If you’ve photographed either Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon recently, you’ve dealt with the crowded, oversold conditions in these now world famous slot canyons, which for me greatly diminishes the experience of descending or walking through these sandstone cathedrals. And it almost goes without saying that the image making experience is greatly challenged by waiting for hordes of people to pass your camera position, giving you mere slivers of time to make your images. At the very least it’s terribly distracting and at it’s worst I find these now overcrowded slot canyons to be maddening, and not worth the time or cost.
Thankfully, there are other slot canyons in the vicinity of Page that offer their own water-sculpted beauty, and are far less crowded. Two of my favorites are Canyon X and Cardiac, bearing names suggesting mystery and pain, and believe me you’d never stumble across them on your own. For that you’ll contact Jackie or Jannelle at Taadidiin Tours. They have the sole permit to bring adventurers and photographers into Canyon X and Cardiac Canyon.
For Canyon X they offer Hiking and Photo Tours, but you’ll want to sign up for the Photo Tour as it allows more image making time. I did Canyon X in the morning, as a 2-3 hour photo tour. This allows sufficient time to scout the canyon and make quality images, especially as the small group sizes mean you’re not waiting for long lines of people to work their way through the narrow defiles of honey orange Navajo sandstone.
Canyon X is rated as Moderate-Hard, but if you’re in decent shape and take your time you’ll be fine. This is mainly due to the steep staircases one must ascend and descend to access the floor of the canyon, as once you’re down inside the walking is actually fairly easy, with just occasional scrambling on uneven surfaces. Both are very safe, and their guides are excellent. They share info on local geology, history and culture on the roughly 30 minute drive to the trailheads.
Cardiac Canyon is high on my personal list of hot locations. You can do it solely or combine it with Canyon X for a good 5-6 hours of total slot canyon bliss. Plan to walk in lots of sand, and have shoes with good sticky tread for scrambling once you’re deep in the canyon. I’ll have more detail and images for you after I shoot Cardiac and discover why it has this foreboding name. Evidently only a few hundred souls have done Cardiac, less than Antelope Canyon sees in a mere day!