Trip Reports: Two Weeks In The Canyons Of Utah - April 2010

In April I spent two weeks hiking, camping, and photographing in and around the canyons of southern Utah. I visited a lot of new places I haven't seen before, including Goblin Valley State Park, San Rafael Swell, Robbers Roost area, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. I also returned to my favorite canyon area - Escalante - for a 4 day backpacking trip, which was the highlight of my journeys.

The photos below are arranged in roughly chronological order.

Goblin Valley, San Rafael Swell, Utah, sunset, photo

A panoramic sunset view of the plethora of mushroom hoodoo formations at Goblin Valley State Park.  Prints available; please contact me for pricing.

Robbers Roost, Utah, slot, canyon, photo

Slot Passage

Amazing slot formations a remote and seldom visited canyon in the Robbers Roost region - similar to the famous and oft-photographed Antelope Canyon, but without the crowds.  I was all by myself down here, spending most of the day lost in a daydream, wandering up and down the canyon and photographing the interesting formations.

As most photographers who have been in slot canyons know, the best time to photograph them is during the 3-4 hours around midday on a clear sunny day, when the sunlight filters in and bounces around in the deep narrow slots, illuminating the walls with otherworldly glowing hues.  As the sun moves through the sky, the bounce light changes dramatically in the slots, sometimes in a matter of minutes.  This allows for hours of fun finding photos in canyons like this.

I also have a version of this photo without the hiker, if you're interested.

Happy Canyon, Robbers Roost, Utah, hiker, slot canyon, photo

Checking out another strange slot canyon formation.

Robbers Roost, Dirty Devil River, Burr Point, Utah, sunset, photo

Robbers Roost Sunset

Sunset light filters through a gap in the clouds to the west, lighting up the mesas of Robbers Roost Country, with the Dirty Devil River down below, as seen from Burr Point. 

Temple of the Sun, Lower Cathedral Valley, Utah, Capitol Reef National Park, photo

Cathedral Valley Vortex

The Temple of the Sun in Lower Cathedral Valley.

Temple of the Moon, Temple of the Sun, Lower Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, sunrise, photo

Temples of the Moon and Sun

Sunrise light on the Temple of the Moon, and Temple of the Sun, in the Lower Cathedral Valley. 

Bryce Canyon, moonlight, national park, Utah, photo

Bryce Moonlight

Moonlight illuminates the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, as seen with a long, high-ISO exposure on a stormy moonlit night.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Point, snowy, sunrise, Utah, photo

Bryce Canyon Snowy Sunrise

An awesome sunrise on a snowy morning in April, as seen from Bryce Point.

Bryce Canyon, sunrise, hoodoos, snowy, Utah, national park, photo

Snowy Hoodoos

Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon glow even oranger in the sunrise light on a snowy April morning. 

Bryce Canyon National Park, hiking, Navajo Loop Trail, Utah, photo

Hiking down the Navajo Loop Trail on a snowy April morning.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Thor's Hammer, sunrise, orange, hoodoo, Utah, photo

Thor's Hammer

One of the more famous hoodoos in Bryce, Thor's Hammer.  Though shooting straight into the sunrise here, the orange hoodoos of Bryce soak in some strong bounce light.

Neon Canyon, Escalante, Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Walking down Neon Canyon.

Escalante, springtime, Utah, canyons, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Springtime in Escalante

Brilliant green trees reflect in a small pond deep within the Escalante canyons - April. 

Escalante, Utah, desert varnish, canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Sandstone Sunbeams

Desert varnish and a solitary tree. 

Escalante, Utah, tree, springtime, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Neon Tree

A lush green springtime tree deep in an Escalante canyon.  Not much to this photo, just a peaceful tree with a colorful backdrop.

