This Secret Spot In Arizona Is A Breathtaking Crowd-Free Alternative For Antelope Canyon

A little-known slot canyon called Secret Antelope Canyon (also known as Secret Canyon or Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon) is tucked away in the magnificent red-rock wilderness near Page, Arizona. It should not be confused with Antelope Canyon, its nearby cousin. These two canyons are five miles apart and similar in name and topography but also different in some striking ways. In both chasms, the sandstone walls bend, twist, and curve in a seemingly impossible manner, and sunbeams illuminate rainbows of color in the striated rock. Both slot canyons are ethereally beautiful, and visiting either one of them can be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. 

However, when visiting Antelope Canyon, you'll likely be rubbing elbows with hundreds of other tourists, whereas in Secret Antelope Canyon, you'll be accompanied by your tour guide, no more than 24 other people, and maybe a few curious lizards. With human voices constantly echoing off the rock walls, Antelope Canyon sounds more like a shopping mall than a cathedral. 

Secret Antelope Canyon, on the other hand, is eerily quiet, providing a much more serene ambiance. Knowing this, some travelers may still gravitate toward Antelope Canyon simply because it's one of the most famous slot canyons in the U.S., if not the world. But those looking for a more intimate nature experience off the beaten track should steer their compass toward Secret Antelope Canyon.

Visiting Secret Canyon

To visit Secret Antelope Canyon, you must arrange a trip through Horseshoe Bend Tours, which is currently the only tour operator with access to the private area. The price for a canyon tour ticket is $129 per individual or $1,200 per private group, with an additional Navajo permit fee of $8 per person and a 6% online booking fee at checkout. Local guides must accompany all tours to prevent damage to the canyon environment and ensure visitors' safety, as traveling through slot canyons can be dangerous due to the risk of flash floods. Also, guides help immerse you in the Indigenous travel aspect of the experience. 

The journey to Secret Antelope Canyon begins with a six-mile drive in a 4x4 vehicle through a sublime slice of red-rock country, with a friendly guide at the helm who will share interesting facts about the area. From the open-air vehicle, you'll have opportunities to spot wildlife such as coyotes, hawks, foxes, and bobcats. 

After leaving the vehicle, a short walk of less than a quarter mile brings you to the canyon entrance. At that point, you're allowed one hour to explore the majestic labyrinth at your own pace, taking as many photographs as you desire. Since only one tour group is allowed in the canyon at a time, there's no rush, jostling, or unpleasant noise. Instead, just pure canyon bliss: the dance of sun and shadow on rock walls, the sound of your own light footsteps, and the feeling of being welcomed into a very sacred space.

Exploring the area around the canyon

The magic of this part of Arizona extends way beyond Secret Antelope Canyon. Fortunately, Horseshoe Bend Tours covers some of that, too. On their combined Secret Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend Overlook tour (which is slightly more expensive than the canyon-only tour), you're taken to a private viewing area away from the crowds at the spectacular Horseshoe Bend Overlook, where the Colorado River does a heart-stopping U-turn around a gigantic pinnacle of rock. This overlook is only about six miles from the Secret Antelope Canyon trailhead, making it a convenient stopover on the combined tour. 

For those who want to go even further, nearby Lake Powell is a visual marvel and a giant playground for water sports enthusiasts. The lake's crystal-clear waters are framed by red sandstone cliffs, creating a stunning backdrop for both relaxation and adventure. Boat trips are a fantastic way to explore the vast lake, including remote sites like the Toilet Bowl. This otherworldly swimming hole in Arizona has a ghastly but fitting name, as its perfectly round shape and swirling water really do make it look like a toilet. Bordering Lake Powell, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, with hiking trails, campsites, and plenty more amazing slot canyons to explore.