Antelope Canyon is on every tourists’ sightseeing list when visiting Arizona. However, if crowds, queuing in the heat, buying tickets and scheduled tours aren’t your cup of tea – have you considered an alternative route into the canyon? As far as slot canyons go Antelope Canyon is arguably the world’s best, with towering walls of 100 shades of orange it certainly cannot be missed! Yet few seem to hold the sense of adventure that pushes you out of your comfort zone, onto a kayak and into the water. Taking the best part of a day and passing only locals on your adventure, discover how you can kayak and paddle board to Antelope Canyon.
HIRING A KAYAK AND PADDLEBOARD
Hiring the kayak and paddle board means you can switch halfway through to experience both and I am SO glad we did just that! Although I considered myself to be an experienced paddleboarder, I had never attempted paddling in the heat of the Arizonian sun during summer, which was a pretty intense workout. But because we had the kayak too, I simply switched over whenever I needed a long sit down (that’s not to say kayaking is like taking a sitting nap – it will no doubt leave your arms aching the next day too!)
Besides from being able to take workout breaks from the paddleboard, hiring a kayak meant we could pack a giant bag of snacks (and other less important essentials) giving us the ultimate freedom of time. We didn’t need to rush back to land to have lunch or water as we could fit plenty in the kayak, and it made for a much safer option than balancing a bag on a paddleboard.
The town of Page is in the middle of Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend – both of which will be on your agenda and is the easiest spot to pick up your water adventure equipment. Lake Powell Paddleboards has you covered for both boards, kayaks, life jackets and detailed canyon maps. A paddleboard was roughly $40 for the day and kayak $30, with the option of renting for multiple days if you are a hard-core adventurer looking to camp on Antelope Island.
We popped in, grab our boards, squeezed them into our camper van (they do provide roof racks if you are in a car) and set off to the water. Antelope Point Marina is the closest spot to safely unload your boards and park, being only a 20 minute drive away from Page.
When you enter the marina drive past the car park and head straight down the boat ramp, reversing until you are as close to the water without sinking your van. Unload the kayak and paddleboard onto the jetting (making sure to tie them on) then jump back in your van and find a parking space up the top of the boat ramp.
NAVIGATING THE WATERS
Once you have loaded up your kayak with all the day’s essentials it’s time to paddle away! Leaving the marina, turn left hugging the bend. These waters are part of Lake Powell and for the first part of your journey you will be sharing this space with speedboats and jet skis. They won’t drive close to you as long as you aren’t in their way. So it’s best to stay as near to the left as you safely can.
They are plenty of hidden coves and beaches along this creek and should you fancy jumping off a ledge into the water, just look out for local children and follow their lead. While you are in more open water it can get a little choppy at times, especially when a larger boat speeds past so if you aren’t a confident paddleboarder I would opt for the kayak to start with.
Eventually you will reach a turn veering left, this is the entrance to Antelope Canyon and it can’t be missed unless you are napping in the back of your friend’s kayak. As soon as you turn into Antelope Canyon, the waters become calmer, air stiller and the shouts of children jumping are lost. The canyon has an enforced speed limit for boats so although there will be some joining you at first, they have to abide by this.
Continue following the creek, noticing that the further you go the smaller the canyon becomes. If you happen to pass a shady spot of land I would jump at the chance to moor up and stop for snacks and a swim. It is crazy hot in Arizona so make sure you give yourself plenty of opportunities to cool off and hydrate up!
Further down the canyon, you will reach a bend that only kayaks and paddleboards can fit through, wave goodbye to the boats as your adventure just left everyone else behind! We counted only around three other paddlers over the next hour in the water and absolutely loved the feeling of having the canyon to ourselves.
As you get deeper, use the canyon walls to push your board along when it becomes too tight to paddle and if you’re not on the paddleboard by now, switch ASAP for those Pocahontas vibes. Sooner or later the water will become thicker, and what was once aqua blue will now be turning darker. Don’t despair! It just means you’re getting closer to the slot canyons.
Depending on the time you go will heavily influence your choice to hike to the slot canyons or not. Unfortunately for us, there had been heavy rainfall in the slots so leaving the boards behind and hiking, would entail thigh deep squelching through suspicious looking mud. However, we met a local couple at our campsite who hiked to the slots the year before. They paddled until the water met a sandy beach (not squelchy mud!), mooring their boards and hiking a short distance into the slot canyons, so it is possible!
Make sure you save enough energy for your paddle back and remember to keep an eye on the sun to make sure you are out of the water by nightfall. Returning to the marina, simply turn around and follow the creek back out, keeping to the right side once in open water.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Adventures on the water are so much fun but can be unpredictable and your safety relies on how smart you are when planning. So make sure you:
- Check the weather: Canyons are affected by the weather dramatically, what appears like rain in the town can be flash flooding in a slot canyon (side note: watch 127 hours before this trip!) Be smart, keep an eye on the wind and weather before you go and while you are on the water. If the skies appear to be grey, thundery and ominous, paddle back or wait it out on the shore.
- Over-pack food and drink: As always, I packed way too much food but I see this as a gift rather than curse as it means I will always be well-fed adventuring and if 127 hours were to happen I’ve got food for days.
- Put your gear in a dry bag: If you aren’t already using dry bags on your road trip – where have you been?! They are the best invention for adventurers and keep your possessions safe while you’re on the water.
- Stop when you see shade: Once you’re in Antelope Canyon, shade can be hard to come by especially if it’s midday. So do your future self a favour and aim for the shade when you see it.
- Bring mucky shoes: If you are planning on hiking to the slot canyons at the end of the creek, please bring shoes for this. I am all for living in bare feet but this is the wild west and you can’t be sure who/what is hiding in the sand.
Canyons weren’t meant for queueing, so make sure you take the time to experience them from the water and you won’t be disappointed. How many people do you know that can say they have kayaked through an aqua blue creek into a slot canyon?
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Antelope Canyon. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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