Jason Daniel Shaw
Waterholes Canyon | A Cheaper Alternative to Antelope Canyon
Waterholes Canyon | Page, Az
Waterholes Canyon is a great alternative to the more touristic and crowded Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ. It offers everything from slickrock to sandy washes to slot canyons with beautiful rock formations. If you don’t want to pay the high price, can’t get a reservation or just don’t want to be rushed through Antelope Canyon, this is the perfect spot for you. Being so close to the Horseshoe Bend parking lot, I am surprised that a lot more people aren’t exploring Waterholes Canyon.
Waterholes Canyon | Getting There
The trailhead at Waterholes Canyon is just 2.8 miles south of the Horseshoe Bend parking lot on US-89. You will see a small dirt parking lot just on the left side of the road (east) that may or may not have cars in it. The first time that I visited (in late-November, 2013), there were no cars there, the next time (in mid-July, 2015) there was only one or two other cars, this last time that I visited (late-March 2018), there were 20+ cars there. It seems that people are starting to learn about Waterholes Canyon. A Navajo permit is needed ($12) that you have to purchase in town prior to the hike but I have never seen anyone checking for permits.
Accessing Waterholes Canyon
Getting down into the Waterholes Canyon is simple. There are stacked rocks that form a trail to a spot that you can access the canyon floor but it takes you a ways into the canyon. I prefer to use a path that is right at the bridge but requires a bit of scrambling and athleticism. The plus side is that you enter the canyon floor right at the bridge and can go east from there and not have to backtrack.
There are two sections to Waterholes Canyon from this trailhead. Going west (back under the bridge) will take you towards the Colorado River but you will quickly run into some obstacles such as down climbs, scrambling and eventually rappels. I haven’t done much exploring in that direction. There is a car that looks like it either crashed or was pushed off of the bridge that is wedged in the canyon just under the bridge.
Going to the east will start out with some nice rock formations that open into a wash before narrowing again, eventually forming a slot canyon that offers beautiful colors and unique rock features.
Hiking Waterholes Canyon
While hiking Waterholes Canyon is generally easy, there are some areas that you have to use your upper body strength to pull yourself up on rock ledges. You may have to navigate past some narrow areas with water, which may be where the name of the canyon comes from. Overall, it is about 2.8 miles one way but the narrow slot towards the end is well worth the journey. You will eventually come to a sheer wall that has a sketchy, unsecured ladder that you can climb. The narrow section continues a bit more before opening up into another wash. The power lines that you can see crossing the canyon ahead mark the end of the area that the permit grants access to. Past that, the canyon forks into several other canyons that you have to join a guided tour to access. I find the easiest way to the top rim and hike that on the way back to the trailhead to get a different perspective of Waterholes Canyon.
As always, follow the standard precautions and make sure to take plenty of water for the hike and it is best hiked with someone else. You can stop off at Horseshoe Bend for sunset on the way back to Page. Once back in town, make sure to treat yourself to a nice dinner with all of the money that you saved. Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram if you have hiked Waterholes Canyon and what you think of it. Also, check out some of our other adventures while we were in Page, AZ.