I first learned about Antelope Canyon when I visited Peter Lik’s gallery in South Beach, Miami. The sheer scale and beauty of his photographs made me want to teleport to Antelope Canyon! That is, until I realized how crowded the canyon would be and how challenging it would be to take a clear photo. Let me tell you what visiting Antelope Canyon is really like.
What It’s Really Like to Visit Antelope Canyon
Many natural sites and previously undiscovered sites are now overrun with tourists. People visit Antelope Canyon in droves and far from being peaceful and being at one with nature, it can be quite a chaotic experience. Imagine walking into a crowded baseball stadium standing shoulder to shoulder with other people. Ok, Antelope Canyon wasn’t that bad, but I’m not too far from the truth!
The Reality of Upper Antelope Canyon
Since there is only a single opening at Upper Antelope Canyon, visitors must loop back through the same path to exit out the front door. This means that it’s difficult to get photos with a clear background since there will always be a flow of people coming and going. In some areas, everyone has to walk single file to allow exiting groups to pass by.
The duration of a group tour is about an hour and a half, which means your guide will rush you along since so many other groups are close behind you. As well, backpacks are not permitted on group tours so you’ll need to decide on essential items to carry in a small bag.
Plan ahead before visiting Upper Antelope Canyon, especially if you’re interested in seeing the light beam. The light beam phenomenon only occurs in the summer months from late morning to noon. These noon-time tour slots get filled up very quickly and you can not visit the canyon without a guide.
Benefits of a Guided Photography Tour
If you’re serious about taking some clear shots of Upper Antelope, you must join a guided photography tour. You don’t even need to be a professional photographer, though you are required to bring a dSLR camera and a tripod. A huge plus is the flexibility of moving in and around other tour groups. As well, your guide will help you with different camera settings.
The Reality of Lower Antelope Canyon
Get ready for some climbing on metal ladders as you enter Lower Antelope through a crack in the ground’s surface. The permanent metal ladders were put in place after the tragic flash flood of 1997 to help people escape from the canyon. During the natural disaster, a sudden storm turned the slot canyon into a death trap. At that time, ladders were not mounted to the canyon walls and swayed with the water – trapped tourists had no way of getting out.
There are far fewer people who visit Lower Antelope Canyon, making it much easier to take photographs even if you’re on a group tour. At some meandering turns, it’s super easy to take pictures without anyone in the background. There is an adventurous appeal at Lower Antelope with the up and down climbing, and you’re able to easily ditch your tour guide to roam freely.
Since the path is narrow at all times, it’s harder to set up a tripod. It’s unnecessary to join a photographer’s tour in Lower Antelope unless you really want extra time to take pictures.
Although there were relatively fewer visitors, we encountered an aggressive group behind us who wanted to bypass us. When one lady physically pushed me aside, I put my teacher voice to good use. Let’s just say she was deservedly startled!
Whichever Antelope Canyon you visit, you can’t go wrong. Just be prepared to save your zen moment with nature elsewhere! Read the Ultimate Guide to Antelope Canyon here.