Gearhead Adventures: A Southern Utah Photography Trip
Ryan Anderson’s Story From Behind the Lens
Gearheads get outside—a lot. From ripping local mountain bike trails to skiing in Norway, they’re the friends whose adventures you wish you could tag along on. Gearhead Adventures are their stories of curiosity, exploration, and the experiences that come with launching into the unknown. These are the stories that make our Gearheads outdoor experts.
November isn’t the most popular time of year to visit Utah’s National Parks, but we weren’t planning your typical tourist trip. My sister Lyndsay and I left our families behind for a sibling road trip with one goal in mind: photography.
Our plan was to visit Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, and Natural Bridges National Monument. We wanted to use our time without kids to slow down, stay at campsites off the beaten path, and follow the sun in search of perfect shots.
To get the photos we wanted, we had to wake up every morning before sunrise and end every evening shooting the sunset. During the daylight hours, we hiked and scouted the parks looking for good sunset or sunrise locations. Here are the destinations we hit in Southern Utah and our experiences along the way.
Bryce Canyon National Park
We started our trip in Bryce Canyon National Park, just a four-hour drive from my home in Salt Lake City. On the first day, we walked through the hoodoos—tall rock spires you see all around Bryce Canyon—and took a unique route through the park.
The next morning, we woke up early to catch the sunrise at Inspiration Point, a famous lookout that offers spectacular views of Bryce’s signature hoodoos. It was freezing, but the photographs we took were worth the early morning temperatures.
Zion National Park
Next, we packed up camp and headed to Zion to hike the infamous Angel’s Landing, an exposed trail known for its steep switchbacks, sheer drop-offs, and breathtaking views. Our goal was to complete the hike. Lyndsay is afraid of heights, so I knew it was going to be a challenging day.
At the beginning of the hike, Lyndsay left my sunglasses on a bench. When I ran back to get them, they were gone. I had lost all hope, but as we approached the summit, a couple descending saw us and asked, “Are you the ones that lost your sunglasses?” “Yes!” we exclaimed. “We have them!” It was pure trail magic, and it made the view of the valley from the top of Angel’s Landing all the sweeter.
Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, & Monument Valley
After leaving Zion, we camped at Lake Powell on the beach near Lone Rock. It was completely dark when we arrived, which made the sunrise the next morning a beautiful surprise.
We spent the rest of the day at Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and then on to Monument Valley— a landscape photographer’s dream. We explored the area during the day and found the perfect spot for sunset. As we were shooting the sunset we decided sunrise would also be amazing from that spot, so we stayed the night. It was a popular sunset location, but by morning it was completely deserted and we had Monument Valley all to ourselves.
Natural Bridges National Monument & Canyonlands National Park
November proved to be a great time to see the sites without the crowds. In fact, when we arrived at Natural Bridges National Monument, we were the only ones there, except for the school bus that decided to have a field trip that same day! We tried to stay ahead of the group of kids and were still able to enjoy the park with very few interruptions.
The roads from Natural Bridges to Canyonlands were full of twists and turns and dotted with bright yellow aspens. Canyonlands was almost just as deserted as Natural Bridges. We found the perfect campsite in the Potholes, named after the eroded sandstone basins that dot the area, next to one of the only potholes that still had water in it. Water adds so much interest to the photos and was something we hadn’t encountered much in the desert. We stayed up watching the stars and soaking in the last few days of complete silence in the great outdoors.
Arches National Park
We explored Arches through short hikes. At sunset, we gathered our camera gear and hiked to Delicate Arch, the famous Utah landmark that adorns our license plates. It was worth the hike, but also the most crowded location we had visited.
We camped in the park and woke up to capture the last sunrise of our trip, this time at Landscape Arch. At each interest point throughout the trip, Lyndsay made a video diary. We filmed our last video to recap the whole trip just outside of Arches National Park before we began the three-hour drive home, ending an epic sibling road trip that will live on in the amazing photos we captured along the way.