On our travels in the Southwest, we spent one night in Page, Arizona to indulge our amateur photography interest.
Monday March 27, 2017 – Horseshoe Bend
On Monday afternoon we drove from Monument Valley to Page, Arizona. We had previously passed through Page, Arizona while driving across the country, but only stopped to see a view of Lake Powell. This time, we were more prepared with a small list of popular nature photography destinations in and around Page.
We weren’t sure what time we would arrive, and so our schedule was flexible about when to visit Horseshoe Bend. When we arrived mid-afternoon, we checked into our hotel and did a few minutes of internet research to determine if sunrise or sunset would be best for photographs. We decided to go at sunset.
Horseshoe Bend is a dramatic 180° curve along the Colorado River where the river had dug deep into the earth. Horseshoe bend is located in the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area and managed by the National Park Service. Glen Canyon also has the opportunities for other hiking as well as water activities on the Colorado River and Lake Powell.
There is a parking area dedicated to Horseshoe Bend, and even though it wasn’t the high tourist season, it was already crowded for sunset when we arrived. To get to the view point, there is a short but steep 0.75 hike. I had read that the view point can feel dangerous with its steep, sudden drop off combined with the crowd of people, and it did. Luckily there was still space to wiggle in between the tripods who set up camp for the ‘perfect’ photograph and move on to other angles. The view is beautiful and its not a wonder that this is a popular location. The biggest challenge was fitting its enormity into a single camera frame. If you are serious about photography, bring your widest lens.
I’m not sure where the best view was, so we moved cautiously along the edge for a quarter mile taking lots of photos. The sunset that night didn’t see to have a huge impact on the lighting, but we still got some good pictures and left satisfied to find dinner.
The town has many restaurants, but none that made a big impression on us when checking yelp. A few were closed on Mondays, and a few others were closed because it wasn’t the tourist season yet. We finally ate at the Dam Bar and Grille. Jon and I both ordered steaks and were very happy with our choices. The steaks and sides were very tasty and it turned out to be a nicer meal than expected. Neighboring tables and pizza and burgers which also smelled and looked good.
Tuesday March 28, 2017 – Antelope Canyon
Since we had visited Horseshoe Bend the day before, we got to relax at sunrise and sleep in. Breakfast was at the hotel before check out. Antelope Canyon was a day we were both excited for having seen many many photographs of this dramatic sandstone canyon. Antelope Canyon is on Navajo Land, and only led tours are allowed in. There are several decisions to make when touring antelope canyon; upper or lower canyon, time of day, photography or regular tour. Most of the famous pictures of antelope canyon feature sun rays or beams of light penetrating into the canyon depths. These pictures are taken in Upper Antelope Canyon and only occur in the morning during certain seasons and only on clear, sunny days. The tour companies also offer ‘photography’ tours and regular tours. For photography tours, you must bring a DSLR and tripod, for regular tours tripods are not permitted.
We finally decided for a tour of lower antelope canyon at 9:30. While I can’t compare our lower canyon tour to upper (since we didn’t visit upper) I can say that we were not disappointed. The tour company had a kiosk set up near the start of the hike. Walk-ups are permitted, but have to wait until the next open tour. On the day we went, I think this was often 2 hours later than their arrival. We checked in and set down until our tour was called.
Our guide, Fern, led us a short walk away to the entrance of the canyon. The first 25% of the tour was frustrating. At the canyon entrance, stairs descend in and there was a long line of tourists and guides from other companies and our own. It was slow going as the crowd of people funneled down into the canyon. At the bottom of the stairs, the canyon was beautiful but crowded. It felt like a herd of cattle and I’m sure most people shared our worry that we won’t get pictures without people in them. Fern started to lead us through the canyon. It felt like the trip would be short, but then it changed.
The crowd started to spread out along the length of the canyon, and Fern told us we had only seen 25% of what she was going show us. The last 75% was great! We were only running into our own small group and Fern was delightful. I was actually amazed at how long the tour was (we were easily in the canyon over an hour), and by the end I was tired of taking pictures and walking past what I sure would have been more beautiful shots of the canyon.
After our tour we stopped for lunch at The River’s End Cafe, a small coffee shop located in an outfitters store. On the way out of town, we decided to stop at a few overlooks of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.