Three Days In Utah

For landscape photographers with a long winter weekend, here are some top spots in The Beehive State to get stunning, out-of-the-ordinary photos

Bryce Canyon National Park

In winter, Utah is justifiably famous for its world-class skiing. When Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics, the state's dramatic mountain vistas were on full display, along with towns like Park City and ski resorts like Alta and Snowbird. Unlike some other Olympic cities, Salt Lake City was a natural fit for the Winter Games because of the region's long history of being an alpine sports destination.

With the ski industry dominating the focus, the rest of Utah tends to be unjustifiably forgotten as a winter destination. For nature photographers looking for a long winter weekend of spectacular landscape vistas, Utah is ideal.

Zion National Park

The state is perfect for a couple of reasons. First, while the ski resorts are packed from November through March, areas around the state's magnificent national parks are considered to be in their off-season. Rooms are available and rates are good.

Second, getting in and out is easy. For the parks we're featuring in this article, it can be easier to route through Las Vegas than Salt Lake City. Vegas is easy to get to from just about anywhere in the U.S. Grab an easy flight and pick up a rental car, and just like that you can be off. Of course, you can also fly into Salt Lake City with its major international airport and well-maintained interstates. Your drive might be longer, but it's certainly doable.


Bryce Canyon National Park

Third and, perhaps most importantly, Utah's most famous landscape photography destinations are frequented and photographed mostly during the summer. In winter, not only are the crowds diminished, the vistas themselves are much less photographed, so this is a great time to go if you're looking for more unique photo ops.


Zion National Park

On a short three-day trip, you can do some photo exploration at a couple of Utah's most beloved parks. A loop that includes Zion and Bryce Canyon can also be stretched to include Capitol Reef. Or you can stay in the eastern part of the state and explore Arches and Canyonlands.


Arches National Park

At all of these parks, winter is definitely the slow season. Hiking at these destinations often can feel like you're the only one there. Part of that may be due to a perception that the parks are shut down due to impassable roads. Big snowstorms can create closures, of course, but, in general, this part of the state isn't overwhelmed by snow, and the parks are open year-round.


Canyonlands National Park

 

Resources
Utah Office of Tourism
www.visitutah.com
Arches National Park
www.nps.gov/arch
Bryce Canyon National Park
www.nps.gov/brca
Canyonlands National Park
www.nps.gov/cany
Capitol Reef National Park

www.nps.gov/care
Zion National Park
www.nps.gov/zion

While we've noted that the area isn't overwhelmed by snow, there's still enough to transform the familiar landscapes into vistas few get to experience. The distinctive red rock is covered by white snow and streams have frozen over, giving your compositions a different feeling of dimensionality. By way of example, look at the cover of this issue of Outdoor Photographer. The photo by Adam Barker was taken in Bryce Canyon after a winter snowfall. In the Showcase section, a photo by Ron Niebrugge was composed at one of the most popular photo vantage points in Bryce Canyon, Sunset Point. On the day Niebrugge captured his photo, there was almost no one around.

On these pages, we display some inspiring winter scenes from Utah's national parks. The Zion-Bryce Canyon loop is easily accessed from Las Vegas to the south, and it gives you a chance to explore popular Zion during months when the number of people is dramatically reduced from peak season, as well as Bryce Canyon, which has some of the most spectacular scenery in the U.S. Bryce enjoys fewer visitors than Zion no matter what season it is, and in the winter, it can feel almost deserted.

To the west, a three-day loop of Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef takes you through one of the most iconic landscapes in the world. Just seeing the name Arches conjures up the image of Delicate Arch, and if you've been there in June, it likely also conjures up a vision of the huge parking lot filled with tour buses and their passengers scattered on the trails to Delicate Arch's overlook. In January and February, the views of Delicate Arch are quite different, and expanding your trip to Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, you'll enjoy even fewer visitors to disturb your photography.

1 Comment

    While usually roads are manageable — it is, after all, a desert — because of its elevation (7,800 – 9,100 feet), Bryce Canyon?۪s roads are often closed after snowstorms. Snowshoeing is great, but you certainly can?۪t see the whole park in a day that way.

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