Every year, 4 million visitors flood into Arizona’s brilliant Antelope Slot Canyon. And MOST of these 4 million visitors do one of two hikes: Upper or Lower. BUT, did you know there are at least 12 Antelope Slot Canyon hikes you can take? Which is the BEST Antelope Canyon tour for you?
While most of these 12 Antelope Canyon tours are for advanced hikers, two are quite doable. And WAY less busy. Secret Canyon and Canyon X.
Compared to Upper and Lower Canyon, both Secret Canyon and Canyon X have many of the same stunning features: Towering reddish-orange sandstone walls, swirling in bewildering patterns. Canyon X even has the iconic sunbeam of the ever-popular Upper Antelope Canyon.
So … how do these four Antelope Canyon hikes compare? Are they really as great as Upper or Lower Canyon? Let’s take a look!
*Note: This post has been updated with 2022 tour info.
- TABLE COMPARISON: Which Antelope Canyon Hike Is Best?
- OVERVIEW With VIDEOS:
- VISITOR INFORMATION: What You Need To Know
- GUIDED TOUR OPERATORS (2022 Details)
- Summary and Resources
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TABLE COMPARISON: Which Antelope Canyon Hike is Best?
THIS is the million dollar question.
ALL of these four Antelope Slot Canyon hikes have the swirling orange hues you’re looking for. Beyond that, it’s a matter of opinion.
Let’s start with a TABLE COMPARISON of the four main Antelope Slot Canyon hikes: Upper Canyon, Lower Canyon, Secret Canyon (Horseshoe Bend), and Canyon X. Then, you can do deeper dives in the sections below.
|Upper Antelope Canyon||Lower Antelope Canyon||Secret Antelope Canyon||Antelope Canyon X|
|Hike Difficulty||Easy-Moderate: up-and-over return||Easy-Moderate: steep stairs; uneven footing||Easy: small hill in/out||Easy-Moderate: 200-ft steps in/out|
|Canyon Depth||164 ft||120 ft||>100 ft||150 ft|
|Canyon Distance (time inside)||.25 mile (40 min)||.5 mile (1 hr)||.4 mile (1 hr)||.5 mile (1 hr)|
|Formation||“A” shape: wide sandy floor and narrow top||“V” shape: tighter, twisting walls||Narrows/deepens farther in||Both “A” and “V” shapes|
|Highlights||Famous “sunbeam” and sliding sand; darker||Warmer colors, softer shapes; narrow twists and turns||Walls rise gradually; few feet wide in spots||Pair of canyons; “sunbeam” photo op|
|Cost (min/adult)||$80 for 1.5 hr||$50 for 1 hr||$135 for 3 hr; tripod allowed||$40 for 1.5 hr; $124 for 3-hr photo tour|
|Best Timing for Hike||10am-noon (for sunbeam)||Early morning or late afternoon||Any clear sunny day||11am-1pm (for sunbeam)|
|Group Size (max) & Frequency||15 (non-exclusive); every 1-2 hrs|
|10 (non-exclusive); every 30 min|
|25 (exclusive); 2-3 tours/day|
|42 (exclusive); every 40 min|
|Family Friendly||Yes (some guides): fee for all ages||Yes: <4 yrs are free||No: <6 years not allowed||Yes: fee for all ages|
|Service Pets Allowed||No||No||No||Yes|
OVERVIEW: 4 BEST Antelope Canyon Hikes
If you want to explore slot canyons, northern Arizona and southern Utah is the area to go. Southern Utah itself has more than 1,000 slot canyons – the densest number of slot canyons in the world! So, it’s a little crazy that only TWO get all the attention.
Antelope Canyon is part of the Upper Waterholes Canyon drainage system and gets its name from the Pronghorn Antelope that used to roam the area. It’s arguably the most picturesque and most photographed slot canyon in the world.
Here are four of the best Antelope Canyon hikes, all stunning and fairly easy.
1. UPPER Antelope Canyon Hike (or “The Crack”)
Quite likely, the pictures that blew you away were from Upper Antelope Canyon. It’s possibly the most photographed slot canyon in the world and has the iconic sunbeam.
Upper Antelope Canyon used to be the easiest of the four best Antelope Canyon hikes. Its “A” formation means that the floor is wide and flat, and you enter at ground level. But instead of turning around and returning through the canyon to your vehicle, you now must climb up and around. The stairs and ramps are sturdy and not particularly hard, but you’re completely exposed to the elements for 1/2 mile.
Due to its popularity and many guided tours, visitors complain about feeling rushed through like cattle. And everyone wants the same shot. But, given that you’ve been warned, maybe you can still enjoy it … with a deep breath and mentally fuzzing out everyone else. Maybe??
Even though Upper Canyon gets a bad reputation for the constant flood of tourists, it’s the best for handling the crowds because of its wider floors.
