Which Slot Canyon Should You Visit? Comparing Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon

Which Slot Canyon Should You Visit? Comparing Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a singular and sacred place located in Page, 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.

When I started on my year of adventure, Antelope Canyon was high on my list of must-sees. I was drawn by the unique topography and sweeping red curves I’d seen in photos. I wanted to capture 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!

Where are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon?

Lower Antelope Canyon

You can fly into Vegas, like I did, or fly into Phoenix, Arizona and rent a car from either place to drive the rest of the way. Rental cars at Phoenix Airport are slightly more expensive.

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

Distance Between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

The two canyons are distinct but both are located in Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, within 15 minutes driving distance of each other.

You will not be able to drive straight to the canyons, but rather you drive to your tour guide who transports you to the canyon from there, by car for Upper Antelope Canyon and walking for Lower Antelope Canyon. Both canyons are located off Highway 98, heading east from Page.

Do You Need a Guide for Lower Antelope Canyon?

Lower Antelope Canyon

Absolutely. This is Navajo land so you need a guide to enter and are not allowed to wander about unaccompanied. There is no ticket line at the entrance of the canyons, and you need a guide to access both.

For Lower Antelope Canyon, you descend into the canyon so you can walk from their counters, about a quarter mile out.

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.

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in One Day

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 tour either first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to accommodate both places.

You’re not allowed to bring bags into the sites but you can bring water and it’s not readily sold around the premises, so come prepared.

Best Time to Visit Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

In order to see the sunbeams at Upper Antelope Canyon, you have to go in the spring and summer months, but 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.

Differences Between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

There are several differences between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. First, Lower Antelope Canyon requires descending on a series of stairs/ladders, so come with the proper attire and footwear. This is not the place to wear a skirt. Upper Antelope Canyon is a straight walk inside once you disembark from your guide’s vehicle, with groups entering and leaving from the same entrance.

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

Photography Basics

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 to join 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 accordingly after the tour, 20% is always standard for good service.

The Verdict: Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

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 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.

Till next time, safe travels!

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Upper v. lower antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

18 Comments

  1. May 24, 2017 / 3:01 pm

    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. May 29, 2017 / 11:29 am

    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!

    • June 6, 2017 / 10:24 pm

      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. May 29, 2017 / 10:29 pm

    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!

    • June 6, 2017 / 10:22 pm

      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. May 29, 2017 / 11:43 pm

    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,

    • June 6, 2017 / 10:22 pm

      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 🙂

  5. May 30, 2017 / 1:57 pm

    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. June 3, 2017 / 2:09 am

    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!

    • June 6, 2017 / 10:20 pm

      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. June 5, 2017 / 3:04 pm

    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!

    • June 6, 2017 / 10:19 pm

      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. June 5, 2017 / 6:00 pm

    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!

    • June 6, 2017 / 10:19 pm

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

  9. June 9, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    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!

    • June 12, 2017 / 2:04 am

      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 / 6:50 am

    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

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