3 Highlights of Northern Arizona: Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon

In 2014, an Australian photographer shattered world records by selling a photograph for $6.5 million, the most expensive photograph in history. That photo was of Antelope Canyon – a place that was once relatively unknown, but has become extremely popular due to photographers and influencers alike. Our desire to visit this well-known canyon was our motivation for going to the nearby town of Page, Arizona. While we were there, we were treated to some other beautiful natural and manmade wonders – Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell.

Horseshoe Bend

One of our first stops was to Horseshoe Bend, which was located about 5 minutes from Page. From what I’ve heard, previously you just pulled over into a parking lot off the side of the road and walked in. Due to its popularity, it’s a little more organized which has its pros and cons. The main con is that it now costs $10 to park there for a car and National Park Service passes do not apply. But the pro is that, for $10, you get plenty of parking spaces (at least when we were there) and a nice, easy almost-paved 1.5 mile (2.4 km) path to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook. Although the walk to the overlook takes about 15-20 minutes, there are two shaded benches along the way for those who’d like to sit and rest.

Completely in love with the wide angle lens on the iPhone 13 pro.

Although I had seen Horseshoe Bend many times in photos, there truly is nothing like being there in person. The magnificence of the grand orange rocks combined with the peacefulness of the winding river was stunning. One thing to note: The river and the view are peaceful, but the surroundings are not. The place was crowded with people everywhere. There is one small viewing platform with a guardrail, but people were climbing all over the surrounding rocks and ledges (without rails) to get their shot. My best advice in dealing with the crowds? Just be patient and wait. People usually don’t stay there too long and will leave their spot eventually once they get that Instagram-ready photo. Also, if you’re afraid of heights, don’t get close to the edge. Actually, don’t get to close to the edge in any case – it can get very windy up there!

The landscape around Horseshoe Bend was also very interesting. I felt like we were on Mars.

Glen Canyon Dam / Lake Powell

This bridge, spanning Glen Canyon, makes a great photo, but also provides views of the dam.

I’m usually more into natural beauty than manmade beauty, but with an empty afternoon, and not wanting to travel too far from our hotel that day, we ended up at Glen Canyon Dam. Glen Canyon Dam was built across the Colorado River in 1956 to provide equitable water distribution and power for the surrounding areas. It is the second highest concrete-arch dam in the US (the first is Hoover Dam).

The construction of the Glen Canyon Dam created a water storage reservoir, also known as Lake Powell. Lake Powell is part of the National Park Service, and therefore you need to pay an entry fee of $30 per car, which to me was kind of steep for an afternoon visit (though the entry fee is good for 7 days). Thankfully, we had NPS membership and could therefore enter without paying. Although artificial, the views of Lake Powell against the surrounding white and red canyons were something to see.

There are plenty of activities to do on Lake Powell. You can take an afternoon or day boat tour of Lake Powell and the surrounding areas (I would love to do this if I’m ever back in area). Or you can rent a houseboat for a week and take your time exploring and relaxing. We had limited time, so we went to the Lake Powell Resort, right on Wahweap Marina, where we were able to have lunch and relax in the lounge chairs while taking in the beautiful views.

Upper Antelope Canyon & Rattlesnake Canyon

Woke up at 6am for this 8am tour (and I am so NOT a morning person), but still excited!

Last, but not least, our main reason for finding ourselves in this part of the United States – Antelope Canyon! Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land, just about a 10-15 minute drive from Page. Since it is located on Navajo land, no one can visit unless part of a tour. There are a limited number of Navajo-run tour companies that provide the tour, some do Upper Antelope Canyon and the others do Lower Antelope Canyon. We had difficulty deciding between Upper and Lower, but I read in some other blogs that Upper was better for photos, so we chose that one. The tour company that we decided to go with was Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours. They came highly recommended by a friend (thanks Suzy!). We decided to do their 2 canyon tour: Rattlesnake Canyon + Upper Antelope Canyon tour. Reservations were simple to make online, but it definitely wasn’t cheap (I mean, I could do a whole day at Disneyland for cheaper than this 1.5 hour tour!). But I will say that it was worth the expense. We had friends that met up with us in Arizona, so we were a total of 7, which was perfect because that’s exactly how many fit in our guide’s truck. It was awesome, in these COVID times, to have our own private tour.

The unobtrusive entrance to Rattlesnake Canyon

Our tour started off with a visit to Rattlesnake Canyon. Rattlesnake Canyon is exclusively reserved for Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours to use, so we had this canyon to ourselves. We were able to leisurely wander through this canyon taking plenty of photos. The canyon was also more open, allowing for easier photography in the natural light. Traversing this canyon was also more challenging, with ladders and narrow spaces to navigate, making us almost regret the large blueberry cobbler we had the previous night. Almost.

These beautiful patterns are made by the force of the water from frequent flash flooding
With the fam
Can you see why this is called Rattlesnake Canyon?

Our next stop was Upper Antelope Canyon. Because we were sharing this canyon with other tour groups, in contrast to Rattlesnake Canyon, we had to move quickly, with limited time to appreciate its beauty. The one good thing is that, because it was off-season, although we could hear other tour groups in the distance, we never actually saw anyone else. I’ve heard that it could get really crowded in the pre-COVID times, with tour groups practically on top of each other, but we didn’t experience this at all. Although we didn’t get as much natural light as we got at Rattlesnake Canyon, Antelope Canyon was even more stunning, with its smooth, flowing lines forming richer, colorful impressions throughout.

Upper Antelope Canyon Entrance
Kind of like cloud watching, our tour guide liked to point out different figures in the formations. This one is called a dragon’s eye.
The negative space creates the image of a candlestick. Do you see it?
The wave
Feeling like ants among these massive canyon walls
Looking down at the exit of Upper Antelope Canyon

Growing up in the US, I think I took for granted living here. I had dreams of traveling to different countries, exploring the beauty of the world. Traveling in the US just seemed so “ordinary”. But now that I actually live in a different country, I can come back to the US as a visitor and appreciate that the US has plenty of beautiful, distinct places of its own, from the dry canyons of Utah and Arizona to the lush rainforests of Hawaii. I’m happy to have had this opportunity to play tourist in my own country.

But with that being said, I’m also excited to get back to some French traveling content. Coming soon!

Until next time,

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6 responses to “3 Highlights of Northern Arizona: Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon

  1. Magnifiques photographies.
    Vous avez du talent ! Et vous avez vraiment pris le temps de raconter votre voyage et de décrire les lieux. Je suis française habitant sur la côte Est des Etats-Unis, et vous me donnez envie d’aller visiter l’ouest un peu. Merci, continuez d’écrire !

    • Merci beaucoup! J’espère que vous pourrez un jour visiter l’ouest des États-Unis.Il y a tellement de types différents de beaux endroits et cela pourrait prendre des mois pour tout explorer. 😍

  2. My spouse and I used to hike in the Canyon de Chelly region of the Navajo Nation (early 1980’s). When we visited this and nearby areas, it would just be us and our Navajo guide, Harold. It was magnificent.
    Your photos are wonderful.

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