Antelope Canyon is like a rite of passage for bloggers, especially those who talk about travel, are into nature photography or really anyone who lives in Arizona. I actually check the boxes for all three categories and had yet to visit. My family moved to Arizona a couple months before I turned 4, I’m 34 now. Coming from a young white collar family of 5, we spent many weekends during the summer camping and exploring Northern Arizona, so it’s shocking that we had never been before. Plus it’s so easy to visit! Aaron and I had always wanted to go (he’s also lived in AZ for over 30 years and had never visited either), so we decided to make the trip for our 6 year wedding anniversary. As you read this guide, please keep in mind that we went on January 10th, 2020 during their off-season and we toured the Upper Antelope Canyon although I have shared some insights to Lower from my research as well.
Below, I’ve broken it down to all of the basics…
- WHEN TO GO – what is the busy season and how that compares to their off season?
- HOW TO GET THERE – is it best to drive or fly to Page, Arizona, where Antelope Canyon is?
- WHERE TO STAY – some tips we learned about lodging, especially during the off-season (January)
- WHAT TOUR TO TAKE – info on the various Antelope Canyon tours
- WHERE TO EAT – Page, Arizona restaurants and how gluten free friendly are they?
- WHY TRAVEL THERE – other excursions and things to do in the area
Entrance to Antelope Canyon with different iPhone filters
WHEN TO GO?
Aaron and my wedding anniversary happens to be during Antelope Canyon’s off-season, which worked out well for us because we enjoyed less crowds, lower costs and being able to book our trip relatively last minute. Being that it’s Antelope Canyon’s off season, it’s also the tourism off season for all of Page, Arizona and Lake Powell. The main thing we were concerned about was weather, but most people come from all over the world (not just from Arizona) and I’d have to think that the summer months would be harder on those who aren’t used to the heat. Please keep in mind that I’m sharing my seasonal knowledge specifically for the Upper Antelope Canyon tour.
Antelope Canyon’s low-season is considered to be from mid-October to mid-March, with it being even less busy from November to February. However, we read that even during the off-season it’s still fairly busy on the weekends. Our tour through Upper Antelope Canyon was on a Friday at 1:30pm and although there were about 10 or so tours going at once, ours seemed to be a smaller and more intimate tour with our guide because there were a total of 8 people including the guide as opposed to anywhere from 10-15 total people on other tours that we saw. During this time of year there are no light beams going through the canyon and it is a little dark, but it’s still gorgeous. The coldest months would be in January and December with highs reaching low to mid 40’s and lows in the high 20’s. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to cold weather and I was fine walking through the canyon with basic warm clothing.
The busy season for Antelope Canyon is from the end of March to early October. However, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll see those magical light beams anytime between these months. Our guide informed us that the best time to see the light beams is during an 11:30am tour during the months of May, June and July. Keep in mind that the warmest weather will be during the month of July and can get up to the high 90’s. If you’re not used to warm weather, I recommend sunscreen, hats and sunglasses for when you’re outside the canyon, light and loose clothing choices like shorts or cotton t-shirts, and lots of water!
HOW TO GET THERE?
Getting to Antelope Canyon is extremely easy for Arizona locals. If you’re traveling out of state, prepare yourself for a 4-5 hour drive or a quick connecting flight from Las Vegas or Phoenix. Antelope Canyon is located in Page, Arizona.
If you choose to fly into the Page Municipal Airport (238 N 10th Ave, Page, AZ 86040), you’ll most likely be connecting in Las Vegas or Phoenix as there are daily flights from both locations. The airport is an easy spot to land to not only visit Antelope Canyon, but also the Grand Circle, which includes Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National Park. All airline service is provided by Contour Airlines for commercial flights and has three full service FBO’s for private flights (American Aviation, Classic Aviation and Lake Powell Jet Center). There are Air Tours and Charter Service offered of the Grand Circle by American Aviation, Grand Canyon Airlines, and Westwind Aviation. I’ve provided links for a map to the airport, the Page Municipal Airport’s website, and to Contour Airlines website.
If you’re driving from the Greater Phoenix Area including Sky Harbor Airport, you’ll most likely take the I-17 N and the US-89 N, here is a link to Google directions from Phoenix. For us, leaving from North Tempe/South Scottsdale area was roughly 281 miles and a 4.5 hour drive. The drive there on a Friday morning leaving before 7am was very easy and peaceful. We stopped at Starbucks on the way out with a full tank of gas and only stopped once halfway to use the restroom at a gas station and grab a snack. Thankfully we were able to take the carpool lane to make rush hour traffic in Phoenix a little easier to manage, which usually lasts from 7am-9am.
