Like the much better known and photographed Antelope also the Water Holes is one slot canyon, that is a canyon that has been formed over the centuries through the erosion of water. It is therefore deeper than wide and this, combined with its shapes, helps to create beautiful plays of light especially when the sun is perpendicular to the canyon.
Until recently, unlike the aforementioned Antelope Canyon, part of the Water Holes could be explored independently without the need for a guide. Now things have changed: let's see in detail how to integrate this excursion into your Arizona tour.
- Where it is
- How to visit it
- How it is composed
- West o Lower Slot
- East o Upper Slot
- Secret Canyon
- So what can you visit independently?
Where it is
The Water Holes Canyon is located just south of Page and the entrance is located along the US-89 about four and a half kilometers from Horseshoe Bend. If you are coming from the Grand Canyon (and therefore from the south) you will have to cross a bridge and then on your right you will find a small clearing where to park the car. If you are coming from the north and therefore from Page, the clearing will be on your left before reaching the bridge.
How to visit it
To visit the Water Holes Canyon, you must first obtain a permit that can be purchased at the Tribal Parks Office which is located next to the LeChee Chapter House, located in a small cluster of houses just outside Page. We have sent two emails to Navajo Parks & Recreation, the body that manages the area, asking for official information on both the price and the opening hours of the office to purchase the permit but they have not yet answered us.
As for the timetables on Google Maps there is a recent photo of the office and, pending confirmation, you can rely on that. On the other hand, as far as the price of the permit is concerned, the figure should be around 12-15 dollars. Once the permit is purchased, it is necessary leave it well exposed inside the machine that you will park in the clearing that we have described above.
Attention Update: in telling us about their experience, the newlyweds Pierluigi and Gianna told us how at the end of 2018 the conditions for entering the canyon changed, which now could only be visited on a guided tour. We went to check for ourselves and we can confirm what has been reported: the Water Holes Canyon can no longer be visited independently and is only accessible via an organized tour. If you want to book it go to this page.
How it is composed
For convenience, we will take the aforementioned reference point US-89 so as to divide the canyon into two parts, one east and one west.
West o Lower Slot
It is the part that, going down towards west, merges with the Colorado River, where the so-called loop is located Waterholes Bend, which we also talked about in the Horseshoe Bend article. Going through this canyon requires considerable technical competence and also asuitable equipment because in some places the path descends very steeply towards the valley. Often also this part of the canyon comes closed, then ask the tour operator for confirmation of the feasibility.
East o Upper Slot
The part that develops towards the east is the one in which the path remains accessible in a slightly simpler way. However, the Upper slot is not uniform; continuing eastwards it is further divided into three sections:
- West Fork
- Middle Fork that contains the Secret Canyon
- East Fork
In each of these sections there are several slots that can be visited thanks to the guided tours. Especially recommended, if you get the chance, is a tour to the Secret Canyon (Also known as Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon) whose beauty is considered by many to be similar to that of the Antelope. The Secret Canyon is located within the Middle Fork, as you can see from this topographic map.
Currently there is only one tour company that tours from Page to Secret Canyon (or Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon, if you prefer!) at not-so-popular prices. This is the Horseshoe Bend Tours. You can then contact them directly for information about it.
Here are some warnings that may be useful if you decide to visit the canyon. Probably all this will also be said by the tour operators, but we might as well know what we are going to meet:
- do not expect any kind of facilities along the way such as bathrooms or anything else.
- especially based on the period in which you will go make sure you have asuitable clothing, accompanied by a pair of trekking shoes that will help you to easily overcome the slightly more demanding passes without risking slipping.
- it is good to keep in mind is to pay attention to the presence of dangerous animals, such as coyotes but above all snakes which, given the particular shape of the slot canyons, can also be found along the course of the rocky walls.
So what can you visit independently?
In summary, you can go on your own reverse side is and you can go to the upper slot indicatively up to the point that we have marked on the map below.
Once you leave the car you can pass the gate and head towards the canyon following the path which is bordered by piles of stones (in some places they are a bit sparse and you will have to sharpen your view a little). Once you get to the edge of the canyon, keep walking until you find a wall that is more inclined than the others that will allow you to descend. Keep going reverse side is enjoying the landscape until you reach a ladder leaning against the wall. Here you will be faced with two hypotheses: continue, being very careful to remain in balance, or go back, since the part that you can walk freely would still end a few hundred meters later.
Still on the subject of the staircase, it is not certain that you will find it intact because wear can sometimes play tricks and the replacement does not always take place immediately.
Water Holes Canyon is just one of the many natural masterpieces around Page, which remains the best solution for overnight stay in this case. For suggestions on hotels and recommended accommodations in the city, I refer you to our in-depth analysis.
Accommodation tips in Page