“Take only memories, leave only footprints” – Chief Seattle
Arizona – a state of diversity
When I say that Arizona is a state of diversity, I’m not talking about skin color or cultural diversity, but geographical diversity. On our family’s first trip to Arizona, I was amazed by the variety of topography to be found in the Grand Canyon state. For example, in the Tucson area, you are likely to see cacti, front yards filled with rocks, rolling hills, heat, and desert terrain. When you drive into the high elevation of the Flagstaff area, you are greeted with Ponderosa Pine, mountainous terrain, and much cooler temperatures. Sedona, on the other hand, will greet you with towering red rock structures that jut out of the mostly flat landscape. It is a wonder to behold.
That brings us to the Grand Canyon. You can’t really think about Arizona without the Grand Canyon coming to mind. It is a one-of-a-kind experience to gaze upon the vast and many-hued geologic wonder. But, the Grand Canyon is not the only canyon in Arizona. The state is also home to quite a few slot canyons. While the majestic Grand Canyon is massive, experiencing it is a big endeavor. If you want to explore down into the belly of the canyon, you either undertake a huge hike (much easier on the way down, a killer on the way up), or you can pay a lot to ride a mule in and out, or take an expensive helicopter ride. In contrast, Arizona’s slot canyons are quite a bit easier to access.
When planning our family trip to Utah, my daughter-in-law mentioned wanting to visit one of those Arizona slot canyons – Antelope Canyon, and said that it was just over the border from Utah. So we added Page, Arizona to our vacation agenda. During the course of our planning, we also realized that Horseshoe Bend was located a mere few miles away. So there you go – two fantastic destinations in one place – making the 2+ hour trek from our vacation rental very worth the drive.
In the past, I had seen some amazing slot canyon photos, although at the time I didn’t realize exactly what they were or where they were taken. I really didn’t understand exactly what we were planning to see. But as I did some investigating, I realized that this was going to be one of the highlights of our trip.
So, with plans made and adventure on our minds, we set out from Utah and road-tripped it to Page. Here I must note that Lower Antelope Canyon and Upper Antelope Canyon are both located on the Navajo tribal grounds and all tours are run by Navajo. We visited the Lower instead of the Upper due to the lesser amount of visitors and the lower cost. If we get the chance to return to the area, I would love to visit Upper Antelope Canyon. But, back to the Lower – there are two different tour groups that you can use – Ken’s Tours, which is the original, and Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours, which I think is run by Ken’s sister. We took the Dixie Ellis tour, but I really don’t see how one can be much different from the other.
When we reached the Lower Antelope Canyon tour area, the two different tour companies were side by side. Upon entering the parking lot of the tour company, there was a little building with a walk-up window and a long line of people waiting to check in. I thought that by buying our tickets in advance, we would have an easy time at check-in, but it was pretty busy. Upon arrival, each person in our group had to sign on a list of names as a release. There were many other people doing the same thing and the tour company was not organized in their little office. This is the part of the experience that I did not like at all! Additionally, in the parking area there were two different very long rows of stinky port-a-pottys. If you decide to visit, you may want to hit a restroom before you get there. When buying our tickets online ahead of time, it seemed that there was a limit to the amount of people touring in each time slot. This was not the case. When our time group was called, we were surprised to see a bus group of about 50 tourists from Asia who were given priority over the rest of our time group. And the last disappointing thing was that once our group was called, we walked down to the entrance of the canyon, surprised to find a huge line of people waiting ahead of us. So despite buying a ticket for a specific time, we waited for about an hour in this last line until we entered the canyon. I am relating all of this to you so when and if you go, you will be informed ahead of time, and not be too frustrated with the situation.
Now let’s talk about the good stuff. As we waited in line to get into Lower Antelope Canyon, most of our wait was under a recently constructed shelter. It was a big help to have that shade, otherwise we would have waited for an hour in the desert sun. And our guide was great!
When it was our time to enter the canyon, we descended down some metal stairs where no pictures were allowed. I guess cameras have been dropped on tourist’s heads in the past! Yikes! Then we entered the first big room of the canyon, and our guide was able to move us around the huge bus group of 50 tourists, which was awesome. That gave us the liberty to explore some of the areas without dealing with a big crowd, and that made the whole experience much more pleasant.
I have to say, once we entered the cool of the canyon and began to explore and take in the beauty around us, the long lines and heat from the wait just evaporated. It really was worth the hassle to be able to experience Lower Antelope Canyon. And pictures! I took more pictures in that canyon than I did in any other place we visited that week. Around every corner we experienced something new that begged for a picture. I am including a few below, a mere fraction of the total on my camera! And our guide helped us so much by suggesting things to shoot, pointing out famous rock formations, and telling us how we could set our iPhones or Androids to capture the best colors of the canyon.
My daughter-in-law captured some great images with her new camera.
When you see all the variations of light and hues of color it almost doesn’t seem real. I enjoyed snapping some pictures along the way.
Our guide was so helpful!
He knew the best places to take some great pictures! Of course, I think that just about anywhere in the canyon would look great in a picture.
Then, he turned my camera side-ways and took an up-and-down panoramic. I didn’t even realize you could do that! I’ve taken all my panos from side to side. Actually, now that I think about it, my DIL took a picture like that earlier in the week. And it’s a great effect!
And, the next picture I would like to share is my favorite. The rock formation is called “Lady in the Wind.” Can you see her?
When we reached the end, we climbed out of the canyon on a series of small metal ladders.
When we climbed out and walked a few feet away, I turned around and could hardly tell where we came out of the earth. The canyon was almost hidden from the surface.
Next up was lunch and then on to Horseshoe Bend!
When we drove up to the Horseshoe Bend parking area, it didn’t look like it was going to be that exciting. And from the reviews I read ahead of time, I was thinking that it was a really short walk from the parking lot, but I obviously had the wrong idea. The walk was about 3/4 mile one-way and hot! A sign at the beginning of the trail notified hikers to carry water.
Thankfully there was some cloud cover, which helped a bit with the heat. As we approached Horseshoe Bend, we could see people standing near the edge of a rock.
What we didn’t realize is that at that edge was a HUGE drop-off down to the river below. This picture doesn’t really do justice to how scary it was! My husband wouldn’t watch when I got close enough to get this selfie.
Unfortunately, anyone who wants to get a really good shot of Horseshoe Bend has to get right up next to the edge. Phew! It was scary! I would have felt much better if i had a rope tied around my waist, just in case. Also, it helps to have a wide lens on your iPhone, because it’s hard to get the whole thing in one picture without it. I think this one was without the wide lens:
And this one definitely had a wide lens:
After a long day of breathtaking scenery and lots of photos, we headed back to our rental house in Utah. We had enjoyed two of the diverse attractions of Arizona and the experiences of the day were definitely worth the lengthy drive. Thankfully, we had a crock pot full of soup waiting for us at the house, so after dragging our weary bodies in the door, we ate dinner and relaxed until we hit the sack. It had been a full and rewarding day.
I hope you have enjoyed a Page from Arizona. Until next time – happy traveling!