Every year, 4 million visitors flood into Arizona’s brilliant Antelope Slot Canyon. When looking into hikes, I quickly learned that most of these 4 million visitors head to Upper and Lower Canyon. BUT, did you know there are at least 12 Antelope Slot Canyon hikes you can take?
Although most of these hikes in Antelope Slot Canyon are for skills beyond me, two are quite doable. And WAY less busy. Secret Canyon and Canyon X.
Compared to Upper and Lower Canyon, 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 Slot Canyon hikes compare? Are they really as great as Upper and Lower Canyon? Let’s take a look!
- TABLE COMPARISON: Which Antelope Slot Canyon hike is best?
- OVERVIEW with VIDEOS:
- VISITOR INFORMATION: What you need to know
- GUIDED TOUR OPERATORS (2020 Details)
- Summary and Resources
While at Antelope Slot Canyon, check out GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM, BRYCE and ZION CANYONS! Here’s my 2-day epic canyon road trip (includes a MAP).
TABLE COMPARISON: Which Antelope Slot 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 (Horseshoe Bend) Canyon 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: all flat; enter at ground level||Easy-Moderate: steep stairs; uneven footing||Easy: small hill in/out||Easy-Moderate: steep hill in/out|
|Canyon Depth||164 ft||120 ft||>100 ft||150 ft|
|Canyon Distance (round trip)||.3 mile (1 hr)||.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)||$60 for 1.5 hr (1 hr in canyon)||$50 for 1 hr; $90 for 1 hr (max 4pp)||$100 for 2 hr (1 hr in canyon); tripod allowed||$40 for 1.5 hr (1 hr in canyon); $110 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); tour every 1-2 hrs||4 or 10 (non-exclusive); tour every 30 min||25 (exclusive); tour at 10am, 2pm + noon (weekends)||42 (exclusive); tour every 40 min|
|Family Friendly||Yes (depends on guide): fee for all ages||Yes: <7 yrs are free||No: <6 years not allowed on tour||Yes: fee for all ages|
|Service Pets Allowed||No||No||No||Yes|
OVERVIEW: 4 Fantastic Antelope Slot 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 stunning and pretty easy Antelope Slot Canyon hikes that’ll get you oooing and aaahing!
1. UPPER Antelope Slot 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 hike is also the easiest: its “A” formation has a wider floor, and you enter at ground level.
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 Upper Antelope Canyon from Globe Watchers:
2. LOWER Antelope Slot Canyon Hike (or The Corkscrew):
Lower Antelope Canyon is quite a fun slot canyon hike. 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 some; just look at the pictures! Compared to Upper Canyon, its colors are warmer and its curves softer.
Price-wise, Lower Antelope Canyon is the most family-friendly hike. Children 3 and under are free.
Here’s a helpful video tour of Lower Antelope Canyon from Emman Boquiren. Take a look at the climb out at 7:45!
3. SECRET Antelope Slot Canyon (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 Antelope Slot Canyon tour, 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 2-hour tour includes a 30-minute 4×4 off-roading desert trek to and from the canyon. 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 ascent back out.
Secret Canyon is the only hike in Antelope Canyon that allows tripods on all its tours.
Take a look at this video tour through Secret Canyon from Nunu Torpedo:
4. Antelope Slot Canyon X Hike:
Canyon X offers the best value to visitors, for both the price and the experience. It’s the best priced of all 1-hour tours and you’ll experience both the “A” and “V” formations. Perhaps most importantly for photographers, Canyon X is the other Antelope Slot Canyon hike that’ll get you the iconic sunbeam picture. Canyon X gets its name from the X formation at the top of the canyon.
Visitors to Antelope Slot Canyon X get a 3-mile 4×4 ride to the mouth of the canyon. Here, you’ll descend 150 feet into the first canyon and be guided through to the end and back.
Canyon X is the ONLY canyon that permits use of service pets.
Check out this video tour of Canyon X from Adventures of A plus K:
VISITOR INFORMATION: What you need to know for hiking in Antelope Slot Canyon
Antelope Slot Canyon is on Navajo Nation land, just minutes from Page, Arizona. When planning your Antelope Slot Canyon hike, keep these things in mind:
GUIDED TOURS are a must: Book early
You cannot hike in Antelope Slot Canyon without 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 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 Slot Canyon
Tours of Antelope Slot Canyon are available year-round, but the busy season is from March through October. 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.
