Speeding down the open highway signs quickly zip past your window. As we drove from the Grand canyon to Antelope Canyon we saw many scenic overlook signs that caught our eye.
My favorite part about road trips is the complete freedom you have to stop anywhere, anytime. And, as an avid photographer, I wanted to see all of these scenic overlooks!
Driving From the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon
After a morning hike in the Grand Canyon we thought we had plenty of time to make it to Page, Arizona in time for our 4:30 Antelope Canyon reservation. After leaving the park we stopped we continued to stop off at other random signs pointing us in the direction of scenic overlooks and beautiful views. It was fun to be carefree.
The drive from the Grand Canyon National Park South Rim Visitor Center to Page Arizona normally takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to get between the two canyons, however make sure you check Google Maps to see if there are any road closures.
Note: At the time of updating this in November 2020, there was a major road closure that required you to go all the way to Flagstaff and then back north making the drive 4 hours.
As we left the forests and fire warnings behind, we drove into a landscape of treeless steppes glowing in orange. Suddenly my stomach started to growl reminding me that we had eaten breakfast over 7 hours ago. I looked at the map and there was very little between the Grand Canyon and Page. It was so barren there wasn’t even a McDonalds…or any kind of food anywhere to be found between the two areas. There are plenty of trading posts, but I wasn’t in a shopping mood…I was in an eating mood. We munched on our emergency supply of Cliff bars to stave off my hangriness, but I dreamed of real food.
Make Sure You Leave Time to Stop at Horseshoe Bend
As I was scanning Google Maps for any towns on our way to Page, I came across an image of the famous Horseshoe Bend. I clicked through and quickly learned the famously photographed River Canyon, was actually on our way to Page! Now I had a dilemma – food or photography; we only had time for one since we needed to be in Paige in time for our scheduled Antelope Canyon tour.
I decided my ‘lucky’ horseshoe internet find must have been fate – I could forgo eating for another few hours for the chance to photograph this well-known canyon.
We followed the signs to the trail head for Horseshoe Bend, I took a swig of Gatorade and went out yet again in the unrelenting sun to hike a short ¾ mile to the unique canyon. The sun perfectly lit up the horseshoe shaped Canyon and the green colored Colorado river looked magical.
Going to the Edge
You see the signs everywhere around the canyon-lands to not get too close to the edge. We have all heard of the many stories of people falling off the edge – heck, there’s even been a book written about Deaths in the Grand Canyon (and by the way – it’s awesome!)
As I got close to the edge of Horseshoe Bend, my nerves took over. The winds howled across the desert, and were physically pushing me. For someone scared of heights, this was a situation I wasn’t comfortable with. However, I knew I could get the photo I wanted if I wasn’t at the edge.
What Will You Do to Get the Shot?
I dropped to my knees, and crawled near the edge and then laid down and slithered on my belly the rest of the way. I stopped short of making Steve hold my ankles.
The strategy , along with my wide angle lens worked! Using a wide angle lens (or maybe a panoramic setting if you only have a phone camera) is the only way to get the complete horseshoe shape.
Other Stops Around Antelope Canyon
A few other places you might want to check out even though we didn’t have time!
Marble Canyon is the technically not the Grand Canyon – it’s the part of the canyon in northern Arizona from Lee’s Ferry to the confluence with the Little Colorado River, which marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon. This colorful part of the canyon is worth seeing. However, there is no marble there – it’s actually polished limestone. But John Wesley Powell, the Colorado River explorer, named it Marble Canyon because the polished limestone looked like marble.
Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona. It’s a very popular vacation spot where you’ll find numerous houseboats and water sports.
Glen Canyon Dam – this controversial dam is what created Lake Powell. They offer tours if you are interested in understanding why and how the dam was built.
Antelope Canyon Requires a Reservation
We arrived in Page just in time for our tour of Antelope Canyon (yet I still hadn’t eaten anything but the Clif bar!). There’s only one way to see Antelope canyon – and that’s by a guided tour. The ‘road’ to Antelope Canyon is gated and only tour guides authorized by the Navajo Nation can enter. We booked with Antelope Slot Canyon Tours by Chief Tsosie.
I was expecting the canyon to be the ‘attraction’ however when I saw the truck we were all getting into; I realized half of the fun would be the ride to get there. A modified pickup truck had roll bar railings and two padded benches in back.
As we all piled into the back of the truck I had images of my many travels around less developed countries where the concept of legal lawsuits weren’t as prevalent. I found this less than safe truck to be refreshing after the constant warnings we received in the national parks.
The approximate 8 mile truck ride through the city of Page, out into the desert, ending with a crazy dusty, bumpy ride through the sandy river bed was definitely adventurous travel! My whole butt came off the padded bench more times than I could count!
We arrived for the last tour of the day and our guide slowly took us through the narrow slot canyon explaining the geography, but also explained all of the Navajo folklore of the canyon.
Antelope Canyon is a sandstone slot canyon. It is a narrow (but easy to walk through) canyon with fantastic interior shapes created by swirling water and wind. Light enters only at the top, giving the red sandstone a glow, and illuminating purple-colored sections of stone.
The canyons can be dangerous as flash floods from miles away are possible and the guides did continue to remind you of the inherent dangers of the canyon. However this dry day posed no threat as we continued to be led through the canyon with the guide pointing out hieroglyphic like shapes with Navajo explanations.
After going completely through the canyon, we were able to walk back through the canyon ourselves taking out time and taking pictures. Of course photography was challenging in such dark and changing light situations.
In December of 2019 they stopped all photography tours and no longer even allowed people to bring tripods into Antelope Canyon. It’s a shame as it’s hard to get images without people in them and without a tripod.
Of course, I didn’t have one, so I had to do the best I could by steadying myself against a wall and holding my breath before I clicked.
Note: If you are a photography nut, then check into the Antelope Canyon tour companies that offer special photography tours of the canyon.
The sun was quickly setting and our hour tour was finished, which meant we had another wild ride in the truck back into Page. This also meant I could finally eat.
Antelope Canyon Tours and Combo Tours
We toured the Upper Canyon, however there are multiple canyons that you can tour. In addition, you can do combo tours of Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Check out Viator’s wide variety of tours of Antelope Canyon here.
Our drive from the Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon was quite unplanned, but we were able to get as much out of the area as possible by simply following the road signs and being spontaneous!
If you find yourself anywhere near Page Arizona, make sure you make the time to see everything the area has to offer; random scenic overlooks, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and the Antelope Canyons. It’s a playground for photographers and adventurers alike!