Southwestern Utah's Legendary Panoramas
Bright colors and extreme contrasts of textures define southwestern Utah. These six adventurous panoramas near Kanab, Utah, draw in those with an artistic eye.
Known for its bright colors and extreme contrasts of textures, the adventurous panoramas of southwestern Utah draw in those with an artistic eye, especially photography enthusiasts. Light and color interplay on the gradient of sandstone, shifting sands, deep canyons and cooling waters. Capture swooping arches at first light or pink sands at sunset. Chase shafts of light in narrow slots or shift to monochrome to preserve high contrast landscapes in full artistic glory. This pocket of natural wonders is any painter, photographer, or landscape lover’s dream. Set up a base camp in Kanab, Utah, and check some of these photo-shooting destinations off your bucket list. You’ll even pick up a few helpful tips about photographing the parks in the descriptions below.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
You’ve never seen sand dunes like these before. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is one of Utah’s most photogenic locations — filled with contrast, from evergreen pines against pink sand to the soft, sloping dunes sitting in front of rough, rocky cliffs. These ever-shifting sand mountains change shape with the wind, which creates photogenic patterns and can move hills as much as 50 feet per year, meaning the landscape you’re drawing, painting, or photographing is never quite the same. Pro tip: If you’re looking to capture the park’s best colors, be sure to head in at sunrise or stay until sunset when the light plays up the natural pinks and oranges of the sand against the blues and purples of its desert backdrop.
Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument
Set on nearly 1.9 million acres of land — nearly the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined — the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument marks examples of erosion that date back to between 50 million and 275 million years ago. The monument is named for the series of plateaus that drop down from Bryce Canyon, creating an illusion of natural steps. Artists can capture the landscape’s sweeping views of rugged erosion from the paved surfaces of Scenic Byway 12 and Highway 89, or if conditions permit, in the heart of the monument on Hole-in-the-Rock or Cottonwood Canyon roads. To get an even closer look, hire an outfitter and rappel down into the deep canyons scattered at the bottom of the monument. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National monument will provide you with a variety of stunning spaces to capture on film, paper or canvas — be sure to add this one to your list.
Who said southwestern Utah was all bone-dry desert? Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River, is a paradise for boaters, fishermen, and other watersport enthusiasts, not to mention the second largest reservoir in the country. The sparkling body of water sits in a desert landscape of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area with nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline that varies from beaches to canyons, creating one of the most interesting blends of elements in the state. Home to walleye, sunfish, and many types of bass and other wildlife, Lake Powell branches off into countless coves and canyons that make for some of the most interesting opportunities for photos in the state.
If you get tired of paddling or motor boating around the water, check out the natural arches that surround the desert lake. Some, like Rainbow Bridge National Monument, are just a few miles from the water. The unique mix of water and desert elements in this part of southwestern Utah create an interesting blend for photographers and artists to capture.
Nature lovers: Here's a lottery for you. Forget coastal beaches and surfboards. The country’s most unique wave sits in the desert between southern Utah and northern Arizona. Composed of layers of different colored rock, the legendary Wave swirls together oranges, reds, and pinks to create a dizzying natural pattern. The Wave, located in the Bureau of Land Management’s Coyote Butte, is best photographed, painted or drawn in direct sunshine at the peak of the day because shadows can distract from the spellbinding pattern in the rocks. It’s important to note that hikers need to apply for a permit before entering Coyote Buttes North via a lottery system, but the hike in is more than worth it for the views.
Also located on the border of Utah and Arizona is White Pocket of Coyote Buttes South, another rocky area that features beautiful blends of desert colors — and permits aren't as difficult to obtain as Coyote Buttes North. Travelers seeking fewer people will drool over the rainbow rock layers and variety of textures in this special place. Lace up your hiking shoes and walk two miles in to view the full span of delicate formations and spiraling rock towers that reach up into wide open skies.
This breathtaking canyon marks one of the most unique areas in Utah. As the deepest and longest slot canyon in the southern part of the state, Buckskin Gulch draws canyoneering enthusiasts from all over the world. The winding nature and extreme depths of the canyon creates swooping shadows that lend to epic panoramas and interesting new composition ideas. For the full experience, you’ll need to set aside a couple days to backpack in, wade through the knee-deep waters, and explore the pink and orange walls that make up Buckskin Gulch.
