Thursday, June 20, 2013

Upper Antelope canyon and Horseshoe Bend - Page, AZ

Our next stop after Zion National Park was Page, Arizona. It was about a 2 hour drive from Zion National Park. The City of Page is located in northeastern Arizona. It is one of the youngest communities in the United States, established in 1957 during the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado river. The dam creates Lake Powell, the second largest lake in the US ( the first being Lake Mead created by Hoover Dam also on the Colorado river). Page is the perfect base for exploring all the attractions the Glen Canyon recreation area has to offer. Lake Powell laps 1900 miles of shoreline. The sculptured red sandstone canyons on either side of the lake are breathtakingly beautiful and can best be enjoyed speed boating on the lake. Glen Canyon dam creates a flat stretch of emerald water, perfect for kayaking or jet skiing. 

Our first stop in Page was Horseshoe bend. It is about a 10 minute drive from Page. We parked, and hiked for about a mile downhill on sandy and rocky surfaces. Throughout the hike  all you can see is the vast expanse of the flat desert. It unexpectedly ends in a crater with dramatic views. From the rim of the canyon, you can see the jaw-droppingly beautiful Horseshoe bend. The colors of the rocks change throughout the day and the shadows move in and out of the canyons.  The cliffs are very steep with no guard rails, and it is a bit scary at the edge. Keep away from the hanging ledges as the sandstone might be fragile. Below is the Colorado river meandering around a huge sandstone escarpment. As the river flows, it sparkles and shines in different shades of green and blue. As the Colorado river cut through layers of red rock, the 270 degree horseshoe bend was formed. 

In a few million years, this might be the site of a brand new natural bridge formed the same way as nearby Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Before the rainbow bridge was formed, the Colorado river  circled around a narrow fin of sandstone and with time cut through it and formed a bridge.

On the way back to Page, there are signs for a Scenic Drive that leads to great views of the river and the dam.

We drove to Wahweap overlook that is located along Lakeshore Drive. The scenic view drive goes up the hill and offers 360 degree panorama of Wahweap bay, Glen Canyon dam, Navajo Canyon and surrounding areas. Carl Hayden visitor center at the Glen Canyon dam offers guided tours of the dam and powerhouse.

We booked a guided trip to the upper antelope canyon in the afternoon with Antelope Canyon Tours. It was a 1 hour sightseeing tour. If you are interested in photography, we would recommend the longer photography tour. The canyons are dark at places, and a tripod is very useful and it is not allowed in the regular tour. You need to assemble at their office in Page, and they take you in a truck in groups of 12. The land is owned by Native American Navajos. Only guided tours of the Canyon are allowed. There are other tour operators that are located closer to the main entrance and you can go till there, and then they drive you.

The Antelope Canyons are formed over millions of years mainly by flash floods sculpting the soft sandstone. This is one of the most beautiful natural formations we have seen and no  wonder it is a photographer's delight. The sunlight falling on these incredible formations makes it glow in different colors according to the time of day. Tour operators offer a 11:30 am tour that is most popular because of the sunlight beams creating magic on the canyon walls. This is also the most crowded time. We lucked out as there was a huge group ahead of us that wanted to be together. We had a very small group and our guide helped us with the camera settings, photo tips, and told us about the history and formation. 

Only guided tours are allowed due to the danger of flash flooding. Rain does not have to fall on or near the Antelope Canyon slots for flash floods to occur. Rain falling miles upstream  can funnel into them without prior notice. This is good to remember while planning a trip so that you can avoid the monsoon season. We were there in May, and highly recommend that time as it is dry with very low flash flood risk. Also, it is very comfortable weather wise as it is about 10 degree cooler inside the canyon.

Photography tips: Best pics can be clicked standing in dark areas, and avoiding the sky and any sunlight that will wash out your pictures. Take vertical pictures to capture the depth of the canyon in front and horizontal pics of the roof of the canyon. Tip the guides generously as the land is Navajo owned and operated. 

Let your imagination run wild while clicking pictures. We fell in love with the bear we found there:)

The guide threw some sand to create some beautiful waterfalls:

What to Eat?: We had dinner at this great Mexican restaurant called Fiesta Mexicana that night. They had some really authentic dishes, and the service was great too.

Where to Stay?: We stayed at the Lake Powell Resort and Marina. It is located right on the Wahweap Marina with great views of Lake Powell. The marina where boats can be rented is a short walk. Enjoy a drink on the patio, take a dip in the rooftop pool or relax in the Jacuzzi overlooking the lake and Navajo canyon. 

You could also rent a houseboat, more information about which can be found  here.

Overall, it was a beautiful day and Horseshoe bend and Upper Antelope Canyon are indeed some of Nature's wonders. Lower Antelope Canyon was even more amazing and just unbelievable. We saved the best for the last and will share the beautiful pictures with you in our next post.

- Dee


  1. Amazing landscape. I want to visit it.

    1. Thank you Tra! Let us know about your experience after you visit:)

  2. Wow, great photos guys. Arizona has not been on my Bucket List but after this, I may have to reconsider that situation.

    1. That is a great idea Paul, we are sure you will not be disappointed:)

  3. Such a beautiful part of the world. I loved it there!

    1. Thanks for your comment Jade! We loved it too:)

  4. HI what type of camera lens did you use? Like the one where you can get the whole Horseshoe Bend with yourself included!

    1. Hi, I used a wide angle lens here