My friend Darlynne visited from Toronto a couple of weeks ago and we decided to go on a road trip to see some natural wonders in Northern Arizona and Utah. Although I’m not much of a road trip gal – I prefer flying and the comfort of a nice resort and city life – the photographer in me was excited at the thought of all the photo ops along the way!
After I picked up Darlynne from the airport around noon, we headed out, but not before a stop at In 'N Out so she can have one of their burgers (they don't have this chain in Canada)! Tip: Be sure to request your burger made 'animal style', which includes extra stuff such as grilled onions and extra sauce. I learned this 'secret' when I lived in LA, where the restaurant chain is more predominant.
The drive from the Phoenix airport to Page, Arizona was about 4.5 hours, which turned into 5.5 hours because we encountered a wildfire 3o minutes into our drive - scary! Thank you to the brave firefighters and first responders!
We arrived in Page around 6PM and checked into the Grandview Inn Bed & Breakfast, which was booked via Airbnb. I highly recommend staying here because the home is lovely and Kris is an amazing hostess! We only stayed one night (Thursday), but she made us feel very welcome and offered many great tips on what to see and do. She also fed us a very delicious breakfast on Friday - fresh yogurt w/ fresh fruit, homemade coffee cake, and a croissant breakfast sandwich - as well as juice, coffee and tea. (Breakfast is served between 7-9AM).
Since we had only one day to explore the Page area, we made plans to see Horseshoe Bend in the early morning, Lower Antelope Canyon late morning, and Upper Antelope Canyon early afternoon. No reservations are needed for Horseshoe Bend - there is free parking and you can go at your own pace. However, all visitors to the Antelope Canyon are required to be part of a tour, which are headed by the local natives. (More on this below.)
When we pulled up to the parking lot of Horseshoe Bend around 8:30AM, we saw what looked like a short uphill and sandy trail and thought, “Pfft…that doesn’t look like a bad hike at all – what are the TripAdvisor reviewers talking about?!!” Little did we know that once we crested the top of the first hill, we had a loooooonnnnnnggggg way to go before we reached Horseshoe Bend. I have to admit that I took many little breaks throughout because it was already hot as heck! I wore yoga pants, a black tank, and a sheer cardigan because my skin is sensitive to heat. Be sure to pack plenty of water, wear a hat, and comfortable walking shoes because you will definitely need them all! I drank my half gallon of water just by being there for less than two hours - it's that hot in early June!
Please be very careful around the Horseshoe Bend site because there are no railings, especially if you decide to bring young children - which I do not recommend. I saw people standing at the very edge and was afraid they were going to fall off! Although I wanted epic shots of me standing near the edge, I wasn't brave enough. As you can see by the photos below, sitting down near the edge was as close to daring as I got.
My only regret about coming here is not being able to photograph during the early evening (aka"Golden Hour") - the natural light would have been more even and photos would have been more beautiful. Alas, this means that I'll have to come back! I really want to photograph couples and other travelers here, so contact me at email@example.com if you're up for the adventure!
LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON
We finished at Horseshoe Bend around 10AM and had to book it fast to the Lower Antelope Canyon because our tour was scheduled for 10:30. The drive from HB to LAC was about 15 minutes because Min Diesel - me (not to be confused with Vin Diesel) was driving (inside joke)!
Darlynne booked our tour tickets online in advance, but I've read that there are plenty of open spots, so if you forgot to book ahead of time, no worries - just show up the day of and you should be fine. You might have to wait a bit though.
We chose Dixie Ellis' Lower Antelope Canyon Tours and the tickets were $33 for each adult, which is inclusive of the $8 Navajo Nation Permit (NNP) fee. Tip: The NNP fee is good for the day, so if you're going on other Antelope Canyon tours, be sure to let the ticket counter person know so that you won't be double charged. Once we checked in at the ticket counter, we waited to be assigned a tour guide. Our tour started on time and we were assigned to a group of 12 people, with Mike as our tour guide.
