Entering Antelope Canyon is a little like stepping into a futuristic sculpture garden – but on Mars or Neptune! The rock formations and the etchings across the rock faces made by millennia of erosion are out of this world, but it is the play of sunlight across the formations that are most striking. I was intrigued by the bright and vivid oranges, reds and yellows and depending on the season and time of day, you can even catch some cool blue hues.
The canyon itself is about 100 yards long and varies in width from about one to nine feet, so there are places where a dozen people can stand together and places where you need to squeeze by a rock outcropping to get to the next section. Slot canyons are similar to being in caves except, of course, they are above ground and there are numerous openings in the roof through which you can see the sky. Antelope Canyon is also one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world, and once you visit you’ll understand why.
There are several tour operators to assist with your visit, including Antelope Canyon Tours , who operate out of Page, AZ. The tours last about one to two hours including a 20-minute trip to and from the canyon, half of the trip spent bouncing off-road and over sand dunes.
There is something to see every few feet, things you can easily take in on your own and formations that look eerily like people’s faces and animals that your guide can point out. It takes about an hour to traverse the relatively short length of the cave because there is so much to see and photograph. The canyon can also be dangerous on the rare occasions when there is a flash flood. The last one (according to our guide) ran through the canyon at almost nine feet and washed away four feet of the sand floor.
A city slicker such as myself can look at the sheltering walls of the canyon and the soft piles of sand, and think that this is exactly the kind of place to spend the night. Our guide cautioned otherwise. The problem he said is what comes out to hunt at night– coyotes and several kinds of snakes including rattlesnakes.
By day, Antelope Canyon is a display of nature’s artistry. By night, the life and death struggle of desert wildlife is truly Mother Nature in action. This natural wonder is a must-see for anyone visiting the Page area and an exciting adventure to add to any Arizona itinerary.
Virgil Renzulli is a university administrator with Arizona State University who has visited two dozen countries on five continents and 40 of the 50 states.