The 5 Rules for Selfies: How to Capture and Post Responsibly in Utah
Explore Utah and be our best influencer by capturing incomparable and lasting memories safely and responsibly.
Winter Wonders in Greater Zion
As you’re mapping out your winter trip through southeastern Utah, consider adding the following parks and natural wonders to your itinerary.
Exploring Mule Canyon: House on Fire and Cave Tower
Driving the up the dusty, terracotta-colored road toward Mule Canyon in Cedar Mesa, you get a sense that this is a special place, though you might not be able to put a finger on why.
Tips for Astrophotography
Need tips on how to take pictures of stars? Utah is the perfect location to put tips from an award-winning photographer into action.
The World's First Dark Sky Park
On March 6, 2007, Natural Bridges National Monument became the first International Dark Sky Park certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. More than 100,000 people visit Natural Bridges each year to check out the stunning bridges and hike in cool canyons, but only a handful of them stay through the night to see the area’s most amazing and unique feature: dark skies and glistening, bright stars.
Elevate Your Hiking with Mindfulness
Incorporating simple mindfulness techniques into your next hike can take the edge off anxiety and enhance your overall well being.
A Quick Guide to the Bonneville Salt Flats
Here's everything you need to know to visit and plan for Salt Lake City's nearby Bonneville Salt Flats.
The Story of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Ancient erosion and modern cinema joined forces to elevate Monument Valley to one of the world's most iconic places to visit — but it's also the sacred home of the Navajo people. Learn more about the history, size and scenes that define the Monument Valley Utah experience.
Roaming Grand Staircase–Escalante
Ace Kvale is a photographer and guide in Boulder, Utah. Whenever possible, he hikes Utah's Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument with his dog.
Selfie at Forrest Gump Point
Take a selfie where Forrest Gump decided he was done running near Monument Valley in Utah.
Antelope Island's Bison Roundup
Antelope Island's annual bison round-up (October 28, 2017) takes place in relative obscurity, on a stunning landscape from another geologic era, making this event a wonderful opportunity to view bison close-up. Watching an authentic roundup is like being on the set of an old west movie or transported to a distant era — yet it’s only 25 miles northwest of Salt Lake City International Airport.
Songbirds, Shorebirds and Migrating Birds, Oh My!
The Eccles Wildlife Education Center, sandwiched between Utah's Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island State Park, opened in 2018 and has become a bucket-list destination to see, study and photograph the state's diverse animals.
Finding Strength and Inspiration Deep in the Utah Desert
How a series of hiking and camping trips in Utah’s parks and wilderness put Elisabeth Brentano on a transformative journey from urbanite to nature lover.
Turning the Lens on a Wintry Southern Utah
Discover some of the most picturesque places to photograph in Southern Utah, and learn some tips for how to shoot and travel responsibly.
At 50, the Spiral Jetty, Utah’s Most Iconic Land Art Sculpture, Keeps Drawing a Crowd
In April 1970, it took six days, 625 man-hours, 292 truck-hours, $9,000, and 6,500 tons of basalt, limestone and mud for Robert Smithson to construct the Spiral Jetty. His work still stands today. Visit and be inspired by this iconic piece of Utah's land art.
Desert Shutter Speed
After lunch isn't the prime time to head to the desert. Come early or late, and Utah's deserts will reward you with their isolated landscapes, sunrises and sunsets, and stargazing opportunities.
How to Slow Travel in Utah
Avoid the mad scramble and consider slow travel as a better approach to your Utah trip.
A Photographer’s Guide to Mindful Travel
Utah's deserts are a photographer's dream, yet very fragile. Find out how photographers can take a few simple steps to care for this unique environment.
How to Photograph Snowflakes — Nature’s Fleeting Work of Art
Where there’s snow, there’s magic. Snowflake photography offers a microscopic peek at the pristine beauty of nature — whether you’re deep in Wasatch Mountain wilderness or steps outside a Salt Lake City hotel door.