The tour is very controlled, and they only let a certain number of people in a at a time, so be mindful of others and careful of where you step. The tour moved at a good pace and unless advised to stop and take photos, please keep moving along because you'll hold back others. We experienced some unruly tourists - they refused to listen to the tour guides because they were overzealous about taking photos AT.EVERY.SINGLE.AREA. - big "bodyguards" had to come over and usher them along. Don't worry folks, there are plenty of stops along the way where it's safe to take photos - the tour guides will let you know, and they will also be able to take photos for you. Just be respectful of others, that's all they (and other law abiding tourists) ask.
I loved this tour, which took about an hour! It was much easier to get out of the canyon because the climb up the eight sets of stairs was gradual, whereas we had to climb down five sets of stairs to enter (two sets are fairly steep).
Although the photos below captured some of the beauty of the canyon, it's by no means a true representation of its complete beauty - you'll have to visit and see for yourself!
Please note that tripods are not allowed, unless you've booked a photographer's tour.
Although we planned on touring both the Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon, we opted out of the latter because I was drained by the time the Lower Antelope Canyon tour was over (around noon). Since we had to be in Utah the same day to check in to our Airbnb, we opted for rest and a meal before we headed out. If you have more than a day to spend in Page, I would recommend doing both Antelope Canyon tours - there are even boat tours around the lower canyon for those not up to walking up and down the flights of stairs.
UTAH & ZION NATIONAL PARK
After our Mexican meal and a quick stop to refuel, we were on our way to Hurricane, Utah, where our Airbnb rental is - about a 2hr drive! The drive is so scenic, and there are many stops you can make along the way to safely snap some photos.
For our stay in Hurricane, Utah, we booked a room at the Zion Victorian Vacation Home, which we loved! The check in process was easy, and Marla (hostess) had homemade baked goods waiting for her guests. This was a true Victorian home, which we learned was built in 1909 and still retained its historical charm. There are about five guest rooms in the house, but we rarely encountered the other guests during our 2-night stay there. Although we enjoyed our stay at Marla's home, in hindsight, I would have booked a room in Springdale, Utah because Hurricane is about a 30mile drive to the entrance of Zion National Park. Also, Hurricane is a sleepy and small town, so shops and restaurants close early there (think 8PM). Springdale is a cute town near the entrance of Zion National Park, with lots to do. Springdale reminds me a bit of Sedona, Arizona.
I was a little nervous at the thought of hiking The Narrows because we have to walk in rocky, uneven, and slippery river bottom the whole trail. I brought waterproof hiking boots, but based on advice from other TripAdvisor reviewers, I decided to rent canyoneering boots and neoprene socks from Zion Outfitter, and I'm so glad I did! The boots, socks, as well the pair of hiking poles I purchased from Amazon really helped steady me and I never slipped or felt unsafe. I also rented a dry bag for my DSLR because I forgot mine at home (about $20), and Darlynne lent me her extra waterproof case for my iPhone (forgot mine at home too!). I loved that Zion Outfitter is located near the entrance of the park.
I recommend arriving at the park as early as possible because we paid the $30 admission per vehicle to enter and it took awhile for us to find parking, and by the time we boarded the free shuttle to get to The Narrows, it was already 10:30AM - there were loads of people already! The park offers free shuttle service all day, from 6AM to 8:30PM. There are about eight stops, with The Narrows hike being the last one - takes about 45 minutes from the parking area. The ride is so scenic and beautiful, and everyone is allowed to get on and off the shuttle as often as needed.
Once we got off at the last stop, it was about a mile hike to get to the beginning of The Narrows trail. We encountered many squirrels coming up to people for scraps - please abide by the requests to not feed wildlife! I saw multiple instances of this rule being disobeyed - SMH.
We spent about four hours roundtrip at The Narrows, and I enjoyed every moment of it! You can spend a whole day there because the trail is long, but we went at our own pace and stopped often to take photos. I'd say we did about 3 miles roundtrip. Most of the time the water is just ankle deep, but once in a while the water is knee and/or chest deep. Also, the current can be strong in some areas, so be careful. My hiking sticks really helped me stay in shallow areas because I tested the water before I stepped forward, and if it's deep, I just moved to the opposite side. And yes photographers - I had my DSLR wrapped around my neck - I know...cringe. However, I kept it safe - thanks to my hiking gear - holla!
To give you an idea of how amazing The Narrows is, I made the following videos for your viewing pleasure. Forgive the iPhone quality! I'll work on my videographer skills for the next adventure. :)