Antelope Canyon in May

Should You Visit Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

Julie United States 43 Comments

With its glowing, red canyon walls and beams of light shining through the dusty air, Antelope Canyon is a breathtaking destination. Two different slot canyons make up Antelope Canyon and both offer very different experiences. If you can only visit one, how do you decide which one?

Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon

Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

Antelope Canyon is located in Page, Arizona. Both slot canyons are located on Navajo lands and can only be visited on a tour.

Tim and I toured both canyons on the same day in early May 2017. We had a great experience at both of them and we each had our favorite. Tim loved Lower Antelope Canyon; my favorite was Upper Antelope Canyon.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of both canyons.

Upper Antelope Canyon

When people refer to Antelope Canyon, they are usually referring to Upper Antelope Canyon. This is the more popular of the two slot canyons. With its light beams, falling sands, and very high canyon walls, this is the more photogenic of the two canyons.

Antelope Canyon Photography

Upper Antelope Canyon is shaped like an upside-down “V,” narrow at the top and wide at the base. This canyon is wider at the bottom than Lower Antelope Canyon, so it feels less claustrophobic and it’s easier to walk through. The narrow canyon walls at the top are what helps create the light beams when the sun is at the right angle. These high, narrow walls also makes the upper canyon darker and feel cooler.

Click here to learn more about Upper Antelope Canyon.

The Good

It’s More Photogenic

Both canyons are stunning, but when you see photos of Antelope Canyon, they are usually of Upper Antelope Canyon. If you want photos of the light beams, you want to visit the upper canyon midday, preferably between 10:30 am and 1 pm.

Falling Sand

Antelope Canyon Too

Your Only Chance for a Photography Tour

Photographic tours are no longer being offered at Lower Antelope Canyon (as of January 2018). If you want to take a photography tour of Antelope Canyon, now you can only do so at the upper canyon.

Is a photography tour worth it? I say yes!! I took a photography tour and had an awesome experience. It’s expensive but it is worth it if you want those photos of falling sands and light beams without other people in your photos.

Note: The company we used, Antelope Slot Canyon Tours, no longer offers a photographic tour of the upper canyon (as of Spring 2018). I did see that a company called Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours does still offer a photographic tour of the upper canyon. Click here to visit their website.

Canyon Walls

The Bad

It’s More Expensive

A general tour costs $68 – $78 for the Upper canyon versus $40 for the lower Canyon.

Tours Sell Out Months in Advance

Fewer tours are offered in Upper Antelope Canyon, which means that tours sell out months in advance. If you want to visit the upper canyon during the magical hours between 10:30 and 1 pm, you should plan to make your reservation as much as 6 months in advance. Yes, it’s that popular now.

It’s Darker

Because of the narrow canyon walls at the top, the upper canyon is darker than the lower canyon. This makes hand held photography more difficult. Upper Antelope Canyon is brightest between 10 am and 1 pm. During my 3 hour photography tour (which started at 1 pm), the canyon got noticeably darker as the afternoon stretched on.

Antelope Canyon Heart

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon is shaped like a “V.” It is very narrow at the bottom and wide open at the top, making the lower canyon feel brighter and warmer than the upper canyon.

Click here to learn more about Lower Antelope Canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon

The Good

It’s More Fun

Of the two canyons, many people agree that Lower Antelope Canyon is more fun, with narrow passageways to squeeze through and ladders to climb. The narrow walls at the bottom, twisting and turning their way through the canyon, are fun to walk through, sometimes even slide through.

Tim in Antelope Canyon

Exploring Antelope Canyon

Antelope Slot Canyon

This is the Canyon with Ladders

This is also the canyon famous for its ladders. You will descend down into the canyon on a series of ladders and as you make your journey through the canyon, you will climb several more. People either love them or hate them. We loved them.

Antelope Canyon Ladder

It’s Less Likely to Sell Out

With tours running every 30 minutes between the hours of 8 am to 4 pm, spots should be available sometime during the day, even in the busier summer months. However, in the past year, the popularity of these canyons has skyrocketed. I would recommend booking your tour severall months in advance just in case it does sell out.

The Bad

It’s Getting More Crowded

If you read other, older blog articles, they may tell you to visit Lower Antelope Canyon because it is less crowded. This was not true in our case. We visited both canyons on the same day and both had identical crowd levels.

Crowds at Antelope Canyon

In fact, Lower Antelope Canyon was so popular in 2017 that they experienced wait times of 1 to 3 hours just to enter the canyon. And that was even if you had a reserved time slot!

Update for 2019: Since 2018, both Ken’s Tours and Dixie Ellis’ Tours offer fewer tours per day to cut down on waiting times to enter the lower canyon. They anticipate waiting times of no longer than 30 minutes to enter the canyon (as opposed to 1 to 3 hours) for peak season. This also means that fewer tours are offered daily. Now it is more important then ever to book your tour in advance.

So, Which One Do You Choose?

If you are looking for a fun experience and like the idea of exploring a narrow canyon, then Lower Antelope Canyon gets our vote. To avoid the worst of the crowds, visit this canyon early or later in the day, if you don’t mind missing out on the ideal lighting.

For photographers I recommend Upper Antelope Canyon. Personally, I found the upper canyon to have more of a “wow” factor than the lower canyon. And if you want to take a photographic tour, check out Adventurous Antelope Slot Canyons.

If you want to visit both canyons, I recommend visiting Upper Antelope Canyon at 10:30 am (best chance to see those light beams but make sure you book your tickets well in advance!) and Lower Antelope Canyon at 1:30 pm. Now that fewer tours are being offered at Lower Antelope Canyon, midday crowd levels to enter the canyon should be less, and hopefully you will not experience the 1 to 3 hour wait times that they had in 2017. If you want to avoid the crowds at Lower Antelope Canyon, consider booking one of the last tours of the day (although you will be sacrificing the better lighting conditions).

