In mid-March, along with a group of fellow camera club members, I travelled to Moab, Utah. People often refer to the whole area surrounding the city as simply “Moab”. In actual fact, two separate National Parks lie within short driving distances from the city. The closest, just outside the city, is Arches National Park. A little longer drive gets you to Canyonlands National Park.

During our stay we visited both parks.

We spread our drive to Moab over two days. On the first day we stopped for a few hours at Valley of Fire State Park just north of Las Vegas. Here we spent most of our time in the area of the “Fire Wave” waiting for sunset. The Fire Wave itself is a pretty interesting rock formation that does resemble ocean waves. And with the right light at sunset it looks pretty spectacular.

Fire Wave

For me, perhaps more interesting than the Fire Wave though, was the colorful rock formations and patterns in the area. Here is a sampling:

After sunset we were treated to some pretty amazing colors in the sky. In the photo below, it really looks like the hill is on fire.

The next day, after driving through a blizzard north of St. George, UT, we arrived in Moab in mid afternoon. Our late afternoon and sunset location that day was Balanced Rock in Arches National Park.

Balanced Rock

In the two images below, you can really see how the late afternoon sun turns the rock formations in the park a beautiful red color. The image on the left, of rock formations with the La Sal Mountains in the background, was taken later in the afternoon but before the sun got too low on the horizon. The image on the right, of some different formations but still looking towards the La Sal Mountains, was taken with the sun low on the horizon.

One of the main reasons people visit Moab is to see the arches. Most of the well known arches are in Arches National Park: however, one of the most popular, Mesa Arch, is in Canyonlands National Park. If you want to find crowds of people, just visit the arches. Most are within a fairly short walk from a parking lot. Delicate Arch requires a bit more effort with a 3 mile round trip hike. Of that, getting to the arch involves 1.5 miles of pretty much constant climb (480 vertical feet). As well, since sunset is most popular with this arch, coming back down in the dark can be a bit tricky if you aren’t watching your footing.

Turret Arch, Arches National Park
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Broken Arch, Arches National Park
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Aside from the arches, there is lots to see and photograph in the area. I loved the countless misshapen junipers with their textured bark and green foliage, often contrasting with red rocks or sand.

In addition, there is no shortage of grand vistas to photograph. A couple of the spots we visited were Dead Horse Point and Green River Outlook, both in Canyonlands.

Dead Horse Point, Canyonlands NP
Cleopatra’s Chair (white rock formation), Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP
Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP
Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP
Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP
Green River Outlook, Canyonlands NP

In the short time we were there, we only scratched the surface of what there is to do and see in these two national parks. If you are a hiker or have a four wheel drive vehicle, the opportunities are endless.

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