About 5 years ago, one of my co-worker told me about Antelope Canyon, showed me pictures and it’s been on my bucket list of places to travel to ever since. It took me a while to finally go because the most convenient way of getting there (from San Francisco) was to fly into Las Vegas, NV or Phoenix, AZ and then drive 4-5 hours to Page, AZ, and I’m not a fan of driving or long car rides.
After some browsing, I actually found some tours that do day trips from Las Vegas or Phoenix. I was sold from the relief of not having to drive and booked a flight to Vegas with a day tour to Antelope Canyon.
We wanted something affordable to so we booked the Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend Day Trip – NTA Member/Cozy Coach tour with Tours4Fun. It was only $62 (not including admission into Antelope Canyon, which is an additional $55-$65) compared to the $100+ that the other companies were charging. Though it wasn’t the most comfortable bus, it was sufficient for a day trip.
- Pick up from your hotel (or a nearby hotel) in Las Vegas
- Transport to and from Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
- Tour Guide
- Lunch (if you decide to pay extra for the meal option, which is a Subway turkey sandwich, and chips – $10)
- Lower canyon admission fee (if you decide to pay upfront – $55)
- Pick up at hotels between 5:00-5:30am
- About 4.5 hours drive from Las Vegas to Antelope Canyon (with a stop at a gas station for snacks and bathroom break)
- *** You might get to go to Horseshoe Bend before Antelope Canyon if there is no traffic and there is enough time before your Antelope Canyon tour starts (which we did). They are a 15 minute drive away from each other.
- 1.5 hours at Antelope Canyon (Tour starts at 12:30pm local time)
- 10 minute drive from Antelope Canyon to Horseshoe Bend
- About 1 hour at Horseshoe Bend
- About 4.5 hour drive back to Las Vegas (with a stop at a supermarket for dinner and a bathroom break)
- Estimated time back is around 8:00pm (depends on traffic)
- We didn’t find out until after we booked, but this is actually a Chinese tour bus. The tour guide spoke English and then spoke Mandarin. I didn’t mind this as he spoke English really well and he gave a lot of good information that we needed to know and didn’t drown on with useless information.
- The seats weren’t the most comfortable and there was barely any leg room (and this is coming from a person with short legs), but it was fine since it was just a day trip. They did have overhead bins where you can put your stuff so it doesn’t crowd your seating area.
- I brought a blanket because they always blast the AC, but the bus had good airflow and wasn’t freezing.
- There is a bathroom on the bus, but they recommend you don’t use it if you don’t have to because the plumbing isn’t the greatest.
- They gave us water bottles when we were going to Horseshoe Bend.
- The will ask you for a $10/person service fee and will collect it during the ride. Bring cash for this.
Luckily, there was no traffic so we went to Horseshoe Bend first. The name comes from the Colorado River where it has carved through the rock wall to form a horseshoe shape.
It’s about a .75 mile walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint (about 10-15 minute walk). The path to the viewpoint is super sandy and I would recommend wearing comfortable closed toed shoes so it’s easier to walk in and also so you don’t feel the heat of the sand if you’re going in the summer. I would also bring some water, hat and sunglasses as there’s no shade except for one gazebo that everyone crowds into.
The walk isn’t too bad and we were led to view the horseshoe bend, which was definitely more amazing than what you see in pictures.
Looking at other people’s pictures, I thought it was cool, but it was amazing seeing it in real life. It’s kind of impressive how the river has carved out this shape, and the blue/green color of the river is so vibrant. I love the contrast of the bright river and the light rock.
Lower Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon has two parts: upper canyon and lower canyon. If you ask most people, they will generally tell you that you will pretty much get the same experience at either. Here is a good article I found comparing Upper vs. Lower Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land and was formed primarily by flash floods that eroded the Navajo sandstone. The speed of the water moving through the narrow canyon created the the wave-like or “flowing” shapes in the rocks. Because flash floods still occur, you can only visit the canyons with a licensed tour operator.
Just a note that you can’t bring anything to the canyon except for a small camera and a bottle of water. They will not allow back packs, fanny packs, purses, or bags of any sorts. You don’t really need anything anyways and you’ll be fine without most of your stuff.
We went to the the lower canyon (mostly because that was the only option left for our tour), but we were not disappointed.
If you’re going to lower canyon, I would recommend wearing comfortable shoes as well. There are about 6 flight of pretty steep and narrow stairs (and some parts where you’re almost climbing a ladder) and there is a lot of sand in the canyon as well. In the summer though, the canyon doesn’t get too hot and you probably won’t need your jacket.
I was seriously amazed at what nature has created for us to look at. Every corner was another impressive wave, variation of a warm, earthy color or a cool shape. I could not put my camera down as every spot was so picturesque.
Hint: (For iPhones) To bring out the best color of the rocks when taking photos, set your filter to vivid or vivid warm. I personally preferred vivid warm because it was more natural. (For other phones, ask your tour guide what setting is the best of your phone).
If you get a good tour guide (which I think most of them are), they will show you (and some will even help you) take pictures of the most photogenic spots so you don’t like a picture of every corner you turned like I did.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. Going to see Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon in person was worth the long bus ride and was better in real life than a picture that anyone has taken. I would totally recommend a tour bus as it takes the stress out of driving all day and trying to get to certain places on time. We were well rested as we slept on the ride home and even had enough energy to grab dinner and go to a nightclub when we got back to Vegas 😛