A Guide to Kayaking in Antelope Canyon on Lake Powell

A girl in a red life-jacket sits in a yellow kayak floating on the green water curving around the different bends of the orange rock with strata.

Say hello to an adventure that will immerse you in the breathtaking beauty of the American Southwest – kayaking in Antelope Canyon from the waters of Lake Powell.

Nestled amidst the red rock canyons, Lake Powell is a gorgeous place to relax and play. This iconic reservoir, formed by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, offers great views and many opportunities to enjoy water activities on the lake.

The striated colors of the rock formations contrast the shimmering blue waters of the lake, and kayaking on Lake Powell opens the door to a “secret” section of the nearby, uber-popular Antelope Canyon.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Southwest, but the day we spent kayaking in Antelope Canyon from Lake Powell, and then hiking through the canyon, was one of my absolute favorite experiences.

In this post, we’re sharing everything you need to know about kayaking into and hiking through Antelope Canyon, including where to start, where to rent equipment, where to go, and what to expect during your day on the lake.

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Antelope Canyon vs Antelope Canyon

THE Antelope Canyon, the one that is extremely popular and well-known, is run by the Navajo Nation and requires you to go on a guided tour of the canyon.

You’ve almost certainly seen pictures of this incredible canyon, with the tall, undulating, orange walls and small slivers of light streaming in – it’s gorgeous.

A large slot canyon in Southern Utah with a sandy path leading throughout the winding rocks with different colors reflecting off the sun coming throughout the canyon.

It’s also an incredibly rushed and packed tour, as you have many groups full of people trying to go through the canyon, and you’re basically just herded along. 

However, there is also an entrance to the Antelope Canyon area that is accessible via Lake Powell. This is NOT the same canyon or experience as the official guided tours, but it is a slot canyon that you can explore on your own, without guided tours or entrance fees. 

This alternate hiking path is totally legal – you’re not breaking any rules or entering Navajo land unauthorized. It’s also not possible to get to the guided tour section of the canyon from this route, and the trails are totally separate.

Where is Antelope Canyon in Relation to Lake Powell

Antelope Canyon is a small offshoot from the main part of Lake Powell. The canyon is filled with water, and you can kayak, boat (if it’s a small boat), or jetski through it to reach the end. The canyon is a no-wake zone, and it narrows significantly as you go through it.

Small boats will be unable to reach the very end of the canyon, but kayaks and jetskis can make it to the end without a problem. 

Lake Powell

A Step by Step Guide to Kayaking Antelope Canyon

Getting to the Marina

The closest spot to launch onto Lake Powell is Antelope Point Marina, which is about 15 minutes from Page, Arizona.

To enter Antelope Point Marina, you need to pay for entrance to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is right before the entrance to the marina. This costs $30 for a private vehicle, or you can also use a National Parks Pass (aka America the Beautiful Pass or Interagency Pass) to get in for free. 

Renting a Watercraft

There are two main outfitters you can rent from at Antelope Point Marina:

There is also Paddle Lake Powell, which offers paddleboat kayaks at a higher price.

Single kayaks are $45 and double kayaks cost $55? for a full day of use, and can be reserved ahead of time.

Half-day (5 hours) kayak rentals cost $30 and $40 respectively, but cannot be reserved ahead of time and are first come first serve.

I’d definitely just go with the full-day rental, as you’ll likely need more than 5 hours to do the entire experience.

Additionally, during the summer, kayaks are almost always sold out in advance. We booked the last double kayaks they had available one week before we went out, so don’t wait until the last minute to make your reservation. 

Alternatively, you can also rent jet skis, and enjoy significantly less exertion, as well as have more time to explore more of Lake Powell. Jet skis, of course, have a much higher cost. A half day jet ski rental is $245 and a full day is $395.

We rented three double kayaks for me, Matthew, and our four girls (12, 10, 8, 6). As the strongest paddler, Matthew had the 6 year old, I had the 10 year old, and the 12 and 8 year old went together.

Of course, this setup is specific to our family, and yours will of course be different, but I share to illustrate that for some (even many) kids, this kayak journey is definitely doable. 

Bringing Your Own Watercraft

When you enter the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, after you pay the entrance fee, there is an option to continue straight down Antelope Point Road instead of turning right into the marina.

At the end of this road is the Antelope Point Launch Ramp, and you can launch personal kayaks or paddleboards from here. There is a parking lot at the top of the ramp for anyone launching.

A major perk you’ll enjoy if you launch from here with your own kayak or paddleboard is that you cut off about 40% of the distance you need to paddle on the Lake Powell section of the route.