Whichever canyon you choose, expect large crowds of people, especially midday. The general tour groups get ushered through the canyon rather quickly, making it feel like a rushed experience.

UPDATE: The popularity of these canyons has skyrocketed in the past year. To avoid disappointment, make your reservations far in advance (at a bare minimum, two months in advance, but up to six months in advance during the summer season). People have been writing in that May time slots are selling out in early February!

Important Links:

To see more of Upper Antelope Canyon, click here.

To see more of Lower Antelope Canyon, click here.

We used Antelope Slot Canyon Tours for our tour of the Upper canyon.

We used Ken’s Tours for our tour of the Lower canyon.

So, which canyon will you choose?

Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon

Comments 43

  1. I keep hearing how tight the lower level is. Should fuller figured people be concerned that they wont physically fit?

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      No, it’s not that narrow. If I remember correctly, the narrowest sections were about 3 feet wide (roughly). Cheers, Julie

  2. Wonderful review! It’s a common question when we plan to visit Canyon. But, you described, very nicely. It seems to me, upper is easier than lower. Excellent post to help make an ideal trip plan!

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  3. I think preference is a matter of opinion. You forgot to mention one of the bad things about Upper Antelope is the sheer number of people with you (inverted V), where you walk to the end and turn around and back back encountering group after group of people. Lower Antelope (V shaped) is a single file walk, go down one side and come out another side, never having to run into anyone. I also disagree that Upper is prettier. Clearly you missed all the “secrets” of the space which the locals told us about. Plus you also forgot to impart some history. Lower Antelope is the real Antelope canyons that Navajos still run. There is a way to escape the canyons when it rains or floods. Upper Antelope was opened when some white businessmen wanted to lease space from the Navajos in the lower canyons and were denied. So they went to another part of the Page and formed Upper Antelope. Support the Navajos! Go Lower Antelope Canyon.

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  4. Hello! This is very helpful! We are deciding between the upper and lower canyon with a 21 month old (very mobile but I babywear as well) and 2 able bodied elderly parents. Is the upper easier to maneuver?

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      Yes, Upper is easier to maneuver because you do not have the ladders and the narrow spaces. However, the lower canyon is really not that difficult. I wouldn’t think you would have a problem doing either of them. Cheers, Julie

  5. I visited lower canyon a few years ago and I was able to walk up to the window, buy a ticket for ~$20 and have a local guide give a group tour. They were not part of Ken’s tours or any other tour company. Is this not the same anymore? I’m planning on visiting again soon and it sounds like only 2 companies offer lower canyon tours for ~$50 with reservations being strongly suggested. Is this accurate?

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      Yes, it’s a lot different now. Last summer people were waiting hours to get into Lower Antelope Canyon, and they had a reservation! It seems like it’s so popular that every 6 months something changes with the ticketing/reservation process. I do my best to keep this post updated but nowadays, it’s also a good idea to double check this info with the tour companies. And yes, a reservation is strongly suggested. Cheers, Julie

  6. This post was so extremely helpful! It gave us all of the information we needed to know—thank you!

    We booked through Ken’s tours which was o.k. They just yelled at us to keep moving the whole time, so photo taking is limited if you wanted someone to take your pic. I understand they’re busy and have other tours, but man, just 20 seconds in a corner would be all that it would take! Our guide was quirky but just kept barking at us. Needless to say all of the photos I took of my husband are blurry. ?

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  7. My husband and I have a tour for the upper canyons at 8:30 in May. The lower canyon was sold out already. I’m wondering if we will be missing a lot by only doing one canyon (upper) or if we should revamp our trip? I have seen photos of both and they look beautiful, I’m just concerned that it won’t be as good as the lower canyon? Also, is that morning time still okay for photos??

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      It’s worth it to just see one of the canyons. The Upper was my favorite and the Lower was Tim’s favorite. 8:30 is early…there is a chance that it will be a bit dark for photography. It may be similar to the lighting I had around 3 pm when I was in the canyon. Check out this post on the upper canyon if you haven’t seen it yet. However, I don’t know for sure, since I have not been there at that time. You could call your tour company and see what they say. Cheers, Julie

  8. After reading your blog posts, we visited the Upper and Lower on the same day. Thanks for the suggestion! We were very impressed by both and a bit surprised at how different the two canyons were. We learned quickly that you needed to stick very close to the guide for the whole tour. Not only do they point out shapes that resemble animals or people but they’ll also take your camera (or iPhone in our case) and snap photos for you. If we had to choose one, we would pick Lower because it was narrower and felt more like an adventure.

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    2. Hello.

      Which tour did you use I would like to do the upper and the lower and horseshoe bend in the same day.

      thanks Kim

  9. Hi Julie,

    Thank you so much for detailed great review, it is very helpful. We are planning to visit only lower AC on April first week. Wondering which time would be the best for photogrphy? We will be driving from Sedona in the morning to Page. what are the scenic points on the way? How much time should we allocate ?

    If we were to at 3pm – would that be still good for photos?

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      Midday is the best time for photos. By 3 pm, Upper Antelope Canyon is getting dark and photography can be challenging (but beautiful). You may be better off visiting Lower AC because it is wider and so well lit. From Sedona, you will drive right past the Grand Canyon. Google “desert view viewpoint” and see if this interests you. It doesn’t add too much driving and you can get a quick view of the Grand Canyon. There is also Horseshoe Bend, located in Page. Cheers, Julie

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