Which Slot Canyon Should You Visit? Comparing Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

Are you trying to decide whether to visit Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon? You can’t go wrong with either choice!

Antelope Canyon is a singular and sacred place located in Arizona. It’s a world famous destination in its own right but also makes the perfect add-on destination to a Grand Canyon or Zion National Park road trip.

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When I started on my year of adventure, Antelope Canyon was high on my list of must-sees. I was drawn in by the unique topography and sweeping red curves I’d seen in photos. I wanted to capture the sunbeams shining in through the canyons and feel connected with nature.

I couldn’t believe a place like this actually existed, let alone in the United States. I found a $200 fare to Las Vegas and crafted an Arizona/Utah/Nevada 5-day itinerary around my visit to Antelope Canyon. When you find somewhere you want to go, don’t call it a dream, call it a plan.

“Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan.”

Want to know how to turn your slot canyon dreams into a reality? Read on to find out more about Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon.

Where are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon?

Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are both located in Page, Arizona, about 2 hours east of the Grand Canyon South Rim and 4 hours north of Phoenix by car. To get there, you can fly into Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, like I did, or fly into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. Both cities allow you to reach Antelope Canyon within a day.

You will need to rent a car since there is no bus or public transportation that can take you to Antelope Canyon. If you do not want to drive yourself, the only alternative is to take an organized tour. Note that rental cars in Phoenix are slightly more expensive than cars in Las Vegas, since most people renting a car in Phoenix do so with the intention of taking a road trip around the state. In contrast, the whole point of Vegas is to safely get around while inebriated, so rental cars aren’t in high demand and incidentally cost less here.

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Arizona is filled with fascinating destinations to include in your road trip, but you won’t find another place quite like Antelope Canyon. Photographers fly from all over the world to capture scenes from here so if you’re local and can skip the flight, take advantage!

Distance Between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

The two canyons are distinct but are both located inside Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, within a 15-minute drive of each other. They are both accessed by Highway 98, a long, straight road that heads east out of Page.

You will not be able to drive your car straight to the entrance of the canyons, since the canyons do not have an official parking lot and the entrances are somewhat remote. Instead, you will drive to your tour provider, park at their shop, and then your tour provider transports you to the canyon, either by car for Upper Antelope Canyon or by foot for Lower Antelope Canyon.

Do You Need a Guide?

Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

You absolutely need a guide to visit either Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon. This is Navajo land and visitors are not allowed to wander about unaccompanied. There is no ticket line at the entrance of the canyons and guests cannot hike there on their own.

There are only two tours that service Lower Antelope Canyon: Ken’s Tours and Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours. They’re similar in price and service. I went with Ken’s Tours and had a phenomenal experience. Our guide was very helpful in taking photos and told us myths and stories surrounding the rock formations. You need to descend into Lower Antelope Canyon on steep steps, so this is not a wheelchair friendly location. Upper Antelope Canyon, by contrast, is level and you do not to take any steps or change elevation to enter.

There are at least a dozen different tour providers that service Upper Antelope Canyon, with packages varying from a simple walk-through to private photography tours. Upper Antelope Canyon tours sell out months in advance because you can only see the legendary sunbeams at Upper Antelope Canyon.

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in One Day

Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

You can choose to do both Lower and Antelope Canyon in one day, and even fit in Horseshoe Bend for a Page highlights tour. Aim to be at Upper Antelope Canyon for the sunbeams between 11am and 2pm. Visit Lower Antelope Canyon either first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to accommodate both places.

A good sample timeline would be to visit Upper Antelope Canyon between 10:30 and 11:00am, finish by 12:30-1pm, head to Lower Antelope Canyon and enter around 2pm, then finish the day at Horseshoe Bend around 4:30pm. This allows you to photograph sunbeams in the morning, escape the sun in the afternoon by descending into the ground at Lower Antelope Canyon (it is naturally cooler here) and finish the day with picture perfect views of Horseshoe Bend. Avoid visiting Horseshoe Bend in the morning since the light is not ideal for photos and casts unwanted shadows.

You’re not allowed to bring bags into the sites but you can bring water. You won’t find water bottles readily sold in the area despite it being a desert, so come prepared.