On the way home, we left around 12:30pm on a Sunday and didn’t get home till after 7pm. We stopped in Flagstaff for a sit down lunch at 5 Guys (one of the few fast food restaurants that offers gluten free fries and shakes as well as a lettuce wrapped burger), and a quick stop at Nordstrom to make a return in Scottsdale before arriving home. What took us the longest to get home was driving through traffic near Flagstaff. It seems without fail there is always about an hour delay just outside of Flagstaff. This time it was an accident, which is pretty common, but sometimes it’s just weekend traffic that causes delays. Even if it’s a small fender bender it still creates enough congestion to cause significant delays, so it wouldn’t hurt to add that into your travel plans especially if you are catching a flight home from Sky Harbor Airport in Arizona or perhaps end your travels with an evening in Phoenix or Scottsdale and leave the next day to ensure you don’t have any issues catching your flight. Here’s a link to the Sky Harbor Airport website and to Google Maps for Sky Harbor Airport.
WHERE TO STAY?
Aaron and I typically choose to stay at Marriott hotels because the hotel company has multiple hotel chains under their umbrella and that has allowed us to take advantage of their rewards program to receive free upgrades and sometimes free room nights too. However, we noticed that Page, Arizona is fairly small meaning that everything is super close to each other in terms of driving distance and we saw quite a few different hotels. I don’t think you can go wrong with any hotel as long as you check reviews, amenities, access to guest rooms (I don’t like to stay at rooms that open to the outside as opposed to walking into the hotel to get to the guest rooms), and map the distance from the hotel to the downtown area, which is also pretty small and has a few restaurant offerings. Here is a link to a map of the Page City Hall, which is basically in their downtown area.
The hotel we stayed at was the Courtyard by Marriott Page at Lake Powell. Here is a link to a map of where it is located and a link to the hotel’s website. Based on reviews and price it seemed to be one of the nicer hotels. It had decent views and was located in a very central location to everything that we wanted to do. I will say that the rooms seemed to be a little run down, but I think that is pretty typical of most hotels in the area. Being that it was during the off-season we only saw one other couple staying there the entire 24 hours that we were there. They mentioned that they have a restaurant and a bar (menu is below), but there wasn’t any one there when we went to get a glass of wine. Plus they didn’t sound to have many options that were free of gluten contamination, so we didn’t eat there. The prices were a bit steep for what they were offering. For example, the breakfast buffet was $15 a person and seemed to be similar to something you’d get included in your stay if you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. I was only able to eat a pre-packaged yogurt cup, so I opted out. Aaron reported back that the breakfast didn’t sit great with him. Based on the costs of other restaurants and the level of service/food this seemed pretty typical for the area. The second night we were in the area, we ended up staying at Amangiri which was about 15-20 minutes north of Page on the Utah side of the border. It was a decent amount more than staying in Page hotels, but you pay for what you get in terms of the service and food (more on this in a separate blog post to come.) Here’s a link to other hotels in the area.
WHAT TOUR TO TAKE
Since Aaron and I went during the off season, our tour options were limited because the Lower Antelope Canyon tours were closed for a week for maintenance. We were very please with the tour that we did, but now have a reason to go back and tour a different area of the canyon to see the differences. Due to the size of the canyons, their locations and the access to the canyons, you have to go with a paid tour guide.
LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON
I’ve heard from several people that the Lower Antelope Canyon is better than the Upper. I do not know why this is from personal experience as I have not toured Lower Antelope, but some people say that the views are better, the tour groups are smaller, and the experience is more magical. I do know that you climb down into the canyon, so the tour guide websites have a note about children, pregnant women and people with disabilities or trouble with light climbing. Since I did not do this tour, I can not speak to how easy or hard the tour is. My sister-in-law did Ken’s Tours and absolutely loved it. She went during the month of July and it was the first tour of the day (I believe 6am) and her photos turned out stunning as it was well lit based on what I could see. She mentioned that it was very dusty, so prepare for to be dirty. She also said that it was about 10 degrees cooler in the canyon so that helped with the July heat. Her 4-year old daughter also went through the tour along with her 50-year old aunt who has had knee surgery prior to the tour, but is also in good cardiovascular shape. Below are the tours offered:
UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON
Our tour was with Rick from Antelope Canyon Tours by Roger Ekis. We purchased a “Sightseer’s Tour” for two people with a start time of 1:30pm. It cost $104 in total and ended roughly at 3pm. They request that you arrive and check in 30 minutes before your purchased tour time at their main office. We got there at 1pm and it was packed. It didn’t take long to check in, but gave us time to use the restroom and purchase souvenirs from their shop if you’re into that sort of thing. It was pretty crowded outside, so we found a warm patch of sunlight and stood outside until they called our group. When you check in they give you a lamented card in a specific color and call your group based on the color you have. We were the last group to get called and there were two other young couples and a middle-aged women on her own. The tour guide was surprised by how small our group was and after checking inside to make sure we weren’t missing anyone, we hopped into a 12-passenger van and drove about 15-20 minutes to the entrance of the canyon. It was about 10 minutes on regular paved roads, then another 10 minutes on dirt roads where we passed the main park’s entrance and parking lot (it seemed like other tours had guest drive to that spot and then bus them to the entrance), and drove right up to the main entrance of the canyon. The canyon was an opening in a mountain and we walked right inside instead of hiking down. It was breath taking, magical and so so special!
