Secret Slot Canyon, Waterholes Canyon

Would you believe me if I told you there’s a slot canyon that looks just like the famous Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons that you can hike all on your own?

It’s called Waterholes Canyon!

Hiking Antelope Canyon without a guide or tour was something I definitely looked into but realized was not possible.

We took the Lower Antelope Canyon Photography Tour and saw first hand how tour guides herded tourists through like cattle.

Though on the photography tour you have a bit more time, it’s still timed and you are not free to roam on your own.  Waterholes Canyon was definitely a hidden gem on our Arizona road trip.


As more and more tourists visit Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons, they’ve gotten rid of the photography tours.  If you want a tour of Antelope Canyon with more time for photography take a look at these tours:

waterhole canyon hike

Where to Stay in Page Arizona

Waterholes Canyon (also known as Water Holes Canyon) is located just outside of Page, Arizona about a 15-minute drive from the center of town.

There are plenty of affordable places to stay in Page, AZ, but these are our favorites because they have a stunning view and hotel pool and are super affordable:

Courtyard at Lake Powell – Check Prices 

Best Western View of Lake Powell – Check Prices

Best Western Plus at Lake Powell – Check Prices

We ended up staying at Courtyard because both of the Best Westerns were booked up for our dates.

The Courtyard was great, nice sized and well-appointed rooms.  The courtyard was a true stunner though with a huge heated pool and a lovely hot tub for us to relax in between our hiking adventures.

The Best Westerns however boasted a beautiful view of Lake Powell and with Best Western of Lake Powell having a better view and Best Western Plus having more posh interiors.


Waterholes Canyon, a Slot Canyon without Tourists

Waterholes Canyon is a slot canyon that looks almost identical to Antelope.

It’s wider at the beginning and shorter in height, but as you hike further in it looks more and more like Antelope Canyon.

The best part?

We only met a few other tourists along the way.  For the most part, we had this slot canyon to ourselves.  Waterholes is a slot canyon just like Antelope Canyon without a tour.

We explored a slot canyon like Antelope Canyon on our own without a guide and go at our own pace.

What to Wear and Bring for Your Slot Canyon Hike

Bring plenty of water, there’s no shade along this trail except inside the slot canyon.

We went to Water Holes in November and it was unseasonably warm, a perfect 70s, and we were definitely glad we brought water. If you are doing this during the summer, I’d double the amount of water you think you will need.

There’s no special gear you need for hiking this slot canyon unless you plan on hiking the super narrow part beyond the ladder.

You can do this hike in just a good pair of sneakers because it is flat but be prepared to get tons of sand in your shoes.

Additionally, I would bring a hat and sunglasses as the sun is very strong.  A light long sleeved shirt would also provide good sun protection, and don’t forget your sunscreen.

I love UV Cut by Uniqlo for sun protective clothing because it is UDF 50 but very breathable and looks like normal clothes and not hiking clothes – Check Prices Here.

The cuts are modern and even the white shirts protect you from the sun.  Anytime I venture out where I know I will be in the sun all day I always wear one of these UV Cut shirts.

If you want to keep your water cool for the hike, these jugs – Check Prices Here – are great for keeping it cold.

It’s supposed to keep water cold for up to 24 hours and it works!  We left this water jug out in the sun all day and it was still cold the next day.

How Difficult is Hiking Waterholes Canyon

Hiking this slot canyon was generally pretty easy as the trail is mostly flat.

We hiked aka walked all through the canyon and eventually came to a ladder.

Once we climbed up the ladder the canyon opens up then narrows even more so that you have to climb up several ladders and do some bouldering to get out.

Though is looked pretty exciting it also looked a bit narrow for us so we simply walked back the way we came and exited through another set of cairns that marked the way out.

We did the hike in converse and me in a green gown.  You will get an obscene amount of sand in your shoes though!

Taking Pictures at Waterholes Slot Canyon

The best part about Waterhole Canyon?

It’s all the pictures you can take!

Since going to Antelope Canyon requires a tour, you really can’t spend that much time taking pictures.

The whole experience at Antelope was rushed and there is no option to go to Antelope Canyon without a guided tour.

But since we could go to Water Holes Canyon and explore on our own we went all sorts of photo crazy!  The canyon was just as stunning as Antelope

Because Waterhole Canyon is not quite as tall as Antelope taking pictures here was easier since there was more available daylight in the canyon.

Some spots we still needed a tripod for a longer exposure but generally, we just handheld our DSLR for photos.  Not to worry if you don’t have a DSLR or a tripod, our iPhone 6+s captured stunning photos here too!