Neon Canyon, reflections, Escalante, Utah, alcove, Golden Cathedral, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Golden Cathedral Lightshow

At the head this tributary canyon of the Escalante River, is a small pond underneath a large alcove.  Several holes have been eroded through a horizontal layer in the alcove, forming a very unique series of natural bridges through which water flows during floods.  On sunny days the light shines into the canyon and through these holes, bouncing off the water of the pond and casting strange reflections on the sandstone ceiling of the alcove.  My friends and I spent hours there tossing rocks into the pond to create different reflection patterns.  Such fun! 

Neon Canyon, Escalante, Utah, ripple reflections, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Light Ripples

Trippy ripple reflections on a canyon wall.  Read more about this place here

Neon Canyon, Escalante, Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

At the head of Neon Canyon, we had a brilliant idea of seeing how far we could run around this ramp until g-forces failed.  Here's Wesley getting around pretty far.  Good fun.

petroglyph, horse, rattlesnake, Escalante, Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Rattlesnake and Horse

An ancient petroglyph panel along with local rattlesnake resident.  I'm not sure if that's a snake petroglyph to the left, but if so... pretty interesting scene.

moonlight, flashlight painting, Escalante, Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Deadend Moonlight

Moonlight and flashlight painting at a dead end branch of one of the many branches of the Escalante.

Escalante, Utah, flashlight painting, sandstone, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Tree and Wall

Flashlight painting below a sheer sandstone wall. 

Escalante, wading, Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Wading through some narrows in Escalante - April.  The pool got to about armpits-deep and was about 50 meters long around a corner and through an enclosed pool.  Passing through this chilly obstacle earned us entrance to about two miles of spectacular narrows. 

Escalante, Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Curvy Canyon Reflection

The canyon walls seem to pulsate in the strong bounce light, accentuated by the curving streaks of desert varnish. 

Escalante, Utah, hiker, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Choprock Wall

A massive sheer sandstone wall deep in the canyons of Escalante.  Note the scale with the little hiker (me) at the bottom. 

canyon, Escalante, Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

Deserted Subway

A Subway-esque section of narrow, remote corner of the Escalante canyons. 

Escalante, Utah, campsite, alcove, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, photo

A great campsite in a tributary of the Escalante River, under a huge sandstone alcove.  This is where over the millenia the drainage has carved a huge undercut into the cliff wall, leaving a flat sandy bench with a massive arching sandstone ceiling!  This was our basecamp for three nights as we explored the nearby canyons.

moonrise, Three Virgins, Zion National Park, Utah, Canyon Overlook, photo

Zion Moonrise

Moonrise light on the Three Virgins, as seen from the Canyon Overlook.

California condor, condor, Zion National Park, Utah, photo

A rare California condor poses for the camera on Angels Landing.  Notice the radio antenna and id number.  Not the prettiest bird ever, but what a sight to see!  The next day I saw two of them circling up on a thermal over the Zion canyon and was amazed at what graceful fliers they are.

Three Virgins, Zion National Park, Utah, moonlight, photo

Zion Lunar Alpenglow

Lunar alpenglow on the Three Virgins in Zion National Park on a nearly full moon night. 

Zion National Park, moonlight, stars, Utah, photo

Zion Moonlight

Stars and moonlight as seen with a long exposure taken from the East Rim of Zion Canyon on a nearly fullmoon evening.  The yellow cloud on the left is illuminated by the lights of Cedar City. 

Zion National Park, sunset, Deertrap Mountain, Angels Landing, Utah, photo

Zion Canyon Sunset

A spectacular sunset above Zion Canyon, as seen from Deertrap Mountain on the East Rim.  Angels Landing is the red rock outcropping visible in the canyon on the right side.  The Narrows is up the canyon past that. 

abstract, photo

Zion Funk

An abstract. 

Though I was only out there for two weeks total, it truly felt like a full month. It always amazes me how time slows down when I travel. I think that is the secret of living longer… to travel a lot! In that regard, I suppose it’s not all about how long you live, but how well you spend your time while you’re here.