What to do and where to go.
East of Page, in the far north of Arizona, on Navajo land, sits Antelope Canyon — one of the most photographed places on the planet of which nobody has ever heard. A stunning example of natural sculpture, the canyon — with its tall, smooth, winding walls — is a great place to take nature pics. So today, in honor of its beauty, we’re counting down the top five incredible sights at Antelope Canyon.
What Is Arizona’s Antelope Canyon?
Located in the American Southwest, Antelope is a slot canyon with two distinct parts, Tsé bighánílíní — meaning “place where water runs through rocks” in the native Navajo language — and Hazdistazí — “spiral rock arches.” In English, the two sections are called Upper Canyon and Lower Canyon, respectively.
Sculpted, smoothed, and polished by time, wind, and water erosion, Arizona’s Antelope Canyon is known for its breathtaking organic artistry.
Five Incredible Sights in the Antelope Canyon
Amateurs and professional photographers worldwide make the picture pilgrimage to Antelope Canyon. Nearly every square inch of the rock formation is interesting and “photogenic.” Still, five notable features attract lots of attention: the Candle, Upper Entrance, Lion’s Head, Heart, and Lady in the Wind. We decided to capitalize the names because they’re all unique facets worthy of the proper noun treatment.
Antelope Canyon Sight #1: Upper Entrance
People debate whether the Antelope Lower or Upper canyon is best for pictures. Objectively, it’s a tie. Both sections boast incredible formations. However, the entrance to Upper Antelope edges out Lower’s vestibule by a hair. For starters, Upper Canyon’s entrance is on ground level, so visitors look up at the light beams and rock outcrops, which makes for a more dramatic experience.
Antelope Canyon Sight #2: The Candle
Located in the Upper section, the Candle is a slot formation that, as its name suggests, resembles a long taper candle. In warm afternoon light from the right angle, the surrounding rocks become blacked out, leaving the cut out of a shimmering flame-shaped slit.
Antelope Canyon Sight #3: The Lion’s Head
Many of Antelope Canyon’s famous photo spots result from the light streaming through erosion slots. The Lion’s Head, however, is a bit different. The feature hangs off a canyon wall and looks like a mounted trophy head of a lion. Although a slot formation isn’t the structure’s defining feature, a sunlight beam sometimes shines down on The Lion’s Head, resembling a spotlight.
Antelope Canyon Sight #4: The Heart
The Heart can be found in Antelope’s Upper Canyon. The shape is perched on its side but is an undeniable carve-out of the universal symbol of love. Due to the sandstone’s russet undertones, the Upper Canyon Heart appears to glow red and pink at certain points during the day.
Antelope Canyon Sight #5: Lady in the Wind
The Lady in the Wind can be found in the Lower section of Antelope Canyon. The intricate formation is smooth and flowy, resembling a dancing woman. Lady in the Wind sits in a dark area of the canyon, so it’s best viewed in the spring and summer months when sunlight beams down in the middle of the day.
Visiting Antelope Canyon Correctly
It’s important to understand that you cannot simply drive up to Tsé bighánílíní and Hazdistazí, park your car, and go exploring. Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land — specifically, the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park — and visitors must be accompanied by an accredited Navajo guide. Moreover, the road to Antelope is gated and about four hours from Phoenix. When on tribal lands, it’s essential to follow parking and visitation rules established by the reservation.
Four Things To Consider When Visiting Antelope Canyon
If you’re planning a trip to Antelope Canyon, you may want to consider the four following things.
- Camera Type: If your goal is to get incredible pictures, make sure to bring a camera that works well in low-light settings. Also, it should be able to handle an exceptionally wide range, with exposure values of 10 or more.
- Accessibility: Upper Canyon’s entrance is at ground level. The Lower Canyon’s, however, requires scaling steep stairs and ladders.
- Lodging: Since Antelope Canyon is a long drive from city centers, you may want to consider staying overnight in the area. After spending a morning and afternoon exploring, you’ll likely be tired and won’t want to pile back into the car for a four-hour drive.
- Timing: The canyon is open year-round. However, most folks aim to visit between March and October. Mid-day hikes are ideal because of sun movements, and light beams disappear in mid-October. However, winter pictures of the canyon are still beautiful — just more muted.
Antelope Canyon FAQ
Does Antelope Canyon ever close?
While canyon tours are available year-round, it closes on certain holidays. Additionally, from June to September, during Arizona’s monsoon season, tour companies may opt to shut down as it’s dangerous down under during heavy rains. In fact, a flash flood swept away a group of hikers in 1997.
What are The Crack and The Corkscrew?
The Crack and The Corkscrew are two nicknames for the Upper and Lower portions of Antelope Canyon, respectively.
What is the primary rock type found at Antelope Canyon?
Antelope Canyon is composed primarily of Navajo Sandstone.
How did Antelope Canyon get its shape?
The sculpture-like formations found in Antelope Canyon were created by flash floods and sand erosion over millions of years.
Are there other canyons near Antelope?
Yes. Visitors can also secure tours to the nearby Canyon X. As is the case with Antelope, you cannot visit X independently.
The Antelope Canyon is one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful works of art. It also nurtures unique energy that all visitors should acknowledge and respect. And don’t forget to make sure your camera is charged! The picture-taking opportunities at Antelope Canyon are sublime.
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