If you’re like me, you don’t like crowds. You also aren’t a fan of guided tours while being shoulder to shoulder with tons of people. But if you’re really like me, you still want to see beautiful places and will find the best way to do so – without the crowds.
Antelope Canyon is one of the most iconic places in Arizona. The towering canyon walls, painted in red, are easily recognizable. However, Antelope Canyon does fall on Navajo Tribal Land. The natives have limited this area to guided tours, only. Not to say I don’t support this, because I do. It helps to preserve the land, as well as to bring money to the reservation. But as I’ve said before – guided tours just aren’t my thing, especially because the dogs wouldn’t be welcome.
What’s the answer then? Paddleboard in to the canyon, from Lake Powell! This section of the canyon is open access (no permit or guide needed) and is dog friendly. Win-Win!
How do you do this exactly? First off, load up your paddleboard, gear and dogs – and hit the road. If you don’t have your own paddleboard, you can rent one from Lake Powell Paddleboards (link at bottom of post).
Second, head to Antelope Marina. There is a fee to enter the marina. You can then drive your car all the way down the GIANT boat ramp, seriously the longest boat ramp I have ever seen! After dropping off your board and gear, drive up and park your car. Then head back down the ramp and you are on your way!
There are multiple ways this trip can be enjoyed. You can make it a day trip. The paddle, from the Marina, is a little over 3 miles EACH WAY. You will then be able to pull your board up on land and continue down the canyon, on foot. Or – you can do what we did and paddle camp. This means that we loaded up all of our camping gear in dry bags and paddled to an epic campsite on Antelope Island. The dogs absolutely loved this campsite.
I prefer the paddle camping option (but I LOVE to camp). But for reals, this options allows you to paddle to an area of the island, just across from the mouth of Antelope Canyon, to set up camp (about a 1 mile paddle). We had a wonderfully relaxing evening with a fire and spirits. This gave us the opportunity to rise with the sun and be the first ones to paddle in to the canyon. When you enter the canyon early, you’re rewarded with calm water that look like glass. The reflections were just stunning. 2 miles of the most serene paddle I have ever enjoyed.
At a point, in the canyon, the water will come to an end. This is where the hiking begins. I hiked in my trusty Chaco’s – but if you prefer boots, make sure to bring those along. Also make sure to bring along water, snacks and bug spray (lots of little gnats). After the first half male, the canyon walls really begin to close in. In many places you catch glimpses of magic, resembling the iconic images that come to mind when you think of Antelope Canyon. I am honestly not positive how far the hike goes – we turned around after nearly 3 miles of hiking because it was getting windier, with clouds rolling in – and we still had to hike the 3 miles back out. A slot canyon is not where you want to be when a storm rolls in. We got lucky, the storm never hit.
Once back at our paddleboards, we enjoyed our snacks and let the dogs cool off in the water before hopping back on our boards. The dogs were sufficiently exhausted from running through the canyon, that they just relaxed on the paddle out.
I can’t really put in to words how amazing this experience was. The scenery and serenity was tough to beat. I would choose this experience, over a crowded tour any day.
Now – a little information about camping on Antelope Island. The island is fair game, but much of it is rock faces – as opposed to sand. Right when you enter the water, at the marina, you will notice multiple areas that are ideal for camping just across the channel. We did see a few tents, in these areas. Personally, I wanted a little more privacy and to be closer to the mouth of Antelope Canyon. From where we were, we couldn’t see another area to camp in sight. But I wanted to paddle in the direction of the canyon, anyways, just in case. As I paddled, I could see an area beyond a large rock face that looked like it could possibly work. I just kept paddling, and I am so glad that I did. We found, what is now, one of my all time favorite campsites. There was a sandy area in between the rock formations. The site had 2 sandy beaches, rock formations to explore, a fire pit and endless possibilities. This area could fit a large number of tents, if you have a larger group. I was grateful to find that this site wasn’t littered in trash – all we found was a little plastic wrap (most likely from a bundle of firewood). I can’t wait to return to this spot.
Antelope Canyon is a truly magical chunk of land – I am just so happy that I got to experience this wonder with my dogs and without gads of people! Dream come true!
Please comment or email with any questions you might have, if you’re wanting to plan a trip to this area!
Katie, Chipper and Quinci
Lake Powell Paddleboards: lakepowellpaddleboards.com