The Best Doggone Way to See Antelope Canyon
By KEEN Fan Hana Kim
Most people can tell Antelope Canyon from a single photo. It is one of the most popular slot canyons in Arizona, and you need to book a tour to go into the main part of the canyon as it is on Navajo land.
In March 2019, we were on our 4-week road trip across the western United States with our dogs. After exploring Utah, we decided to go explore a bit of Arizona. We really wanted to go to Antelope Canyon but knew we couldn’t take the dogs as they were not allowed on the tour. Luckily, we found out about a dog-friendly way to get there—by paddling with our pups to an entrance on the back side of the canyon.
Here's how we did it:
1. Rent kayaks, canoes or SUPs
We rented kayaks and canoes to take the dogs. (It’s possible to go by boat, but there is no place to dock once you get there.) We rented one canoe and one sit-on-top kayak for three people and four dogs from a local rental place in Page, Arizona. We then loaded the rigs onto the top of our cars and drove about 15 minutes down the road to the boat launch.
We got all our gear loaded up in dry bags to camp one night on Antelope Island, which is directly across from the launch area. You can camp on the whole island for free, but it’s a matter of bringing all your stuff across and making sure you pack everything out.
Pro tip: The boat launch you want to go to is “Antelope Point Launch Ramp” and the cost to park your car is $30 for up to 7 days or free if you have the America the Beautiful pass, which we had.
2. Paddle early
The next morning, we woke up early and got ready to paddle to Antelope Canyon! We had one friend and her dog in the kayak, and I was with my other friend with three dogs in the canoe. Let me just tell you, trying to navigate a canoe with three dogs of different sizes is hard! We are lucky our dogs were pretty relaxed and tired from running around that they mostly just laid down or sat up to enjoy the view.
Pro tip: We were told to go early before other motorized boats start to go as the water would be calmer for the paddlers. We got in the water by 8 a.m.
3. Be sure to stay off Navajo land
The paddle was about 2.5 miles from the boat launch through the canyons until you hit sand. It can vary depending on the water level during the year. The part of Antelope Canyon we entered was in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and it's OK to be there without a tour group. Unescorted humans and dogs are not allowed on Navajo land, but you can hike about 1-1.5 miles before you reach it.
We spent about an hour or so walking into the canyons until it got a little narrow and steep for the dogs. We didn’t see any signs saying we were on Navajo land, but we were keeping track on a GPS so we could turn around if it had been more than 1.5 miles.
"I would rather not see somewhere than leave my dogs behind. They go where I go." - Hana
On the way back, there were tour boats starting to come through as well as winds that made the water a little more choppy and harder to paddle. Make sure that you bring plenty of water and sunscreen as we got a little sunburnt out on the water. We headed back to our campsite to pack up our tent and belongings (we didn’t want to kayak with it to the canyon as it was just more extra stuff) and then we made the short little straight shot back to the boat dock to load our stuff back up in the car.
Happy humans, happy dogs!