Antelope Canyon is a destination that has exploded in popularity over the past few years – and rightly so. This canyon in Arizona is, despite its rather small size, one of the most remarkable canyons in the entire United States. The increase in popularity and visitors means that more and more travelers are arriving at the canyon unprepared. If you’re planning to visit Antelope Canyon, give this article a read to make sure you don’t make mistakes like….
1 Not booking Antelope Canyon tickets in advance
Antelope Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in the American West. People come from all over the world to see the beautiful slot canyon, and many travelers feel that a trip to Las Vegas or the Grand Canyon is incomplete without a visit to Antelope Canyon. The problem with that is that the number of people that are allowed to enter Antelope Canyon has a daily cap. To ensure that you don’t get shut out on your trip to Antelope Canyon, it is extremely important to book your tickets in advance. This will guarantee that you get access to the wonder and that you get to see it at the time you desire. We recommend booking your tickets as early as possible, particularly if you are going to visit Antelope Canyon over a holiday or the summer. It is recommended to book direct with a local tour company, check out this list of Antelope Canyon tour operators.If you end up visiting Antelope Canyon during a busy holiday and you didn’t plan ahead, some online travel agents have started listing tickets on their sites, beware as the reviews are mixed for tickets sold via a third party.
Another option if you are shut out of tickets is to book a tour to Antelope Canyon, and the tour operator will provide the tickets for tours they lead to Antelope Canyon.
2 Not wearing the right shoes
Antelope Canyon is a hike—there is no getting around it. There is over a mile’s worth of walking and millions of grains of sand you will encounter along the way. The right shoes are essential for a great tour. Open-toed shoes should be avoided. Wear something that can keep sand out and will help you navigate stairs. Something comfortable and athletic is advised, but full-on hiking boots are not necessary. We like to wear trainers (tennis shoes, athletic shoes, sneakers—whatever you want to call them). These will keep you comfortable, safe, and the majority of the sand will stay in Antelope Canyon and out of your shoes!
3 Not following the rules
Antelope Canyon tours are offered by a local tour operator. These tour operators run tours with permission from the Navajo Nation Parks service. The Navajo Nation Parks service has a set of rules that must be followed while inside Antelope Canyon. It is the job of the local tour company to make sure its guests follow these rules. Without tight control over their guests’ behavior, they risk losing their right to lead tours at Antelope Canyon. For this reason, they can be very strict when it comes to rule enforcement.
The two rules that guests most often come up against are that there are no bags are allowed, and no photos are allowed on the stairs.
We have witnessed hundreds of guests make a mad dash from the tour waiting room back to their cars to put their bags away before the tour begins. Slower ones don’t make it back in time and miss their tour. Despite the numerous and clear warnings at multiple stages before the tour starts, there are always a few people who think they will be the ones to get a bag into Antelope Canyon (or, more likely, they just didn’t pay attention to the signs along the way). Don’t risk missing your canyon tour; don’t bring a bag with you.
Another rule that often trips up a visit to Lower Antelope Canyon is the “No Photos on the Stairs” rule. There are a few sets of stairs throughout the canyon, but guests are most likely to break this rule when they first enter. There are four flights of stairs when you first enter the canyon, all of which are a bit steep and require all of your attention and both of your hands. The problem is that this is the first time guests enter Antelope Canyon, and it is gorgeous! And what is most people’s first reaction when they see something gorgeous? That’s right, they grab their phone to take a photo of it! The problem is: if you’re caught taking photos while you’re on the stairs, they will simply kick you out of the canyon! We tell our guests that it isn’t worth the risk. Follow the rules, and focus on the stairs.
4 Not paying attention to time differences
Time zones are generally pretty easy to follow within the continental United States. There are four major time zones, and your phone automatically detects them and adjusts accordingly. There is one place where this strategy does not work, and that is northern Arizona. Let’s talk about why cell phones get tripped up on time in the region and what you can do about it.
Warning! The next three bullet points may make your head spin. If you want to know how to get the time right when visiting Antelope Canyon, skip these three bullet points and skip to “An Easy Fix” below.
- Arizona is located in the Mountain Time Zone, but unlike almost everywhere else in the United States, Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time. That means that while most Americans change their clocks in spring and fall, Arizona does not. Therefore, during the winter months, the time in Arizona is the same as the rest of Mountain Standard Time, Utah included. During the rest of the year, the time in Arizona is the same as the Pacific Standard Time, Nevada included. Visitors who drive from Nevada or Utah can easily get tripped up by this situation. It doesn’t help that some very popular technology also get tripped up by the time zones. Be careful using Google Maps. When driving from Nevada to Arizona in the summertime, it may show your arrival time as one hour later than your actual arrival time.
- The canyon is located on the Navajo Nation. Unlike the rest of Arizona, the Navajo Nation does observe daylight savings time, meaning for half of the year, the time on the Navajo Nation is different from the rest of Antelope Canyon. Fortunately for visitors, Antelope Canyon doesn’t observe Navajo Nation time, they observe Arizona time. This can still confuse your phone. See “An Easy Fix” below to remedy this.
- Antelope Canyon is located fewer than ten miles from the Utah border. When you are visit Antelope Canyon and the surrounding areas, it is not uncommon for your cell phone to ping a tower that is actually in Utah, which will change the time on your phone.
An Easy Fix
There is an easy fix for the above problems. When entering Arizona, set your phone for a manual time switch and set the city to Phoenix – that’s it! Do this and you won’t have any time troubles while visiting Antelope Canyon.
5 Expecting to see light beams outside of light beam season
Before visiting Antelope Canyon, the iconic image that everyone thinks of is a beam of light shooting down through the canyon. It is natural that people hope to see this when booking a tour. What many people don’t know is that the light beams aren’t as frequent as photos make it look; you must plan carefully if you want to see them.
To start, light beams are only visible between March and October. Any tour booked outside of these months won’t be able to see the light beams. Additionally, the light beams can only be seen from approximately 11 AM to 1 PM. Finally, the light beams can be seen best at Upper Antelope Canyon, it is important to know the difference between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. If it is light beams you are looking for, Upper Antelope Canyon is the one you want to choose.
The biggest mistake people make is showing up in a month like November expecting to see the light beams. This isn’t going to happen, so it is best to be prepared. The light beams may be overrated; we don’t recommend planning your entire trip to Antelope Canyon based on the chance of seeing a light beam. The canyon itself is many magnitudes better than the light beams and looks beautiful year-round.