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?
Important Update: Antelope Canyon is closed until further notice due to COVID-19.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 (even with a reservation, you might have to wait 30 minutes or longer to enter Lower Antelope Canyon midday when crowds are at their biggest).
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 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 recent years. To avoid disappointment, make your reservations far in advance (at a bare minimum, four 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!
Several of our readers have let us know about a third slot canyon called Canyon X. If you are having trouble getting a time slot at upper or lower Antelope Canyon, if you want to take a photographic tour, or if you just want to visit a less crowded canyon, take a look at Canyon X. We have no personal experience but I think this one is worth a consideration, since upper and lower Antelope Canyons have become so popular and overcrowded.
Click here to learn more about Canyon X. Note: Canyon X is also currently closed due to COVID-19.
If you have been to Canyon X and would like to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below. It would help our future readers! 🙂
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?
More Information for Your Trip to Arizona:
- Road Trip Idea: 10 Days in the American Southwest: The Ultimate Road Trip
- Monument Valley: The Ultimate Guide to Monument Valley for First-Time Visitors
- Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide to Grand Canyon National Park
- Petrified Forest National Park: Petrified Forest National Park Travel Guide and Itinerary
- Saguaro National Park: 8 Amazing Things to do at Saguaro National Park
Read more about the USA in our United States Destination Guide.
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