My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Discovering Arizona’s slot canyons

2009/02/24by Donna Hull

Updated 01.15.2013

photography-workshop-upper-antelope-canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona

Water Holes, Lower Antelope, Upper Antelope. Are these the names of hiking trails? No, they’re slot canyons located on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Alan and I discovered the photogenic gems while on a photo workshop with exposure36. But you don’t have to be a boomer photographer to enjoy exploring canyons carved by nature’s power. Walking through the twists and turns of slot canyons will spark the imagination of any active travel enthusiast.

Upper Antelope Canyon is the easiest to maneuver. After paying a hiking and permit fee (around $21 on our last visit), a truck takes visitors from the starting point off Highway 89 near Page, Arizona, to the canyon’s opening. Access is via a level, sandy path, no stairs or climbing involved. A guide accompanies travelers through the canyon on a one-hour trip where a combination of water and sand has etched the walls into a wonderland of texture and curves. Beams of sunlight shine down from the cracks in the canyon overhead. When the wind blows, dust drifts in swirling through the light in a ghostly dance.

Adventure seekers will prefer Lower Antelope Canyon. Located on Copper Mine Rd. off of Highway 89, entrance requires a permit and hiking fee (around $21 at the time of my visit). To reach the slot canyon, visitors follow the guide along a crack in the earth’s stony surface until it widens, leading to stairs that descend into the canyon. Warning, this is not an adventure for claustrophobics. They way is narrow but oh so worth it. Alan and I spent almost three hours exploring this photogenic fun house, slipping through narrow passageways, maneuvering several short drops via stairs, craning our necks for the view above us. When the light peeps in through overhead cracks, the textured walls turn into purple, yellow and orange curtains of rippling stone.

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The textured walls of Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona

Water Holes Canyon involves a bit of orienteering. A permit and hiking fee is required to access this slot canyon located south of Page on Highway 89. There’s no signage on the highway to direct you so it’s best to go with someone who’s familiar with the area. After a short hike, the canyon is accessed by walking down its sloping walls. The portion of Water Holes that we visited is not as dramatic as Lower or Upper Antelope and has a more rugged feel to it.

Exploring slot canyons is a boomer adventure that Alan and I will be repeating. But, we won’t be going during monsoon season when flash floods make hiking in the canyons a dangerous endeavor.

Are you a slot canyon enthusiast? Post a comment to tell us about your adventures in Lower Antelope, Upper Antelope or Water Holes Canyon. Alan and I can’t wait to visit again.



A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

minnemom February 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm

These are beautiful! I’ve never heard of slot canyond before. Would you say that any of them are kid-friendly to explore?

Reply

minnemom February 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm

These are beautiful! I’ve never heard of slot canyond before. Would you say that any of them are kid-friendly to explore?

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 24, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Upper Antelope Canyon is definitely easy for kids to explore. Lower Antelope might be scary to very young children, it’s dark, narrow and deep. However, children around 9 or 10 would love it. Water Holes would depend on how much of an outdoor adventurer the child is. If they’re accomplished hikers, they should be fine.

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Kim February 26, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Wow, these are amazing photos! I’ll definitely have to check that out someday.

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Kim February 26, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Wow, these are amazing photos! I’ll definitely have to check that out someday.

Reply

Windy Lynn February 27, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Donna,
Thank you for opening up my eyes to another great Arizona adventure. Can’t wait to grab my family and explore a canyon!

Reply

Windy Lynn February 27, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Donna,
Thank you for opening up my eyes to another great Arizona adventure. Can’t wait to grab my family and explore a canyon!

Reply

Dominique February 28, 2009 at 3:43 am

Incredible colors! I’m sure Tim and I would love this excursion…

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Dominique February 28, 2009 at 3:43 am

Incredible colors! I’m sure Tim and I would love this excursion…

Reply

iheartfilm February 28, 2009 at 4:33 am

Been wanting to check these out. Nice.

Chris

Reply

iheartfilm February 28, 2009 at 4:33 am

Been wanting to check these out. Nice.

Chris

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Kathryn March 2, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Really great shots! I used to do a lot of hiking in Arizona and am vaguely familiar with these areas. Strikingly beautiful spots!

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Barbara March 15, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Oh so beautiful photos! I just added this to my list. I lived in AZ for 12 years and never made it here, but I must…

Reply

Barbara March 15, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Oh so beautiful photos! I just added this to my list. I lived in AZ for 12 years and never made it here, but I must…

Reply

Mark H March 16, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Stunning photos. These narrow canyons are something that only nature could manage.

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Mark March 16, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Stunning photos. These narrow canyons are something that only nature could manage.

Reply

ottsworld
Twitter:
June 21, 2010 at 4:53 am

I love the term Photogenic Fun House…now that's my kind of place to visit! I've always wanted to go photograph these canyons. Did you learn specific things about how to photograph them from the workshop?

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
June 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Sheri, we learned that using tripods is a challenge in the narrow space with other visitors walking by. My biggest advice – look up, look back, look all around as the view constantly changes. You'll be surprised at the great photos you can take in the low light of the slot canyons. Lots of fun!

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Kathryn January 26, 2013 at 11:47 am

This looks like a photographers dream. I do hope I get to visit one day! :-)
Kathryn recently posted..Cabo Verde Urban Photography #FriFotosMy Profile

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 24, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Upper Antelope Canyon is definitely easy for kids to explore. Lower Antelope might be scary to very young children, it’s dark, narrow and deep. However, children around 9 or 10 would love it. Water Holes would depend on how much of an outdoor adventurer the child is. If they’re accomplished hikers, they should be fine.

Reply

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