Horseshoe Bend
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What You Need to Know About Horseshoe Bend + Antelope Canyon ❥ Why our trip was an epic fail.

Horseshoe BendUpper Antelope

A road trip to Arizona cannot be complete without a visit to the two famous Arizona attractions: Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Continuing on with my American Southwest series, I’m sharing with y’all the mistakes we made and the steps you can take to avoid doing the same.

Horseshoe Bend

If you’ve heard about locals in Phoenix baking cookies in their cars, you’ll know that Arizona is HOT during the summer months.

As someone originally from Taiwan, I’m pretty confident in being able to survive in the heat. I’m also the kind of person who hates inconveniences. My camera is heavy enough already and the less I need to carry, the better. That said, I decided to ditch my 2L water bottle in the car. WORST DECISION EVERRRRR!!!!!!!!!!

Horseshoe Bend

When arriving by car, you need to first park in the lot then hike 3/4 of a mile to the actual rim. I figured it wasn’t too far and the way there wasn’t bad at all despite the sand. After standing out in the sun for photos however, my body just wasn’t having it. I felt light-headed, my vision started to blur, and each and every limb felt heavy as if gravity was pulling me to the ground. The trek back to the car honestly felt like the longest 15 minutes of my life.

Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend Horseshoe Bend

Since I was dying (literally) in the heat, we bounced early. And what a shame because this was at the top of my “things to do in Arizona” list. We didn’t even see all the different angles of the rim and what else Glen Canyon had to offer whatsoever. Major regret that I didn’t get to explore more of it.

Lesson of the day? BRING WATER!

Horseshoe BendHorseshoe Bend

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon that consists of two sections: Upper and Lower. Upper Antelope is a much easier hike (walk) whereas Lower involves a lot more climbing and squeezing in between tight slots. Regardless of which you choose to see, visits are only permitted with native Navajo tour guides.

Our trip was a super last-minute one. We didn’t exactly start planning until say a week or two before. That said, most of the tours were sold out already. (Note that our visit was during the beginning of September.) We basically had to go with our last and only option which was the 5:00PM Upper Antelope Scenic Tour with Antelope Slot Canyon Tours by Chief Tsosie.

Upper Antelope Tour

Funny story…

The tours are an hour and a half and $96 USD for two. We were to check-in at the tour office 30 minutes in advance and the embarrassing thing happened.

After our visit to Horseshoe Bend, we stopped for some food. We had over an hour to kill so we took our time and slowly made our way to the tour office. En route there, we passed by the Navajo Generating Station power plant. As soon as we did, the clocks on our iPhones magically fast forwarded an hour. We were basically panicking and thought we missed our tour. So here we were hustling our asses there and when we finally arrived, the guy at the office told us that we’d missed it… Except he was kidding and explained that the power plant messes with the phones sometimes. Regardless, we were all good, still early.

If you’re planning to visit, just be aware of the time zone differences. (Navajo lands operate on a different time zone than local Arizona time.) Don’t panic though if you pass by the power plant and your clock turns an hour faster 😉

Upper Antelope Tour

To reach the actual canyon, we had to take their special trucks. Now I forgot to time the ride, but I’d say it felt like a good 20-minute ride at least (one-way). I.e. the tour itself was only around 30-45 minutes.

Upper Antelope Entrance to the canyon.

Upper Antelope Upper Antelope Upper Antelope Upper Antelope Do you see the heart?

Upper Antelope They call this the “dragon eye”.

Upper Antelope Upper Antelope Lincoln’s Nose.

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Other Things to Note

Before you make a comment about how blurry my shots are, I must say that of all the pictures I’d seen online, nobody seemed to mention the fact that it gets dark AF in the canyons. Maybe our timing was off but it was just so sooooo extremely difficult to capture a good photo down here. You might say oh but your photos aren’t that bad. Well there’s something called editing and boy did I crank up that exposure.

Upper Antelope

Aside from having difficulties shooting in extreme low light, we also had a rough time getting pictures with absolutely no one in the background. Because Upper Antelope is wider and easier to navigate through, it’s the more popular one of the two. Don’t expect that you’ll be the only tour group around.

Upper AntelopePhotoshopped with no passersby.

Upper AntelopeQuick shot that we sneaked in with the rare occurrence of no one else round. 

If you’re not much of a Photoshop guru and wish to avoid the crowds, definitely book the earliest tour at 6:30AM if you can.

