Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
There are dozens of national parks in the U.S., each with a distinct landscape and a compelling reason to visit. One of my favorite places is Antelope Canyon, which is adjacent to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Page, Arizona.
You’ve likely seen dreamy photos of the canyon on social media, but pictures don’t do it justice. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also a great place to visit with the whole family. Below are a few important tips for your family vacation to Antelope Canyon.
You must have a guide to enter the canyon
To prevent vandalism and protect the land, which has spiritual significance to the Navajo Nation, Antelope Canyon was closed starting in 1997 to members of the public without a guide. The only way to enter the canyon is with a tour company that’s been authorized by Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation.
We chose Ken’s Tours because it had the most convenient tour times. Our guide, a member of the Navajo Nation, was knowledgeable about both the canyon and the land we were visiting. It was a special tour that I’m grateful I could experience with my family.
Antelope Canyon is absolutely beautiful. It’s no wonder people travel from so far out of the way just to take photos. In addition to sharing the canyon’s history and its importance to the Navajo Nation, our guide did a spectacular job helping us get incredible pictures to take home.
Know the difference between the canyons
Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are actually miles apart, but the most significant difference between the two is the famous light beam photos you can snap in the upper canyon.
Getting into Lower Antelope Canyon also comes with steep stairs down one side and up the other.
Because it’s less accessible (and arguably less photogenic), Lower Antelope Canyon is also less expensive to visit. Our tour to the lower canyon was $40 per adult, not including a 6% Navajo tax and a $32 Navajo permit fee for our group.
Tours for Upper Antelope Canyon start at $70 per adult and $60 per child 12 and under. For our family of four adults and one toddler, we paid $212.40. If we’d chosen to visit the Upper Canyon, we would have been out more than $350.
Photo tours are especially popular at Upper Antelope Canyon and start at $150 per person.
As I mentioned, you’ll need to descend a steep staircase to enter Lower Antelope Canyon and take a slightly less steep set of stairs to exit on the other side. If you’re traveling with anyone who has mobility issues or prefers to avoid heights, you may want to stick with Upper Antelope Canyon, which is wheelchair-accessible.
Additionally, visiting the Lower Canyon with an infant or toddler might prove challenging with the stairs. Luckily, my husband carried our then-14-month-old son down the steps, which eased my mind tremendously. You could also wear your baby in a carrier. Older children should be able to go up and down the stairs at the Lower Canyon with adult assistance.
Because of the popularity of Antelope Canyon, it may be difficult to find tour availability at times. There are similar slot canyons in the Page area that are now open to the public such as Canyon X and Secret Canyon. Both of these provide similar experiences and they usually don’t have the crowds of the group tours. Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tours is one of the authorized Navajo tour operators that offers not only private tours of a slot canyon, but also a private overlook at Horseshoe Bend.
Where to stay
Antelope Canyon is located in Page, Arizona, just beyond the Utah border; it’s about a four-hour drive from Phoenix. If you prefer to fly, the closest airports are in Flagstaff, Arizona — a two-hour drive from Page — and in Page itself, which you can fly to directly from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) on Contour Airlines. The airline operates one daily flight starting at $89 one-way.
We stayed at the Courtyard Page at Lake Powell for just one night, as Antelope Canyon was a stop on a larger Arizona road trip. This is a Category 5 Marriott property available from 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night on off-peak dates, or $126. There is also a new Home2Suites, a Hilton property, which is available starting at 21,000 Honors points per night depending on dates.
What to pack
It can be very windy in the area right above the canyon, and the sand can easily blow into your eyes and mouth. So, be sure to bring sunglasses and a scarf or mask to cover your mouth and face to protect yourself from the sand. The wind will also follow you into the canyon, so a light jacket might make you more comfortable. Since Antelope Canyon is on tribal land, a COVID-19 mask mandate is still in effect for all visitors and residents of the Navajo Nation.
Related: Exploring national parks: Where to stay using points
The best time to visit
Antelope Canyon is located in the Arizona desert, so the weather is less than ideal during the summer months. The best time to visit would be in the spring or fall. While the average temperature is still in the mid-80s during these months, it still beats triple-digit highs in Arizona in the summer.
Winter is also a good time to visit the canyon because there are fewer crowds. The temperatures, however, range from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which may be less appealing to some travelers.
Antelope Canyon tours can last from one to three hours, depending on the type of tour you choose and which canyon you visit. There were tours every 30 minutes when we visited which gave each group time to get far enough through the canyon and not hold up any of the following groups.
If you enjoy water activities, there are multiple options available in the Page/Lake Powell area. However, be warned that they are seasonal activities as the area can reach freezing temperatures in the winter months. Kayaking is a popular sport, and from Lake Powell, you can access parts of Antelope Canyon from the water.
Horsehoe Bend is a spectacular (and very Instagram-popular) spot. You can park and walk to the rim overlooking the Colorado River as it winds around the sandstone. But what if you could kayak around it instead? Kayak Horseshoe Bend helps visitors do just that and the views are unbelievable. Open from March to October for kayak and paddleboard rentals, Kayak Horseshoe Bend is a great day excursion from Page. The office is located in Marble Canyon (Lee’s Ferry) which is approximately 38 miles from downtown Page. Lee’s Ferry is also the launch point for most Grand Canyon river rafting expeditions.
If flying is more your style, try a helicopter tour that departs from Page Airport. Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines has been in business for more than 90 years and operates aerial tours to the top of Tower Butte, the Grand Canyon or the Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
Visit other parks during your trip
Our trip also included a stop at the Grand Canyon, which is a little more than a two-hour drive from Antelope Canyon and Page. Stretching from the shores of Lake Powell to Horseshoe Bend is Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is managed by the National Park Service. Various guided tours are available in this area as well.
Zion National Park is a two-hour drive west across the border in Utah while Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a two-hour drive east in Arizona.
Antelope Canyon is a mesmerizing destination and a great choice for your next family vacation. Not only will you walk away with amazing family photos you can cherish forever, but you’ll also have the opportunity to experience the Native history of the U.S. through an authorized Navajo Parks and Recreation guide.
Upper Antelope Canyon is best for travelers with mobility concerns, as it’s wheelchair-friendly. Unfortunately, this is also the pricier canyon because of the arguably better photos you can get there. Lower Antelope Canyon is more affordable and, in my opinion, just as stunning, though there are steep stairs you should take into consideration before booking.
No matter which canyon you choose to tour, you and your family are sure to make lasting memories.
Additional reporting by Becky Blaine.