Antelope Canyons and Around
After experiencing the natural architectures in the Bryce Canyon and spending few days in beautiful Zion, we traveled further northeast to Page, Arizona, which is famous for slot canyons. Drive from Zion to Page, is about 2 hours.
Antelope Canyons are the slot canyons of the southwest. Slot canyons are narrow canyons formed by gushing waters. The canyon gets its name from the fact that once there were herds of pronghorn antelope who roamed in the area. These Canyons fall under the jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation which is a tribal government, hence the access to these canyons is not made available to general public. Only guided tours are available.
Canyons are carved due to erosion of the Navajo sandstone by water and air. Flash flooding occurs in these areas even today. The power of water carves the canyon making it deeper and deeper. Canyons are close to the town of Lake Powell, Page in Arizona.
Upper Antelope Canyon
Upper canyon as its commonly called, is above the ground and is created by water running through it. This is a very popular place and often flocked by tourists and photographers. Upper Canyons have slots where by the sunlight directly drops onto the canyon floor, like a spotlight, with fine desert dust illuminated in the beam of light. Such a picture made it to the cover page of the National geographic magazine. Beams are best visible if you take a 11 am tour, which is when photography tours are carried out. Since only guided tours are available, we booked a tour with "Navajo tours", but had a very terrible experience. Our tour guide just rushed through the canyon and did not provide any information on the geology or the canyon history. He would just say "stand here, avoid the sun and take a picture". 2 hour tour completed in about 1 hour. Being a memorial day weekend, it was overly crowded, so could not enjoy the canyons much and was a sheer disappointment. Probably on a weekday we may have had a better experience.
Lower Antelope Canyon
Lower Canyons are also accessible only via guided tours, and do require a small hike in the open desert. Lower canyons are underground, narrow and in some spots where even footing is not available. Before the metal stairways were installed, visitors had to climb on ropes to get through some parts. Installed stairways also at times get washed away in event of flash floods. Another great place for photographers.
Tour providers often offer photography tours, but these tours may get cancelled if there is crowding on that day, especially long weekends. We took a tour with Ken's tours at 2 pm. Since we had a terrible experience at upper canyon we were skeptical of touring the lower canyons. However, fortunately our guide Megan was too good and gave us lots of information about the canyon, and ample time to take pictures, with exact camera settings required. She was also kind to take pictures for everyone.
We entered the lower canyon by a staircase which was little steep. Once onto the canyon floor, walls seemed to be coming onto us. Before the trip we had looked at some pictures, but when we saw it in reality, it was really beautiful. As we went on into the canyons, the canyon's beauty unfolded, keeping us focused on the rock walls.
The rock walls were shaped by nature as if some artist has sculpted them, to a point where some of the shapes and formations resembled animals. Some of the named formations, included "sunset over the Rocky's", "Wedding Arch", "eagle", "Buffalo" and "Lady in the wind".
The lower canyons are not much popular, but I would recommend these as opposed to upper canyon as they have a beauty of their own, which is worth experiencing.
The Horseshoe bend is one of the most famous natural wonders in the west. This overlook located about 5 miles from Glen Canyon Dam, offers a view of the Glen Canyon, with the rock structure sculpted by nature. It is a small 3/4 mile hike with ups and downs, sandy path and can be accessed by all. At the trail head there was a little sign which said "Take only pictures, leave nothing behind" which I thought was the best way of putting across a message to not pollute the natural habitat here.
We started the hike by ascending a small sandy dune, followed by flat terrain. Once on the top of the dune its a flat easy walk to reach a sheltered structure, where you can take little rest and observe the area around. This is the only place where you will find some shade.
Facing the overlook, you will see the trail leading up to overlook point. Behind you will be the Paria plateau and town of Lake Powell area. From here you need to descend on the trail to reach the overlook point. When we reached at the lookout point, it was truly an amazing sight. I had seen pictures of this place earlier and for some reason thought that the photographers may have enhanced their images. How wrong I was !!!! Its is truly picturesque.
