Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend: a Photographer’s Dream

horseshoe bend

You’ve marveled at the graceful, undulating red sandstone of Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, and now you have the opportunity to visit the most photographed natural wonders in the world.

Get your camera, and prepare yourself for an awe-inspiring road trip to Page, Arizona.

The best times for photographing Antelope Canyon are the warm months, from the late spring through the early fall; it’s very hot and dry during the summer, so keep that in mind before you head out.

Page Arizona is the Starting Point

Page began as a community to house the workers who built Glen Canyon Dam in 1957. Since the completion of the dam, Page has been the center point for recreation at beautiful Lake Powell. More than 3 million people visit this stunning area every year, so it can be a busy place.

Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are 10-miles apart on AZ-98. Horseshoe Bend is on Lake Powell, and Antelope Canyon is on the Navajo Reservation. Before you leave, arrange for a tour of Antelope Canyon; since it’s on the Navajo Reservation, and you’re not allowed to go there without a tour, and tours book up quickly.

There are nearly a dozen RV parks in and around Page, as well as dispersed camping options. Lee’s Ferry, Lone Rock Beach, Beehive Campground, Stanton Creek, Hite, Dirty Devil, and Farley Primitive Camping Areas are all run by the National Park Service for a modest fee.

Hopefully, before you left on this expedition, you arranged for an Antelope Canyon tour.

Antelope Canyon

You already know that Antelope Canyon is a very popular location for photography, but it’s also important for the Navajo Nation tourism business. Until 1997, Antelope Canyon was one of the best-kept secrets in the state. At that time, the area became a Navajo Tribal Park, and the road leading to Antelope Canyon is gated and locked. Entry to the canyon is restricted to authorized guided tours.

While you might be able to book a tour spontaneously, it’s better to book one well in advance.

To put it simply, Antelope Canyon is awe-inspiring and picture-perfect. With soaring, 120-foot tall rippling orange walls, this glorious slot canyon is truly a work of art, crafted by Mother Nature. The canyon is famous for the beams of light that beam down, creating a supernatural glow on the gently undulating walls. It’s undeniable, Antelope Canyon is a nature photographer’s fantasy come true.

The canyon is divided into two, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Depending on your tour, you can see one or both sections.

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon is called “Tse’ bighanilini,” by the Navajo, which means, “the place where the water comes through.” Indeed, it is known for flash floods, which is one reason for the guided tours.

The Upper Canyon is the most popular, since the entrance and the entire length, are at ground level. That means it’s an easy hike. Also, the stunning beams of light are much easier to capture here than in the lower canyon. The sunbeams begin to shine into the canyon from March 20 and fade away by October 7. The colors inside the canyon are more subdued during the winter.

If you have mobility issues or small children, this is the tour for you, but book it early.

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon is called Hazdistazí, by the Navajo, meaning ‘spiral rock arches.’ This is actually a few miles from Upper Antelope Canyon.

Even with the stairs, this is a more challenging tour than the upper canyon. Visitors must climb five flights of stairs, and the lower canyon is narrower and longer than the upper canyon, making the footing more difficult. Also, sand constantly filters down from above, which can make the stairs slippery. This is not a tour for anyone with mobility issues or small children. Rather, it’s the tour for the stalwart adventurer.

The light beams in Lower Antelope Canyon are best around midday but unfortunately, photographers can’t bring their tripod.

Horseshoe Bend

The view of Horseshoe Bend is accessible without a guided tour; simply park off Hwy 89, four miles southwest of Page between mileposts 544 and 545. However, due to the popularity of the view, passenger vehicles, including motorhomes, are charged $10 to park.

The dramatic, glorious glowing colors of Horseshoe Bend are the result of a rich blend of minerals, including garnet, hematite, and even platinum. When the sun is just right, the colors are amazing!

Once parked, it’s a ¾ of a mile hike to the overlook; beware, the trail is sometimes steep and sandy. Wear good hiking shoes and don’t forget your camera! While it’s a relatively short hike, it can be a challenge for some people, especially during hot weather. Don’t forget your camera, the view is the reason why you’re here!

The overlook sits 1,000 feet above Horseshoe Bend, and 4,200 feet above sea level. It also faces due West, which means the afternoon is the worst time to snap a picture, since you’ll be facing directly into the sun. Also, early morning is a bad time for photography, since the Colorado River will be hidden in the shadows of the bend. The best time to capture the beauty of Horseshoe Bend is mid to late morning, through the early afternoon.

If you don’t want to hike, are also daily airplane tours over Horseshoe Bend, from the Page Municipal Airport.

You can also take a half-day rafting trip through Horseshoe Bend. There are no rapids on this stretch of the river, so it’s safe, and appropriate for children as young as four.

Enjoy a Night Out

It’s been a long and busy day, and there’s plenty of places to eat in Page. While Page Arizona is very out of the way, it’s also a wildly popular tourist spot, so there’s plenty of dining options and shopping. Enjoy your trip, and take plenty of memorable pictures to share!

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