Best Time to Visit Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

In order to see the sunbeams at Upper Antelope Canyon, you have to go in the spring and summer months, though both sites are open year-round. I’m told the colors at Lower Antelope Canyon change with the seasons so this is a site that’s worth visiting more than once.

The sunbeams in Upper Antelope Canyon can be seen beginning after the spring equinox in March, and ending around the fall equinox in September. Prime sunbeam season is between June and August, since the higher the sun the more light comes in. If you’re visiting between September and March, Lower Antelope Canyon might be the better option.

Comparing Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

In comparing Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon, there are several differences to note. First, Lower Antelope Canyon requires descending on a series of stairs/ladders. Guests enter from one location and it’s a straight walk through to the exit on the other side. Upper Antelope Canyon is level once you disembark from your guide’s vehicle, and groups enter and leaving from the same entrance. This makes Upper Antelope Canyon feel slightly more crowded since you have hoards of people inside one set space moving in all directions.

Upper Antelope Canyon is a mix of warm colors–reds, oranges, yellows and browns–while Lower Antelope canyon has cooler colors and boasts hues of blues and purples (pictured above).

Photography Basics

Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

I talk about this extensively in my Upper Antelope Canyon photography guide, but you should come prepared to take plenty of photos here. If you’re bringing a DSLR camera, which is required in order to take a photo tour, you don’t want to change your lens in the canyon due to all the sand. You’re also going to want to bring something to help blow the sand off your equipment.

If you’re an iPhone user, make sure you have your flash turned off and try experimenting with the chrome filter in Upper Antelope Canyon to highlight the red hues. Also, take panoramic photos not side to side, but up and down to better capture the walls of the canyons.

Make sure your guide knows you want to take plenty of pictures, since they walk these canyons every day and can help direct you to the best spots. Tip your guide accordingly after the tour, 20% is always standard for good service.

The Verdict: Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

Upper v. Lower Antelope Canyon

If pressed to chose one, I would say Upper Antelope Canyon when you can see the sunbeams only because it’s such a famous photograph and as you can see, every shot you take here comes out fantastic.

However, photographs aside, the experience at Lower Antelope Canyon was much more relaxed and mystical, providing the connection to nature that I had been seeking.

Of course, if you have a day, the best idea is to see them both.

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Till next time, safe travels!

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Upper v. lower antelope Canyon

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2018-06-06T21:17:55+00:0027 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Pamela Leon May 24, 2017 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I am living in SF, so this canyon is not that far! I’ve been wanting to go to Vegas for a while now, and when I do, I will definitely visit these amazing canyons. The photos are great, I believe you captured the essence. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Juliann May 29, 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Your photos are amazing! Like you said, it’s hard to believe this is in the US and that so many people (including me) haven’t seen it. I didn’t realize there was an upper or lower. I think I need to see both. I’m adding this to my must-see places. Hopefully soon!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane June 6, 2017 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      So glad you enjoyed the post Juliann! There’s so much to see in the area, I hope an Arizona trip is in the cards for you very soon! I also hear they have real dinosaur tracks 2 hours south, just a heads up! 🙂

  3. Ann May 29, 2017 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    I visited Antelope Canyon in the 1990’s, and we just did upper. It’s such a beautiful place, but I was incredibly disappointed in how many photographers were crammed in there at the same time. Yes, we all got lovely images, but they hardly expressed the reality of the situation. I’ll check out the lower part of it the next time I’m out that way — I really wanted to be quiet and “feel” the space, something I definitely didn’t get on my first visit. Thanks for the post –AND — lovely images!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane June 6, 2017 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Agree completely Ann, Upper Canyon was more about the images and less about feeling connected to nature. I think the Lower Canyon is much better in that regard and I hope you get to visit again soon!

  4. Jenn and Ed Coleman May 29, 2017 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    Antelope Canyon is a beautiful place. It’s funny how the generating station is right in view when you are exiting the canyon and just how many people they can fit in. That’s one of the things I liked about the photography tour. The slowed the groups down and you could get a few empty frames. It’s also nice to take in your tripod, but next time I would want a wider angle lens,

    • Jen on a Jet Plane June 6, 2017 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Agreed on the wide angle lens, I actually had a lens crisis before I went and had to buy and later return a lens at the last minute! I charged $600 to my credit card and had a near heart attack but I didn’t go that far to not get pictures haha 🙂

    • Jen on a Jet Plane July 19, 2017 at 11:14 pm - Reply

      Tell me about it! I only had the standard lens and was kicking myself, that is key!

