Marvelous Moab

March 09, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Morning MagicROLLING INDense fog overnight decorates the vegetation with beautiful hoarfrost, creating a lovely start to the day

Arches National Park, Utah
I'm an "East of the 100th Parallel" kind of person.

I prefer climates associated with more abundant precipitation for day-to-day living, and enjoy photographing the types of landscapes they create. I'm not a fan of high humidity, though, am currently based in the high-desert, and am deeply attached to the Tetons.

Call me a paradox.

Given my proclivity for water and rich vegetation, it might surprise you to learn that some of my absolute favorite places to work aren't exactly Break on ThroughBREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDETurret Arch

Arches National Park, Utah
verdant. Southeast Utah, for example.

I run out of superlatives when describing the Moab area. 

Of course it's got the two big parks: Arches and Canyonlands. I've yet to see a national park I didn't like, but these two rank high on my personal hit parade. I never get tired of them. 

Arches NP has the densest concentration of natural rock arches on earth - but because the various sections within its boundaries are weathering at different rates, its geologic charms are varied.

Along with the famous arches there are massive monoliths, towers, fins, hoodoos and windows. (The windows are technically arches - but some do more closely resemble windows.)

Canyonlands is spread out and comprised of four main areas, three of which are remote (one of those I'd qualify as seriously isolated). Island in the Sky, the easiest to get to, is a mesa standing 1,000 feet above terrain which has been carved by wandering rivers. The Needles section of the park, named for the sandstone spires which decorate its landscape, is accessed southwest of Moab - about a 70-mile drive. Horseshoe Canyon, reached from the west via a dirt road off State Route 24, contains well-preserved life-sized rock art. The Maze is for those who are hardcore about backcountry exploration and carrying the proper gear for self-rescue. You're on your own there. 

In Its WakeAFTERMATHFog drifts through the canyon following a significant snowstorm

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

As magnificent as the national parks are, though, there's much more to the region: Dead Horse Point State Park, Sand Flats Recreation Area, Castle Valley, the Colorado River, and mile after mile of spectacular backcountry. The fact that there is so much interesting potential subject matter outside of the two national parks is a big bonus for photographers. Get off the beaten path and prepare to be amazed by all the unique opportunities.

It's possible to do this without a jeep, by the way. If the idea of being banged about on a trail with a rating of 3 or higher isn't your cup of tea, there are many square miles which can be otherwise accessed.

I recommend the shoulder seasons in Moab: especially late winter and/or early spring. There's a higher likelihood of encountering interesting weather conditions that time of year, and it's typically uncrowded. 

If you've never explored this part of the country, put it on your bucket list.

GRACEFULGRACEFULFremont Cottonwood

Near Moab, Utah
Though Moab is small (population roughly 5,000), it attracts a great deal of visitor traffic each year. Many come specifically to see the natural wonders, but a lot of people show up for events like the annual Jeep Safari - one of the largest four-wheel drive events in the world. (Now you know why the BLM manages north of 450 campsites in the area.) Of course those folks will also want to see the park(s) while in town. Who wouldn't?

As a result, Arches is being loved a little too much.

In an effort to manage congestion, this year the park service is implementing a pilot timed entry system. Beginning April 1st and running through the end of October, you'll need to make an advance reservation to get past the gate between 7am and 4:30pm (meaning photographers heading in early for sunrise or late for sunset and/or astrophotography opportunities won't need a ticket).

Once inside, you can remain in the park all day. You'll also be able to exit and enter at any time on the same day with your validated ticket. A limited number of tickets will be held for last minute reservations. Those will become available at 6pm Mountain Time each day. Make all reservations through Recreation.gov.

Canyonlands, being a little further away from town, isn't as overrun. You can still get in there the old-fashioned way. Just show up. 

In Local News

Yellowstone reported its first grizzly sighting of 2023 on March 7th. The adult bear was spotted in Pelican Valley. Male grizzlies come out of hibernation first, typically in early March. Females with cubs emerge later, in April and early May.

Spring skiers are no doubt very happy. This year the slopes will remain open into April. Grand Targhee's closing date is tentatively set for April 16th, while Jackson Hole is slated for April 9th.

Season Snow Totals-to-Date:
Grand Targhee, 642"
Jackson Hole, 480"


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