Verdict of the Tour

Overall I found the tour to be very rushed. When checking in, we were assigned a number. It specified which truck we’d go on and each truck fit 12 passengers. For the 5PM tour, there were at least 4-5 trucks in total. And that was just our tour company alone! Even though the truck we’d gone on was our tour “group” for the day, 12 was still quite a large number.

I say that because the tour guide would show us a spot that was optimal for photos, but we would each only maybe get 3 seconds for a shot. Then we had to move out of the way for the rest of the other 11 folks.

Note that there are special photo tours available as well but they are more expensive and you need a camera + a tripod. My friend isn’t big on photography so we opted for the cheaper scenic tour. If you are an avid landscape photographer, however, definitely consider the photography tours.

What I Would’ve Done Differently:

  1. Book a tour ASAP. We couldn’t help booking last-minute but as soon as you finalize your travel dates, book that tour!
  2. Pick the earliest tour possible to avoid crowds.
  3. OR plan your visit between 10AM – 12PM.  Another reason why most people choose to visit Upper Antelope is for the mesmerizing light beams that shine down from above and these can only be spotted in the morning to noon period.
  4. If you own a DSLR, practice taking photos in low light and get to know your camera if you haven’t already. There will be very little time for you to play around with your settings during the tour so make sure you do some homework first on how to best photograph the Antelope Canyon.
  5. Consider doing a photography tour.
  6. Consider doing the Lower Antelope tour. It’s not as crowded and from the photos I’ve seen on the Internet, I actually much prefer the Lower one tbh.  Check out Travel Pockets’ Lower tour experience.

Antelope Canyon Antelope Canyon

There you have it, mistakes we made and what you can do to ensure a much more enjoyable visit to two of the most popular Arizona attractions. For more on my American Southwest adventures, be sure to check out my Bryce Canyon post.

Don’t forget to sign up for newsletters in the sidebar on the right and I will see you next week for more American Southwest adventures!

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104 Comments

  1. I think your photos are fantastic! It is always difficult taking a people free shot when there are loads of people on the same tour! I would love to visit Antelope Canyon in the future looks like a great tour to do & I’ll bring water!

  2. Oh my gosh i can relate to this SO much! We went to Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in July. I forgot to bring water to the bend too and quite frankly i nearly died, I was a diva i will admit!
    We didn’t book Antelope Canyon either and managed to get in on the last tour of the day to the lower canyon, we were so lucky! Now we tell everyone you must book in advance!
    Love the photos too 😀

    1. Hahhahahaa omggg I’m so glad I’m not the only one who didn’t bring water. I feel like that’s just such a silly mistake but at the same time it’s so close… who knew!!! And glad you liked the (blurry) photos, Emma! Cheers <3

  3. Great post! Im planning a trip here in november and was looking at doing the photography tour! I usually book things last minute but now im gonna book that tour asap!!

    1. Gahhh I’m so excited for you!!!!! Definitely definitely do the photography tour. Let me know if you have any other questions or need recommendations!!

    1. Holy crap I swear I was on the verge of having a heart attack! Antelope was like the number one thing I was looking forward to seeing. Not sure what I would’ve done if we missed it lol!

  4. All pictures are amazing. We missed visiting antelope canyons in last visit .. but this post will certainly help us better next time when we plan to visit. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome, Krupa! There’s always so much to see and too little time for it all so I’m sure you’ll get to it someday 😀

  5. It really is easy to underestimate how difficult the trek is with the heat. I, too, comes from a tropical country. But I probably would not survive the hike too. It is difficult and your tips can be really helpful!

  6. Always ALWAYS take drinking water, wear a hat and sunscreen on a walk in hot climates! I’m from Australia so this goes without saying. Your photos are wonderful. It looks like a gorgeous place to visit.

    1. Smart. Australia’s high up on my bucket list so I’ll be sure to remember to bring a water bottle and hat when I visit!!

  7. Yeah, when traveling in the American Southwest, always overpack on the water. It gets so hot and is a climate unlike any other! I’m so sorry that you overheated! I’m glad you got your pictures though!

  8. This is so on my bucket list to go to! It’s so gorgeous there, wow. But you had great points about definitely bringing water and checking out your camera settings before your trip. It is ashame how touristy everything gets and rushed- no time to take in anything!

  9. My family and I went there 4 years ago and we loved both places. We didn’t even book the slot canyon tour first and we were lucky to get spaces at the 2 p.m. tour. But, hey! You managed to take pictures without people at the background. I don’t think we were that lucky.

