Located near Page Arizona, Antelope Canyon is the most visited and photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest. The architecture and lighting of the canyon is truly unique and can easily be identified in photographs. In fact, it is so iconic the majority of us recognise the canyon, even if we have never read an article about it.
Antelope Canyon is located in Navajo territory. The Navajo people call the upper canyon “Tsé bighánílíní”, which means ‘where the water runs through rocks’. Quite a literal name, as the canyon continues to be formed by local flash floods. Erosion of the sandstone leads to carved walls with wave-like marks, creating a signature look for the canyon. The lower canyon is referred to as “Hazdistazí” meaning ‘spiral rock arches’.
Touring Antelope Canyon
So how hard is the hike? Well, that depends on which canyon, the lower or the upper. The upper canyon is at ground level and requires no climbing. The lower canyon is longer, narrower in spots and it can be difficult to get an even footing. There are five flights of stairs, made in an ideal way for the circumstances. However, since sand is consistently falling, it can make the stairs slippery. As you can see, nothing major for a seasoned adventurer!
Why Is There Limited Access to the Canyon?
Antelope Canyon is accessible only by guided tour and is operated exclusively by local Navajo people. One reason for this is that the canyon can quickly turn from splendor to danger. Flash floods still occur, especially during monsoon season. As recent as 2006, Tribal Park Authorities closed the lower canyon for five months, following a 36 hour flood. The canyon is not without tragedy. In 1997 eleven tourists from Europe and the US were killed by a flash flood, prompting the installation of permanently bolted in stairs, deployable cargo nets and loud warning systems. However, despite these safety improvements, another incident occurred in 2010. Though there were no reported deaths, a mother and son were injured and many were left stranded until the waters receded.
Instagram Adventures in Antelope Canyon
So why do so many people choose to visit Antelope Canyon, even in spite of the potential danger? See for yourself!