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Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon

My kids started school last week after a summer vacation filled with epic trips.  Okay, it was more like epic trip for a week and then Netflix and soda for two weeks on repeat from beginning to end.  It was definitely time for them to get back to book learnin’.  One of our awesome trips was to Page, Arizona.  We’ve driven through Page and the Lake Powell area many times, but never stopped to enjoy its beauty.  So I decided that all I wanted for my birthday was to drive to Page and check out two places I’ve been pinning on Pinterest for years: Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.  They were both amazing!  If you’re planning a visit to either of these locations, I have some wisdom to share.  (I’m older now, so I’m super wise.)

Horseshoe Bend is located about four miles southwest of Page, Arizona.  There’s a large parking lot for you to park and hike to the edge of the cliff overlooking Horseshoe Bend.  I read online that it was 1.2 miles and took approximately 30 minute to hike.  That was not my experience.  It was more like 10 minutes.  However, I referred to this journey as a “short, easy hike” on Instagram and my friend responded: “It is not a short easy hike when it’s 200 degrees outside, you have 3 kids who don’t want to be there and a baby who’s screaming.  It’s the longest hike in the world.”  Ha!  So . . . keep that in mind.  The initial incline is pretty steep and it’s all in loose sand.  Hiking shoes, hats, and water are strongly recommended.  Once you get to the top of the initial hill, this will be your view:

Hike to Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ.

You will then hike to the edge of a cliff with absolutely no safety features.  The view will be incredible and your mind will be blown.

Horseshoe Bend, ArizonaGirl at Horseshoe Bend, AZ.Photographers at Horseshoe Bend, AZ.

People around us were getting dangerously close to the edge just to get a good picture.  I brought my Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5 super wide angle lens with me, so I didn’t have to risk my life like some of those jaboneys.  Though I was even able to get the whole river in the frame using my phone.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona

“The Cliffs of Insanity!”Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ.

If you’re wondering what time of day to visit, I can’t imagine it gets much better than sunset.  (Especially during monsoon season.)

Man with tripod photographing Horseshoe Bend.Woman in white dress at Horseshoe Bend.

This beautiful woman was kind enough to let me photograph her.  It may look as though we were all alone, but we were there with about 150 visitors from around the world.

Horseshoe Bend at sunset photographed by Melissa Maxwell of Gilbert, AZ.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to visit Antelope Canyon.  If you’re planning a visit, here’s what you need to know:

First of all, there are two canyons: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon.  The one you see photographed most often is the Upper Canyon.  It has those beautiful light shafts and is much easier to enter.  Lower Antelope Canyon requires climbing ladders and has several tight turns.  Both canyons are on Navajo land and you are required to make an appointment with a Navajo guide to tour the canyons.  There are two types of tours for both canyons: a photography tour and a general tour.  Photography tours cost about twice as much and last about twice as long.  Children are not allowed on the photography tours, which is why my family and I took the general tour.  Even without the extra time and the use of a tripod, we were able to get some great photos of Lower Antelope Canyon.  Most of the cool views are higher up, anyway, so just shoot over everyone else and you will be fine.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m so coming back for the photography tour someday.)

Lower Antelope Canyon is about 2 miles Northeast of Page.  We used Ken’s Tours and booked a 7:40am tour.  We were told over and over again by our guide that we were flippin’ geniuses for getting there early in the morning.  There can be a wait anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours during the late morning/early afternoon tour times.  Did I mention you’re waiting outside in the Arizona heat?  Well, you are and that’s the worst.  Because we came early, we got straight into the canyon without a wait.  Here’s what the entrance looks like:

Entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon.

The steps are steep and scary, but then you get inside and it looks like this:Lower Antelope CanyonLower Antelope CanyonHalf-pipe at Lower Antelope Canyon

This rock formation is called the “half-pipe”.  Another piece of advice: make friends with your tour guide.  Ours was the best!  Before we got in the canyon, she helped us with our camera and phone settings and then once we were inside, she would take our cameras and photograph anything we might have missed.  Every once in a while she would stop and tell us to look at a rock formation and tell us what they call it and why.  Then we would all nod like we totally saw it, too.  She may have been making it all up.

Here’s a shot of our guide with my kids.  My kids got some amazing pictures on their phones!
Lower Antelope CanyonLower Antelope CanyonLady in the Wind, Lower Antelope Canyon

This rock formation is called “The Lady in the Wind”.  You see it, right?

Lower Antelope Canyon

This is a shot my daughter took with my phone.  She said she liked it because it looked like fire.  Totally.

Lower Antelope Canyon from above.

Here’s what the canyon looks like from above.  Just a slot in the earth.  (Hence the name “slot canyon”, duh.)  We were in the canyon for about an hour.  Two minutes in, my son said he had to go to the bathroom.

A few more tips:

  • There are only port-o-potties at the tour office.  You’ve been warned.
  • There’s an $8 per person charge that must be paid in cash to the Navajo nation in addition to the cost of the tour.
  • Lower Antelope Canyon is on Arizona time (no Daylight Savings Time), however, because it’s so close to the Utah border, Utah cell phone towers will often change the time on your phone.  This happened to me several times, so I never knew what time it was when we were in Page.  Wear a watch.
  • Wear hiking clothes, a hat, and sunscreen.
  • Bring water.
  • Tip your guide if they’re awesome.
  • Don’t go to the dam visitors center to check out the dam view after seeing Lower Antelope Canyon because absolutely nothing will impress you after this.  However, it is fun to make dam jokes on the way to the dam visitors center because it makes kids laugh.

