Top 3 Photogenic National Parks

National parks offer some of the most iconic views and beautiful landscapes.

Here are three of the best and most photogenic national parks to enjoy and explore.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park

With a landscape seemingly borne out of fantasy, Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah is home to spectacular geological formations called hoodoos, sculpted by nature through eons of erosion and weathering. With bright colors of orange, red, pink, and white, the land is a canvas of color, providing a rich array of photographic opportunities.

A scenic drive with thirteen viewpoints and overlooks offers excellent views of the unique landscape, and fifty miles of trails offer a chance for more adventurous visitors and photographers to explore the park and take photos from a less common perspective.

Zion was carved out of the Markagunt Plateau by the Virgin River, which carved down a half-mile into the sandstone. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion was carved out of the Markagunt Plateau by the Virgin River, which carved down a half-mile into the sandstone. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Photo Tip: While many visitors to the park stop just once at each overlook along the scenic drive that runs from the north to the south, you’ll find that throughout the day the light changes, providing very different shooting conditions and photos as the sun crosses the overhead sky. With the majority of the park’s views located to the east, you may find it difficult to get well exposed photos in the morning since you’ll be shooting in the sun. Try returning to some of your favorite views later in the late afternoon to capture the scene with different lighting that may not be as harsh.

Zion National Park

Utah’s first national park, Zion, offers 146,597 acres of towering mountain peaks, slot canyons, forests, waterfalls, and of course—the famous Zion Canyon which stretches for 15 miles through the red Navajo Sandstone. Carved by the North Fork of the Virgin River, Zion Canyon is up to half a mile wide in some areas.

While many of the natural features within Zion National Park are named for biblical and Book of Mormon references, such as the Court of the Patriarchs, Mount Moroni, Kolob Canyon, the Altar of Sacrifice, and many more, the Virgin River is perhaps surprisingly not biblically named, referring not to Mary, but to Thomas Virgin, an explorer who took part in Jedediah Smith’s expedition through the area in 1827.

Photo Tip: Be aware of the light and plan your day around it. Much of your time in Zion National Park will likely be spent in Zion Canyon, which gets increasingly narrow as you follow the Virgin River upstream to the Temple of Sinawava and the start of the Zion Narrows. Since the canyon runs from north to south, you’ll find that the west side of the canyon is illuminated best in morning by the rising sun in the east, while the east side receives the most sunlight later in the day as the sun moves to the western sky. In the most narrow portions of the canyon, only when the sun is overhead will you have bright lighting on your surroundings.

Grand Canyon National Park

It’s hard to imagine a trip to Arizona that doesn’t involve at least a peek at the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard to imagine a trip to Arizona that doesn’t involve at least a peek at the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A universally recognizable iconic destination, Grand Canyon National Park is a true marvel of nature. A deep gorge carved by the Colorado River about seventeen million year ago, the Grand Canyon stretches for more than 250 miles and is up to 18 miles in width and more than a mile deep in some areas. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming.

The breathtaking scale of the canyon attracts a crowd of nearly five million visitors each year. Crowds are often thick along the canyon’s south rim, but quickly lighten the deeper into the canyon you hike. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon, more than a four hour drive from the more easily accessible South Rim, offers fewer crowds and a different perspective of the park.

Photo Tip: It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the obvious—take plenty of shots of the incredible canyon, but take time to notice the details as well. Some of the most captivating photos of the Grand Canyon involve a foreground element. Look for opportunities to use rocks, trees, plants, and even people as foreground elements to add interest and depth to your compositions. Along with the expansive views of the massive canyon, narrow your focus on interesting subjects like old, weather worn trees silhouetted against a deep blue desert sky.

One way to achieve perspective and to show the size of the canyon is to include people in your composition.

Yavapai Point is near the south entrance of the park and provides a spectacular view of the canyon. Because of the panoramic view it is a good location for both sunrise and sunset.

Worth Pondering…

Our job is to record, each in his own way, this world of light and shadow and time that will never come again exactly as it is today.

—Edward Abbey

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