It’s a big country. Come along as we explore some of the most well-known, and maybe not so well-known, places in our vast Western states: Alaska’s Kenai Fjords; Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; the Grand Canyon; Joshua Tree and Zion national parks; Hoover Dam; Arizona’s Antelope Canyon; Idaho’s Shoshone Falls. Some you certainly have heard of, others not. But what they all have in common is the capacity to astonish, especially if you’re seeing them for the first time. Included is information on how to get there from Bellingham or Seattle, and other valuable travel tidbits. Happy trails.
These otherworldly rock formations are a photographers’ eye candy, but you don’t have to be a photographer to marvel at the jaw-dropping interior of this slot canyon, located in northern Arizona near the famed Lake Powell recreational area. Antelope Canyon actually consists of two sections — the upper (nicknamed “The Crack”) and lower (“The Corkscrew”).
For maximum lighting effect, plan your trip for spring, summer, or the end of September. Be sure you’re there by late morning, when the light is at its most dramatic, casting beams from above and through 120-foot rock walls. The canyon, at an elevation of 4,000 feet, looks like an unremarkable desert outcropping from outside. It’s only when you step inside that another world opens up to you, a secret passageway to one of nature’s great wonders.
Another bonus — the upper canyon is at ground level, meaning no climbing or descending is necessary for those with physical restrictions or a fear of heights. The lower canyon, several miles from the upper, presents more difficult hiking — metal stairways have been installed to make things relatively easier. Still, be prepared to navigate some narrow spots between rocks.
With sunbeams accentuating the color of undulating rock layers, the experience is a little like walking inside a still-life lava lamp. The striking rock formations were carved by the erosion of Navajo sandstone, mostly from flash flooding, which is still a hazard here. Rainstorms, even those miles away, have been known to cause dangerous or even fatal flooding here in recent years.
When the Navajo Tribe made the canyon a Navajo Tribal Park in 1997, it became required to book tours though a licensed tour operator. Check navajonationparks.org. Also note: The closest city, Page, is situated atop a mesa overlooking Lake Powell and the famed “Grand Circle” — a sightseeing mecca with numerous historical sites, monuments, parks and tribal ruins.
Getting There From Bellingham
Fly Direct to Phoenix on Allegiant Air (about two hours), then a 5-hour drive to Antelope Canyon
Drive It’s 1,300 miles (about 20 hours) to Antelope Canyon
Fees or permits
Prices vary. Check navajonationparks.org for various tour operators.
What To Do
Visit Powell Museum & Official Visitor Center in Page for help booking tours and finding info on lodging, dining, stores.
Motor along on a boat tour on the Glen Canyon section of the Colorado River.
Hike scenic Horseshoe Bend.
Places To Eat
Big John’s Texas BBQ
Ranch House Grille (breakfast and lunch)
What To See
Glen Canyon National Recreational Area
Take a helicopter tour of Tower Butte
Lake Powell, or Horseshoe Bend
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Where To Stay
Best Western View of Lake Powell Motel
La Quinta Inn and Suites at Lake Powell
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson
Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Films will celebrate the diversity of our nation’s natural treasures. It’s part of a national tour, but customized to the local area.
Fourth Annual Glen Canyon Natural History Association Bat Festival
Includes kids’ activities, information booths, bat house building demonstrations, bat listening walks.
Horseshoe Bend Star Party
View planets and galaxies through telescopes from photogenic Horseshoe Bend.
Antelope Canyon is a sacred site to the Navajo, who pause before entering it as a sign of respect. But while this is spiritual land, it’s the tribe’s. The tribe discourages visitors from scattering ashes of loved ones there. One recent incident required the canyon to be closed temporarily to allow for a tribal medicine man to restore its spiritual integrity.