Lower Antelope Canyon - how to avoid the worst of the crowds

Lower Antelope Canyon is one of those instantly recognisable places and should be on everyone’s itinerary for Arizona. This stunning and narrow slot canyon meanders through the desert, offering one beautiful rock formation after another and glows purple, red and orange depending on how much light reaches each spot in the canyon. It’s the kind of place you could spend hours exploring (if only the tours would let you!) and we quickly rinsed through a camera battery on our trip!

Here’s what you’ll see and why you should definitely visit this beautiful place.

How Lower Antelope Canyon Formed

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon were formed by erosion as the water from flash floods over thousands of years gradually eroded the soft sandstone. You’ll see the sharp edges have been worn smooth by the elements and created this narrow, meandering canyon. Lower Antelope Canyon is three miles further downstream from Upper Antelope Canyon and all tours start from a car park that has been built just beside the canyon.

It is the kind of place that you would never find unless it was pointed out to you as the canyon is below ground level. All that you can see to give it away is the wavy narrow chasm - which you can only really see close up!

Read next: Devil’s Bridge Sedona - everything you need to know about the hike to this epic view and Grand Canyon hikes - the best from the South Rim

Our tour

We visited Arizona in February and although we knew that this was a quiet time of year, both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon have a reputation for horror stories in terms of crowds: 40 people per group, several groups in the canyon at any given time and an experience which should be magical but ends up being disappointing. However, we lucked out with only six other people in our group (all of which were friends with each other) and only one other group in the canyon with us.

This meant our guide was a lot more relaxed, allowing us to walk ahead of our group and get many sections of the canyon to ourselves. He told us that a couple of weeks ago in January one tour went out with only one person on it - that meant he had the whole of Lower Antelope Canyon to himself (with the guide) for the entire time slot! Imagine that! If you can make a visit in January it would have to be the best time of year to be there.

The bliss of going to Lower Antelope Canyon in Low Season

What we also loved about Lower Antelope Canyon is that all tours go in just one direction, so - unlike Upper Antelope Canyon - you won’t have other tour groups constantly coming head on towards you.

Keep your eye out for the dinosaur footprints on the walk to the canyon. We hadn’t seen one before, but supposedly there are thousands in the Arizona/Utah area.

Not something you see everyday

The tour starts with a descent down to the canyon, and although it was a little overcast the canyon still glowed with those stunning purples and oranges. At every turn there was a new formation, swirl or wave to explore. The canyon is stunningly beautiful and it felt like we took about 1,000 photos in the 1.5 hours we were there.

Our top tip: always look behind you and look up! There’s so many good views in Lower Antelope Canyon

The highlights are the several small caverns, but you can also see the teardrop and the small gap to crawl through among hundreds of other formations. Or you simply look upwards and enjoy the light beaming through into the deep canyon. The guides will tell you which spots make for particularly great photos that might not be so obvious to the untrained eye.

The arch

The teardrop

We aren’t a fan of tours, but Lower Antelope Canyon was certainly one worth doing. We loved it!

What to know about Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon Hike

The hike in Lower Antelope Canyon is roughly 1.1 miles long and is flat for the vast majority of the walk. There are a few sections with ladders, but they aren’t overly steep or narrow. Most people will find the Lower Antelope Canyon hike easy.

One of the narrower sections of the hike

Lower Antelope Canyon Ladders

There are a few ladders on Lower Antelope Canyon, unlike Upper Antelope Canyon. However, they shouldn’t be a problem as they are relatively small and not that steep. The biggest “ladder” is a 75 foot (25 metre) set of stairs at the start of the canyon. After this there are several short ladders that gradually bring you back up to ground level.

One of the ladders in Lower Antelope Canyon

Does this count as a ladder?

Read next: Death Valley Hikes - how to explore this other-worldly national park

Best time to visit Lower Antelope Canyon

The best time to visit is definitely in winter if you are looking to avoid huge crowds. In the warmer months the tours are almost always booked solid and you will be sharing this canyon with so many more people. According to two different guides that we spoke to the month with the lowest visitors is January (although note that the canyon closes for a couple of weeks in this period).

