The wallpaper on our MAC computer is of a gorgeous twist in a slot canyon assumed to be in some far off exotic country that would take days of hiking to reach – a “yeah, maybe someday” kind of place. To our great surprise, it’s actually a picture within Lower Antelope Canyon just outside Page, AZ, where we happened to have spent the night.
Lower Antelope Canyon is on the Navajo Nation and requires a tour guide to explore. Though it can get a bit touristy, we were fortunate to be there in the early season with fewer visitors, cooler temps, and a more leisurely pace throughout the canyon.
This is one of many slot canyons found in the Page area, formed by erosive floodwater carving away soft, sandstone rock. The geologic processes are ongoing, and the canyons are closed to visitors when heavy rains or flooding are expected.
The tour begins with a short hike to a “staircase” (really a steep ladder with railing) that drops 5 stories into the canyon. Being in the narrow V-shaped canyon is other-worldly. As you amble through the twists and turns and clamber up small steps you can’t help but be overwhelmed with blues and burgundies, reds and oranges, and the most delicate and seemingly unnatural curves gracing every surface.
A ramble through the canyon is also an ongoing game of imaginative cloud shapes as you visually hunt for sometimes vague and more often crystal clear statue images molded from the sandstone. An eagle, growling bear, indian chief, buffalo, goldfish and the most famous, Lady in the Wind, plus all those seen by the imaginations of a 2 and 4-year-old (e.g., Mary and Joseph, a turtle …).
We were even treated to a rare occurrence as the pitter patter of rain started to echo in the canyon but to our delight and the kid’s amazement, it was actually hail. We stopped in our tracks and watched as millions of teeny tiny frozen ping pong balls of ice bounced down and around the canyon floor as if being part of nature’s own pinball machine.
And after about an hour walk and ascending a host of railed ladders, we popped out back at the surface, having emerged from a crack only about two feet wide. Even this mysterious entrance was enthralling as there is no visible sign that a canyon even exists! Can’t imagine being the first to discover such a place.
Lower Antelope Canyon is both a photographer’s playground and a whimsical natural one for the kids who loved sneaking through the skinny crevices and bounding around the next turn in search of another shape in the rocks.
Next stop, Arches National Park!