I love the feeling of total freedom, when I’m travelling. Despite having a “trip plan” – you can always change whatever you want. After all, it’s your trip. During hitch-hiking it is natural, to travel very spontaneously. When you travel by car – you also have a lot of flexibility. Discovering places thanks to the sudden incidents, leaving things to the fortune, but most importantly – thanks to people. And it happened, that just a few words said by one girl, that we met on our way, allowed us to find one of the most amazing places during our trip around USA National Parks.
USA Road trip – part 3
Check Part 1 – Petrified forest, Painted Desert, Route 66 and Flagstaff – HERE
Check Part 2 – Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Page – HERE
- Waterhole Canyon, Arizona
Do you know Antelope Canyon? Even if you don’t recognize the name, I’m sure you saw this picture before. It is a nature wonder, unique and so different from other places nearby. It looks amazing, right?
Unfortunately, when you arrive there and you want to visit the canyon – the spell gets broken. The place can be seen only with the guide, in previously organised groups and at specified time. It is located in the area, that belongs to Indian tribe Navajo, which collects money for visiting it. You can put yourself on the list for the specific hour (and some of them can be very busy). This costs around $35 and the time is limited.
We asked many people – there is no way of getting to the Antelope Canyon by yourself, without the guide, even with additional payment. Oficially, it’s all for “protecting” the canyon from vandals, what we were told by the travel agents. Internet says, however, that the reason is the possibility of “fast flood” happening there in the times of heavy rain (I’m wondering if during the dry season the guides have vacation then?).
We spent long time thinking what to do. We arrived to Page in the evening, turning from the main road in order to come there and see the Canyon the next day. Generaly, it was my idea, Władek wasn’t that much interested in it, but I really wanted to see it. However, the idea of going there with a bunch of strangers and the guide as in the crowded museum, the need of booking in advance and waiting in case of not enough places, wasn’t the most appealing. We didn’t have enough time to waste on waiting.
In the evening we were paying for the night on the camping, just before the office got closed. We were still discussing between us what to do another day and we mentioned it to the girl, who was working in the office. “Don’t worry” she said, smiling, and started the story about another part of the canyon, located not far from here and very similar to the famous one. “It’s more natural, wild and quiet, and it is possible to explore it alone”, she said. We got really interested in her words. The girl was very helpful and she patiently explained us where we can find the canyon, drawing simple map on the piece of paper. She said, that this part of the canyon is called Waterhole Canyon. After that, excited, we let her go home, as the office was closing, and we decided to check more details in McDonald’s wifi.
Another thing, that our new guide mentioned, was a need of having a permit for entering the Canyon area, which was also located in the Navajo tribe’s land. The permit price was $12. It could be bought in the Navajo office in the city, which, of course, was already closed and was supposed to be open later the next day (too late for us!). The obligation of having a permit wasn’t there only couple years ago, but after some time, Indian tribe closed another part of the canyon and left just this small part of it, which was possible for private hiking – however – only with the permit. The closed part, called Secret Canyon, could be visited with private tour guides ($100). Not for us 😉 As we were planning to drive many kilometers next day to visit some more places and get to Moab, we wanted to set off quite early. Therefore, we decided to check the canyon place in the morning anyway, and “we’ll see what happens”.
Another day welcomed us with a stunning sunrise (with the views like this I could even wake up at 5am every day!). We packed the tent and ourselves to the car, turned on the heating to the maximum (as usually in the morning to get alive after chilly night), and we hit the road to find the misterious second part of the famous canyon.
It didn’t take long to get to the correct place. Road was straight and empty, which, based on the early hour – wasn’t a big surprise. When we crossed the bridge and parked the car after it, we saw the fence and signs saying “do not enter”, on the left side of the road. Canyon was really deep and it was going under the bridge on the both sides. When I got out of the car and walked to the edge of the canyon I just “wowed” in my head. It was breathtaking.
There were no “do not enter” signs on the right side, so…
So what, small walk down there? Why not! I needed to recall in my memory those old times, when I used to go climbing in Krakow, now trying to grasp pieces of the sandstone rock and not to slip from the unstable “steps” leading down to the bottom. But what we saw at the end of the climb, was mind blowing.
Curves made by the water in the orange sandstone, created long and mystical waves making the rock to look soft and smoothe. In the place, where we got to, the canyon wasn’t reaching very high, but it had another deeper part, that you could go to. We walked around, experiencing the special atmosphere of the place. Władek did a bit of jumps and I tried climbing to the walls. However, time and lack of the needed documents woke us up from the dream, so we started to climb back to the top. After stepping our feet on the top, we suddenly saw two people coming into our direction. Quick heart-attack, that I almost had, thinking that those are the guards, went away, when they came to us, smiled and asked if it’s possible to go down to the canyon. They must have been those people with permits 😉
What about Antelope?
On the way back, we decided to stop by in the other, famous part of Antelope Canyon to see how it is. When we got there, we saw the car full of Chinese people just leaving for one of the trips. I tried to go closer to the canyon to see how this part looks even from the distance, but I was told off by the travel agents. We talked with them, found out how long we’d need to wait for the next trip, didn’t like them at all, happy that we managed to see what we saw and then we left 😉
Antelope Canyon is definitely a place worth visiting. The “real”, famous part, that you need to pay for, is a separated, one of the highest parts of the same canyon, which is so different and intriguing in every segment. Maybe one day, if I’m there again, I will go to this other part, just to see how it looks. However, for now, I am really happy about our small trip to another, quieter and hidden part of the amazing canyon. Climbing, silence at the bottom of the canyon and also a bit of adventure, gave us the opportunity to stop and admire breathtaking formations in the peace and without the crowds. Which I am really grateful for 🙂
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon (really narrow one), that was made by water eroding the sandstones. It is located near Page city on the land of the Indian tribe Navajo, in Arizona. Canyon consists of two separate parts – Upper and Lower Canyon.
To enter any part of the canyon you need pay a fee. The most famous part can be visited only with the guided tour. Prices are between $35-$50, depending on the time of the day and season. We checked the rates in different companies when we were there, but we couldn’t find anything cheaper – maybe online it is possible. The busiest hours for visiting are around noon (11-12), when (only during summer months) you can see sun rays peaking through.
Cheaper and quieter option
If you like to admire nature wonders alone and don’t like to be squeezed in between other people, then it may be an option for you. One part of the canyon, called Waterhole Canyon, is open for private hiking (as well as for groups, so probably you can bump on them as well at some times). The only condition for going there by yourself is buying “hiking permit” for $12. You can get it from the Navajo Tribal Parks Office, 3 miles south of Page at Copper Mine Street, or you can order them in advance by post (more information www.navajonationparks.org/permits.htm).
I’m not sure how it is with any guards acctually going to the canyon or standing near the entrance and checking the permits, but during the winter months, early in the morning, there were no guards for sure 😉
The whole area was for many years open for tourists, however from some time only this one part of the canyon, on its east side, can be visited by private hikers. If you want to get to the other parts, you need to buy a trip for $100 (to Secret Canyon) or $35-$50 to Antelope.
What would you choose? Safe, bigger but crowded and quite pricey – main canyon, or hidden, alternative and empty – another part of it, maybe not as beautiful as the main one, but definitely also amazing?
Next parts of the trip coming soon!
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