As of 2020, photography tours are no longer available in Upper Antelope Canyon.
Check out this video tour of the Upper Antelope Canyon hike from Globe Watchers:
2. LOWER Antelope Canyon Hike (or “The Corkscrew”)
The Lower Antelope Canyon hike is quite fun. It’s an incredible 5-storey descent into the canyon with tight, windy passageways. Lower Antelope Canyon has a “V” shape, with narrow paths at the bottom and more sunlight near the top. Expect some uneven footing and a climb back out.
Given that Lower Canyon lets in more light, the sun will give you beautiful photos no matter when you come. And if you want that tighter “A” shape experience, you’ll still get that, too; just look at the pictures! Compared to Upper Canyon, its colors are warmer and its curves softer.
Price-wise, Lower Antelope Canyon tours are the most family-friendly. Children 3 and under are free.
Here’s a helpful video tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon hike from Emman Boquiren. Watch the climb out at 7:45!
3. SECRET Antelope Canyon Hike (or “Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon”)
Antelope’s Secret Canyon is also called Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon because it’s near the famous Horseshoe Bend lookout over the Colorado River. This is the most exclusive of the four best Antelope Canyon tours, with only 25 people allowed in at one time and two or three tours per day. Only children 6 years and older are allowed on this tour.
This 3-hour tour includes a 30-minute 4×4 off-roading desert trek to and from the canyon, and a private lookout at Horseshoe Bend. Along the way, it’s common to see wildlife like coyotes, foxes, bobcats, owls and hawks. It’s an easy descent into the canyon and climb back out.
Secret Canyon is the only Antelope Canyon tour that allows tripods on all its tours.
Take a look at this video tour along the Secret Canyon hike from Nunu Torpedo:
4. Antelope Canyon X Hike
Antelope Canyon X gets its name from the X formation at the top of the canyon. The Canyon X hike offers the best value to visitors, for both the price and the experience. It’s the lowest priced of all basic tours and you’ll experience both the “A” and “V” formations. Perhaps most importantly for photographers, Antelope Canyon X tour gets you the iconic sunbeam picture. Photographers can also book an exclusive 3-hour tour. Private tours are also available.
Visitors on the Antelope Canyon X tour get a 3-mile 4×4 ride to the mouth of the canyon. Here, you’ll descend a 200-foot staircase and be guided through to the end and back.
Canyon X is the ONLY one of the four best Antelope Canyon tours that allows for service pets.
Check out this video tour of the Antelope Canyon X hike from Adventures of A plus K:
VISITOR INFORMATION: What You Need To Know for Antelope Canyon Hikes
Antelope Slot Canyon is on Navajo Nation land, just minutes from Page, Arizona. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your favorite Antelope Slot Canyon hike.
GUIDED TOURS Are a Must: Book Early
Can you go to Antelope Canyon without a tour? No. You must go with a Navajo tour guide.
Although this is kinda annoying if you like going at your own pace and don’t want to nail down a date, there are strong benefits. For one, it manages the tide of visitors (somewhat, at least). And second, local guides know the warning signs for deadly flash floods.
As soon as you have your travel dates, be sure to book your Antelope Canyon tour. During peak tourist season in the summer months, guided tours can book up 6 months in advance! That said, some guides book on a first-come/first-served basis and only accept cash.
BEST TIME To Hike Antelope Canyon
When is the best time to hike Antelope Canyon? It’s best to visit between late May and early September to get those stunning sunbeam shots at Upper Canyon and Canyon X (between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.). But this is also the busiest time to go.
Antelope Canyon tours are available year-round. The busy season is from March through October. And the warmer, busier times are also when more snakes, scorpions and tarantulas are out. Eww. Thankfully, your lovely guide will shoo them away before you ever see them. (Another benefit to having to go with a guide!)
The craziest time to visit is major holiday weekends. Avoid these weekends if at all possible.
WHAT TO WEAR and WHAT TO BRING On Your Antelope Canyon Hike
What should you wear and bring on these best Antelope Canyon tours? Here’s your checklist!
- NOTE: Masks are required on all Antelope Canyon tours. Check websites (below) for latest requirments.
- Dress in layers. Expect the canyon to be about 5 degrees cooler than above in summer, and about 10 degrees cooler in winter.
- Bring a hat (small-rimmed) or bandana to keep sand from your face and eyes. Here are head wraps for women and men on Amazon.
- Wear closed-toed shoes. They’re recommended in all tours, but required on Lower Antelope Canyon tours.
- For most Antelope Canyon tours, you can only take a bottle of water, phone and camera. Carry important things like identification and cash in a money belt or secure pockets.
- No backpacks, bags or food allowed inside the canyon. Guides tend to pack extra water and ice in case you need it.
