Upper Vs Lower Antelope Canyon + Best Time to Visit Each

The Antelope Canyons were not only my favorite thing to do in Page, Arizona, but were also one of my favorite things throughout our whole Arizona road trip. There’s actually two canyons: Upper and Lower, and there are some pros and cons to each. Find out everything you need to know in order to decide between Upper vs Lower Antelope canyon as well as tour prices for each as details of our experiences.

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Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon plus Best Times to Visit Each | Footsteps of a Dreamer

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Upper Antelope Canyon Tour Review

Light Beam in Upper Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

Tour Options

Most tour groups offer two different types of tours: sightseer tours and photography tours. Most times, photography tours are reserved for avid photographers. Many tour operators will actually cancel your booking if you don’t have a DSLR or mirror-less camera or if you only booked the photographers tour because the sightseer tour was sold out.

As mentioned above, the photographer’s tour is designed for avid photographers. For that reason, you should already have a strong knowledge of how to work your camera before you go on the tour. The tour guides may give you some tips to get better pictures, but they will not teach you how to use your camera.

Tour Guide Operators and Ticket Prices

Note that the Navajo Nation charges an $8 permit fee, but many tour operators include this in their pricing. All prices listed above are as of October 18th, 2019.

Best Time to Visit Upper Antelope Canyon

The best time to visit upper antelope canyon can vary depending on what time of the year you are visiting. Presumably, you’re primary interest in visiting Upper Antelope Canyon is seeing the light beams, but these only appear during certain times of the day and certain times of the year.

The first thing to know is that, even though the Upper Antelope Canyon is open year round, the light beams are not visible at all from approximately mid-October to mid-March. If you plan are visiting during this time, there isn’t a particular time of the day that would be best. I would just recommend going well after sunrise and before sunset so there is plenty of light in the canyon.

Secondly, the light beam occurs when the sun is high in the sky. Since the angle of the sun and total peak time changes throughout the year based on the Earth’s rotation, the best time to see the light beams can vary slightly. We did the 11:30 tour at the end of August and we were lucky enough to be able to see some light beams, at least for the first part of the tour. Unfortunately though, they were completely gone by 12:30PM.

I was talking to our tour guide about the light beams, and he said that during this time of year, it was typical to only see about 5 or 6 light beams in the canyon. However, if we had gone during peak season (June/July), there were often 13 or more light beams visible within the canyon.

My Experience at Upper Antelope Canyon

NOTE: This review is specific to the tour I did. I have not taken any of the other tour options and cannot speak to how awesome/terrible they may or may not be.

Since I’m big into photography, my mom and I opted for the Photographer’s tour through Antelope Canyon Tours by Roger Ekis, and it was an absolutely fabulous experience!

Upper Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer
Light Beam in Upper Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

Our tour was at 11:30AM, so we had to check in at the tour office in downtown Page, Arizona by 11:00AM. We were given a silver ticket and then instructed to wait outside by the parking lot for the truck to come and pick us up.

When the truck came to pick us up, we met the other couple who would be joining us on the tour and then the driver took us down the street to the Upper Antelope Canyon. It was a bit of a rough and sandy drive, so I felt a bit bad for the truck that was following behind us because the people on that truck got stuck with a bunch of the sand and dust that was being kicked up from our truck.

The perk of being on the photographer’s tour is that they only allow a max of 6 people in the tour group. We lucked out even further because there was only one other couple joining us for a total of 4 people.

Upper Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

Once we arrived at the canyon, our tour guide began leading us through the canyon, telling us where to set up our cameras and some of the best spots to aim at in order to get a good picture. It was cool because the tour guide actually held back the tour guide that came up behind us, allowing us to get a good picture of the canyon without any people.

The upside to the photographer’s tour is that you feel a bit like VIP guests. The tour guides work hard to keep other tour groups out of the way, allowing us to experience and photograph the canyon completely undisturbed. It allows you to really get a good look at the canyon and experience its full beauty.

Upper Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer
Heart Shape in Upper Antelope Canyon (5) - Compressed

The downside is to the photographer’s tour is that you move through the canyon pretty quickly. Once we had taken our fill of photos, the tour guide quickly led us to the next photogenic portion of the canyon. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have time to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way.

In the beginning we quickly made our way through the canyon, chasing the light beams. By the team we reached the end of the canyon, most of the light beams had faded. At this point, the tour guide took us back to some of the other bigger openings in the canyon, allowing us to get pictures of some of the areas that more photogenic even without light beams. At this point though, more tours had shown up, making it almost impossible to find a part of the canyon that didn’t have people in it, and thus had to take pictures aimed more upwards, above peoples heads.

At the end, our tour guide told us that we had half an hour left, so we could continue going to a few different spots within the canyon to get more photos, or we could actually go to a side canyon. We felt like we had gotten enough photos of the Upper Antelope Canyon, so we opted to go to the side canyon. This was awesome because we were the only ones there, which meant we could take as much time as we wanted and as many photos as we wanted. After being in the upper Antelope canyon, this side canyon seemed so quiet and peaceful.

Hidden Slot Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer
Hidden Slot Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

Upper Antelope Canyon Photography Tips

I highly recommended that you not change lenses while inside the canyon. It’s very dusty and sandy inside the canyon and if that sand gets inside your camera, it could permanently ruin your camera. For added protection, I actually used a rain cover around my camera to help shield it from the sand and actually covered my mom’s camera with a grocery bag and duck tape.

Since you can pretty much only use one lens for the duration of the tour, I suggest bringing a wide angle lens. It’s pretty much the only lens that will let you capture the entire light beam in your picture. For any other lens, you’ll be too close to be able to capture everything.

