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Antelope Canyon - Upper, AZ

Guide 29 Triplogs  2 Topics
  3.9 of 5 
318 29 2
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 0.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,100 feet
Elevation Gain 225 feet
Accumulated Gain 225 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1-2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 1.63
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
2  2019-05-11 ehuffstetler
17  2017-10-21 DbleDutch
10  2016-03-19 Chriskup
15  2014-09-30 AZWanderingBear
4  2014-06-06 AZLOT69
35  2014-06-02
Canyon X Antelope Canyon Tour
16  2014-03-08 cw50must
10  2013-06-27 Lucyan
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 61 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, May → 10 AM
Seasons   Spring to Summer
Sun  5:30am - 7:33pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

Photo Experience
by Randal_Schulhauser

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"Tse bighanilinil" is the Navajo name for "The Crack" - a renowned slot canyon that has become akin to a religious pilgrimage for serious photographers. How did this come to be?

In 1931, 12-year-old Suzie Tsosie was herding sheep between Manson Mesa and Kaibeto. This was very much a deserted land in 1931. Present-day Page Arizona did not yet exist until 1957, and Lake Powell did not begin to fill until the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1966. As Suzie was searching for a lost sheep, she discovered a quarter-mile long, twisting, water-carved crack in the sandstone.

Before 1980, individuals required special permission from the Navajo landowners to gain access to the slot canyons. As fame grew, so did the access requests. The prospect of commercialization began around this time.

The Tsosie family still owns this land today and operates Antelope Slot Canyon Tours catering to tourists but specializing in satisfying the wants and needs of serious photographers.

In 2006, I pull into the parking lot located on the south side of Hwy 98. It's mid-morning on a Sunday in February, and my truck is the sole vehicle in the parking lot. I meet a Navajo Guide at the booth, and he explains to me that the cost for a guided 1-hour tour will be $20. A specialized photographer's tour lasting about 3 hours will be $50.

I'm guided by Delvin Tsosie - a not-to-distant relative of Suzie Tsosie. We hop into Delvin's SUV for a 3 mile bumpy ride along Antelope Canyon Wash. At the entrance to "The Crack" my selfish thoughts of having the entire slot canyon to myself evaporate with the sight of additional shuttle vehicles. Delvin explains to me that clients can also arrange to be picked up at their hotel in Page.

As I walk into the slot canyon, my mind recalls some past treks to the Paria River, particularly Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch. Delvin indicates that we will first travel the Upper Antelope Canyon in its entirety - about 250 yards. We encounter multiple photographers - all armed with tripods and lengthy aperture exposures! I feel like I'm running a gauntlet with aperture exposure times acting like traffic signals - red light start of 30 second exposure, green light as camera beeps signaling the end of exposure. With a rare overcast, lighting is tricky in the slot canyon today. A tripod appears to be a MUST to accommodate the lengthy exposure time. I snap-off my quick shots holding my breath trying to keep a steady hand. I'm sure these pros are mildly amused by these efforts from a pure amateur!

When we emerge out the south end of the slot canyon, Delvin indicates that he'll point out the features and photo angles used by the pros. Over the years of guiding them through this canyon, Delvin has picked up a few tips, and he'll share them with me today. He also gives me a geology lesson explaining how this canyon was formed. Unlike ordinary erosion, in which rocks of differing composition and hardness are chewed away at various rates forming a V-shaped channel, the uniform sandstone found in this area is removed straight down. Once a channel is first formed, all water will funnel into the channel and continue this downward removal pattern. A single storm is capable of removing a foot or more of sand from the canyon. The Upper Antelope Canyon measures 120 feet high and ranges in width from about 3 to 20 feet. Viewed from above ground, the canyon may only measure a foot or two across.

We re-enter the slot canyon from the south, and Delvin starts to point out where to stand to capture the best features. As the lighting changes with passing clouds, so does the canyon, as if by magic! I snap off photo after photo hoping to get a couple of "keepers". We continue to make our way towards the north exit from the slot canyon. I shoot away thankful for having a 1 Gigabyte flash card installed in the camera. As we emerge, I glance at the time on my GPS. Exactly one hour has passed. We climb back into Delvin's SUV for the return trip to the parking lot. Delvin explains that there are hundreds of slot canyons he's taken clients to photograph on the trip back. Canyon "X" is particularly popular, along with a couple of side canyons we drive by. We talk about Waterholes Canyon and some of the "name" photographers he's had for clients. Back at the parking lot, I count five vehicles awaiting the next tour. Timing is everything I remark to Delvin, thanking him with a well-deserved tip!

The "Tse bighanilini" is a must-see for anyone appreciative of the natural wonders in Arizona. The "Hasdeztwazi" located across the highway is unique in its own way. I can't recommend one over the other - they're both spectacular. Take your time to enjoy the sights with your own eyes and a little less time through the lens of a camera. Although this isn't a hike in the classic sense, it's a must-do all the same. Enjoy!

2010-05-05 Anonymous writes
The Antelope Canyon Navajo Tour company is operated by the Begay Family for about 20 years. My name is Dalvin Etsitty and not Dalvin Tsosie. We operate from the entrance of the Tribal Park. My grandmother Pearl Begay was the person who was credited for finding Upper Antelope Canyon. Read your website and see that you ran into the Chief; that is how his story sounds, new company.
- Thank, Dalvin Etsitty

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2006-02-27 Randal_Schulhauser
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$
    Special Use

    Navajo Park Entrance $8 + Tour Fee + Optional Photography Tour
    Note: most if not all fees are cash

    Tour Companies

    Navajo Nation Reservation
    Navajo Permits & Services

    Map Drive

    To hike
    From Phoenix: Take Hwy I-17 north 146 miles to Flagstaff. From Flagstaff, take Hwy 89 north 133 miles to Page. From Page, take Hwy 98 east 3.3 miles to the intersection with Antelope Point Road (GPS coordinates 36o 53.848'N, 111o 24.363'W). The parking lot for the Upper Antelope Slot Canyon will be on the south side of Hwy 98. If you pass the Navajo Generating Station, you've traveled too far!

    My GPS noted 296.8 miles traveled from my home in Ahwatukee to the Upper Antelope Canyon trailhead parking. Travel time was just over 5 hours. GPS coordinates for the entrance of "The Crack" are 36o 52.056'N, 111o 22.867'W.
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
    prehydrate & stay hydrated
    help comment issue

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