National Parks of Southern Utah – October 2019

Here it is the end of December (where does the time go?) and I'm just writing about my trip in October when I visited these national parks in Southern Utah - Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Bryce. Southern Utah is a wonder with it's deep canyons and fascinating geological formations. There's a seemingly endless variety of interesting and beautiful things to see and photograph and I never get tired of visiting. I had been to Arches and Canyonlands once but never to Capitol Reef and Bryce.

My first stop was Arches and Canyonlands, meeting a fellow photographer and friend there, Alex Fong. We stayed in Moab and shot for 2-1/2 days. The weather was great but not a cloud in the sky our whole time there, which made for limited times to shoot because the light got harsh fast in the morning and in the evening. This view of Deadhorse Point was the best shot I got on this leg of my trip.

Deadhorse Point, Utah


Then we moved on to Capitol Reef NP, a beautiful park with again lots of variety, but most striking were the rivers and creeks flowing the park which provided water for trees, and in October the leaves were turning and so added a lot of color.

The Castle, Capitol Reef NP, Utah


We discovered that a lot of interesting sites in this park required a high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle, which we didn't have. However, we still saw many beautiful formations, like this shot below. The day I left, my friend Alex took a Jeep tour to a more remote location and said it was well worth it.

Slick Rock Divide, Capitol Reef NP, Utah


After a few days at Capitol Reef, Alex and I said goodbye and I moved on to Bryce Canyon NP. Between Capitol Reef and Bryce I traveled Hwy 12, which has become my new favorite road to travel in the West. It was absolutely gorgeous with aspen-covered hills giving way to rock formations and canyons further south. I stopped a lot along the way at the many look-outs, so was shooting in harsh mid-day light, but I just had to stop and record the views. It was so spectacular!

Aspen along Hwy 12, Utah

Escalante River along Hwy 12

Canyon off Hwy 12


Once in Bryce I scouted around the park to choose a few locations and shot that afternoon. The hoodoos in the afternoon light glowed! In reading about these formations, they are made up of both hard and soft rock that erode from water and wind at different rates over the centuries, and thus make these "hoodoo" formations. These formations are found throughout the world but Bryce Canyon has the highest concentration.

Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon NP, Utah

Hoodoos, Sunset Point, Bryce NP Utah

On my second morning there I decided to visit Sunset Point at sunrise. It was 12 degrees with clear skies and howling wind! I had to position myself to block the wind from my camera on the tripod, and was able to get a couple of shots, this being the best one. I still had a bit of camera shake so this image is a little soft, but I like this sunrise light.

Sunset Point at Sunrise, Bryce Canyon NP, Utah

Then I went to a spot I had scouted the previous day, Natural Bridge, hoping to catch the morning light on the bridge. It was spectacular!

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon NP, Utah


On the way back to the hotel that morning I noticed a little turnout for Fairyland Canyon and stopped to take a look, and decided I would come back that afternoon. I'm glad I did because it turned out to be one of my favorite locations, and it was one of very few days that I saw any clouds. This spot, as many of the locations in Bryce, had trailheads that went down into the canyon that I would like to explore the next time I'm there. Though it looks like a steep climb down and then up again I think it would be worth it to hike among all of the towering hoodoos.


The next day I left for home, already planning my next trip to this area. A national park that I didn't visit this trip was Zion, and my next trip here will certainly include that park. I would also give myself more time to hike down into the canyons among all of the towering hoodoos. The trails looked steep but I think it would be well worth it. I would also take some of the classes offered at many of the visitor centers in each park to learn more about the areas. Bryce especially offered many classes.

I can't say enough about the national parks in Southern Utah, and I imagine they have different scenes to offer at different times of the year. I know I'll visit this area again and again, and I'm so grateful that these areas are protected so we can all enjoy their beauty and wonder. May it continue!

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