In addition to Waterhole Canyon, Arizona has a ton of bucket list destinations that you need to see.  The Wave in Arizona and Monument Valley are both amazing places to add to your southwest itinerary.

slot canyon arizona
waterhole canyon hiking
secret antelope canyon
antelope canyon vs waterhole canyon

Not only is the slot canyon itself stunning, but the surrounding area is breathtaking as well.

We took our time hiking out of the slot canyon and explored the surrounding area.

The landscape and scenery were amazing and definitely not something I had seen before on the east coast.

waterhole canyon

Does Waterholes Canyon Look Like Antelope Canyon

At first, the Waterholes Canyon is very wide and doesn’t quite look like Antelope, but as you go deeper in, it narrows and looks just like the famous Antelope Canyons.

Waterholes Canyon is not quite as tall as the Antelope Canyons but if you showed me a picture of Waterhole Canyon and told me it was Antelope Canyon, I honestly would not have been able to tell the difference.

how to get to water holes canyon

Here’s two pictures side by side one is Antelope Canyon and the other Waterholes Canyon, leave me a comment and tell me which you think is Antelope Canyon.

waterhole canyon
antelope canyon

Is Waterholes Canyon Better Than Antelope Canyon

Waterholes Canyon and Antelope Canyon are both slot canyons and very similar in appearance.

Personally, both I and my husband preferred the unrushed experience of Waterhole Canyon.

The ability to explore at our own pace was a huge plus and it felt like we were at Antelope Canyon without a guide to herd us along.

I would recommend doing at least one of the Antelope Canyons though just so you can see it.

One last note, in the cavern where we hit the first ladder and turned around, we found a bunch of graffiti left by tourists on the walls, written in what I think was white chalk.

PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS.  This is Navajo Land, we are guests, and should be thankful that they have let us hike the majestic canyon.

Do NOT DEFACE their sacred grounds.  The last thing anyone wants is for it to be closed off because too many tourists are writing on the walls.

Waterhole Canyon was our last stop on our Page, AZ tour, and we headed to Monument Valley next.

Do You Need to Take a Tour to go to Waterholes Canyon

The best part about Water Holes Canyon is you do not need to buy a tour to visit. UPDATE:  You now need a tour to visit! See further down where to book your tour.

You can go to Water Holes Canyon completely on your own without a guide or a tour group.

You just need to buy a permit right before you go and put that permit on the dashboard of your car when you park.  The permit to hike water holes canyon is only $12 per person which is half the price of the cheapest Antelope Canyon Tour.

How to Get a Permit for Hiking Waterhole Canyon

To hike this slot canyon, you get a day permit from the Slot Canyon Tours shop next to the Burger King in Page, AZ. 

The permit is $12 per person, less than a general sightseeing tour of Antelope and much less than the photo tour of Antelope Canyon.  You do not need to purchase a permit to go to Waterhole Canyon beforehand. 

We bought our permit for Waterhole Canyon right before we went and put the permit on the dashboard of our car.

How to Get to Waterhole Canyon

From Page, Arizona you can access Waterhole Slot Canyon easily from Rt. 89 and parking is by Rt 89. 

There’s no real sign and we actually missed it coming from Page.  The sign reads Lake Powell.  From here you follow the cairns (little piles of rocks) down into the canyon.  If you Google Map Water Holes Canyon Page, AZ, the location will pop up.

Map of Water Holes Canyon

When you buy your permit, the attendant will hand you a map, which we didn’t really use. 

The attendant could not answer any questions about distance.  AT&T does not have cell phone coverage in this area, so I suggest you download the Google Map of this slot canyon before you head out of town. 

I’ve hiked at many different locations with just a downloaded Google Map and it was super useful.  Though I forgot to download the map this time and didn’t get lost, it’s a good precaution. 

Cairns, little piles of rocks, and footprints both mark the trail so we did not have a problem finding our way in and out of the slot canyon.

UPDATE:  You can no longer visit this canyon on your own with a permit.

Because of the vandalism, I mentioned at the end of this post, you must now visit this Waterholes Canyon as part of a tour.

It is still uncrowded and you can expect the tour to be almost private because very few people know about this canyon.  Big tour groups are still flocking to Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon.

Waterholes Canyon is still worth a visit even with a guided tour.  The guided tour starts at $81 per person and is 1.5 hours.  There’s also a photography tour for $157 per person with a tag-along person rate of $81, and there’s a specialty tour that starts at $550.

Or book a tour for some of the other Antelope Canyons that are less touristy:

Because Waterholes Canyon is still relatively undiscovered most of the guides are happy to spend more time and let you take as many pictures as you want, which is not the case with Antelope.  For tour information and prices click here.

See also  3 Surprising Ways to AVOID the 2,000,000 Visitors that Invade Santorini