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Upper Antelope Canyon - The New Normal (2021)

“New normal.” It’s a phrase that describes virtually every aspect of post-pandemic life, and Antelope Canyon tours are no exception. 

During the nearly 18-month closure of the Antelope Canyons and other Navajo Indian Tribal Parks, Upper Antelope Canyon tour operators took the opportunity to evaluate and address several operational issues that had become problematic as the Page, AZ, slot canyon exploded in popularity. Chief among them was “bottlenecking” due to the long-observed protocol of walking tourists through the canyon and back out the same way, which caused delayed departures as the days progressed during peak travel season. Not a good thing for travelers on a tight schedule! To alleviate this problem, and reduce or negate possible exposure to COVID-19, local tour operators installed a network of steps and runways over the ridge adjacent to the parking area. This means that Upper Antelope Canyon is no longer the “slam dunk” option for parties traveling with young children, the elderly, or individuals sensitive to prolonged sun exposure or dusty terrain. 

The average time for most visitors to walk from the exit of the canyon back to the truck parking area via the new walkway system is 20-30 minutes. While the catwalks do not require much in the way of uphill climbing (its most notable and numerous inclines are downhill), visitors will be required to walk a significant distance without access to shade, and through areas of potentially deep sand. Since strollers are not allowed in the canyon, parents of infants and toddlers will most likely have to carry their kids the majority of the way, which can take a lot out of the fittest of hikers on a hot summer day. 

Be sure to bring plenty of water for yourself and all members of your traveling party. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and appropriate shoes for walking. If you are visiting Upper Antelope Canyon with more mature hikers, or anyone who will require more time than usual to navigate the new walkways, please call your chosen tour operator to give them a heads-up. 

**Facemasks are currently optional on Navajo Nation tours, but the policy requiring them may be reinstated at any time at the discretion of Tribal Leadership.**

As in the past, advance reservations are strongly recommended for Upper Antelope Canyon tours. If you would like to visit Lower Antelope Canyon as well, consider booking both slot canyon tours together for optimal convenience and seat availability.

Click to read our last article: Antelope Canyon Reopens to Tourism.