- Jan 17, 2012
Just something I found on another forum that might be helpful to others here. Some of the reasons I have no plans to ever return to Antelope Canyon or Horseshoe Bend...
In the 10+ years I've been visiting the Antelope Canyons the rules and regulations have changed dramatically. This year has been no exception.
As I discovered 2 weeks ago, new rules were implemented regarding access to many of the slot canyons near Page. As a result, a surprising number of tour operators I have used in the past have now shut their doors. Be advised that the remaining tour operators are now completely booked weeks, if not months, in advance.
Starting this year (and regardless what the websites say), Photographer's Passes have been eliminated. If you want to take pictures in Antelope, Lower Antelope, and many of the other slot canyons, you must sign up for a Photo Tour with a guide. This generally runs $80 + the $8 Tribal Park fee, for a total of $88 per tour/canyon. In addition to being more expensive, your time in the slots is more structured now.
Observations regarding (Upper) Antelope Canyon:
It completely sucks. For some time now it has been a poor photo experience but one that resulted in great images. This is no longer the case. It's close-quarter, combat photography at its worst. Although always crowded, the Navajo guides used to work with each other to keep their groups out of the shot long enough for the photo groups to get a couple of exposures. Now, the guides openly bad-mouth and argue with each other. There is no spirit of cooperation, which makes getting a decent exposure without some part of a tourist throng in the background exceedingly difficult. I was told by a couple of guides that it will only get worse as the season wears on because tourist season was just starting and not nearly in full-swing yet.
Observations regarding Lower Antelope Canyon:
Despite the elimination of Photo Passes, it's not too bad. In addition to Ken's tours, there is also another tour group operating in Lower Antelope now. Fortunately, both groups work together so the photo experience can still be pleasant (even if it feels rushed at times). The tour operators start tours from opposite ends of the canyon, each at 20 minute intervals. This really helped keep the cluster down and gave us acceptable amounts of time to find our own shots and take them without interruption. As an additional observation, Ken's is constructing an actual building (that is almost complete) that will replace the shed they've used for many years now.
A note about Horseshoe Bend:
Surprisingly crowded at sunset. The parking lot has been expanded to accommodate more cars and the result is that a large part of the bend is covered with people (think Maroon Bells in autumn, but only 1 layer of people deep). If you don't get there really early, you may find yourself trying to wedge in between European tourists smoking like they have stock in Phillip Morris and families with children so ill-behaved that you may find yourself trying to determine how to nudge them over the edge without getting caught.
So, if you're heading to Page, do yourself a favor and be prepared for this year's conditions.