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4.04.2017

Travel Tuesday: Visiting Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ


For spring break this year, the Fab Fam took a camping road trip across the Southwest (from Austin to Big Bend Ranch State Park in West Texas, Page, Arizona, and Zion and Arches National Parks in Utah).  I'll share our overall road trip route, itinerary, and recommendations in a few weeks, but leading up to that I am highlighting each of our destinations in detail.  Today's post covers our time in Page, AZ, where we camped and visited Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

So, you know those rainbow-striped slot canyon photos you see as a computer lock screen image, or in those fantasy travel posts in your Facebook feed?  What about that magical looking shot of the Colorado river in a deep red canyon on your TV screensaver?  Well, both of these unbelievably beautiful, no-filter-needed spots are just minutes from the small town of Page, Arizona.  And yes, they really look that magical in real life. 

In an online travel community I follow (Girls Love Travel), I am always seeing photos of Antelope Canyon in Arizona.  I put it on my bucket list, and am so happy I had the chance to work it into our recent trip.  Read on to see info on where we stayed, recommendations and details on what we did, and of course, lots of beautiful #earthporn pics. 

Where we stayed: Page Lake Powell Campground.  Page, a small city adjacent to the Navajo Nation, is the place to stay if you want to visit Antelope Canyon and other nearby attractions.  After seeing good reviews on TripAdvisor, we decided to stay at Page Lake Powell Campground.  This campground is an RV park, but includes a few very nice tent camping spots.  The spots all have water and electric hook-ups.  The park itself has lots of other great amenities too, including bathrooms with showers, a laundry facility, a playground, and an indoor swimming pool and hot tub.  And let me tell you, after the rugged few days we spent in Big Bend, laundry and showers were welcome amenities!  I would stay at this campground again, and would recommend it to anyone who wants a comfortable location that's also just minutes from all of the local attractions. 

My boys playing in the sand and indulging in junk food at our campsite after a day of hiking

The red rocks surrounding the campsite in the sunset light.  The boys are peeking out from the campground's playground.

What we did: Upper Antelope Canyon.  Antelope Canyon is a few-minute drive east of Page, and is an absolute must-see.  I can't describe how beautiful and colorful these canyons are... so I will let my photos below speak for themselves. 

There are two sections that you can visit: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon.  The Lower Canyon option I believe it a little bit cheaper to visit, but requires climbing a long ladder to get in and out of the canyon.  Since we brought two young kids (one recovering from a broken leg), we opted for the more easily-accessible Upper Canyon option.  This was a great option for us, and would be great for many other abilities, as the hike through the canyon is a relatively short, flat walk.

Please note that you can't access Upper Antelope Canyon without a tour guide.  Tours depart on the hour, and you can book and pay for your tour directly on-site when you arrive.  If you are the kind of traveler that likes to have everything booked in advance, you can do that too, but be aware that some tour companies will gouge you.  If you want to book in advance, I recommend booking directly from Najavo Tours, who operate the site.  The basic tours are $40 for adults, and $20 for children aged 0-11 (payable in cash or charge).  In addition to this charge, there is an $8 per person charge (age 8 and over), payable in cash for the Navajo Parks & Recreation permit.  There are also separate photography tours, but unless you want to spend extended time with a DSLR, tripod, and less crowds, you might want to stick with the regular tour.  The regular tour still offers amazing photography opportunities, as you will see with my pics below.  Our guide even helped all of us with our camera settings per what works best in the canyon, and even helped us all set up each of the key shots. 

You must plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your tour time, as the tour includes transportation to the canyon from the queue entrance.  Also note that you are not allowed to bring bags or backpacks into the canyon at this time.  Cameras, phones, and water bottles were permitted, but must be held or in your pocket. 

Snuggling with my goober while waiting for our tour to begin

Snuggling with my bean in the back of the truck on the way to the canyon entrance

The entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon






The light shining through the top of the canyon and the resulting shadows create this beautiful multi-colored effect in the Navajo sandstone






Every curve of the canyon was a one-of-a-kind treasure.  This view is referred to as "candlestick."


Can you see the fist?







The "heart" of the canyon

Our guide created a cool light effect with pouring sand



My boys' favorite part of the canyon, "dragon's eye"


Can you see the shark's head?




Every angle had its own unique beauty!  I had a very hard time narrowing down photos from Antelope Canyon!




I believe our guide called this one "Monument Valley sunrise"



The Fab Fam in Ant Can (yes, I made that up)

The light at the end of the tunnel...



The back opening of Upper Antelope Canyon
 
One of the things I loved and appreciated about our Antelope Canyon tour was how they helped make sure we all got the photos we wanted to capture the memories.  But another thing I loved and appreciated just as much was that when you work your way back through the canyon (back towards the front entrance), you are asked not to take photos.  Instead, they want you to experience the canyon with your own senses, and not through a camera or device. 

What we did: Horseshoe Bend.  As if it wasn't enough to see the wonder of Antelope Canyon, the geographic wonder of Horseshoe Bend was also just a few minutes away from where we stayed in Page.  Horseshoe Bend is a tight, U-shaped turn in the Colorado River, cut into the base of a deep canyon.  From a distance, you would have no idea that this gem was cut right into the red land nearby. 

The hike to Horseshoe Bend is 1.5 miles round trip from the parking lot and trailhead (click here to get more information on the hike).  While the distance was manageable for our 7-year-old and almost-5-year-old, a good portion of it is uphill and without shade.  Make sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and water for this hike in the desert sun.  You should also take care to keep a close eye (and hand) on your littles at the top, as this is a sheer cliff with a 1,000-foot drop.  All that being said, as long as everyone is smart and safe, the view is more than worth the effort!

Once you gain some altitude on the hike, you can start to see the cuts into the sandstone where the river has created canyons over millions of years

The beautiful red sand made for a lovely desert hike

Our first glimpse of the famous 270 degree bend in the Colorado River...

...and the money shot!




My brave boys cautiously taking in the view


They wanted to sit with mommy while I was soaking in the view :)

...and hello, new Facebook profile photo!

Other things to do: Lake Powell.  Other families told us that they had a lot of fun visiting Lake Powell, but we decided to spend the rest of our time chilling at the campground.  Maybe next time! 

This is definitely a bucket-list worthy destination, and I still can hardly believe it is real.  When walking through the Antelope Canyon, and even looking back at the pictures now, I keep thinking "is this place even real?!"  But yes, it is.  And it is a great reminder that you don't have to go abroad to see some of the most beautiful wonders of the world.  I can think of a few of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in Arizona alone!

Speaking of incredibly beautiful natural wonders, stay tuned next week for a recap of the next part of our trip in Zion National Park in Utah.  For now, remember to pin this post for future reference if you take a trip to this part of Arizona!

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