North of Sedona after a breathtaking 3 hour drive through various dessert landscapes, we arrived in Paige, Arizona to visit upper and lower Antelope Canyon.
With rain in the forecast, we were nervous that our tour would be cancelled, but set out on our trek at 5:45 am from Sedona. The Arizona country-side is beautiful - picture one road cutting through the dessert landscape. One can see for miles in any one direction with rock formations of varying shapes and sizes jutting from the earth. We passed through a portion of the painted dessert and saw a smaller red rock mountain range. Our drive lead us to high altitudes where we faced patches of dense snow and sleet followed by temperatures at lower altitudes reaching nearly 90 degrees.
As we rounded the final bend, we could see the city of Paige about 10 miles to our right. To our left, an ominous black cloud hung low over the mountain tops. With the exception of the snow shower in Flagstaff, we hadn't encountered any additional precipitation. It was just before 9:00 am, we stopped for gas when the skies opened and it began to rain - then hail. We headed to our tour spot - Deveny braved the weather, while I went to park the car. A few moments later millions of quarter-to-golf ball sized hail plummeted from the sky.
Deveny made it safely to the tent covering the ticket desk, while I sat and prayed that the windows in the rental vehicle remained intact. The storm only lasted a couple of minutes, but left the ground saturated with ice pellets. Luckily the vehicle was not damaged and our tour of Upper Antelope Canyon was on schedule. The temperature dropped dramatically with the storm and we had only brought light layers for warmth. There was no turning back now, we were 3 hours (one-way) into our trip, so we huddled together and did some jumping jacks... we weren't missing this experience!
We loaded up with 20 of our new friends into the all-terrain vehicle (pictured above) and began our guided tour toward Upper Antelope Canyon. A slot canyon, on Navajo land east of Paige, Antelope Canyon includes two separate scenic canyon sections - Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. The Canyon is protected by the Navajo Parks and Recreation and only authorized tour companies can take visitors to the canyon. We booked our tours ahead. The Navajo Parks and Recreation keep a close eye on the weather, due to the tight corners and elevation, flash flooding is a serious concern for the canyon sections. We learned that our Lower Canyon tour had been cancelled due to flash floods, but that we would be able to access the Upper Canyon tour.
The canyon walls were smooth to the touch, sandblasted by years of wind. The path through the canyon was made entirely of sand blown and knocked loose during windstorms. Water erosion and wind are the reasons for the canyon's shape. Some spots were large enough for a group to pass, while other sections were single-file only. Our guide showed us several formations during our 30 minute walk - one of the most striking was the "eye" of the canyon (pictured above). It's difficult to capture the size and scale of the walls, towering three stories above us. We were also unable to capture the beauty and variations of color on the walls (reds, browns, and deep purples). There are few places on Earth as beautiful as Antelope Canyon!
Travel Date: May 2019