We visited in February and after having heard so many stories about the insane crowds we were thrilled with our experience. The canyon wasn’t busy and we had the most fantastic guide that allowed us some rare freedom, the opposite of our situation in Upper Antelope Canyon the day before.

If you are keen on photography you will want to go when the light is best, in winter we were told this was anytime between around 8am and 11am. We went at 8.45am and were not disappointed.

In the warmer months we were told that midday is the optimum time but I would definitely email your chosen tour company ahead of time with the exact month you are going and ask for their advice. Lower Antelope Canyon does experience some light beams between April and October but nothing in the league of Upper Antelope Canyon.

The light is good in Lower Antelope Canyon, even when cloudy

Read next: Joshua Tree National Park hikes - all the best of the desert

Tours to Lower Antelope Canyon

There are two tour companies that operate in Lower Antelope Canyon - Ken’s and Dixie Ellis. Both tour operates have several 1 - 1.5 hour tours every day and are almost exactly the same price.

We opted for Dixie Ellis as the customer service was so much better when booking, we emailed both companies asking about light and got a detailed explanation from Dixie Ellis and a fob off from Ken’s. Our guide was exceptional and gave us room to take the photos we wanted - something that you will not get in the Upper Antelope Canyon where the guides will shout at you to keep moving. In fact he was the best guide we have ever had and we were so glad that we opted for Dixie Ellis.

At the time of writing the tours cost about $40 per person plus taxes and fees (which includes the $8 Navajo Park Permit. If you visit the Upper and Lower Canyon in the same day, you will only pay this once). This is subject to change and the prices seem to keep going up and up at crazy rates.

You can check out either company by clicking on the links below:

Dixie Ellis Tours

Ken’s Tours

Frequently asked Questions

Can you visit Lower Antelope Canyon without a tour?

Sadly not. You cannot visit either Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon (or Waterholes) without a tour.

When is the best time to go to Lower Antelope Canyon?

We would highly recommend going in January, February or March. The temperatures are cool and the tour groups are relatively small, making for a much better experience.

The light beams only happen in the summer months (April to October) and aren’t guaranteed at Lower Antelope Canyon. Check with either tour operator to see when the best chance at seeing them is.

If you go in low season, you can even have a sit and admire the view :-)

Read next: Alabama Hills - how to get that perfect shot and The Cathedral Rock Trail - the best sunset spot in Sedona

Is Lower Antelope Canyon Dangerous?

Nope, Lower Antelope Canyon is not dangerous at all. Every visitor is on a tour and the track is pretty flat. The only thing that could only be considered dangerous is the ladders, but these are more like staircases and the only one which is long has handrails on both sides.

Is Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon better?

This depends on what you are looking for. If you want vivid light beams and a really deep narrow canyon and you don’t mind huge crowds then Upper Antelope Canyon is the one for you. If you want some personal space whilst enjoying a beautiful slot canyon (which doesn’t have as deep walls) then go for Lower Antelope Canyon.

You can read our full comparison to both canyons by clicking here.

Is there an alternative to Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon?

There are currently nine slot canyons in the Page area which are open to the public. All require private tours and most are even more expensive than Antelope Canyon.

We chose to visit Waterholes Canyon as well as both Upper and Lower Antelope. If your funds can stretch to it you won’t be disappointed, we were the only people on the tour and the canyons are beautiful. You can read about the full experience in our Waterholes Canyon blog here.

The narrow section at Waterholes Canyon

Where to stay in Page

We were travelling with my parents at this point and got a fabulous Airbnb for our week in Page. However, if you’re looking for somewhere smaller or cheaper, we’d recommend the following.

CountryInn & Suites by Radisson

If you prefer hotels then CountryInn and Suites by Radisson is currently getting rave reviews. It’s in a central location, very close to both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon.


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