The fourth and fifth stops on our Road Scholar photography trip last September were Canyonlands National Park (including the photogenic Mesa Arch) and Monument Valley, location for many a famous Western movie back in the 20th century.
The day began with overcast and rain, so I've converted the Canyonlands images to black-and-white. Further south and later in the same day the skies cleared, so Monument Valley is in color.
Canyonlands National Park is about 527 square miles (about one quarter the area of the Grand Canyon). It's filled with rugged and remote canyons, mesas, arches, fins, hoodoos, and rivers in the high desert of southeast Utah. With limited time and a large tour bus, we could visit only a tiny portion of the park.
We arrived just after sunrise at Mesa Arch (about an hour's drive from Moab, Utah), one of the most photogenic of the Canyonlands features. As a result, it's usually a mob scene, and getting "the shot" means jockeying for position among 20 to 30 other photographers. Here's what I mean:
The attraction of Mesa Arch isn't the arch itself, which is rather small compared to the gigantic arches of Arches National Park. And the "window" of the arch is commensurately small, as you can see. The "money shot" of Mesa Arch is the framed vista you get when you look through the window:
It's much more beautiful when the sky is clear and the sun is rising behind the mountains, but we were not in luck on this day.
After Mesa Arch, we backtracked to Dead Horse Point, a Utah state park that overlooks the northern end of Canyonlands. Here the view is terrific and the crowds are minimal:
That's the Colorado River on the right in the image above.
If you would like to see Mesa Arch and Canyonlands in better light and in color, click here for a blog post from a previous visit.
After breakfast at Dead Horse Point, we paused for a group photo, then hopped back on the bus and headed for Monument Valley.
Coming into Monument Valley from the north on US 163, there's a sign by the side of the road:
"Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run at this spot."
For a video clip of the end-of-the-run scene in the film, click here.
Naturally, of course, we stopped for the photo op:
And being among photographers, there's always someone who wants just one more shot!
Monument Valley is a tribal park controlled by the Navajo Nation -- it's not a U.S. national park. There are lots of massive sandstone monoliths and mesas, the most famous of which are Left Mitten, Right Mitten, and Merrick Butte (seen below).
As with Canyonlands, this Road Scholar tour had only enough time to stop for 45 minutes of photography from the Visitor Center, but the view was awesome:
If you'd like to see more (and different) images of Monument Valley from one of my previous trips, click here.
And if you'd like to see images from this post in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.