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Distance: NA - Guided Tours Only  - approx 3.5 mile ride to the Slot Canyons from the parking lot.
Difficulty: NA - easy
Hike Time: Standard Tour is one hour at the Slot Canyons
Elevation: 4160 ft. at the Gate, 4365 ft. at the Slot Canyon
Season: Year round - best in the spring and late fall - Flashflood Danger - avoid the "monsoon" season.
USGS Maps: Rainbow Bridge
Directions:
   From: Page
Go South on US 89 to Highway 98 (to Kayenta), Drive East 4.2 miles on Highway 98 to the parking lot in a field on the right (South) side of the road.

Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo lands and payment of a fee to the tribe is required in order to visit these slot canyons.  In addition you must "hire" a guide who also collects a fee.  The Antelope Canyons are divided into upper and lower regions from the point where the canyon crosses Highway 98, with the upper region being on the south side of the highway.  Tours are again being conducted in both the upper and lower canyons, although the "tours" through the slot itself are mostly a self guided affair and you are normally expected to be at the Canyon for about an hour.  There are two choices for making the trip, 1) sign up with a tour operator for a trip originating from the town of Page, which costs a little more, or 2) drive out and park at the parking areas.  From the upper canyon parking area on the south side of the highway, you will be driven out about 3.5 miles to the slot canyon in a aging truck by a native guide.  From the lower canyon parking area, you will led over to the canyon and enter it by descending a series of ladders.  According to the Antelope Canyon field office (928 698-2808), the upper canyon is the most popular of the two tours - it features that shaft of light that is commonly photographed and displayed in popular magazines.

There was an accident in the lower canyon, but since the accident new routes were established to allow quick egress from the slot and according to the Indian Ranger I talked with, tours are again being conducted in the lower region.  In August of 1997, 10 people and a guide were killed by a flashflood in the lower Antelope Canyon slot.  In addition to the new ladders, the rangers at both of the parking areas now have radio access to the weather service in order to keep themselves and the guides appraised of weather conditions in the surrounding area.

The cost for the upper canyon tour is $21.00 (Summer 2004) - which is comprised of a fee of $6.00 to the tribe and a fee of $15.00 for the transportation and guide.  Tours from town run a little more and didn't seem to be as flexible with regard to departure times or length of stay on site.  It is best to try to schedule your tour of the upper canyon between 11:00 and 1:00, when the sun is high overhead.  That will give you the best chance to catch the "shaft of light".

The cost for the lower canyon tour is $18.50 (Summer 2004) - which is comprised of the $6.00 fee for the tribe and a fee of $12.50 for the guide.  You can visit both slots with a single $6.00 fee to the tribe but you will have to pay the individual guide fees at each of the regions.  The best time to visit the lower slot is in the morning.

If you are in the Page area, you must plan to take one of these tours.  I eagerly paid the my fee in 2001 to scout the area for a future trip, even though I knew the dark, cloudy day was a wash-out for photographs.  I was not disappointed.  The majesty of mother-nature's work is beyond my feeble command of language. 

The slots I visited were in rock- walls which lay perpendicular across the creek bed.  As the creek bed was cut lower by erosion, a slot is created through the rock wall by wind and water eroding a crack in the rock without significant widening of the crack to any great extent.  Within the crack in the rock, the force of erosion etches away the softest sandstone material, leaving the hardest material behind.  This process of erosion following the path of least resistance creates a narrow channel of swirls, curves, humps, bumps, knobs and other projections in the sandstone.  The channel etched in this manner is about shoulder-width in some areas to several feet wide in other spots.  Inside the slot, one feels as though they are in a maze even though there is but a single path through the rock.  It is a truly amazing sight even without the effects of sunlight entering from the overhead slot.  But, when the sun is directly overhead, the light entering the slot dances off the swirls, curves and projections to bathe the sandstone in rich, vibrant hues of the warm colors, dark reds to light pinks until the sandstone seems translucent. And of course, for a short time at noon time that shaft of light appears to challenge your photographic skills.

Enjoy!

Trekker
(updated 6/17/04)