As our name implies, Arizona is home to some of the most iconic and inspirational photoscapes in the American Southwest from the grandest of canyons to intriguing geological formations. So we, at Arizona Highways PhotoScapes, wanted to share a few of our favorite photo destinations! Remember, if you embark on these photo excursions, please Leave No Trace behind and help protect our lands for all to enjoy.
Grand Canyon North Rim: While the South Rim of the Canyon is visited more frequently and offers equally stunning views, the North Rim is definitely one of our favorites. Situated at just over 8,000’ the North Rim receives significant snow fall in winter, and as such, the park remains closed from October 15-May 15. However, the five months when the park is open there is a multitude of seasonal beauty from wildflowers in May and June to dramatic skies during monsoon season in July and August. Of course, fall is one of the most spectacular seasons to capture the quaking aspens in red, yellow and orange, amongst the ponderosa pines, the grazing buffalo and mule deer and the sweet autumn light as it bounces off the canyon walls.
How to Get There: Westward from Fredonia, Arizona or eastbound from Marble Canyon/Bittersprings Junction, travel along Hwy. 89A to reach the Jacob Lake turnoff. From there head south and travel 42 miles south along Hwy. 67 to reach Grand Canyon Lodge on the edge of the North Rim.
What to See: While the easiest and most popular viewpoint can be found just a short walk from the lodge, some of the other magnificent spectacles require additional driving and short rim hikes: Bright Angel Point, Wotan’s Throne, Vishnu Temple, Point Imperial, Angel’s Window, and Cape Royal.
Recommended Gear: To capture the grandeur and beauty of the North Rim, we recommend bringing a fairly wide lens (12-24mm, 24-70mm), sturdy tripod and ball head, a polarizer to reduce glare and make the clouds stand out, and a neutral density filter to balance the light and dark exposures. It’s always good to check local weather and fire conditions so that you are aware of any haze or prescribed burns which will wash out your images. Contrast is generally the biggest challenge when photographing the canyon so consider bracketing to blend your exposure. And always remember to check your histogram.
White Pocket: Another photo favorite in Northern Arizona is the other-worldly landscapes found in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area. Strangely formed domes and ridges of swirling strata offer intriguing compositions of form, texture and color. Mostly light grey and white, these geologic formations are a stark contrast to the adjacent red Navajo sandstone found across the Paria Plateau.
How to Get There: You will find House Rock Valley Road (BLM 1065) from the north side of U.S. Route 89A in Arizona or from the south side of US-89 along southern Utah. This rough road that leads you to the trailhead within Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, requires a high clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle. From the Arizona side, drive 9.3 miles north of Hwy. 89A, then turn right onto BLM 1017. You will continue to drive east on BLM 1017 for 6.2 miles, and then proceed northeast on BLM 1087. BLM 1087 splits into BLM 1086. Stay to the left and follow BLM 1086 to the White Pocket Trailhead. If you are coming from Utah to the north you will turn south off Hwy. 89, and travel 23.5 miles before turning left on BLM 1017 and follow the instructions above.
The road conditions can be difficult to maneuver so be sure your vehicle is well-equipped and your driving skills sharp. Remember to pack plenty of water, a map, compass or GPS, and first aid kit. It is also advisable to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Late spring and early fall offer the best weather conditions but please plan accordingly as temperatures can be as extreme as the landscape and there is little to no protection from the elements.
What to See: The one square mile designated as White Pocket offers endless compositions. Sloping rock, eroded gullies, potholes, and domes showcase the windswept layers of orange, yellow, grey, and white rock formations and are often referred to as Lollipop Rock, Star Wars, Whimsical Hill, Stegosaurus Ridge, Rock Garden, Alcove Hanging Garden, and Oyster Beds.
Recommended Gear: A sturdy tripod, ball head, wide angle and telephoto lens will be your go-to gear in White Pocket. It is also good to have on hand a few micro-fiber clothes, neutral density filters and a rocket blower. And don’t forget to stock up on extra memory cards and charge up your batteries before you go. There is no electricity or services for miles.
Enjoy your Arizona photo adventures!
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