  5. Allison Wong May 30, 2017 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Both are amazing! So hard to choose but if I’m there I’d do both! Just the travel greedy part of me talking… ;-D

  6. Julie June 3, 2017 at 2:09 am - Reply

    SO beautiful! Definitely for the light beams, do the upper, but I felt the lower one was nicer because it was less rushed. I didn’t do the photography tour so thats probably also why I felt so rushed at the upper canyon. My vote for an overall experience would be the lower one 🙂 I also did Ken’s!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane June 6, 2017 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      I second all of the above! I paid to not feel rushed but my friend got pictures of herself in Upper Canyon which I wish I’d gotten too. I have literally 500 of the sunbeams and 5 of me and the sunbeams lol so it’s a give and take!

  7. Cat June 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    I have seen so many photos of the antelope canyons these days that make me want to see it in person!! The various different colours make it hard to believe that such a place even exist! Great tips on the lenses as I never thought that there will be so much sand there. I would try to fit both upper and lower canyons if I ever go and make sure to book a tour!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane June 6, 2017 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      I felt the same way! Every picture taken there was stunning haha. It’s definitely worth doing them both, and I hope you get to visit soon!

  8. Susan Ripley June 5, 2017 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    These canyons really look like they’re on another planet! What gorgeous places, and your photography is just beautiful. Love all the helpful info in here about how to visit!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane June 6, 2017 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      Don’t they? Such an amazing place to visit, I hope you make it there soon! 🙂

  9. Leigh June 9, 2017 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    Great post, it’s good to know how to make the decision. I’m finally going to visit this area in October – I’m waiting to see if I win “the Wave Lottery” and from there will plan my visit to the area. Definitely going to do the photographer’s tour at Upper Antelope!

    • Jen on a Jet Plane June 12, 2017 at 2:04 am - Reply

      Good luck with the lottery! I can definitely recommend the Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tour. They were a little more expensive but thorough, and they did not sponsor me to say that lol I just have at least 200 professional level photos thanks to them. You’re going to have a great time! The colors in October should be phenomenal 🙂

  10. Globejamun June 20, 2017 at 6:50 am - Reply

    This is article is awesome . I’ve been to USA 6 times but never done this . Godwilling on my 7th visit this is a Sur thing

  11. Abhinav June 20, 2017 at 7:27 am - Reply

    Amazing Pics and the place

  12. Marine July 11, 2017 at 8:21 am - Reply

    it’s like a dream

  13. Vipul Mahajan July 13, 2017 at 6:29 am - Reply

    would like to go for Antilope when ever I get the chance to be in US

  14. Jenna Beyer January 14, 2018 at 3:17 am - Reply

    I went to the lower Canyon with my family and it was beautiful I am very excited to go back it was breathtaking

    • Jen on a Jet Plane January 14, 2018 at 11:28 am - Reply

      I completely agree! There’s no place like it, I hope you get to return soon 🙂

  15. Ronnya February 6, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    So I’m planning to fly into Vegas in two weeks, rent a car, and head out towards antelope canyon. I land in Vegas at 0735am. The drive is about 4 hours and a half long. Do you think I will still have enough time to tour both upper and lower antelope canyon? Also, do you recommend a place to stay at in that area? Do you think I can fit in horseshoe bend, Zion National Park, and Grand Canyon the following day?

    • Jen on a Jet Plane February 6, 2018 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      I think you have time but it’ll be tight and you may not get to see the sunbeams at Upper Antelope Canyon since they’re seen from 11am-1pm approximately. You can do horseshoe bend that same day, it’s 10 minutes away and is actually a good sunset spot. The next day you need to pick either Grand Canyon or Zion because they’ll each take you a day minimum, but you can’t go wrong with either! Have a great trip 🙂

  16. Louise March 17, 2018 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Oh this is super helpful! My mom recently went and I’ve been seeing so many awesome photos from here that it’s really making me want to go! Your photos are stunning by the way. Thanks for sharing all this info!!

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