One of the coolest places we’ve ever visited as a family is Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona, near the Utah border. Guys, this place wasn’t even on my radar, but I’m so glad a friend mentioned it to me when I told her about a trip we were planning to the Grand Canyon. And now, I want to share this travel gem with you!
Antelope Canyon is a beautiful example of geology at work, but it’s also a safe and easy activity you can do with kids! Best of all, I love what it teaches them about respecting the powerful forces of nature. This is a moderate hike, with steep staircases, and recommended for kids age 7 and up.
Some history about Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is located two miles east of Page, Arizona (about a three-hour drive north of the Grand Canyon) on Native American land, specifically the Navajo Nation. It’s called a slot canyon, which typically refers to a canyon that is deeper than it is wide. A slot canyon is created over time by rushing water that carves out the sandstone walls.
Years ago, the area was open to the public and independent guides. But, after a flash flood in 1997 killed 11 foreign tourists, strict rules were put in place limiting access to the Canyon. Today, you can only visit with an accredited company and a certified guide.
What to expect when you arrive at Antelope Canyon
After a short walk from the welcome center, you will descend a very steep staircase to access the canyon. The walls are extremely narrow – no wider than a hallway in some parts – which can make some people claustrophobic. Obviously, my husband wasn’t bothered by the close quarters.
The Canyon is a photographer’s dream! The red sandstone is beautiful to photograph and looks different depending on how the sun hits it. The vibrant colors swirl and curl along the walls of the Canyon creating beautiful (and famous) vistas. Did you know one of the MAC screensavers is actually a shot from Antelope Canyon? My oldest daughter was in charge of photographs and she got some beautiful shots.
Our guide with Ken’s Tours was extremely informative and helpful. She pointed out various images created by the rock formations – similar to the way cloud formations resemble familiar shapes or objects. The kids really enjoyed this part of the tour.
Look up, look way up
Standing on the floor of the Canyon, you can imagine how terrifying it would be to have a wall of water come rushing in. Since the fatalities in 1997, guides now carry walky-talkies and communicate with crews on the surface who keep a close eye on the weather. If there are thunderstorms and flooding happening upstream, they don’t take any chances – they evacuate the Canyon and shut down all tours until the risk of danger has passed.
This tour was fascinating and like nothing I’ve ever seen before. If you are spending time in the Grand Canyon area, I would recommend driving further north and adding this to your itinerary.
Tips for visiting Antelope Canyon
A few things to keep in mind when visiting Antelope Canyon:
- The time! – Arizona doesn’t follow Daylight Savings Time, but the Navajo Nation does. So, phone ahead and double check with the tour company about the time of your tour. We showed up one hour early!
- Don’t be in a rush – The tour is scheduled for 60 minutes but can run a bit longer depending on the number of tourists. Sometimes, there can be a traffic jam due to the narrow passageways and people taking lots of pictures.
- Bring your iPhone and DSLR camera – ask your guide for the best settings on your camera to capture the vibrant colors
- Ask about flute music – I’ve heard that some of the Navajo tour operators will play traditional flute music in the Canyon, so you may want to inquire when making your booking. I bet the sound in there would give you chills!
As you leave the area, you’ll pass a monument dedicated to the 11 tourists who died at Antelope Canyon – a somber reminder that Mother Nature is a powerful force that always deserves both our respect and admiration. I know this really had an impact on my kids because they immediately came home and “You Tubed” flooding footage at Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon was one of the most unique places we’ve ever visited. It was a relatively short, but exhilarating, attraction the whole family enjoyed – even the teens. It’s a place none of us will ever forget!
Have you been to Antelope Canyon…what did you think?