The canyon originally was only sand, but eventually forces of nature like wind and water, bound together the small sand granules, collating them and converting them into what is called as Navajo Sandstone. The trail that we trudged onto, depicted the cycles of time. After sinking into the view for sometime, we began scouting for a good spot to get good pictures, when we realized that the light was too harsh so we started to leave and decided to come back by 7 pm.
On the way back to the parking lot, we saw group of people hiking down with photography apparatus, and it was 2 hour before sunset. It dawned on us, that we can stay and wait for 2 hours, to capture the sunset. We did not get enough water with us, so I had to go back to get some, so I kinda hiked this trail twice.
We sat on the ledge watching how the Colorado river carved the valley, creating 270 degree water channel. Eventually, river may erode the neck of the bend creating a beautiful bridge. Colorado river with it blues and greens, combined with red/orange rock, is a color extravaganza. There were few other who came to dine at this lookout. At the bottom of the bend, we also saw some yachts and boats, and looked like tourists were camping. As the Golden hour closed in, it started to get cooler and quickly the horizon lit up with golden shades. Next 30 mins was a classic display of colors, but unfortunately it was little over cloudy, else it would have been a dreamy scene.
Next Day, we started from Page to drive up to Zion again, as we planned to do some more points in Zion before heading home to New Jersey. En-route, we took time to take a peek as some of the overlook vista points.
Glen Canyon Dam
Glen Canyon dam is built over the Colorado river near the town of Page in Arizona. The dam was built to provide hydroelectricity and control the flow of the water from the reservoir into Lake Powell. En-route from Page to Spring-dale, on US-89, there is small lookout called " Glen Dam lookout" on the scenic view road. Its an easy 10 min hike to the viewpoint that offers a view of the Dam and the Canyon. This viewpoint is close the Carl Harold Visitor center, which also offers tours to hydro power plant.
Wahweap Scenic Lookout
While reading through the random leaflets and brochures,I had read that Wahweap Lookout is very scenic, and so we saw the directions on US-89, immediately decided to stop by for few mins. Lookout is reached via a small uphill road, that takes you to the top of the hill. Atop the hill you can see the Tower Butte Glen Dam reservoir on the right, Wahweap marina in front with backdrop of Navajo Mountain, and US-89 cutting through the beautiful green landscape on the left. This majestic view, projects the story in passage of time. We spent few mins here, took some pictures and hit the road to Springdale.
Drive on US-89 south is very different from what we had experienced in Bryce or Zion. The topography is flat for acres and acres, and suddenly a little mountain pops-up in middle of no where. These little mountains are commonly known as "Buttes" and comprise of the sandstone. We came across a detour on the right that went to "tower Butte". Scattered rain showers, added more fluorescence and color to the entire landscape. While enjoying the drive, we came across signs for a trail head, and we decided to do the trail.
Toadstool Trail (En-route Page to Springdale via Mt Carmel)
When I read the information on the trail, I found that this is not a clearly marked trail so thought we were lucky to have noticed this and hiked this trail. This is an easy to moderate hiking trail in the desert. The photo at the trail head is what intrigued and motivated us to do this trail.The toadstool trail is part of western section of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which stretches over southern Utah. This area is one unexplored ares and hence remains in its natural forms. Few feet onto the trail and we witnessed patches of wild flowers and blossoming cactus in the barren desert. We were really amazed with amount of wild flowers that had grown around the dry stream. These toadstool hoodoos were made up of the hard rock layer creating the umbrella while the soft layer of eroded sandstone makes its stem. Trail offered a very beautiful sight of variety of sandstone cliffs ranging from deep vermilion to white rock garden of distantly spaced hoodoos.
Toadstool trail was the last stop we took on our way back to Zion, as we had to get back to Zion to tour the MT Carmel Highway and the Canyon overlook trail! In the end, I would definitely recommend visiting Page, AZ for the varied landscapes and topography, all present in a very small area. Beware of the temperatures though, which soar (and they did) upwards of 95F.