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  • Writer's pictureAngelina Ly

Antelope Canyon: How to Visit the "Other" Side (Without a Tour)

Have you ever wanted to see Antelope Canyon but didn't want to deal with the hassle of booking a tour? Or maybe you're like me and just enjoy finding your own adventures and doing things the "other" way. Well, I've got great news for you! There's another way to check out Antelope Canyon (the better way in my opinion). It's a great way to see this natural wonder, and it doesn't require a scheduled tour. Keep reading for all the details!

girl hiking in antelope canyon

Antelope Canyon

First, a little bit about Antelope Canyon. It's a slot canyon located in the American Southwest, and it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. The thing that makes Antelope Canyon so special is its unique geology. The canyon walls are made of sandstone that has been eroded over time by wind and water. This has created some very unique and beautiful rock formations.

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon

There are two parts of Antelope Canyon: upper and lower. Upper Antelope is the more popular of the two because it's easier to access and it has more sunlight. Lower Antelope is a little bit harder to get to with several flights of stairs and ladders, but it's well worth the effort. Both parts of the canyon are stunning, but in my opinion, Lower Antelope is even more beautiful due to its dramatic shadows and light.

The "Normal" Way to Visit Antelope Canyon

The most common way to visit Antelope Canyon is by taking a tour. There are many different tour companies that offer tours of the canyon, and they range in price from around $50-$100 per person. Most of them cover the $8 Navajo permit fee that is required to enter the canyon. The problem with taking a tour is that you are on someone else's schedule. You have to book your tour in advance, and then you have to show up at the appointed time. This can be difficult if you're not familiar with the area, or if you're just trying to spontaneously add this stop to your road trip. You are also not permitted to bring bags, purses, fanny packs, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, or food or drink into the canyon if you are on a tour.

kayaking through lake powell

The Better Way to Visit Antelope Canyon

The other way to visit Antelope Canyon is by kayaking into Lake Powell and hiking into the canyon from the back end. This may sound like a lot of work, but it's actually quite easy and it's a great way to see the canyon without all the crowds. Granted, you get a different view of the Canyon, but the views are just as incredible. Here's how I did it, and it made the perfect day trip from Flagstaff. I went with a friend and we were able to stop at Horseshoe Bend right at sunrise before we started the trip.

vessi shoes over horseshoe bend

Rent a Kayak

The first thing you'll have to do is rent a kayak (or paddle board) from one of the many rental places in Lake Powell (we rented from Lake Powell Paddleboards and Kayaks) but there are plenty in the area. I booked a few weeks in advance, and I'm glad I did since they said they book out pretty early in their busiest season which runs through the summer. We got there right when they opened to have as much time in the Canyon as possible. They were super helpful and as we were inside filling out a waiver and getting directions for getting to the marina and the canyon, they loaded up the roof of our rental car with the kayaks.

Launch your Kayak from the Marina

Antelope Point Marina was only a short 5-minute drive from the rental place, and we drove right up to the water and dropped the kayaks off before parking in the nearby lot. It was definitely easier with a friend to help take the kayaks off the roof of the car. From there, we put on our life jackets and sunscreen (don't forget the sunscreen!) and pushed off into the water. I also brought my water bottle, some snacks, my camera, and my Earth Pak waterproof sling bag to hold everything. Since I was kayaking and hiking, I decided to wear my waterproof Vessi shoes.

girl kayaking in lake powell

Kayak Through Lake Powell

The first part of the trip was kayaking through Lake Powell. It's a huge lake, and it took us about 2 hours to get to the spot where we started our hike into Antelope Canyon. The total distance is about 3.5 miles, so 7 miles roundtrip. The kayaking was pretty easy since there wasn't much wind that day, but I can imagine it would be much more difficult if there was a strong headwind. If you've never kayaked before, don't worry! It's really easy and there are plenty of places to rent kayaks along the lake. You also have the option to rent tandem kayaks, which can help split up the workload. If you really don't want the workout, you can also rent small watercrafts too.

hiking in antelope canyon

Hike Into Antelope Canyon

Once we reached the spot, we pulled our kayaks up on shore and started our hike into Antelope Canyon. The trail to Antelope Canyon is an out-and-back journey, which means you may go as far in as you like and return the same way. The canyon can go pretty far, so you can spend several hours hiking inside it before turning around! The first section is pretty flat and sandy, and unfortunately, there's quite a bit of "graffiti" on the canyon walls for the first little hike, but it stops the deeper in you go. I hiked for about an hour (until the canyon began to narrow) before turning around.

We stopped at some cool rock formations and enjoyed pre-packed sandwiches inside Antelope Canyon, and ended up spending about 7 hours there in total. On the way back, we kayaked for about an hour before reaching the marina. We returned our kayaks right before the Rental place closed and drove back to Flagstaff, arriving around sunset.

kayaking to antelope canyon through the backend

Things to Keep In Mind

  • Book your kayak rental early

  • Arrive early to avoid the crowds

  • Don't forget sunscreen

  • Bring snacks and water for the hike

  • Bring a waterproof bag for your electronics

  • Wear comfortable shoes that you're not afraid to get wet

  • Pack out your trash!

All in all, it was a really great day trip and I'm so glad we did it! It's definitely not the typical way of visiting Antelope Canyon, but it's so much better in my opinion. If you have the chance, I highly recommend doing it this way. You'll avoid the crowds, get some exercise, and see some incredible views! And next time, I'm definitely going to bring the dogs with me since it's allowed this way!

Have you ever been to Antelope Canyon? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below!


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