    1. Oh what!? No way!!!!! When did you visit tho? I e-mailed asking to switch time is possible and we were put on a wait list and never heard back lol.

  10. Actually …not sure if I have heard of locals baking cookies in their cars, but can imagine it would be hot! What a stunning area, your pictures are wonderful!

    Need to get out to Arizona, a friend had been wanted to head there with her daughter too… I have heard Horseshoe Bend is the better area to visit.

    1. Horseshoe Bend is in the Page area, same with Antelope an there are a lot of other fun attractions to do as well so I highly recommend a visit there!

  11. Ohh Jas, sorry to hear you weren’t feeling the best out at Horseshoe Bend! Thank you for sharing your experience, your tips definitely help people like me who’d like to visit one day. You may have cranked the brightness up on your shots but they really are gorgeous. (I had to have a wee laugh at your time difference dilemma!! 😉 )

    1. Hahaa oh trust me we had a big laugh about it after LOL! Hope you’ll get to visit soon and fingers crossed you won’t make the same mistake as us!

  12. Great advice and stunning shots! I’ve been to Arizona twice in the spring and it was already pretty steamy then— I can’t imagine what summer must be like!

    1. Seriously!? We heard the tour office talking about how it snows in the winter sometimes. The weather difference must be crazy!

  13. I don’t know how you were still able to get that awesome pic at the Horseshoe Bend despite the water dilemma. Good job on that! 😉 Great tips by the way… Your photos at the Antelope Canyon looks amazing. Does it trigger claustrophobia while exploring the lower canyon?

    1. No claustrophobia at all! Hahahhaa. The top opens up to the sky so it’s not that bad. Although some slots are a bit tight and you just gotta be careful not to bump your head on the rocks 😉

  14. First things first, don’t forget the water. :- ) your photos are stunning even the ones shot in low light. I wonder if it can be done DIY, I’m still practicing photography so I usually take a lot of time to adjust my settings and compose my shots. If not, the Photography tour would be a better option.

    1. All visits are only permitted with a guided-tour so your best bet would be joining the photography tour 🙂

  15. Thanks so much for these awesome tips. I’ve yet to visit these 2 locations, but can’t wait to see them for myself! Loved your tips about making sure you know your camera setting before visiting a place like this

    1. No problem Bruce! Not gonna lie I always shoot on Auto unless for waterfalls or fireworks so this really caught me off guard!

  16. Great photography in this post and throughout your whole blog. I can imagine the effort you could have put to capture these beautiful pictures, specially handling camera gear in the heat. Happy Travels. Specially Adventure Travels like these. Greetings from Sri Lanka.

    1. Thank you so much, Malith! Heat doesn’t really effect camera gear handling – it’s more so the weight of the camera gear itself hahaa 😉

  17. Wow, I love your photos and the video! What camera and editing program do you use?
    Thank you so much for sharing I love your page!

  18. Yeah, water is a must! I can’t believe you ditched your water in the car. Despite all that, you still got some amazing pictures. All your photos are simply beautiful. I’m not one for crowds as it is, so I’d take your suggestion and go earlier to avoid the crowds.

  19. Interesting that the power plant messed with your phones and that the reservation is on a different time zone. The pictures all look amazing and I would certainly book this tour (and bring water).

  20. I enjoyed this post soo much. The pics were really good, seriously. Although I hate the heat and would always avoid scorching heat your trip made me want to see these places. The canyon looks amazing!

    1. Thanks so much Monica! I’m not crazy about the heat but if it means getting to see such beautiful sights like these, then it’s all work it!!

  21. Wooooow – your pictures look amazing and so does Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend. I sadly haven’t made it there so far but it’s definitely on the top of my Bucket List. It’s such an amazing part of this planet! I love that you also included a lot of information! Love your block as well, so I am definitely coming back for more! 🙂
    xx

    1. Aww thanks so much Kate! So glad to hear!!! <3 I really hope you'll get to visit soon because despite some difficulties we had with our trip, these two places are truly beautiful. And hopefully you'll avoid the same mistakes as us and enjoy a better time there 😀

  22. Crank up the exposure – that really made me laugh! I love your real talk writing style and your amazing (edited) photos! I’m glad you decided on doing a no-BS post as I’ve seen some posts that sugar-coat the fudge out of an experience!