David Muench’s Favorite Places

The master photographer shares his personal picks of the country's national parks


David Muench's Favorite Places

Big Bend National Park, Texas

David Muench enjoys the exciting blend of history and landscape that exists in Big Bend, where the Rio Grande serves as a watery border between the United States and Mexico. With more than 800,000 acres of land, the park features a rich collection of some 1,200 species of plants, including more than 60 cactus species, massive canyons and an expansive desert—all against the beautiful backdrop of the Chisos Mountain Range.
• Park Headquarters: Big Bend National Park, Texas
• Closest City: Alpine, Texas
• Contact: (432) 477-2251, www.nps.gov/bibe


Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
A perennial favorite for Muench is Mount Rainier, although not for the reasons you might think. The photographer is particularly attracted to the flowers and the natural landscape located around the mountain. The prominent 14,410-foot peak serves as an inspiring background for images of wildflowers and other diverse vegetation. Ninety-seven percent wilderness, the park is one of the most striking environments possible for photographers and adventurers.
• Park Headquarters: Ashford, Washington
• Closest City: Tacoma, Washington
• Contact: (360) 569-2211, www.nps.gov/mora

Glacier National Park, Montana
One of the greatest appeals of this location for Muench is the summer’s bear grass (although not actually a grass). He loves to include the flowers when photographing many of his favorite locations in the park, which encompasses one million acres of forest, meadows and lakes. The park features 260 species of birds in addition to a diversity of mammals.
• Park Headquarters: West Glacier, Montana
• Closest City: Kalispell, Montana
• Contact: (406) 888-7800, www.nps.gov/glac

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Muench enjoys working in the White Rim and some of the more remote places in this park, which features sedimentary sandstones, buttes, mesas and the Green and Colorado rivers. The Barrier Canyon rock art, located in Horseshoe Canyon, holds great appeal as do the large stretches of grassland and bare rocks.
• Park Headquarters: Moab, Utah
• Closest City: Moab, Utah
• Contact: (435) 719-2313, www.nps.gov/cany/home.htm

Yosemite National Park, California
This park will always remain a favorite for Muench. With its stretches of giant sequoias, waterfalls, high cliffs and meadows, Yosemite offers a wealth of photographic opportunities that seem inexhaustible. Its 750,000 acres are home to a unique collection of geological formations, including granite domes and polished granite, evidence of the processes that formed the Sierra Nevada. Muench especially looks forward to years with heavy rainfall for its impact on the many waterfalls.
• Park Headquarters: Yosemite National Park, California
• Closest City: Modesto, California
• Contact: (209) 372-0200, www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley is a “monstrous” favorite for Muench because of its diversity in geology, which, when it includes a fresh growth of flowers, offers a complex palette of colors and textures. Located 282 feet below sea level, the park is the driest location in North America, but nevertheless offers a stunning vista of sand dunes, with more than 1,000 types of plants.
• Park Headquarters: Death Valley, California
• Closest City: Las Vegas, Nevada
• Contact: (760) 786-3200, www.nps.gov/deva

Arches National Park, Utah
For Muench, hiking up to Delicate Arch is like returning home, regardless of whether he’s there to photograph or merely to enjoy the view. Along with its iconic locations, the park offers an assortment of pinnacles, fins and balanced rocks that make its vista an especially unique one. The park also includes dry arroyos, mixed grasslands and an assortment of wildlife and plants.
• Park Headquarters: Moab, Utah
• Closest City: Moab, Utah
• Contact: (435) 719-2299, www.nps.gov/arch

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee-North Carolina
A popular destination, this eastern park offers Muench a unique photographic subject that wasn’t impacted by the glaciers that once moved across most of the continent. Good lighting and fog can help create special images of the diverse plant life and the Appalachian Mountain Range.
• Park Headquarters: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
• Closest City: Knoxville, Tennessee
• Contact: (865) 436-1200, www.nps.gov/grsm

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
And Preserve, Alaska
Muench sees this area as a primal ice world that’s both dramatic and wild—the ultimate wilderness. The largest park in the National Park System with more than 13 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias features four mountain ranges, including 16 of the highest peaks in the country. Its striking valleys, wild rivers and population of large mammals—bison, caribou and Dall’s sheep among them—make it one of the most diverse natural destinations.
• Park Headquarters: Copper Center, Alaska
• Closest City: Anchorage, Alaska
• Contact: (907) 822-5234, www.nps.gov/wrst

Haleakala National Park, Hawai’i
Along with the color and textures to be discovered around the Haleakala Crater, the park appeals to Muench because of its abundant rain forest and shrublands. The Kipahulu area includes a fertile valley, with beautiful freshwater pools and waterfalls.• Park Headquarters: Makawao, Maui, Hawai’i
• Closest City: Kahului, Maui, Hawai’i
• Contact: (808) 572-4400, www.nps.gov/hale

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai’i
Muench really responds to the fresh volcanic activity and the great fern forest that can be found here. Home to both the planet’s largest (Mauna Loa) and most active (Kilauea) volcanoes, the park offers some of the most dramatic scenes of Earth’s power and beauty. The location features unique plants and animals that can only be found on the Hawaiian Islands.
• Park Headquarters: Hawai’i National Park, Hawai’i
• Closest City: Hilo, Hawai’i
• Contact: (808) 985-6000, www.nps.gov/havo

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Muench loves discovering photo opportunities while driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which cuts through Shenandoah National Park. He’s especially drawn to autumn and spring, when the changing seasons offer a rich palette of plants and wildlife. The park features more than 100 species of trees and 54 different species of mammals.
• Park Headquarters: Luray, Virginia
• Closest City: Charlottesville, Virginia• Contact: (540) 999-3500, www.nps.gov/shen

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Muench enjoys spending three to four days backpacking across the middle of the island. Surrounded by the waters of Lake Superior, the park features parallel ridges created by age-old lava floes. A remote and undeveloped wilderness, it provides visitors with a sense of the landscape as it might have been long before man came to discover it.
• Park Headquarters: Houghton, Michigan
• Closest City: Duluth, Minnesota
• Contact: (906) 482-0984, www.nps.gov/isro/index.htm

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton is one destination of which Muench will never tire of revisiting. The majestic mountain backdrops, the multitude of lakes and the wealth of large mammals and birds make this a rich destination for photographers. During summer, meadows can be covered in a carpet of wildflowers, resulting in strong images when juxtaposed against the rising peaks of the Teton range.
• Park Headquarters: Moose, Wyoming
• Closest City: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
• Contact: (307) 739-3300, www.nps.gov/grte

Mojave National Preserve, California
If he was asked to stay only in one place for the rest of his life, it would be the Mojave Preserve. Muench loves the rich Mojave Desert, the bristlecone forests and the geology, especially the cactus blooming sessions. With healthy rainfall in winter and spring, an abundance of wildflower blooms can lead to some exceptionally beautiful photographs.
• Park Headquarters: Barstow, California
• Closest City: Las Vegas, Nevada
• Contact: (760) 252-6100, www.nps.gov/moja