Have you ever seen the amazing photos of a narrow canyon with elegantly curved rocks, colored in 50 shades of red that seem like from another planet? Luckily, they are real and they can be found in Arizona, USA. The canyon is known as Antelope Canyon and has been attracting more and more tourists each year. In fact, it has become so popular, you have to book your tour a few days ahead (you can’t do it alone, as the land is owned by Navajo tribe) especially if you are on a road trip and can’t afford to lose time. I was dreaming of visiting this wonder of nature since the first time I laid my eyes on it, and I wanted everything to be perfect. So, I did my share of online digging and found the Secret Canyon – an intimate version of the slot canyon, which was definitely the highlight of our South West USA road trip.
Secret Canyon vs Antelope Canyon
There were 3 reasons why I chose to visit Secret Canyon instead of “classical” Antelope Canyon trail. First of all, I wasn’t sure exactly which day we would arrive to Page, Arizona and we needed some small flexibility in timing. Secondly, I didn’t want to be stuck in a crowd with hundreds of tourists photobombing my camera (I read it can get quite messy and dusty down there on “busy days”). And thirdly, I didn’t get any feedback to my questions from several tour operators running the Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon trails. Luckily, I discovered a travel forum which lead me to Horseshoe Bend Tours where the owner was more than willing to provide all the answers to my questions.
Close to the famous Horseshoe Bend
Secret Canyon, which also known as Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon (due to its proximity to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook – photo above) lies approximately 15 km south from Page where you can also find the office – the place where it all starts from. By the way if you want to book a hotel or room in Page (or anywhere else for that matter) you can use this link and we will both get 15€ pocket money for our travel 😉 After confirming your reservation make sure that you arrive to the location around 15 minutes earlier (plenty of free parking space there) to check in, refill your bottles with water (although the agency kindly provides some complimentary bottles as well), visit the restrooms and grab a spot in the partly open 4×4 wheel drive. You will be joining a group of maximum 15 people which is a real bliss and gives you plenty of space to breathe and enjoy your time in the canyon.
The ride to the canyon is an adventure itself, as the road gets quite rough from time to time – so be ready to rock and roll (hopefully not over) 😊 Once you get to the spot, you have to walk less than 10 minutes through the desert (beautiful scenery!) to get to the Secret Canyon entrance. Once you get there just don’t forget to breathe. Because the slot is truly amazing all the way – in any time of the day, in any kind of sunlight, upside down and inside out. And don’t worry, you will have plenty of time to make awesome photos because in the group of 15 people everything can be arranged.
Photographing the Secret Canyon
Our tour guide was quite knowledgeable and funny. He even helped us to set the cameras to the optimal lightning so we could all get the most out of our photo session. And boy what a photo session that was. At first I was worried if taking the morning tour was a good idea (I had read that you were supposed to visit slot canyon at noon for the perfect lightning) but that was no issue at all. The colors of rocks are fantastic even in a complete shade (and also cameras can do miracles) so I didn’t regret my decision even for a second. You can check the rest of my photos in my Facebook album.
How much does it cost?
The whole tour takes about 2 – 2.5 hours which is long enough to enjoy the beauty of the landscape and the canyon itself, plus you get a plenty of time for taking pictures, even if you are proffessional photographer. It is quite expensive (90 USD per adult and 65 USD per child) which is almost twice the price you pay for Antelope Canyon), however you do get the experience that you probably can’t get anywhere else. If I look back, I cannot even imagine crowding with the tourists, waiting for my shot and being pushed on by another forthcoming group. After all, who takes a descent selfie in less than a minute? Or a handstand, may I add 😉 I really truly hope that Horseshoe Bend Tours will keep their mission to keep the Secret Canyon as secret and private as it gets. Because one day I just might come back for more!