Mike recently picked up a series of three books on Photographing the Southwest by Laurent Martres. The books also make great travel guides and thus inspired, we recently made a long weekend trip out to Moab, Utah.

Packing lunches (and lots of water!) in our small cooler worked well since there is no food service in Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky district). We ate dinner out twice, first at the Moab Brewery, which was really bustling, and then at the more laid back Buck's Grill House with live music. We'd recommend either spot. We had a very late breakfast one day at the Moab Diner, which was typical diner food.

Mike at a Canyonlands overlook
So on to the sightseeing.

The Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands was new to us so we went there first. The Y-shaped road through the Park offers trailheads as well as many pretty viewpoints easily accessible by a short walk from the car. We stopped at them all, including the two mile out and back Grand View Point walk and the two mile White Rim overlook hike. We also hiked to see Upheaval Dome and enjoyed the relatively lush vegetation along the Neck Spring Trail.

We got up early one morning to see the sunrise glow under Mesa Arch, which easily met or exceeded our expectations. While it was still dark, I had an encounter with a tiny Kangaroo Rat. When he first jumped onto my knee, I startled and chased whatever that was with the pointy nails away. Soon enough I got a better look at the cute little guy with my headlamp as he repeatedly ran out onto a log next to me, no doubt hoping to get a nibble of my Iced Gingerbread Clif Bar!

Mesa Arch sunrise

Buck Canyon overlook

We'd been to Arches National Park over the July 4th weekend in 2005 and it was too darned hot! This time Delicate Arch was much easier to reach with high temps in the mid 70s. After arriving at the redrock bowl at the Arch, we joined the row of tripods bearing cameras, set up to capture sunset on the iconic license-plate-adorning arch, and had our evening snacks of sharp cheddar and apples. The mood was really festive and fun.

Delicate Arch

The bowl at Delicate Arch
There were as many photographers wanting to get a shot of the Arch with no people in it as there were families wanting a picture of themselves under the Arch! As the sun was about to set, the "serious" photographers were yelling, "Move! Move!" and then the other people would retreat from the Arch. It was fun and good-natured, with laughter and applause as everyone managed to cooperate and still get the photos they wanted. Before the light got really good, Mike shot about 15 minutes of time-lapse of people at the Arch.

After the sun set and the gorgeous light disappeared, people came back under the Arch for their photos again. We're not sure what goes on up there after dark, but on our way down, we passed maybe 50 people coming up the trail.

Susan at the Devil's Garden trailhead
The next day we spent hiking in the Devil's Garden area. The route past Landscape Arch was more challenging now, as the path was rerouted up along a fin after the collapse of Wall Arch in 2008. Not a fan of heights, I suggested we take the primitive loop trail back, even though the trail was said to be difficult, in order to avoid that high fin walk on the way back. We really enjoyed the views along the primitive loop, and while it really wasn't all that primitive, I did need a hand from Mike now and again.

Landscape Arch (304 feet across)

Double O Arch

While the National Parks may get more press, nearby Dead Horse Point State Park should not be overlooked, with particularly striking views in either morning or late afternoon. DHP is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, only with more red rocks. Unlike Arches and Canyonlands, food and drink are available at the visitor center here.

View of the Colorado River from Dead Horse Point

We saw our first Juniper Titmouse at DHP, but if you keep your eyes peeled, they're all around. Other birds spotted on this trip include Grey-headed Juncos, a Peregrine Falcon, Scrub Jay and possibly some Bushtits. We also enjoyed shooting the very cute and very busy Canyon Wren. Looking down into Shafer Canyon we saw a Desert Bighorn Sheep along the White Rim Road. I also saw a bat fly through Mesa Arch at sunrise. Tiny lizards which we have yet to identify were often along the trails, but we'll have to look harder for the Collared Lizard next time.

Shafer Canyon viewpoint

Other "next times" for this area includes False Kiva in the Canyonlands, and a visit to local photographer Tom Till's studio. Matheson Wetlands Preserve would also be interesting.

Click here for more captioned photos.

Canyonlands Grandview Point panorama (click for larger version)


  1. We'll be going here as part of our adventure. Not sure we'll make the sunrise though!

  2. Hi Mike & Susan, we plan to visit Arches in May 2018 so your observations are very helpful, especially of the wildlife.The more I read the more I want to extend our Moab visit to three days

    Jamie & Kelly, Canberra