You may have heard this question before. A lot of people are unclear just where the Grand Canyon starts and what is included in its vast geographic designation. We see amazing pictures of both canyons, and often the names are switched, even when they should not be.
Actually, these two canyons are separate areas. Although there are some similar, overlapping attributes, they are not the same place. Let’s look at their similarities.
The Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon are both located within the Colorado Plateau. This high desert region crosses several states within the Southwest United States. It stretches across Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. This area, also called Red Rock Country includes 8 National Parks as well as 18 National Monuments and other designated, protected areas which are managed by the National Park Service, National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
There are common characteristics found within many of these parks. They share vibrant colors including red, orange, pink. The areas have varied rock formations, a variety of elevations and strata, and some common flora and fauna. There are also unique features that only one park or area offers.
The Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon are both located within Northern Arizona. They are both part of the Colorado Plateau. Both have a similar latitude. But they vary dramatically in size, landscape and elevation. The Grand Canyon is massive. Its sweeping views are almost overwhelming and stunning. It looks like it goes on forever. Of course, this is part of what makes it famous. Artists and photographers have attempted to capture its grandeur for decades, but seeing it in person is always better and more real.
Antelope Canyon, on the other hand, is a narrow slot canyon. It does not offer wide open views. Instead, it concentrates natural beauty into an intense, sensory overload experience. Antelope Canyon will delight visitors with its colors, shapes, shadows and formations. This slot canyon winds and twists, through the water-carved rocks. It has an intimate feel and is full of character. It is wide enough for visitors to walk through comfortably. It is an easy walk through and a fun, soft adventure experience.
Antelope Canyon is not part of the Grand Canyon. It is East of the Grand Canyon and is located on the Navajo Reservation. While it is part of the Colorado Plateau, it is unlike any other destination within the area.
Antelope Canyon is located near Page, Arizona. All visitors must purchase advance tickets for a specific time and date. Tour companies that offer the walking tours must be Navajo owned. All local guides are Navajo. There are different sections of the slot canyon available to tour. Each section is owned by one or more Navajo families. Visitors are not allowed to explore on their own, and must book a ticket for a time and day. The walking tours inside Antelope Canyon are about one hour.
Antelope Canyon is truly the most beautiful slot canyon on Earth. Its beauty has generated numberless photographs, both professional and personal. Photography is a main reason for travelers to visit. The record for the most expensive photograph ever sold was Peter Lik’s “Phantom.” This was taken inside Antelope Canyon. Lik was instrumental in increasing the popularity of the slot canyon. You do not have to be a professional to take beautiful photos. In fact, many visitors have a hard time deleting any of their own pictures after the tour, since each is different due to angle, light or color. Cell phones do an amazing job capturing the beauty of the canyon. And the photos just beg the capturer to share them on social media with friends and family.
Water was an important part of the creation of Antelope Canyon. In the high desert, rain can cause sudden flash floods. These are what has carved the slot canyon over many years. The rushing waters wash away the sandstone as it swirls through, leaving forms, stripes, and layers of color in its path.
The Grand Canyon was also partly created by the Colorado River carving it out over time. While this process did help create it, several other factors were involved over millions of years. Not all geologists agree on just how the Grand Canyon was formed. Shifting plates have also had a role in creating this wonder. The Colorado River may have actually changed directions in the past, as elevation changed. So, water is an important factor in both canyons, but working quite differently, and with a different, geologic time frame.
The Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon are only about 2-3 hours driving time apart, so travelers can visit both in the same road trip. Each canyon merits time within an itinerary and will surely please those that venture into the region.