On the way to Vegas!
In the end of 2015, Chasity and I finally took time off and ventured off to Zion, Bryce and Antelope Canyon. We took advantage of black friday deals and bought some nice cold weather clothing for the 5 degree weather and snow! We left the airport and arrived in Las Vegas. From there we rented a car and hit the road towards Zion National Park.
First stop: Valley of Fire State Park
This park is roughly 50 miles away from the airport in Las Vegas, along highway 15. Take the Valley of Fire highway exit on the right if you are traveling north and you’ll find some pretty cool (and old) rock formations! Website: http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire-state-park/
The Park is rather small and you can go to all the main attractions within one day. Good place to stretch your legs after a plane ride and before the drive to Zion.
Zion National Park
After 130 miles, driving from Nevada, through Arizona and into Utah, we finally made it to Zion.We spent two nights, 3 days in Springdale at a lovely place right by the park’s entrance called Cable Mountain Lodge (Link: http://cablemountainlodge.com/) Last year we stayed in the La Quinta in St. George, roughly 40 miles away. It was difficult to leave in time to catch sunset and was even hard to drive from Zion to St. George late at night after shooting sunset and waiting for the stars to come out.
It just snowed heavily the previous week and we had light snow during our stay. It completely changed the look of the park.
One nice and short hike to do is the Canyon Overlook trail. When coming in the park, instead of taking the left to go through the scenic drive, continue going straight. This will lead to a windy road going up, then through a tunnel and once you get out, try to find parking! In a busy day, you are already taking a long walk along the road just to get to the stairs and begin your hike up. The parking lot to your right is the only bathroom left until you get out of the park. Closest one is in Mt. Junction?
The trail is 1 mile round trip and the hike is not so steep, but if you are afraid of heights don’t look down. There are exposed cliffs where there is no rails. Its a one way trail, so people will be coming from the opposite direction. Once you make it to the top, you’ll enjoy it. Trust me.
Another hike we did is the Emerald Pools trail. We went all the way to the upper pools, which is a 3 mile hike round trip. Since everything was mostly frozen, the waterfalls was more of a stream flowing down. Once the snow and ice melts, i’m sure it would be awesome to see.
The last hike we did in Zion was Angels Landing. This is not for those who are afraid of heights, like me. But if you’re curious enough, stick away from the edge, don’t look down and enjoy the view… when looking straight ahead.
The hike is 5 miles round trip and strenuous. I was sweating in 20 degree weather, then that sweat turned into icicles. I kept on taking off and putting on my beanie, gloves and outer layer. When hiking in the snow, ice trekkers is recommended as it does get slippery. You wouldn’t want to slip and slide down the mountain before you get to the top now, do you? Elevation gain is 1488 feet and you feel it if you’re from the San Francisco Bay area like us.
After surviving Angels Landing and enjoying a nice glass of beer after dinner, we packed our stuff and left for Bryce Canyon the next day. Bryce is roughly 80 miles away.
Bryce Canyon National Park
We spent one night in a hotel close to Bryce Canyon’s park entrance. We wanted to make sure we got up in time to catch a sunrise!
If you ever are in Bryce Canyon, you MUST see it during sunrise. Pictures cannot do any justice.
We managed to do one quick hike down to the hoodoos. Again, elevation kicked our butts.
151 miles later, we were well rested and ready to photograph Hoseshoe bend and Antelope Canyon!
Horseshoe bend is on highway 89 and requires some walking to do. After the hikes we did the previous days, even the smallest hills were dreadful. There is a dirt parking lot you start from, hike up a hill, walk through the desert and you’ll start questioning yourself if this place really exists. Just follow the crowd and you’ll eventually find yourself there!
I shot with a 14mm f/2.8 lens on a full frame sensor (Canon 5d mkii). That was BARELY enough to fit horseshoe bend in the frame. Crop sensor camera uses, I advise to bring something really wide, try shooting from an angle or do a panoramic shot. We visited this place twice, one for sunrise and the other for sunset. I advise to beat the crowd and go for sunrise. Not only its not so crowded, you wont be shooting against the sun. Afternoons isn’t great either for photography as harsh shadows makes it tough to get a good exposure.
We had booked a Photographer’s tour with www.antelopecanyon.com. We had a smaller tour group, permissions to use the tripod and the tourguides did crowd control for us. The non-photog tour is also great, but you are part of a larger crowd and no tripods allowed.
If its your first time in the Canyon, you’ll get overwhelmed with all the different possibilities to shoot. Angle, lighting, etc. Luckily for us our tour guide named Debora pointed out some key places to shoot. I’d recommend a wide lens, a tripod (obviously), and a remote shutter release cable. When I was taking my shots, my meter was a bit confused. Bracket your shots and you’ll be fine.
Paria Canyon Cliffs.
somewhere along the freeway on the way back to Vegas, we got curious and went off course to find ourselves in Paria Canyon.
A quick drive through a dirt road leads you to a river, and then you can hike your way through beautiful rock formations. We didn’t do this as we did not have a hike permit and we had a long drive ahead of us.
Back to Vegas
It was quite strange to be back in a large city with people, traffic and not worrying about getting stranded in the middle of no where, or being careful of meat-eating animals looking for a meal. We enjoyed our trip out in these amazing places. Can’t wait for the adventures ahead.