Antelope Canyon X Photography Tour Review

Overview

Antelope Canyon X is not nearly as well known as it’s companion slot canyons of Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon.  In all honesty, we had originally tried to book either Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, however, because our trip out west was a last minute trip, every tour for either of these canyons were fully booked.  I was initially pretty disappointed, as I have wanted to see a slot canyon for years.  The “God Ray” pic (picture with a light ray shining onto the floor of the canyon) is an iconic photo in the photography world, and a picture every photographer wants to get sometime in his lifetime.

I googled other slot canyon tours, and came upon this lesser known tour of Antelope Canyon X by Taadidiin Tours.  I googled Antelope Canyon X, but there was minimal information except for some short reviews on TripAdvisor. I was super excited to find out that they still had availability, despite it only being two weeks till we left.  They offered two tours, a hiking tour and a photography tour.  The hiking tour would be 1-1.5 hours in duration and there would be no bags or tripods allowed.  The hiking tour gives you about 10-15 minutes in their two slot canyons, North and South Antelope Canyon.  The hiking tour runs continuously throughout the day at 30 minute intervals. The photography tour is 2-3 hours long and each customer is allowed one bag and one tripod.  They have two times slots for the photography tour, 10:00AM and 1:00PM which are timed so the sun is in optimal position to get the “God Ray” pic. You also get about 1 hour in each canyon to set up your tripod and take pictures.

Price

The hiking tour was $40.00 for adults, $20.00 for children (8-11) and children 7 and under were free.  This price already includes the $8.00 Navajo Hiking fee per person.  Other tour groups do not include this fee, and it must be paid upon arrival.  This is considerably cheaper than the cost of the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon tours, where you will be paying 50%-100% more.  Also for those that have young children, there is a very limited number of spots available for small children with other tour groups, and some tour groups do not allow children under 6.  For Antelope Canyon X we were pleased to learn that as long as there was space available children could go, and there was not a limit on the number of children allowed or age restrictions.

The photography tour was $80.00 for adults which they considered to be age 8 and up. There is no child pricing, however, under 8 years old are completely free.  This is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than an Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon tour that typically runs a price tag of about $160 or more per person.  There were also no restrictions on the type of camera required.  Other photo tours required you to bring a DSLR AND A TRIPOD to be allowed on the tour.  This was not the case at Antelope Canyon X.  I was actually the only one with a tripod and a DSLR on our tour.

In short, Antelope Canyon X was priced about half the cost of the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon tours, and is significantly more kid friendly.

Given our lack of options, we booked the Antelope Canyon X Photography Tour.  We chose it because having small children, being able to bring a bag into the canyon would help tremendously in terms of carrying water and snacks.  I also really wanted to have time to take pictures as it has been my dream to get a shot of the “God Rays” and the added time in the canyons along with the ability to bring a tripod is a huge bonus.

Experience

We went to Antelope Canyon on Day 2 of our Western Canyon Tour. Read about the rest of our day in our live blog.

So in order to get pictures of the “God Rays” it has to be a sunny day for the sunlight to peer through the small cracks at the top of the slot canyon and produce the sharp ray of sunlight.  I had been watching the weather patterns quite closely over the last several weeks, and it had been sunny and 95 degrees ever day for about a month.  Well, with our luck, today was an overcast day, and was expected to be overcast throughout the day.  Needless to say, I was a little depressed about it.

Western Canyon Tour-12

We arrived about 15 minutes prior to our tour at the main base camp and checked in.  There were port-a-potties on site.  There was also a small concession area that sold mutton sandwiches, a small amount of candy, and a small variety of beverages.

Western Canyon Tour-1-4They gave us a blue bracelet indicating we were the photography tour.  There are only 10 people allotted per photography tour, and the photography tours are scheduled so that the sun is positioned to get the “God Ray” photos.  We eventually filed into a church van that shuttled us to the entrance to the canyon.  The drive was about 10 minutes over uneven terrain.

We arrived at the entrance to the canyon where they had a base camp set up with some basic benches and a cooler with water bottles.  The water was not cooled, but it was at least complimentary.  Due to the overcast skies, it was actually very comfortable, and did not anticipate needing much water, but it is obvious that with sun, it gets utilized quite heavily.  We tried not to drink too much, because as previously stated, there are no bathroom facilities in the actual canyon. There is a port-a-potty at the camp though.

We meet our guide and he goes over some basic guidelines.  He explains that we will have AMPLE time to take pictures, and that we can take our time.

We then trekked into Antelope Canyon X.  They laid down some grills to help you walk down, as it is pretty steep walk with some very sandy ground that makes traction difficult.  It is about a 100 yard walk into the canyon.

Western Canyon Tour-1-3

At the bottom, you are immediately at the entrance South Antelope canyon, and then it is another 200 yard walk to get to the entrance of the North Antelope Canyon.  It started to rain at this point and was getting pretty windy, so we decided to go to the North Antelope Canyon as it has less wind.  I was definitely getting antsy as they had previously warned us about the potential for flash flooding.

