As I descended below ground, one (terrifyingly small) step after another, I was convinced we’d left planet Earth. Lower Antelope Canyon’s copper-colored walls twisted around me in uncalculated patterns, and my feet – covered in a chalky gold dust – were taking me further away from the sunlight, and deeper into a sea of crevasses.
While it feels much more Mars than middle America, Lower Antelope Canyon is a quick, easy, and unforgettable adventure in Page, Arizona. It’s a little over two hours from the Grand Canyon, and an easy stop on the way to Zion or back to Las Vegas. But when I say “quick and easy,” I’m not talking about the hike itself. Oh no. While it’s absolutely doable, Lower Antelope Canyon is a tougher trek than its neighbor Upper Antelope Canyon – but the unusual, lesser-known spot is well worth the effort. If you’re planning a trip out to Lower Antelope Canyon, here are 9 things to keep in mind before you go.
1. IT’S DUSTY!
Seriously, so dusty. I was planning to wear my white Converses, but thankfully had my dust-filled running shoes on hand, because the second I saw the ground we were walking on, I knew my Chucks would be ruined. Plan ahead and bring dark footwear like hiking boots or running shoes.
2. THE STAIRS ARE STEEP
To get into Lower Antelope Canyon, you have to descend multiple sets of stairs – and the steps on these stairs can get pretty narrow. There’s really no fix for this, so if you’re terrified of heights and have poor balance, you may want to consider the more easily accessible Upper Antelope Canyon.
3. SUNBEAMS HIT MID-MORNING
It’s rare to see sunbeams in Lower Antelope Canyon – that’s Upper’s claim to fame – but I’m living proof it can be done! If you visit between 9:30 and 11 a.m., you have a decent shot at seeing those beams – and let me tell you, it’s absolutely worth waking up early.
4. PREPARE TO PHOTO BINGE
It’s impossible not to. I took double the amount of photos I planned to, and even then felt I needed more. #TravelProblems. Bring extra memory cards, and if you’re using a smartphone, download the Cortex Cam app. It slows down your shutter speed so you can get really get some interesting, more professional-looking photos – right on your phone!
5. BRING CASH
You can purchase your tickets with a card on-site, but there’s a cash-only entrance fee (about $8/ person) to park, and you’ll want to tip your guide after the tour. Speaking of that…
6. IT’S A GUIDE-ONLY TOUR
You must go with a professional guide, because the canyons got too dangerous for tourists to go in alone. I’m talking flash floods and deaths. We went with Dixie Ellis and they were great!
7. PACK WATER – ESPECIALLY IN THE SUMMER
We had the good fortune of visiting Lower Antelope Canyon during record-breaking heat (ouch), and were extremely grateful to have packed water for the 1.5-hour hike. Once you’re in the canyon, it’s cool and comfortable, but woof, can that sunny hike out get hot.
8. EXPECT CROWDS
Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding the crowds. Lower Antelope Canyon is less crowded than Upper, but visitors flock to both places. The stairs get a little backed up during late morning to early afternoon hours, particularly in the summer. Once you’re in the canyon, crowds ease up, so you’ll still get plenty of stranger-free shots. (Even if you get yelled at to “keep moving” a few times … like me … always.)
9. RENT A CAR
While tour buses will take you out here, a rental car gives you the freedom to check out more unusual spots surrounding the canyon, including downtown Page for lunch and Horseshoe Bend for even more incredible photography. (It’s just down the road, and very worth the side trip!)
While the canyon’s coordinates may say Page, Arizona, with the twists, bends, colors and unreal photography, Lower Antelope Canyon is truly out of this world!