched, booked a cheap AirBnB in Chandler (check out our adorable Casita Here!), and made reservations for the day after the wedding to tour the Upper Canyon of Antelope Canyon.
Research tells me that the best time to visit the canyon is the prime tours of either 10:30 or 1 p.m., I knew there was no way after dancing the night away, that my butt was going to be able to do the 5 hour drive north to be there by 9:30 or noon … so I took a risk and booked the 3 p.m. tour with Antelope Slot Canyon Tours.
So we left Chandler at 8:30 and even had time for a quick side adventure of exploring Montezuma Castle National Monument (which I learned IS dog friendly by the way) which is located off Highway 17 in Camp Verde, AZ. You can spend an entire afternoon here learning more about the Native American people of this area and their adaptive ways of life, but we opted for a quick stretch of the legs and some photo opportunities and continued on our way to Page.
We arrive into Page at around 2 p.m., just in time to indulge in a corn dog from Sonic, much to the enjoyment of my Missourian boyfriend ..
The tour company requests that you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your tour time. So we rolled in right on time and enjoyed a few minutes of down time looking at magnets and knick knacks in their small gift shop. The gift shop was starting to get full and my anxiety of being surrounded by so many people in a narrow canyon was starting to get the best of me, but I knew that once I did it, it’d be worth it.
They loaded us into lifted, air-conditioned vans and make the 15 minute drive to the canyon, where I’m quickly greeted with about 5 other tour companies doing the same damn thing … oh goody, more tourists.
Be prepared, you are not going to have a quiet and serene canyon experience (especially on a Saturday), you will be sharing this bucket list with hundreds of other people staring up through their phones and Canons, mouths agape … and you’ll find yourself doing the same.
You must stick with your group so don’t even think about falling behind to get that “solitude” shot, there will be another group right behind you. However, I quickly forgot about the crowds and focused on what our knowledgeable guide was sharing about this breathtaking, natural phenomenon.
One benefit of the crowds is that you not only get to listen to your guide, but if you hang out in the back you can also eavesdrop on the group behind you. Every guide does their tour a little different. So while our guide was telling us about how just 3 inches of rain miles away can turn into 2-3 feet in the canyon, the guide behind us was teaching their group how to say “beautiful” in Navajo (Nizhóní, by the way).
The best was yet to come, the greatest benefit of the guided tour is that these guides see this canyon every day. Their stories, knowledge, and keen eyes were well worth the price of admission. If I had the ability to tour this canyon alone I would have been focusing on getting the perfect shot and googling my dozens of questions later. A guide will tell you about the history of the canyon, show pictures of what it looks like after a storm, tell you how long that log has been stuck up there, and most importantly show you things you may have missed such as:
The dragon’s eye …
The sunrise ….
Abraham Lincoln …
And a personal favorite … The heart
If you’re an amateur photographer, don’t be afraid to ask your guide for a little help. My guide was able to share with me the settings he likes to use just on his phone to capture some epic shots … No thousand dollar camera required!
Our guide took a liking to Anthony and I, and started taking some shots I would have missed with my phone. There’d be times where he’d be guiding the tour using my phone to show people what he saw, I got a laugh and got some great pictures courtesy of our guide.
At one point our guide pulled us aside and said, “Hey, after everyone turns the corner hang back and I want to take this picture of you” …
It looked like we had the place to ourselves … And soon my elementary school dreams were becoming a reality. Our guide turned our day of exploration into a full on mini photo shoot.
I was amazed that with just a little patience, good angle, and the right settings on my Google Pixel phone would give me these pictures I’ll cherish forever. I don’t remember the sound of hundreds of ooohs and ahhs, I remember the one voice saying okay, now look up and put your hand here, and me trying not to giggle the entire time.
This is why I can 100% tell you, it’s worth taking a guided tour to experience Antelope Canyon. A tour may have more rules than you’re used to, but I’m glad I wasn’t running into a selfie stick every 5 minutes … A guide may tell you that you can only take pictures on the way in, and not on the return trip, but that means you’re seeing the same canyon with your eyes and not through a lense …
So I hope this helps ease your mind about the requirements of taking a guided tour through Antelope Canyon. It may cost anywhere from $60-100, but the memories will be priceless.