To get those stunning sunbeam shots at Upper Canyon and Canyon X, it’s best to visit from late May through early September between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (But note that this is the busiest time.)
The craziest time to visit is major holiday weekends. Avoid these weekends if at all possible.
WHAT TO WEAR and WHAT TO BRING for your Antelope Canyon hike
- 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 in Lower Canyon.
- 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 Slot Canyon
- Infants are allowed in Upper Canyon (depends on tour guide), Lower Canyon and Canyon X, but NOT allowed 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 Slot Canyon. This is due to the rough road or the potential for falls.
- None of the Antelope Slot Canyon hikes are 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. Pets have reacted differently to the close quarters and with lots of people.
GUIDED TOUR OPERATORS for Antelope Slot Canyon
Trip Advisor is a great place to check out traveler reviews of the different Antelope Slot Canyon guided tours. Generally, they all have strong and fairly similar reviews.
All of the tour operators meet either right in Page or maximum 15 minute drive east along Highway 98.
Here is Antelope Slot Canyon tour information and pricing, as of January 2020.
UPPER Antelope Slot Canyon tours:
- Antelope Canyon Tours (22 S Lake Powell Blvd, Page): Starting at $54/adult (8+ yrs) and $44/child (0-7 yrs) PLUS $8 Park fee/adult (8+ yrs), 2.2% booking fee and 6% tax, for 1.5 hours (1 hour inside canyon).
- Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours (HWY 98, Milepost 299, 8, Page; 6 min east of Page): $80/person and $60/child (0-12 yrs) INCLUDING fees and tax, for 1.5 hours (1 hour inside canyon).
- Antelope Slot Canyon Tours (55 S Lake Powell Blvd, Page): Starting at $63/adult and $53/child (6-12 yrs) INCLUDING fees and tax, for 1.5 hours (price rises with the best times for sun beams); infants not allowed.
- Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours (HWY 98, Milepost 302, Page; 10 min east of Page): 2019 RATES (2020 TBC) starting at $66/8+ years (children 7 and under are not allowed) for 1.5 hours; multi-canyon and nighttime options.
LOWER Antelope Slot Canyon tours:
- Ken’s Tours (Indian Rte 222; 10 min east of Page): $40/adult, $20/child (4-12 yrs) and free/infant (0-3 yrs) PLUS $8 Park fee/adult (8+ yrs), 6% online booking fee and 6% tax, for 45-60 minutes in a group of 10; $80/person PLUS fees/tax for 45-60 minutes in a group of 4.
- Dixie’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours (Indian Rte 222B; 10 min east of Page): $40/adult, $28 (8-12 yrs), $20 (4-7 yrs), and free (0-3) PLUS $8 Park fee/adult (8+ yrs) and 6% tax, for 1 hour; military discounts available.
SECRET Antelope Slot Canyon tour:
- Horseshoe Bend Tours (821 US-89 B, Page): $90/adult (13+ yrs) and $65/child (6-12 yrs) PLUS $8 Park fee/adult (8+ yrs), 6% online booking fee and 6% tax, for 1 hour (2.5 with travel) of exclusive access with a maximum group of 25; children under 6 are not allowed on this tour. Tripods are allowed.
Antelope CANYON X tour:
- Taadidiin Tours (HWY 98, Milepost 308; 15 min east of Page): Starting at $30/adult (18+ yrs), $21/youth (8-17 yrs) and $21/child (0-7 yrs) PLUS $8 Park fee/adult (8+ yrs), for 1.5 hour with maximum 42 people at one time; $106/person PLUS $8 Park fee, for a 3-hour photography tour with maximum 7 people.
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 Antelope Slot Canyon hikes sounds right for you? Two are easy hikes and two are easy-moderate. Will you chose by depth? Formation? Cost, small exclusive groups or family-friendliness? If you’re still unsure, take another look at the table comparing these Antelope Slot 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 Slot 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.