Lower Antelope Canyon

I hope you found this helpful for planning a trip to this beautiful part of the country.  Let me know if you have any questions or tips of your own!

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  • Carrie YH - Excellent photos and great information!ReplyCancel

    • melissa@jubileefamilyphotography.com - Thanks, Carrie! Happy to help.ReplyCancel

  • Patti Maxwell - I read your blog all the time without commenting, but this post was so incredibly informative and fun, with jaw-dropping pictures, I just had to say something. Bravo!ReplyCancel

    • melissa@jubileefamilyphotography.com - Thanks, Patti! I appreciate the feedback.ReplyCancel

I’ve always found cowboys fascinating.  Especially Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Also Paul Newman in Hud.  And Paul Newman in Hombre.  Okay, I’m seeing a pattern here.  I guess I’ve just always been fascinated with Paul Newman.  Truthfully, all of my knowledge of cowboys comes from movies.  Mostly Toy Story 2.  So when I had the opportunity to photograph a real cowboy for his senior portraits, I was so excited!

Jarom is the president of the FFA at his high school and has earned four state medals for cowboy-related skills I can’t even comprehend.  His grandpa owns a ranch out in Apache Junction so I headed out there recently to watch Jarom in action.  He rode around on his horse, Alice, and then took off to find some cows.  He came back with a herd of cattle headed right for me.  It was thrilling.  The ranch was so peaceful and scenic.  I can see why he spends so much time there.  Thanks for giving me the chance to see some real cowboying up close, Jarom.  I’m sure Paul Newman couldn’t have done it better.

Cowboy senior portrait session in Apache Junction, AS.Cowboy senior portraits by Jubilee Family PhotographyCowboy senior portraits by Jubilee Family PhotographyCowboy senior portraits by Jubilee Family Photography.Cowboy senior portraits by Jubilee Family PhotographyCowboy senior portrait session in Apache Junction, AZ.Cowboy senior portraits by Jubilee Family Photography.Cowboy senior portraits by Jubilee Family PhotographyCowboy senior portraits by Jubilee Family Photography.FFA senior portraits by Jubilee Family Photography.Cowboy senior portraits in Apache Junction, AZ.

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When my family and I moved to Arizona from St. Louis, MO, we drove into the state on Route 66.  We entered Northeastern Arizona and found ourselves in the mountains surrounded by pine trees and cabins.  We thought, “Wait–this is Arizona?”  Then we kept driving south where we were greeted by rolling hills covered in saguaro cacti.  We thought, “Wait-this is Arizona?”  Then we entered the Mesa/Gilbert area with its palm trees and citrus groves and thought, “WHAT IS ARIZONA?”  It turns out, Arizona is all the things.  Drive two hours in any direction and you’ll find a completely different landscape.  It’s intriguing and wonderful and one of the many reasons I heart AZ.

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert is one of my favorite locations for portraits because you will find many different Arizona landscapes in just one spot.  The cactus garden is a particularly popular spot.  (I even had my own family photos taken there last year.)  I had the pleasure of photographing one of my favorite families in the cactus garden recently.  This family was amazing!  They followed directions and looked great doing it.  That’s really all it takes for me to like you.

Family photographed at Riparian Preserve and Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ.Family photographed in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family PhotographyFamily photographed in Gibert, AZ by Jubilee Family PhotographyChildren photographed in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family Photography.Family photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Cactus family photosCactus family photosChildren photographed in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family Photography.Couple photographed at Riparian Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ.Cactus family photos

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I think the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch may be the town of Gilbert’s most popular photo shoot destination.  I don’t have the numbers on it, or anything, but judging by the amount of people I run into during photo shoots who are also there for a photo shoot, I stand by my statement.  This is a definite hot spot and for good reason.  The Riparian Water Ranch (or “Moisture Farm” as my husband likes to call it) has a wide variety of landscapes and plenty of what we Arizonians so desperately crave: shade.  There are beautiful trees, a lake, and even a nice cactus garden.  I would recommend this location for small groups and high school seniors.  Be warned that the Riparian looks quite dead in January and February.

Redheaded girl in blue dress in desert by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Family portrait by Jubilee Family Photography.Family portraits by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Senior portrait by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.

 

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I love the desert!  Love it.  I spent most of my life in Idaho (mountains, wind, snow) and North Carolina (mountains, beaches, ALL the trees) so when my family and I moved to Arizona a couple of years ago it was like moving to another planet.  I had never seen cacti before and was surprised by the hearty, brightly colored bushes all over town.  One of the most common requests I get from clients is “Not desert.”  I suppose if the desert is your home planet, it may not seem that beautiful, but I think it can be really lovely.  I had fun photographing these darling redheads in some of my favorite spots around town.  Most of these gorgeous flowers are in bloom six months out of the year.  Oh, Arizona!  You’re so good to me.

Girl in blue tulle dress in desert by Jubilee Family Photography.Redheaded girl in blue dress in desert by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Cute girl with desert flowers by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Girl in yellow desert flowers by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ>Girl by white flowered vine by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Girl by Bougainvillea by Jubiliee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Child portrait by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Child portrait by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Child portrait by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Child portrait by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.Child portrait by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.

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