In late March of 2022, I spent a few days exploring Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park in Southeastern Utah. Utah is an incredibly unique and beautiful state, with canyons and mountains everywhere, and several National Parks. I’d have liked to explored a couple more parks, but since my time was limited and I had a couple days without decent light, I just focused on these two.
The canyons and the arches are very different, but they present a similar challenge to photography–their sheer size is integral to what makes them amazing, and it’s difficult to convey that in a photograph. I really enjoyed my time there, and got some nice images of areas I knew I wanted. Mesa Arch in Canyonlands is a famous location for sunrise, with people coming from around the world to witness the underside of the arch turn bright orange as the sun peeks over the horizon. The morning I was there, there were some clouds on the horizon, but the sun broke through in time for me to make a sunburst on the underside of the arch, and the clouds softened the light enough to have some detail in the canyon below. The other area I was interested in is actually in Dead Horse Point State Park, right next to Canyonlands. The park is above a canyon with the Colorado River making a horseshoe bend below–an amazing scene. I get there before sunrise, and got to witness how the mood of the canyon changes as the sun rises and lights more and more peaks. It was incredible.
Arches National Park is only about 30 miles away, but is the complete opposite of Canyonlands–it’s huge rock outcroppings jutting up from the ground. Their size is difficult to convey, but it was a joy exploring the area. In many places, the middle of the wall of rocks has fallen away, leaving an enormous ‘arch’ of rock. Some of the hikes are difficult, but if one can manage, the views are awesome–even if the arches themselves aren’t your thing, the massiveness of the rock walls is indescribable. Delicate Arch is probable the most famous, and is an arch of stone standing by itself at the top of a large hill. The hike is all uphill, so it’s pretty strenuous, but it’s a cool sight and gives a great view of the area. There were a lot of people there the day I was, posing under the arch, so I explore it from every angle like I had intended, so I just chose one spot, and waited for it to be free of people.
These national parks are amazing to behold, and worth your time if you are ever in the area, and as an added bonus, the La Sal Mountains provide a background for many views from both parks. A day in each would give you enough time to get a good feel for them.
Dead Horse Point–dawn
Dead Horse Point–about 15 minutes after sunrise
The view through Mesa Arch before sunrise
Mesa Arch sunrise
Last light on Green River Overlook in Canyonlands NP
View through Mesa Arch midday
Delicate Arch — Arches National Park
Landscape Arch — over 300 feet wide
“Park Avenue” area of Arches NP
Windows section from a distance, with La Sal mountains behind
Another view of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands at midday