- No tripods, monopods or selfie sticks allowed (EXCEPT tripods are allowed on Secret Canyon tours). Only Canyon X offers a photography tour,* which allows a tripod and one camera bag.
*As of 2020, photography tours are no longer available in Upper Antelope Canyon.
LIMITATIONS for CERTAIN VISITORS to Antelope Canyon
Which of the best Antelope Canyon tours are family friendly? Here are limitations you need to know:
- Infants are allowed in Upper Canyon (depends on tour guide), Lower Canyon and Canyon X, but NOT in Secret Canyon. If allowed, infants must have their own car seat to travel to/from the canyon and be in a non-wire body carrier (to prevent scratching the walls). Strollers are not allowed.
- Pregnant women are strongly discouraged from hiking in Antelope Canyon. This is due to the rough road or potential for falls.
- No Antelope Canyon hike is wheelchair accessible. They’re also not recommended for anyone with back problems, heart issues, other serious medical conditions or high anxiety.
- Service pets are only allowed in Canyon X. This is because pets have reacted negatively to the busy close quarters.
GUIDED TOUR OPERATORS for Antelope Canyon
Tripadvisor.com is a helpful place to check traveler reviews of Antelope Canyon tour operators. Overall, reviews are all strong and fairly similar.
Now, some quick info on fees. Visitors 8 years and older must pay a per-visitor Navajo permit fee of $8. Also expect to pay a booking fee and taxes (6% each is typical). Some tour operators include these fees in their rates.
All of the Antelope Canyon tour operators meet either right in Page or max 15-minute drive east along Highway 98.
Here is information on the best Antelope Canyon tours, as of March 2022.
UPPER Antelope Canyon Tours:
- Antelope Canyon Tours (22 S Lake Powell Blvd, Page): Starting at $82/adult (8+ yrs) and $72/child (0-7 yrs) PLUS fees, for 1.5 hours (about 40 minutes inside canyon).
- Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours (HWY 98, Milepost 299, 8, Page; 6 min east of Page): Starting at $92/person (including babies/children) PLUS fees, for 1.5 hours (about 40 minutes inside canyon). Price higher for sunbeam tour.
- Antelope Slot Canyon Tours (55 S Lake Powell Blvd, Page): Starting at $95/adult and $90/child (6-11 yrs) INCLUDING fees, for 1.5 hours (about 40 minutes inside canyon); children under 6 not allowed. Special pricing for military/veterans and exclusive tours.
- Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours (HWY 98, Milepost 302, Page; 10 min east of Page): Starting at $102/8+ years INCLUDING fees, for 1.5 hours (about 40 minutes inside canyon); children under 8 not allowed. Price higher for sunbeam tour. Multi-canyon tours available.
LOWER Antelope Canyon Tours:
- Ken’s Tours (Indian Rte 222; 10 min east of Page): Starting at $50/adult, $30/child (4-12 yrs) and free/infant (0-3 yrs) PLUS fees, for 1 hour in a group of max 8. Combo tours (with smaller groups) available, including heritage site, meal, boating and horseback riding.
- Dixie’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours (Indian Rte 222B; 10 min east of Page): $50/adult, $30 (4-12 yrs) and free (0-3) PLUS fees, for 1 hour. Combo tours available, including ruins, food and Monument Valley.
SECRET Antelope Canyon Tour:
- Horseshoe Bend Tours (821 US-89 B, Page): $135/adult (6+ yrs) PLUS fees, for 3 hours (1 hour inside canyon) of exclusive canyon access with a group of max 25 and private viewpoint of Horseshoe Bend; children under 6 not allowed. Tripods are allowed. Option to combine with rafting tour.
Antelope CANYON X Tour:
- Taadidiin Tours (HWY 98, Milepost 308; 15 min east of Page): Starting at $39/adult (18+ yrs) and $30/child (0-17 yrs) PLUS fees, for 1.5 hours. Or, $124/person PLUS fees, for a 3-hour photography tour.
Interested in seeing GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM, BRYCE and ZION CANYONS? Check out my 2-day epic canyon road trip (includes a MAP!)
Summary and Resources
So, which of these four best Antelope Canyon tours sounds right for you? Will you chose by depth? Formation? Cost, small exclusive groups or family-friendliness? If you’re still unsure, take another look at the comparison table for these Antelope Canyon hikes, side by side.
No matter which Antelope Slot Canyon hike you chose, visitors assure you that you’ll LOVE it. The deep shadows and reflected light dance along the swirling reddish orange sandstone of Antelope Slot Canyon, making for a truly WOW experience.
Helpful RESOURCES for Planning Your Antelope Canyon Hike:
- The Travel Magazine’s visit to Secret Canyon and Canyon X
- Navajo National Parks & Recreation for passes
- Trip Advisor to check traveler reviews of Antelope Slot Canyon hikes and tour operators
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Featured photo credit: Jelle de Gier from Unsplash.