Antelope Canyon X-1-7

No better place to be during a rainstorm than at the bottom of a slot canyon.  Thankfully the rain only lasted about 20 minutes.  We then hiked to North Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon X-2Antelope Canyon X-1-2

Our guide did not provide much narration, but I wonder if that could be due to the fact that me and my family were the only English speakers in our group.  He was still pretty friendly, and answered any questions I had.  He did provide some history of Antelope Canyon X when asked.

We reached the entrance to Antelope Canyon X, and he explained to us that it is 150 ft. long, and that we would be here for about an hour.

Antelope Canyon X-1.jpg

We were welcome to walk around, take pics, set up the tripod, and do pretty much whatever we wanted outside of carving our names into the canyon.  It was very laid back.  The canyon was pretty much empty.  About once every 10-15 minutes a tour group would stop in for about 10 minutes to take some pictures and then the canyon would empty out again.  I can definitely say that it was very serene, and EXTREMELY easy to take photos.  It almost felt like a personal tour of the canyon, as there was little to no crowd.  I do wish the canyon was a little longer, but when given the choice of a shorter canyon with no crowd versus a longer canyon with back to back people, I am glad I chose to go with the less crowd option.

The sun started to peek through the clouds a little bit after 30 minutes and our guide decided to head back to South Antelope Canyon.  This was so we could see it, take some photos and then head back to North Antelope Canyon so we could hopefully catch the “God Rays” which are only visible in the North Antelope Canyon.  He knew I really wanted to get the “God Ray” picture and was really trying to help me get one.

We spend about 50 minutes in South Antelope Canyon which is ample time to get all the photos one could want.  South Antelope Canyon was a little smaller than North Antelope Canyon, and was much wider at the top than North Antelope Canyon.  It was so bright due to wide top, that a tripod was not really necessary in the South Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon X-2-2Antelope Canyon X-1-3

We then hiked back to North Antelope canyon, and it then started getting cloudy again, so I was not really optimistic about my chances of having the sun required for the pictures.

We waited about 20 minutes until 12:40 which is the time the sun is positioned for the “God Rays” to appear, and as if magic about 2 minutes before showtime the clouds cleared.  The guide was very helpful in telling me exactly where to be positioned to get the best shot.  In order to see the actual sunlight, our guide has to shovel sand into the air so we could see the rays.  It does get a little dusty while he is shoveling sand, so make sure to have the lenses you want on your camera already so you are not doing lens changes with dust everywhere.  Our group got our pictures, and then we headed back out of the canyon.

Antelope Canyon X-1-4Western Canyon Tour-11

Unfortunately, the steep hill we used to descend into the canyon, felt even steeper when we were climbing out.  It is definitely NOT handicap accessible, and if you have any disabilities, could be very taxing.  Sadly, Lucy, my 3 year old daughter tired on the climb out, and I then had to carry her out manually.  Zack, my 7 year old son, had no issues racing to the top.

We then waited about 5 minutes for a van to come pick us up and take us back to the entrance.

Conclusion

This tour overall was excellent.  While not as well known as Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, nor is Antelope Canyon X as long or big as it’s sister canyons, it makes up for this in the experience.  While I have not been to Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, everyone I have talked that has gone, states that the experience is similar to that of being herded like cattle.  There are set time limits in each spot, and then you have to move on.  It is also extremely crowded, and very difficult to get good photography.  While the signing up for the photography tour can buy you more time in Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, it does not reduce the crowd level, which is at max capacity.  While the other canyons offer more “God Ray” opportunities as there are more areas that they can appear, in my opinion it doesn’t matter if there are 20 people in your photo when you try and take a picture of them.

Antelope Canyon X is a much more serene experience.  There is little no crowd, and you can truly take all the time you need to get the photos you want.  Even the regular hiking tour seemed to have ample time to get the photos they wanted.  If you are a photographer looking for a more serene and better photographic experience this is the tour for you.

From a family perspective, this is also a great family tour.  My children played in the sand and climbed around the canyon while I took pictures.  They were free to roam around the canyon as there was only one exit, and they enjoyed exploring around with little to no restriction.

Western Canyon Tour-6Western Canyon Tour-7

Western Canyon Tour-5

There is nothing for them to accidentally break, and the guide was very friendly and helpful with the kiddos.  He even gave them some pretzels midway through the tour when they said they were hungry, and was always very attentive to them.  The pace is great for a family, as you can lag behind if you want, without fear of being left behind from the tour group.  The only negative is the lack of bathroom facilities in the canyon and the trek out of the canyon with little kids can be a little taxing.

Overall, I give this tour 5/5 stars.  The price was much more reasonable than the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon tours, and the low crowds created a much better experience.  I suggest hitting it up before everyone discovers this gem and it becomes just as if not more crowded that Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon.

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