This is the third blog, covering the third leg of our road trip from Kansas City to Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods, then Canyonlands National Park and Monument Valley. This blog is exclusively focused on Page, Arizona.
Our motivation to come to Page, Arizona was inspired by friends who had previously visited here, and we were blown away by their photos. Our goal was to visit Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.
While planning this road trip, we had originally planned to drive down from Cayonlands NP then camp at Page-Lake Powell Campground, 849 S Coppermine Rd. Page, AZ 86040. However, after the primitive camping we had just done at Canyonlands, we decided to stay at a Days Inn near Horseshoe Bend and enjoy hot water, a shower and being close to our destination. We arrived in the early afternoon, got checked in and had dinner in Page. This is a small town, near the edge of Glen Canyon, which was carved out by the Colorado River. In our opinion, there are three things that draw people to this small town; Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Lake Powell. Lake Powell was made by the Powell Dam, just outside the town, daming the Colorado River to create Lake Powell. This is a popular watersport area, and there are houseboats available for rent. We had two days on our itinerary and the main attraction for us was Antelope Canyon. It is a slot canyon, essentially a big crevice in the desert floor, created over time from wind and water cutting into the limestone and creating a natural sculpture in the rocks.
You can’t visit Antelope Canyon on your own. It is exclusively controlled by the Navajo nation, and there are tour agencies throughout the town of Page where you can buy tickets. I recommend getting tickets before you come. Reading the reviews, the best views are from afternoon sun, so we bought our tickets for an afternoon admission.
The first thing on our agenda in Page was to visit Horseshoe Bend. I had read recommendations to visit in the afternoon sun for the best photos, but because we only had one day for the sights and already had afternoon reservations for Antelope Canyon, we visited Horseshoe Bend in the morning and Antelope Canyon in the afternoon.
Horseshoe Bend is an attraction controlled by the Navajo tribe. Just on the outskirts of Page, there is a large parking area, and we paid a $10 per vehicle entrance fee and took about a 3/4 mile walk over a somewhat uneven dirt trail to get to the overlook. At a railed overview, we could see down into Horseshoe Bend far below. There are a few overlook areas, but this is essentially a one-stop snap and go photo op. After 15 min. or so we walked back to the car. The total stop took us about an hour and a half. After visiting the overlook, we returned to our hotel and had a quick lunch.
If planning to visit, bring water, a hat and maybe a windbreaker. We prefer a refillable water bottle that folds flat when empty like the Platypus 1 Liter SoftBottle.
As we got ready to go to Antelope Canyon in the afternoon, we brought our own water, wore comfortable clothes and sturdy hiking shoes. Visiting in September, daytime temperatures were in the mid-eighties. For photos, we had our cell phone cameras and a Nikon D3100 DSLR camera with a Nikkor wide angle lens and mid-range telephoto zoom lens. Because of tight confines inside the canyon, backpacks were not permitted. Other prohibited items; tripods, GoPros, sandals, umbrellas, camera bags.
Our visit time slot for Antelope Canyon was 1:30 PM, and Ken’s Tours was about a 20 minute drive from Page, AZ.
Tickets are available on-line through Ken’s Tours.
We drove over early, and found a large, busy and crowded building. People were checking in based on their tour start times, and we joined the group. After checking in, we were sent to a large waiting room to wait to be called. There was food and water available for purchase, and there was a large gift shop. Even though crowded, the process was very organized. It was surprising to see such a large crowd, continuing to be replenished by new arrivals. Shortly before our start time, our young Navajo tour guide collected our group and brought us outside to a staging area. We went down a trail to enter the canyon a few minutes behind the group in front of us.
The surroundings were unexpectedly flat, and it was odd to prepare to enter the canyon by going below ground. We went down a series of staircases, descending about 80 feet to the canyon floor. The high walls of the canyon have spectacular winding and sweeping shapes carved out of the limestone by wind and water. We could see the sky during some parts of the tour, but in other places it felt like a high ceiling cave. Our guide told us that during flash floods, this canyon can quickly flood and be very dangerous. Before guided tours were required, 11 hikers drowned during a flash flood in 1997. He told us that tours are cancelled or postponed if inclement weather is expected, and they monitor conditions for a flash flood. The guides have radios and stay in touch with their operations center and other guides.
The floor is fairly smooth but uneven in places. There are some smooth rocks but mostly sand to walk on. The canyon floor is as wide as 20 feet or so in places, but only about 3 feet wide in others.
The tour guide led our group and stopped in wide openings to describe different features. Mostly it was a discussion about historic Indian names for different shapes in the rocks.
The one-mile tour took about an hour. It was not a difficult pace, but included lots of stairs and ladders.
Finishing the tour, we climbed a ladder and exited out of a big non-descript crevice. It was amazing to have just seen such a spectacular place and look back on this knowing what was just below the surface.
At $50 per person, it might seem expensive for an hour long tour. We thought it was worth every penny, and one of the most remarkable places we have ever been. If you are anywhere near Page, Arizona, we highly recommend it. It is also worth planning a trip around.
After returning to our hotel, we prepared for our final leg to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, before returning to Kansas City. I’ll pick up that trip on the fourth and final blog covering this road trip.