A wonder in the middle of nowhere

Antelope Canyon Tour: Antelope Canyon is probably one of the most used wallpaper in the world. It is easy to understand why: the harmonious curves, the colors, the sun beaming inside it; everything is set to inspire peace and beauty. Located in Arizona in the Navajo Nation, Antelope Canyon has a lot to offer.

The "Lion's head" rock formation inside the Upper Antelope Canyon. Picture from Raffaele Cabras
The “Lion’s head” rock formation inside the Upper Antelope Canyon. Picture from Raffaele Cabras

Antelope Canyon history

Understanding the way this place was created will help you to enjoy it once you visit it. The important thing to understand is that Antelope Canyon did not always exist. It is the result of the action of a tireless actor: water.

Indeed, the formation of Antelope Canyon is the result of the water action. The Navajo, a local tribe in Arizona, calls the canyon “The place where water runs through rocks”. It was formed over the course of hundreds of years by water running through sandstone. Sandstone is friable and brittle when it is attacked by water. The contact of the water on the surface of the sandstone erodes it. In our timescale, this is not visible at all. But after thousands of years, you can see the difference. In the future, Antelope Canyon will keep changing. Consider yourself lucky to be able to visit it.

Basically, Antelope Canyon was formed the same way valleys are formed by rivers. To see this phenomenon at a bigger scale, simply head five miles West to the Horseshoe Bend. I will give you more details about it at the end of the article.

However, it is still impressive to understand how innocent water infiltrations can pile up to create such a deep place. The upper part of the canyon is at around 4,000 feet elevation with walls that rise 120 feet above its streambed.

red rock formation from low angle
Sand floating in Antelope Upper Antelope Canyon. Picture from Raffaele Cabras

How to do your Antelope Canyon Tour

Booking a ticket

You cannot access Antelope Canyon on your own. You will need a ticket. Here is a link to a specialized site that sells tickets to Antelope Canyon. There are two different sections in the canyon: Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon. Each section has its own formula.

If you are looking for a little hike and want more seclusion, you should book a tour for the Lower Antelope Canyon. It is not as busy as the Upper one. However, if you want to see the sun beaming into the canyon, the Upper section may be the best choice.

D-day of Antelope Canyon Tour

The road to Upper Antelope Canyon is gated by the Navajo Nation. Entry is only allowed to guided tours. Make sure to have all the information about the meeting point and the hours of the tour. The fact this place is so hard to access makes it even more interesting for photographers, who usually love to wander in nature to take great shots.

red rock formation from low angle photography
Looking up helps you to realize how huge the walls are. Picture from Raffaele Cabras

Taking pictures of the Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is so scenic and picturesque that it’s a dream place for photographers. The light coming through the rocks creates beams and pits of light which are what photographers look for.

If you are looking to take photos of the sun beaming into the canyon, you should choose to book a tour in Upper Antelope Canyon between 11 am and 1 pm. Indeed, you want the sun to be as high as possible. Summer is the best season for respecting those conditions. However, if you prefer fewer tourists, you can visit between November and March.

Raffaele Cabras experience in Antelope Canyon

The Antelope Canyon sparks the interest of photographers. Raffaele Cabras, the owner of the website Mixyourshot, took some incredible shots there. He explains his experience about the place of photographers during tours:

Since December 2019 the Upper Antelope Canyon shut its doors to photographers with a tripod that could benefit from a special “photographers tour”. ⁠

During this tour, a guide was leading the photographers into the canyon and stopped groups of other tourists for a minute or so, to allow them to snap some shots without people in their shots…⁠

Regular tours will continue and people will still be able to take pictures during them, but these groups are larger and don’t allow tripods or monopods. ⁠

This means that long exposures (needed to capture the flows of sands on the walls and keep the ISO low for best quality, as the inside is pitch dark) and multiple brackets for HDR won’t be possible anymore!
⁠”

Raffaelle Cabras on his Instagram on the 17th of April 2020

sand flowing from red rock formation
Long exposures to see the sand flowing will now be forbidden for some tours. Picture from Raffaele Cabras

This experience shows that the Navajo Nation wants to preserve this place as much as possible by limiting the amount of time tourists spend here. This is sad news for photographers, but we should see it as a chance for the next generations.

More to visit after your Antelope Canyon Tour

As I said earlier, you can see the water action on sandstone at a bigger scale very close to Antelope Canyon. Simply head 10 miles West to the Horseshoe Bend.

google maps itinerary from antelope canyon to horseshoe bend
Here is the itinerary between Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Once you arrive, you will be able to see the incredible action of the Colorado on the rocks.

sinuous river in a desertic valley
The Horseshoe Bend. Picture from Quentin DR

Travel responsibly

I enjoy finishing my articles with eco-tourism advice. I did it for the Uluru History, the Death Valley Travel Guide, La Salar de Uyuni Tour, and the Cathedrals Beach. Indeed, such places must be preserved. Since water formed those rocks, imagine what human hands can do. By touching the rocks, we can affect the way the sand flows on the walls and we could really deteriorate the canyon. Please be responsible and avoid leaning back on the walls. Avoid throwing waste and be respectful.

See you somewhere in the world.