Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
What do you do when you are in the middle of your Intrepid tour in the June of 2017 and you are given a free day in Las Vegas? Well, I didn't want to spend it in the city that's for sure. I wanted to see as much of America's great outdoors as I possibly could! I explored options of getting out of Las Vegas and it was finally down to visiting Bryce / Zion National Park or Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Either way both would have been a ridiculously long day. In the end I thought I might leave the larger National Parks for another day when I had more time to enjoy them properly. Trust me, it wasn't an easy decision for me to make!
I got up at 4.30 in the morning and caught a quick Lyft ride from my Alexis Park Hotel to the swanky Bally hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas to wait for the bus which was due to pick us up at 5.30 a.m. The journey took almost five hours with a gas and toilet break along the way.
We passed the Hoover Dam and some spectacular scenery along the way but of course it whizzed past in a blur. So much I want to see so little time!
I had chosen to visit the Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona over its more famous sibling the Upper Antelope Canyons because I read that it was no less beautiful and less crowded. It was also slightly cheaper to visit. Despite the claim of being less crowded, we ended up having to wait in line for over an hour before we got to enter. There was no seating, it was an insanely hot day and I remember staring at the flat dry land in despair thinking that I could be sitting somewhere in an air conditioned swanky casino instead of dehydrating where I was. What was I thinking?!
Here is a view of what I was looking at for an hour. You would never guess what wonder lies beneath! The young Najavo guides were good and bantered with us during the wait. Still, I was so pleased when we finally got to the front of the line.
Unlike the upper slot canyon that you can simply walk into, you have to descend into the lower canyons via a set of metal stairs which was quite exciting in itself. The moment I went down that ladder, my eyes were confused and exhilarated at the same time. What is this beautiful world I am seeing? Sure I have seen photos of the canyons and they have certainly taken my breath away, but to actually be there and seeing it with my own two eyes was something else altogether! It was out of this world! The way the light fell and played with shades of reds, purples and gold in the sandstone was pure magic.
The lower Antelope Canyon can be quite narrow in sections and there were a total of five (I think) sets of metal stairs that you will need to climb up and down as you ventured through. We had a young Najavo guide with us and he helped people in the group take photos of the canyon with their phones and choose the right settings, he talked with me about cameras and showed me pictures of the canyon that he had taken himself. He was just lovely.
You do need to visit the slot canyons on a guided tour. If you are a keen photographer and require more time and would like to set up your tripod, a photographer's tour is also available. I didn't have the luxury of time or choice to do the photographer's tour but I imagine it would have made me happy.
I went in summer and it is said the best time to get the best light in the lower canyon is around 11.00 - 12.00 noon. I personally think it would have been amazing at any time as long as you have enough light! Apparently the colours change all the time and is never the same.
Did you know that these slot canyons are on Najavo (Native American) land and the Najavo Nation only opened up the canyons to the public in 1997?
I am so glad I made this crazy long journey and gave up my only day in Las Vegas to come and see this. It was truly worth it.
Emerging from the slot canyon was a little bit of a shock to the system after having spent a blissful hour getting lost in paradise but I still had Horseshoe Bend to look forward to.
I had ordered a packed lunch from the tour and it was highly forgettable. I ate it on the short drive to Horseshoe Bend but I think everything would have paled in comparison after my time in the Lower Antelope Canyon!
By the time we got to Horseshoe Bend the day had gotten even hotter. Summer in Arizona can be difficult with the heat. To top it off, there was a 1.2KM kilometer hike to the viewpoint of Horseshoe Bend itself. I don't mind a bit of hiking in fact I really quite enjoy it, but a 40 degree day in desert conditions really wasn't my friend especially when there is no shade in sight. You are also walking on soft sand uphill for part of the way so I actually found it quite tough in those conditions. But that's probably just me being unfit!
The Horseshoe Bend was bigger than I had imagined it to be! The Colorado river snaked its way around in the shape of a horseshoe creating this incredible sight.
As I was on tour, I didn't have much time to spend at the Bend itself. I have also developed a fear of heights and rocky places in recent years for unknown reasons so peering over the edge was both anxiety provoking and thrilling for me at the same time! It took a while for me to find the right spot to get a picture of the entire Horseshoe Bend without obstruction as it involved inching my way from rock to rock as quickly as I could without freaking out. I was also being burnt to crisp at the same time. *Update: I just read that they are constructing safety railings around the rim! Despite my phobia I think it'll ruin it!
The time there came to a close too quickly and I had to rush back to the bus which meant taking another 1.2 kilometer back uphill battling the soft sand and impending heat stroke along the way. It was then another 4 hours or so on the large air conditioned bus back to Las Vegas. We made it back into Las Vegas around 8.00 p.m. Was it worth it? Hell yes! I saw some of my favorite sights on this day.
Plus I wasn't done! I had met a lady on the tour and we decided to shared a Lyft to explore Fremont Street Las Vegas. It gave me a little time to see some of Las Vegas outside of the Strip before we had to leave for Yosemite the next day. Time waits for no man!