The Route

You’ll be kayaking from the marina and around one curve of the lake. After about a mile, you’ll see the opening in the wall where Antelope Creek joins Lake Powell, and you’ll turn left into the side canyon. Then you just follow the curves of the canyon for another mile, until the water stops.

The open blue water leading into a large canyon in between two large rock walls with two kayaks in the middle of Lake Powell.
The opening of Antelope Creek into Lake Powell

The views in Antelope Creek are just absolutely gorgeous – deep blue water contrasts sharply with the red and orange rocks streaked with white.

The rock walls on the sides of Lake Powell weren’t particularly tall, but once you entered Antelope Creek, you were immediately surrounded by tall, sheer rock walls.

A large slot canyon coming off Lake Powell with two large orange and yellow rock walls winding throughout the path with a yellow kayak floating on the water.

As you kayak deeper upstream, the canyon twists and turns, becoming narrower and narrower, creating progressively more impressive and gorgeous views.

Also, the farther in you get, the calmer the water becomes – away from the busier lake and protected pretty well from the wind, everything is more peaceful. We *loved* this area.

A girl in a red life-jacket sits in a yellow kayak floating on the green water curving around the different bends of the orange rock with strata.

How Long Does It Take to Kayak?

It is approximately 2.5 miles ONE WAY from the marina to where the water ends in the canyon.

It took us just under an hour to kayak on Lake Powell from the marina to the start of Antelope Canyon, and then just under an hour again to kayak through Antelope Canyon to where the water stops.

We were going at a pretty good pace, but we were with smaller children. If you are going with adults or teens who are all strong paddlers and are hustling, then you will certainly make it there in less time.

However, I would still plan for at least 1.5 hours from the marina to the end of the canyon, and 2 hours to be safe.

These time estimates only include the kayaking, they don’t also include any time you spend hiking.

A man in a bright blue kayak holds a paddle with a small girl lying down on the  entire kayak that is floating on the green water in front of the orange rock wall
The 6 year old who ended up being a passenger princess certainly didn’t help us go faster – ha!

Reaching the End of the Water

Finally, you’ll reach the narrowest part of Antelope Creek, where the water ends. You’ll see other people’s kayaks and jetskis along the “shore.” Since the water’s edge was pretty full, we pulled our kayaks farther up on the shore. 

Large rows of kayaks sitting on the sand in front of Antelope Canyon.

Starting the Hike in Antelope Canyon

From here, you can start the hiking portion of Antelope Canyon! The canyon is a true slot canyon, with high canyon walls and a narrow walkway.

While this part of Antelope Canyon lacks the distinctive extra tall, extra narrow, orange, undulating walls that you’d see on the paid tour, this slot canyon is still beautiful and very fun. The walls are very smooth, having been sanded down by flash floods, and there are sometimes light striations in the walls.

You’ll get a decent amount of shade in the canyon, except right around noon. In some areas, the trail is packed dirt, in other areas the path is sandy. 

A small slot canyon in the shade with a dirt path winding throughout the bright smooth walls

After about 10 minutes of hiking, you’ll come to a ledge, where you climb up a ladder to reach the trail that’s about 10 feet higher. This spot is also the farthest point that water ever comes into Antelope Canyon – even when the water level in the lake is high, it never goes past this location.

A wooden ladder leading up to a rock ledge in between large pieces of orange fallen rock

While the water portion of Antelope Creek narrowed at a regular pace as you went deeper into the canyon, the hiking portion of Antelope Canyon does not continue to get progressively narrower.

There are some sections that are pretty narrow and “slot-y”, and then the canyon will open up a little bit, then it will get narrow again.

An open sandy path with lots of small pebbles covering around. There are large sloping rock walls on the outside of the path.
A wider section of the canyon

One particularly fun section was extremely very narrow, with a super tight, winding passage to walk through. It’s only a few yards long and about 4 feet high, but was fun while it lasted!

A very skinny path with large smooth orange rock walls protruding into the path

There are also a few other areas where you have to scramble up a small rock ledge to continue the trail, which was about five feet higher.

How Long is the Antelope Canyon Hike

To be honest, it’s hard to give a straight answer on this for a few reasons. First, the canyon terrain varies somewhat year by year due to flash floods that come through. Second, we actually did document the hike on All Trails, but we didn’t go all the way to the end of the trail.

Finally, even when I talked to the workers at the marina, people had a hard time telling me exactly how long the canyon is.

All Trails told us that we hiked for about 1.3 miles one way into the canyon. I think this is probably pretty accurate. From what we could tell from the map, we went about 2/3 of the distance of the canyon – so the canyon is probably approximately 2 miles long.

