Before reading this post, catch up on part one of our crazy snowy trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon during a blizzard here!
We woke up on our last full day in Arizona ready to spend even more time staring at the Grand Canyon. But it was an overcast and freezing day, and we quickly ran out of places to pull over because the snow was blocking most of the overlooks. So instead of heading back down to Phoenix early, we did something really crazy: we called a tour group for Lower Antelope Canyon to see if there was any availability on one of their canyon tours and made a super last minute decision to drive up to Page after all! While the Grand Canyon had been my bucket list item, Antelope Canyon was my husband’s dream trip. It turned out that the snowy weather in the southern part of the state didn’t make it to Page, and the tour groups were wide open for the day. We said goodbye to the snowy and gorgeous Grand Canyon and headed north to finally see some sunshine and snow-free desert views!
The drive from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to Page took about two and a half hours. Page is a small town almost on the border of Utah, and many areas of the town, including Antelope Canyon, are owned by the Navajo nation. This means that everyone has to pay to take a tour through Antelope Canyon, which are offered multiple times a day by a few different tour companies. We like exploring on our own and taking our time on hikes so initially this turned us off to doing this hike. But having a tour guide ended up being an amazing experience! We went with Dixie’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours who did a great job showing us around the canyon.
Before booking this trip, I spent a lot of time trying to research which canyon tour we should do. There’s actually two parts to Antelope Canyon and different tour companies run tours to both. Here’s what I found in my research:
Upper Antelope Canyon:
- It’s the most popular part of the canyon, which means it’s usually the busiest part
- During certain times of the year (not at the end of February when we were there) there are light beams that shine into the canyon which are apparently gorgeous!
- The canyon is wider here and the ground is flat, which makes it more accessible to people (especially those with mobility issues)
- The canyon is an out and back trip. You walk out for a certain distance and then turn around and exit the way that you came in.
- You are driven out to the entrance to the canyon by your tour guides
Lower Antelope Canyon:
- Less popular than the upper part of the canyon, which can sometimes mean less people on your tour (this is also dependent on the time of year and even the day of the week)
- No light beams due to how narrow this part of the canyon is
- This canyon is much more narrow than the upper canyon. At times you will be walking sideways to slide through the canyon. You have to climb down into the canyon and at certain points you have to climb stairs and ladders to get back out of the canyon, which makes it harder for people with mobility issues (or those who are afraid of heights!)
- The canyon is one way so you don’t have to worry about people coming back through the canyon and getting in your photos
- You don’t have to drive to the entrance because it is located directly behind the tour office
Being a very nauseous pregnant person, I had a tough decision to make. On one hand, the upper canyon was flatter and easier to walk through. However, I would have to take a bumpy ride in an open vehicle out to the start of the canyon, which at the time sounded much worse than climbing up and down a few ladders. Honestly, what really won me over was the fact that I was doing it for the ‘gram, which meant that I wanted as few people in my photos as possible. It seemed like the lower canyon would be best for this because you walk one way and there are usually less people on that tour. Plus the ladders and the skinny width of the lower canyon made it feel more like a hike to me.
NOTE: I will acknowledge that neither tour is really recommended for pregnant people, however as an avid hiker I knew I would be fine and I did get the okay from my midwife to do this hike. If I was any farther along in my pregnancy it might have been tougher because my center of balance would have been off and the ladders might have been harder to navigate.
I can’t stress this point enough: calling the day of to book a tour is almost impossible most times of the year. If you know the dates you are going to be in Page I’d highly recommend that you book your tours in advance. We were really lucky that we were there on a less busy day and time of year, and that most people weren’t traveling because of the blizzard. Luckily it worked out for us, and we were able to get onto a tour with only 4 other people! Our tour guide was a member of the Navajo nation and he was very knowledgeable about the canyon. I loved hearing about the spiritual side of the canyon and what it was traditionally used for. My husband loved seeing all the different rock formations and whenever the guide asked us to guess what they looked like, he loved getting into the game. But honestly the best part about our guide was the he knew we were all there to get some amazing photos and he really helped us get them! He told us what settings to use, staged photos for us, and even took my phone a few times to take photos that I never would have thought of!
Being in the canyon was an incredible experience. We first had to climb down a long steel ladder to reach the lowest part of the canyon (the ladders are all attached to the canyon walls). Then we walked on flat ground until finding the next ladder or set of stairs up into the next part of the canyon. You never knew what was coming around the next bend! Most of the time we were able to walk normally, but occasionally we had to turn sideways or watch our step. At no point did I ever feel scared or unsafe, and I thought the difficulty level was pretty easy. We were at the front of the group which allowed us to take photos with no one else in them for most of the tour. Every time we stopped at a big photo spot, our group was great about taking turns and allowing all people to get their perfect photos with no one else around. I loved having such a small group and not feeling rushed to go through the canyon quickly. Although we were never allowed to be alone, I still felt like we had a really good time and got everything we wanted out of the tour.
After the tour my husband was on cloud nine! We both agreed that it was one of the best tours we’ve ever done and we’d absolutely go back. He was ready to drive back to Phoenix afterwards, but there was one more place on my Page bucket list: Horseshoe Bend. Under normal circumstances it’s easy to get there from Antelope Canyon (although be aware that you now have to pay to park in the newly expanded parking lot), but when we were there the parking lot was still under construction. This meant that we had to park in a remote lot and take a shuttle to the start of the trail. Honestly, with the way this trip was going for us we weren’t even surprised that there was yet another random difficulty with getting to our destination, and we decided just to roll with it since we didn’t know when we’d ever get the chance to come back here again!
Once we got there we were SHOCKED by how many people were there. After doing a tour of Lower Antelope Canyon with only 6 other people I was not expecting to find hundreds of people on the trail to Horseshoe Bend with us. Most people were not wearing proper hiking gear (some people were wearing heels! In the sand!) and didn’t have any water with them, but I’d recommend that if you visit you take at least a bottle of water per person because it’s usually pretty hot out there.
The hike itself is about 1.5 miles round trip. First, you’ll hike up a sandy hill. After that, the rest of the hike is downhill until you reach the canyon. Most of the viewing area is fenced off to prevent falling into the canyon, but I noticed that some people were climbing out onto a big rock to take their iconic Horseshoe Bend photos and I had to join them. The view there was absolutely perfect!
After hiking back and taking the shuttle back from our car, we drove all the way back to Phoenix before catching our plane home early the next morning. We got one final view of the snowy Grand Canyon from the plane which was a perfect ending to our trip!
Honestly, between the blizzard, road closures, cold weather, last minute changes, and the extra work to get to the Horseshoe Bend trailhead this was a completely ridiculous trip from start to finish. But I was really happy that we did it! Getting to see the Grand Canyon was one of the most incredible moments of my life, especially because Elliott was technically there too! It gave me the motivation to come back there again with him again to show him what he’d missed the first time. In fact, we knew from the moment that we got back to Alaska that we’d need to schedule another trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon to see it all without snow, and we’ve officially booked the trip! We’re going back down there in April and I can’t wait to actually see the red rocks and the desert, do some hiking, and take Elliott back to the rim of the Grand Canyon. Our snowy trip down there is definitely a vacation we’ll be talking about for years!
Have you ever been to Page? What would you rather see: the Grand Canyon or Antelope Canyon?