Our tour guide explained that as we walk through the canyon we will stop along the way to take photos in specific areas, and we’ll have a couple minutes at the very end for a break, but when we turn around we have to walk straight through without stopping or taking photos. The reason for this is because there are multiple tours going on from this company and other companies. These guides had it down to a science and the logistics of the tour was very streamlined. It made for a great experience. Rick, our tour guide, used to lead the photography tours, but he explained that they no longer have those tours as it wasn’t conducive to the experience for the other tours that were happening at the same time. I felt very lucky to have him as our tour guide because he had experimented with every tour time and several locations through out the tour to get the best photos possible. The tour really was photo-focused with minimal history at the very beginning as we entered the canyon. The main things that were pointed out to us were the water lines after historical flooding and showing us photos of guests in years past and how the level of the sand has changed drastically. It was very romantic for Aaron and I since we were celebrating our anniversary and it seemed like our entire tour was young couples in love, but I could see this being very fun for a family or a large group of friends to all do together.
WHAT TO BRING / WEAR
Make sure you read through the FAQs page on which ever tour you choose. I will say that our specific tour did not allow for any bags of any kind, so I carried my phone in my back pocket. They did recommend taking water, but being that it was pretty cold outside I left my water bottle in the van. They allow fancy cameras, but recommend using your cell phone’s camera if you have a phone that is at least a couple years old. For being so cold outside, I wore jeans, moto boots with rubber soles for warm and terrain, a long sleeve shirt with a button down flannel over it, a light puffer jacket and a beanie. I was worried that I didn’t have gloves, but I will say if you wear gloves to make sure that they are fingerless since you are constantly taking photos on your phone.
IPHONE PHOTO TIPS
All of the photos in this blog post are from this tour. Rick shared with us that taking photos on an iPhone tend to look the best if you use the filters Vivid, Vivid Warm or Vivid Cool in order to brighten up the photos. He also said not to take photos straight into the sky because it makes the walls of the canyon look very dark.
Here’s a link for other Upper Canyon Tours.
WHERE TO EAT
There isn’t a ton of restaurant options in Page. It seemed as though there weren’t even any fast food or chain restaurants either. When we arrived to Page just before our tour, we had lunch at a fast-casual burger spot called Slackers (map). It wasn’t the nicest spot, but it was fine with the amount of time we had. Plus they guaranteed that no gluten would have touched their grill where the burgers were cooked, so that was fine with me. Their fries were not gluten free due to cross contamination in the fryers.
For dinner that night we went to State 48 Tavern (map), which ended up being fairly expensive for having the name of tavern and resembling a nice bar. The food was much better than lunch and the atmosphere was nice. Our waitress was the sweetest ever and knew all of the ins and outs of their gluten free menu and cross contamination possibilities because her aunt has celiac’s disease, so that to me was worth the higher price points.
For other restaurants, I suggest using Yelp. Here’s a link to Yelp’s top 10 restaurants in Page. I wish I could have eaten at BirdHouse (map), which is not gluten free, or Rainbow Room (map), which was closed for the off-season, but opens up again in early March. Also, I called three different Mexican food restaurants and didn’t have any luck with finding gluten free options that I felt comfortable with eating.
WHY TRAVEL THERE
There is so much to do in Page, Arizona if you love the gorgeous outdoors! The red rock is breath taking and the views are something I’ve never seen before. Sure, you can go on Instagram or Google and find a million photos, but I will say that even the best photos don’t do it justice. There are a few other things that you can do in the area. Since we had a quick trip to Page, I cannot speak from experience for most of these, but will hopefully be able to check these off of my travel bucket list soon.
- Flagstaff (2 hours south)
- Grand Canyon (2 hours south)
- Horseshoe Bend (blog post to come!)
- Lake Shore Drive (view of Lake Powell)
- Lake Powell (7 minute drive)
- Monument Valley (2 hours east)
- Rainbow Bridge (east of Page)
- Sedona (3 hours south)
- Zion Canyon (2.5 hours west)
Also, nearby you can take advantage of kayaking, rafting, hiking, golfing and more. Here’s a link to the tourism website for Page, Arizona.
What did I miss? Leave a comment below on other things you love to do in Page, Arizona!
HIS VIEW vs. HER VIEW