It took us 2 hours to do the full 2.6 round trip hike in the canyon – a very slow pace to be sure. However, we were taking regular water+snack breaks (it was SO hot y’all), and our kids also really enjoyed climbing on the rocks, which is fun, but it did slow us down.

An orange and brown smooth rock wall winding throughout Antelope Canyon.
Smooth rock walls winding around the path making a great slot canyon with girls walking around the path.

I would say that the first half of the trail is actually the best, with the narrowest passages and most beautiful parts of the canyon.

While we didn’t go all the way to the end, the last chunk (15-20 minutes) that we hiked was just slightly less scenic and often in a wider slot canyon. Looking at the topographical map of the final parts of the canyon, it looks like it’s a similar situation, with some narrower sections and some wider sections.

A woman stands in the middle of the canyon looking at the

By all means, continue to the end if you wish, but also, don’t feel bad if you only go halfway – I do think the first half has some of the best views. 

Important Tips

✔️Please please please practice Leave No Trace principles – don’t carve into the canyon walls, don’t leave trash, and pack everything out.

An orange rock wall the colorful strata covered in different graffiti.
It’s so sad to see the ugly graffiti on those gorgeous striped walls – please don’t do this! (Thankfully most of the graffiti was just at the start of the canyon)

✔️Make sure you have plenty of water, especially if visiting in the summer. While the lake breeze was really effective at keeping us fairly cool, the hiking part of the canyon was extremely hot and dry, and temperatures in the summer are usually over 100 F. I would aim for at least 3-4 L of water per adult.

✔️Consider your footwear. Kayaking with your shoes on is a good way for them to get very wet – so I’d recommend kayaking barefoot and keeping your shoes in the boat with you (unless you have good water shoes).

Shoes just sitting in the boat will also likely get splashed and wet. We hadn’t thought about this until the morning of, so we just put all the sneakers into plastic Walmart bags. Some shoes stayed dry, others got *quite* wet.

I’d recommend one of three options: 1. Wear water shoes 2. Put shoes into actual dry bags 3. Put shoes in a garbage or grocery bag, but be sure to tie the bag tightly.

✔️Don’t do this hike if there is rain in the forecast or if there is a chance of flash flooding. Flash floods are extremely dangerous and can and do kill people.

✔️Be prepared for some blisters on your hands if you don’t paddle very often. Consider some bandages/moleskin or gloves to help with that.

Wind + Waves Considerations

Depending on which outfitter you go with, you can check in between 7-8 am, and I’d highly recommend you get there as close to opening as possible. The water in the morning is much calmer than later in the day, as the wind is low and there are fewer boats out creating waves.

Most of your time on the main part of Lake Powell (before you get to the no-wake zone at the start of Antelope Creek) is in a wake zone.

Speedboats, jetskis, houseboats, and other watercraft can zip around as fast and however they like, potentially creating a lot of waves. In the morning, there aren’t as many boats zooming around.

We started kayaking at 8am on a Thursday morning in July, and the trip out was very pleasant. The water wasn’t perfectly smooth, but I’d definitely consider it easy kayaking conditions.

If you start first thing in the morning, by the time you’re coming back, it’s late morning to early afternoon, and the waves and wind will have certainly picked up. I was honestly pretty nervous about encountering enormous waves and a stiff wind on the way back out, but it wasn’t too bad.

A girl in a red life-jacket sits on a blue kayak floating on the blue water against the orange rock landscape.
Heading back – the waves are not bad!

The first part of Antelope Creek, where the canyon is the narrowest, was very calm. The mouth of the canyon at the Lake Powell junction was very windy, but then the lake itself was only a moderate wind.

There were more waves than in the morning, but it wasn’t crazy choppy. The mouth of the canyon really was the worst.

Of course, your experience is going to depend a lot on the day. I feel confident in saying that weekends are going to be much busier, with a lot more boats creating waves and churning up the water. And of course, if you happen to go on a windier day,  you’ll also have a harder time paddling back. 

During the afternoon, there are boats that come by to pick up/rescue kayakers who just can’t keep going. This does come at a hefty cost ($100/pp), but it’s there if you need it. 

The Wrap Up

Overall, we were tired but not exhausted at the end of the day, and everyone, including the kids, had a really fantastic time. This was among our top two favorite parts of this particular Southwest road trip.

Lake Powell is stunning, kayaking through Antelope Creek was absolutely gorgeous, and we loved hiking through the mostly empty slot canyon.

And, if you want to do the trip but are nervous about the physical exertion or the possibility of the waves, a jet ski is definitely a valid option. 

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