Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon – which one is best?

Visiting Antelope Canyon – Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon – Which one is better?

Upper or lower antelope canyon

Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon

What is Antelope Canyon and why do people visit Antelope Canyon –  slot canyon Page AZ?

So you’ve heard about Antelope Canyon and you’re wondering which is better – Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

Upper vs lower antelope canyon

Well first let me tell you a little bit about this area.

Antelope Canyon is a natural picturesque wonder, geological formation, and a slot canyon. This canyon was created over millions of years through water erosion.

The canyon is located within an area of cultural wealth and historical wonders in the Navajo Nation or native tribes land. Native buildings and houses are still present in the area as well as the tribes.

Page, Arizona is located approximately two hours east of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and four hours north of the city of Phoenix. The canyon isn’t accessible by public transport so a car will be required.

hikes in arizona

Many people visit the area just to visit Antelope Canyon or as part of a trip which can also include National Parks nearby such as the Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon or Zion National Park.

The Antelope Canyon attracts visitors from all over the world especially photographers and nature lovers who want to experience this canyon and its wave-like tall sandstone winding walls.

Please note: Tickets to Antelope Canyon sell out months in advance and even six months in advance for summer dates.  Book your tickets early.

HOW TO VISIT ANTELOPE CANYON

  • Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon?: I’ve listed out the pros and cons of each one for you to decide based on price, activity level and photography.
  • Best time to visit Antelope Canyon: Visiting Antelope Canyon in the summer is the best time.
  • Book an Antelope Canyon Tour: I have listed tour operators below for both Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon.  You cannot visit without a guide
  • Travel to Antelope Canyon: How to get to Antelope Canyon on Highway 98 outside of Page, AZ
  • Antelope Canyon surroundings: Enjoy other slot canyons in Arizona near Antelope Canyon or visit Horseshoe Bend.
  • Closest airport to Antelope Canyon: Las Vegas Airport is 5 hours away and Phoenix Airport is 4 hours away

What’s the difference between upper and lower Antelope Canyon?

Antelope Canyon has both an upper and lower canyon which are located 15 minutes apart but both within the same national park and can be accessed from Highway 98 heading east out of Page.

Both canyons have to be visited with a tour guide or tour operator due to the facts its located within Navajo land.  Visitors are not allowed to visit the area alone and there are no visitor facilities at the entrance to either canyon.

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons have very different feels and features, so although you can visit both canyons in one day it can be rushed trip.

So if you have to only choose one to visit here are the perks and drawbacks of the Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon.

So which is better?  Should I visit Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon?

TLDR: So which is better?  I prefer the Lower Antelope Canyon because it has less crowds and it is longer.  You have to be physically fit to do the Lower Antelope Canyon.

If you are a photographer you will want to visit Upper Antelope Canyon to photograph the light beams.

I’ve listed out the pros and cons of each below but the main difference is whether or not you are able to climb the ladders.  If not, you’ll need to do Upper Antelope Canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon

I loved exploring the Lower Antelope Canyon as it is longer than the Upper Canyon with fun narrow passages to explore and walkthrough.

Pros:

  • Longer than Upper Antelope Canyon
  • Cheaper than Upper Antelope Canyon at $25 plus $8 Navajo permit

Cons:

  • No light beams
  • Steep Stairs

Lower Antelope Canyon can only be accessed by descending steep steps which makes it inaccessible for wheelchair users or those who cannot walk up and down steps easily.

The descent makes the canyon cooler inside and is often less crowded due to the initial descent and the exit is at the other end of the canyon meaning people are all walking in one direction.

It is cheaper to visit than the Lower Canyon and only a small number of tours visit the canyon, the canyon is also less popular than the Upper Canyon so acquiring tickets is easier than the Upper Canyon and tours are less likely to sell out.

The best time to visit the Lower Canyon is any time of the year, as no light beams are shining into the canyons, but with the change of seasons the colors of the canyons vary, between blues, purples, and reds depending on the season.

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon is located at ground level and has no descent.  The elevation is the same throughout the whole way through with canyon.

Pros:

  • Light Beams stream through the canyon
  • No stairs

Cons:

  • More crowded
  • More Expensive at $40 plus a $8 Navajo permit

The Navajo name for the canyon is Tse’bighanilini which translates to “the place where water runs through rocks”. The canyon walls rise 120 feet above the ground which occasionally has sand falling from the top.

The Upper Canyons have light beams or sunbeams which shine through the top of the rocks at certain times of the day. The canyon has a mix of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns which vary throughout the day depending on the sunbeams.

The sunbeams are present within the canyon between March and September with the prime season being between June and August when the sun shines higher in the sky between 11 am and 2 pm.

The Upper Antelope Canyon is a photographers dream with rock formations waving around the ground below and the sunbeams shining through the top of the rocks. But while the sunbeams make for excellent photographs the Upper Canyon tends to be darker in general than in the Lower Canyon.

Upper Canyon is often more crowded and feels more crowded because everyone is walking in and out the same way unlike Lower Canyon and tours tend to sell out quicker (sometimes months in advance) even though there are more tour operators offering tours.