Upper Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer
Light Beam in Upper Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

Also, if you get dust on your lens, do not wipe it off, as the sand could potentially scratch the lens. Instead, gently blow on it until the sand is gone.

A tripod is also a must. Many areas of the canyon do not have a whole lot of light. Unless you have an amazingly steady hand, you’ll need a tripod in order to get photos that aren’t blurry.

How to Get to Upper Antelope Canyon

You cannot visit the Upper Antelope Canyon without a guided tour! The Upper Antelope Canyon is operated by the Navajo Nation and only licensed vehicles are permitted to drive at Upper Antelope Canyon. If you show up in your own car without a tour group, you will be turned away. Most tour operators have shops in downtown Page where tour groups meet and are then shuttled to Upper Antelope Canyon in licensed buses or trucks owned by the tour operator.

Lower Antelope Canyon Tour Review

Lower Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

Lower Antelope Canyon Tour Options and Ticket Prices

Note that the Navajo Nation charges an $8 permit fee, and some tour operators charge additional booking fees. All prices listed above are as of October 18th, 2019 and is the total you would pay at check out (they include all associated fees).

Best Time to Visit Lower Antelope Canyon

Unlike Upper Antelope Canyon, Lower Antelope Canyon typically doesn’t have light beams, meaning that there isn’t a specific time of the day that is “best”. However, I recommend at least going at a time when you’ll have a decent amount of lighting in the canyon so you can appreciate all the canyon’s colors and not have parts be hidden in shadow. In my opinion, go at least a few hours after sunrise, a few hours before sunset, or anytime in between (so basically mid-day).

Lower Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer
Lower Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

My Experience at Lower Antelope Canyon

We chose to do the General Tour through Ken’s Tours and weren’t disappointed! Unlike the Upper Antelope Canyon, you can pretty much drive right up to the Lower Antelope Canyon. It was here that we met our tour guide.

He gave us a safety overview and explained what to expect in the canyon, and then we were off. From the very beginning we realized that the Lower Antelope Canyon was going to be a bit more strenuous than the Upper Antelope Canyon. The tour begins you with you descending several metal steps down into the canyon.

Stairs / Ladder in Lower Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

Probably one of my favorite parts of this tour was simply that it was more relaxed. Our tour guide moved through the canyon pretty quickly, but we were towards the end of the group, and the tour guide with a small group behind us actually chatted with us and offered to take several pictures for us. Since there was nobody behind them, we could pretty much take as much time as we wanted to take pictures and just stop to appreciate the intricate canyon design. However, we definitely had to make sure we payed attention to where we were walking, because there were several areas that got pretty narrow, and some areas even had some steps to climb.

Another cool part of this tour was that the tour guide would actually stop to talk about different parts of the canyon. He talked about some of the different hidden figures and shapes that you could see in the canyon walls if you had a good enough imagination. For example, one rock formation looks like an eagle while another looks like a lady who’s hair is blowing in the wind. There’s even a section that looks like the bird’s eye view of a mountain range.

Eagle Shape in Lower Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer
Lady in the Wind Shape in Lower Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer
Mountain Range in Lower Antelope Canyon | Footsteps of a Dreamer

One of the other cool things was that on this tour, we actually go to learn more about the caves. Using a bottle of water and some of the sand found in the cave, our tour guide was actually able to demo on a small scale how the Antelope canyons were formed from water and wind erosion. It was cool seeing him make such an accurate demo with such little material readily available.

How to Get to Lower Antelope Canyon

The Lower Antelope Canyon is located on Indian Route 222, which is just off AZ-98 right outside of Page, Arizona.

If you are heading south on US-89 (away from Page), you’ll want to take a left onto AZ-98 E. If you see the entrance for Horseshoe Bend, you’ve gone too far on US-89. Once on AZ-98 E, you’ll stay on this road for a little under 5 miles before making a left onto Indian Route 222. Once on route 222, the Ken’s Tours parking lot will be about half a mile down.

If you are heading south on Coppermine Rd (the other major street that leads out of page), you’ll want to take a left onto AZ-98 E. After a little over two miles, turn left onto Indian Route 222. From there, the Kent’s Tours parking lot will be about a half mile down the road.

Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon: Which One Should I Visit?

If you have the time to do both, I highly recommend doing both. The experiences and sights are different enough that you won’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over again.

However, if you absolutely have to pick just one of them, I would recommend visiting Lower Antelope Canyon. The only time I would recommend you visit Upper Antelope Canyon instead is if you are into photography AND you can go when the light beams are there.

Personally, I enjoyed the Upper Antelope Canyon more than the Lower Antelope Canyon. However, I did the photographer’s tour. I had a tour guide who would help keep other visitors back, allowing me to not only get a better picture, but also let me enjoy the canyon without feeling super crowded. I got to enjoy the canyon at it’s full glory, light beams and all. Plus, I had a guide who would accentuate the light beams by throwing shovel fulls of sand into them. Without such a specialized tour, I think the experience would have been less impressive because of the way large amounts of people get shuttled through the canyon.

The Lower Antelope canyon is a bit more strenuous in that it involves going through some tight spaces and up and down some steps, but overall is more relaxed. The tour pace is slower, allowing you to appreciate the cave more, and the tour guide can stop and give you more information about the different parts of the cave. Plus, there are more opportunities to stop and take pictures. Plus, all the tours move in the same direction, starting at one end and finishing at the other, meaning you never have to worry about tour groups coming in the opposite direction.

TL;DR Version:

Upper Antelope Canyon: has light beams, less strenuous, can be very crowded during peak tourism season

Lower Antelope Canyon: Less crowded, more light/color in the canyon, no light beams

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Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon plus Best Times to Visit Each | Footsteps of a Dreamer

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