Photographing the landmarks in Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and Page, AZ area.
In the winter break of 2015 I roadtripped through southwestern Utah and the area around Page, AZ. All this region is dominated by various rock formations sometimes referred to as The Grand Staircase. Additionally there features created by various rivers in the rugged landscape. I picked some of the landmark locations for landscape photography. My first stop was Page, AZ. Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River near Page is very popular. I shot a sunrise there. Then I moved on to Zion National Park. I did two hikes in Zion - Angel's Landing and The Narrows. Both hikes were pretty strenous. Then I drove to Bryce Canyon for a short visit and photographed sunrise in the Bryce amphitheatre. On my way back, I stopped at Page again and did a guided tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon. And finally I stopped at the Monument Valley before continuing back to Denver.
Since I was driving from Denver to the suthwestern Utah, Page in Arizona was my first stop. I could have driven directly to Zion via I-70 in much less time, but I decided to take this route because I wanted to visit some of the landmarks near Page.
Monument valley is situated near highway 163 on the Utah-Arizona border. It's located on the Navajo Nation land. You have to visit this place within the posted hours and pay an entrance fee. There are two popular locations for photographing the Monument Valley. At sunset, the visitor center is a good place. You can see the mesas glowing in the light of the setting sun. At sunrise, you can get a great shot of the mesas from the highway 163. Mile marker 13 in Utah has a pullout, from where you can safely photograph the panorama. I decided to shoot from the visitor center.
Once you have made your way to Page, Horseshoe Bend is probably the easiest place to visit. There are no entrance fees, lottery or restricted hours. Plus the hike is rather easy. I shot there at sunrise.
Antelope Canyon near Page is administered by the Navajo Nation. You have to take a guided tour of the canyon. They offer a photography tour and a normal walking tour. I chose the photography tour and spent around two hours photographing.
Zion is located in the southwestern corner of Utah. The main attractions in the park are along a scenic drive. The drive is only accessible by a shuttle bus from Spring to Fall. But in Winter, you can drive your own vehicle. However, finding parking can be a nightmare. I picked two rather strenous but unique hikes to do: The Narrows and the Angel's Landing.
Angel's Landing hike is just five miles round trip. But the last half mile is along a very exposed section with steep climb. There are chains for support, but a misstep can cause pretty bad fall. I had traction devices for my shoes and gloves with good grips. From the top of the landing, you get beautiful panoramic views of the Zion valley. It's a great place to photograph at sunset, but hiking down in the dark is not advised.
The Narrows hike is rather unusual. You have to hike through the water of the Virgin River through a slot canyon. Since it was rather cold in December, I rented wetsuit for the hike. You can hike up the river for several miles, but I managed to do probably one and a half mile. At some locations, the river is around fifteen feet wide with walls rising to a few hundred feet on either sides.
There are several other rather easy hikes to do in the park, but I had limited time. So I decided to shoot the classic shot of the Watchman mountain on the last sunset in Zion. The best place for this shot is from the bridge at the start of the scenic drive.
Bryce Canyon is located to the north-east of Zion. It is at a higher elevation, is somewhat more remote and is less crowded compared to Zion. I chose to shoot some sunrise pictures in the amphitheatre area of Bryce. Particularly I went to the Inspiration Point and the Bryce Point. The main feature to shoot here are the hoodoos- tower like rock formations formed due to erosion. At surise the hoodoos glow with a magnificent orange hue. Since Bryce is at a higher elevation, it's important to dress warmly and look for ice on the roads.
There are many more viewpoints along the only road in the park. But I was constrained by time and decided to stay in the amphitheatre are. Additionally it was below 0 F at sunrise and rather difficult to shoot anyways. One last note about Bryce is that, if you want to be close to both Bryce and Zion, then the Best Western Hotel at Mt. Carmel Junction is a great choice. From there the drive to Bryce is just over an hour. And it takes about thirty minutes to reach the scenic drive in Zion.