Overview of the Page Slot Canyons

The Page Slot Canyons offer a one-of-a-kind experience for their visitors. Though popular among hiking enthusiasts and professional photographers, the canyons are beautiful enough (and accessible enough) to appeal to just about any crowd. I mean, you’ve seen the pictures, right? Who wouldn’t want to see this for themselves?!

Slot canyons are formed over thousands of years, as water and wind rush through cracks in rock to create a deep, narrow passageway. Since this process has to occur in just the right way to create a slot canyon, they are fairly rare and often difficult to access.

A visit to the Page Slot Canyons, however, is fairly attainable. Made from Sandstone eroded away by desert flash floods and monsoon winds, these canyons have veins of iron ore, calcium deposits, and magnesium that create a stunning, flowing quality to the rock. Their narrow, winding passageways leave hundreds of daily visitors in awe.

Visiting the Page Slot Canyons

It is possible to visit the canyons throughout the year, but I would not recommend visiting during the mid to late summer. During this time, not only is it extremely hot, but it is monsoon season, which can be (and has been) deadly to visitors. During the heavy rains of a monsoon, up to 3 feet of water can collect in Antelope Wash, which is over 50 feet across. When all of that water gets pushed into the narrow passageways of Antelope Canyon…well, let’s just say you don’t want to be there.  If you are planning a trip from outside of Arizona, plan on coming in the late spring or early summer to enjoy slightly cooler temperatures and less threat of heavy storms.

You will be required get a Navajo guide to visit all the slot canyons (with the exception of Water Holes Canyon). There are various tour operators in the area that will take you to the canyons; see my list of recommended tour operators below. Keep in mind that if you wish to visit more than one canyon, you may need to book more than one tour. Remember to bring cash if possible, as some operators have larger-than-typical credit card fees… =/

Here’s my ranking of the canyons, from favorite to least favorite (granted, they are all spectacular in their own right!):

  1. Rattlesnake Canyon
  2. Lower Antelope Canyon (If you only have time to visit one canyon, this is the one I recommend.)
  3. Upper Antelope Canyon
  4. Mountain Sheep Canyon
  5. Owl Canyon (Frankly, I have no desire to return to this canyon and have not published a blog post on it. Unless you really like owls, I would not recommend it.)

If you are able to visit all four of the recommended canyons, I would suggest dedicating a part of one day to Lower Antelope, and then visiting the other three altogether on a previous/following day. If you can, try visiting in this order: Mountain Sheep (mid-morning), Upper Antelope (late morning), Lunch Break/Quick Visit to Horseshoe Bend, then finish with Rattlesnake (mid-afternoon). This will get you close to the ideal lighting conditions in each canyon.

Water Holes Canyon is accessible to the public without a tour guide, but technically a permit is required. Access is available off of State Route 89; watch for signs around mile marker 542. This experience will be a bit less pristine as it is not a manicured canyon; you will see plenty of logs and brush that have accumulated over time. However, the canyon wall formations and textures are very similar to the more popular canyons listed above.

Logistics

Getting to the Page Slot Canyons will vary based on the tour company you choose. Contact the company for their directions. Some will direct you to their office, while others may even offer to pick you up at your hotel.

There are a variety of lodging options available in Page, Arizona, which is about a 10 minute drive from the slot canyon gateway. I have also successfully utilized Home Away (Vacation Rental By Owner) and Airbnb rentals in Page. Be sure to book plenty in advance! Page is also a popular gateway for Lake Powell.

Gear and Gadgets

It might go without saying, but wear comfortable shoes and bring water on your trip to any of the Page Slot Canyons. No matter which canyon you go to, you will definitely have shoes covered (possibly filled) with fine, red soil. Refer to the Day Trip Gear Guide for specific recommendations. Note that many tours will not allow you to take a large bag or backpack with you into the canyon; a small daypack is recommended (easy to plop on your lap in the tour vehicle as well!). 

Remember that there is sand everywhere in these canyons, and it will very likely end up all over everything you bring with you. You’ll obviously want to take extra care when it comes to electronics, including (and maybe especially) your camera. The camera bags shown in the Photography Gear & Gadgets Guide will go the distance in this environment, if handled properly. 

Speaking of your camera — don’t forget it! Depending on the tour you take, however, you might not be able to bring any extra gear with you; for example, a tour may allow monopods, but not tripods or selfie sticks.  If you want photos WITHOUT people in them, you definitely want to sign up for a photography tour, not a normal tour. 

Recommended Tour Operators

Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours: https://www.navajoantelopecanyon.com/ (Upper Antelope Canyon, Lower Antelope Canyon, Rattlesnake Canyon)

Ken’s Tours: http://lowerantelope.com/ (Lower Antelope Canyon)

Photographing the Page Slot Canyons

Separate from the regular tours are the photography tours, organized specifically for those who wish to get good-quality photos of the canyons. While the occasional everyday visitor may be able to sneak a decent shot or two, the crowds of fellow visitors (especially at either of the Antelope Canyons) will make it virtually impossible to get a clear, people-free photo. With more restricted group sizes and guides that block off the flow of people through the canyons, a photography tour is the only way to get a photograph with any reasonable level of quality. Plus, these tours are often the only ones that allow you to bring along professional photography equipment (check with your tour company for specifics!).

If you are planning on photographing the canyons and you want to capture their famous light beams, you will need to go during the summer, since a specific angle of the sun is required for light to enter the canyons in just the right way. Given other parameters described previously (flash floods, temperatures), I would recommend going sometime from mid May through late June.

Another tip for photographers: if you are planning on using any of your photos for commercial purposes, whether posting on a blog or selling the photos, you must obtain a photography permit from the Navajo Tribe. Read here for more information:  http://navajonationparks.org/htm/film.htm It is much less expensive to get this permit ahead of time rather than going retroactive!

Further Reading

Day Trip Gear Guide

Photography Gear & Gadgets

Outdoors and Wilderness First Aid

Leave No Trace Principles

 

About The Author

Jeremy Meek is a native Arizonan with a passion for adventure and discovery of unique experiences. Whether exploring Arizona or setting out on an adventure abroad, Jeremy is constantly scouting truly great adventures and experiences.

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