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon Tours – how to visit Antelope Canyon

No matter which Canyon you decide to visit, either the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon or both, the Canyons have to be visited on a guided tour. There are only a small number of reputable tour guides who are allowed to operate within the area.

This is to protect the land and restrict visitor number into the canyons, and the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park. This includes car restrictions and visitors cannot bring bags inside the canyons, although this is true you are allowed to bring in water bottles.

Parking is available in the tour operators headquarters and they will then transport groups to the canyons. The list of approved tour operators in the area are;

Upper Antelope Canyon Tour Companies

Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours
Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours
Antelope Canyon Tours
Antelope Slot Canyon Tours

Tour companies advise booking early as they can sell out up to six months in advance especially during the holiday periods, so book early to avoid being disappointed.

Tour companies offer a variety of tours including photograph tours and sightseeing tours, prices vary depending on the tours.

Tour prices are increased during busier periods and every day when the sunbeams are present in the canyons.

These are often the times which book up the quickest, but tours are offered all day long everyday with all of the tour companies.

Lower Antelope Canyon Tour Operators – Antelope Canyon tours lower

Ken’s Tours
Dixie Ellis Lower Antelope Canyon Tours

Lower Antelope Canyon tours don’t sell out as quickly as the Upper tours but it is still advisable to book in advance of your visit.

When is the best time to visit Antelope Canyon?  Antelope Canyon Weather Conditions

Antelope canyon best time to visit?  Summer.

You can visit Antelope Canyon any time of the year and weather conditions vary throughout the year.

During the summer months and when the sunbeams can be seen is in the hot season where the average temperatures are between 69F and can reach above 95F.

Be aware that thunderstorms can occur during these months specifically in the afternoon. The thunderstorms can bring with them lightning and rain, while very rare flash flooding can occur with an unforeseen amount of rain.

The Canyon will be closed if weather is unsafe for visitors, but it is very unlikely.

During the winter months which is a much quieter and less crowded, the weather is cooler and can even be cold. Temperatures can range from 60F to 43F, and while rare snow has fallen in the area.

Physical Activity Levels

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons require a bit of walking. Lower Antelope Canyon also requires walking down several steps to reach the canyon, but for anyone who can manage steps in everyday life, these steps should be no problem at all.

Can you visit Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in one day?

It is possible to visit both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in one day, with some planning and while also incorporating the best time to visit the Upper Canyon with the sunbeams.

A great sample itinerary for visiting both canyons in one day is the following. Aim to visit the Upper Antelope Canyon when the sunbeams are present (11 am – 2 pm) so ideally, it is best to visit the Upper Canyon first, for example between 10:30 am and 12:30 or 1 pm.

Then move on to the Lower Canyon and enter at 2 pm. This gives visitors the chance to see the sunbeams while also escaping the afternoon sun in the cooler temperatures of the Lower Canyon.

The tour operators will have different starting points so time between tours will allow for time to travel between the canyons and to different tour companies if required.

Visitors are only allowed to spend up to two hours within the canyons so times will be restricted with the average tour company offering 60 to 90-minute tours. In addition to those two canyons, you could also visit Horseshoe Bend in the evening for great views in time for the sunset.

Visiting Antelope Canyon – how to get to Antelope Canyon?  What is the closest airport to Antelope Canyon?

Antelope Canyon is on Highway 98 fifteen minutes outside of Page, AZ.  It is very near Horseshoe Bend as well.

Antelope Canyon is a 5 hour drive from Las Vegas and a 4 hour drive from Phoenix.  These are the closest airports to Antelope Canyon.

Conclusion: So which one is better Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon?

If you only have time to visit one, the most popular choice would be the Upper Antelope Canyon.  Especially if you are visiting during March and September when you can see the sunbeams shining through, as it truly is a wonderful and unique experience.

Photographers and those who like to take photos should visit the Upper Antelope Canyon as it is a dream location to take photographs, whether you have a professional camera or smart phone every photo within both canyons are beautiful, with the sunbeams of the Upper Canyon or the colors of the Lower Canyon it is easy to take unique photographs.

However outside of the sunbeams months and if photography isn’t your thing then the Lower canyons offer a similar experience with fewer crowds, more relaxed, and tours don’t have to be booked as far in advance which is perfect for a spare of the moment trip.

The Lower Antelope Canyons are still as beautiful as the Upper one, it just depends on your preference and the amount of money visitors are willing to spend on a tour.

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American Southwest Obsessed

Nicole is a travel expert who has been traveling to the American Southwest since 1992. There is so much to see and do in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and California. I spend part of the year in Phoenix and travel around the area visiting all the best places and going on the best hikes. Check out my detailed destination guides, the best hiking in each state guides, and the travel gear you need for your next trip.

6 thoughts on “Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon – which one is best?

  1. I visited Lower Antelope Canyon a couple of years ago, and it was absolutely amazing. It was still very crowded, but because of the length, it didn’t feel like that. Hope to go back someday to explore the other canyons.

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