Before we left on this journey, we talked a whole lot about what we wanted to see. The national parks were obvious stops for us when we planned, but there is so much to see in between. Steff, in particular, really wanted to make it to Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ. After planning our route it looked like we weren’t going to make it. However, during our stay in Mt. Carmel Junction, UT, we had a second look at the map. It was about an hour and forty five minute drive down, but I was on board to make sure we didn’t miss seeing Antelope Canyon. As a bonus, Horseshoe Bend was less than fifteen minutes away from the canyon, so we thought the travel time would definitely be worth it to see both.
Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land, and has two sections, the upper and lower. We choose to see lower antelope canyon and booked out tour online ahead of time with Ken’s Tours. We ended up getting there an hour early since we didn’t account for the change in time zones. We checked in and were able to get a tour a bit earlier than our scheduled time. It was a very windy day and sand was blowing everywhere, but fortunately they have a seating area, where we got some shelter from the wind to wait. They run tours every 20 minutes all day, with about 15 people per group. When our group was called, the guide gave us the rules and then led us to the entrance of the slot canyon.
A large metal staircase took us down into the canyon, where we gathered our group again to wait for the group ahead of us to move along. It was very crowded and was not long before our group merged with other groups. The guide tried to keep space between groups, but they share the canyon with a competing company, and it seems that not everyone was working hard to space everyone out. Even though at times it was wall to wall people in there, the rock formations are nothing short of spectacular.
There was some benefit to the groups being close together because we got to hear information from two guides. Their routine is pretty scripted as they tell stories about how some of the different shapes, like the lion’s head, got its name. I particularly enjoyed the demonstration the guide did at the end on how the Navajo Sandstone formed, and the process that carved the canyon out of it. We took a ton of pictures, and were so glad we made the trip down for this.
Next, it was time for us to take the short drive over to Horseshoe Bend. The hike to the views is about a mile round trip. It it a steep climb uphill, then is mostly downhill on the way to the river overlook. The wind and dust we had been experiencing earlier in the day had not slowed down at all, so that made the hike a little uncomfortable. In the end, it was all worth it. The views down into the canyon over the river were beautiful. A first, we fell into the trap that most people there did, and got stuck amongst some pretty big crowds all fighting for real estate to get views and take pictures. Eventually, we realized if you just walk down along the rim you can find some spots that were relatively empty.
However, being stuck with the crowd did offer some amazing people watching opportunities. There were people there from all walks of life. We enjoyed watching one woman in particular make her husband play photographer for her photoshoot, where she exchanged one colorful scared from her bag after another as he captured her standing at the edge of the cliff in her less than appropriate footwear for the terrain. We hung out for a bit, to soak in the scenery, but once we were tired of the wind and sand blowing, we made the hike back up the steep incline.
Once we made it back to the parking lot, Steff went to brave the pit toilet, and I was going to pull the truck around for her. On my way to our truck, a woman flagged me down, and in some broken english asked me to use my cell phone. It turned out that this couple from Germany had accidentally locked their rental car keys in the trunk, and their cell phone was not getting any service out there. Fortunately, my phone was able to get service, and I offered to talk to the rental car company for them, since it seemed like this was going to be a tough one to explain for someone whose first language was not english. This was all made even more difficult and uncomfortable with the howling wind and sand blowing all over everything. I was able to explain the situation on their behalf and the rental car company dispatched a technician to come open the car for them. In the mean time, we offered to have them come sit in the truck with us to wait.
It was great to help them out, and we felt a ton of empathy for someone in that situation. We would hope that if something similar happened to us in a unfamiliar place, someone would step up and help us out too. We love meeting new people, especially from outside the United States. It was really great hearing about where they were from and what they had been seeing on their vacation. Eventually, the tow truck came and had them back in the car and on their way within a minute.
We finished our day by getting some dinner out at a Mexican restaurant. We reflected on what a great day we had in Page over some margaritas . We checked off a bucket list item by visiting Antelope Canyon, were stunned by the views at Horseshoe Bend, and met some interesting people. Other than the crazy wind we were battered with all day, it was a pretty perfect day.