The Wave is located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Arizona Strip. There are two great photographic locations in Coyote Buttes North (The Wave and The Second Wave) and numerous minor ones including Top Rock Arch, Melody Arch and the Grotto, the Hooters, The Alcove, Sand Cove, and Fatali's Boneyard. The Wave is best photographed midday so as to minimize the extensive shadows, the other areas listed above are best photographed mid-late afternoon.
The South Buttes also has many good features and is well worth visiting, as is the White Pocket and Edmaier's Secret. It can be difficult to get a permit to see the Wave. During the best months (April, May, September, October) there can be over 150 people applying for the ten daily permits. In the other months you usually have less than a 50% chance of getting one at the daily lottery. Your chances are better if you're going alone, or in December - February. If you do not win the lottery I suggest you get one for Coyote Buttes South, or go to the White Pocket which is east of Coyote Buttes South. I know of one person who was lost overnight in Coyote Buttes South, so use a GPS, mark the trailhead, and stay with your party. While a two wheel drive vehicle is adequate for the North Buttes, four wheel drive is required for the South due to deep sand. See the Information link above for more details about Coyote Buttes and the Wave.
At long last I made it to little known Margaret Arch. Margaret Arch was reportedly discovered by Barry Goldwater and was renamed in 1988 in honor of his late wife. Margaret Arch is unremarkable from a distance, but spectacular when seen close-up from its northwest side. My photos do not do it justice as the arch's best side was in shadow. A 4x4 and permission of a local Navajo leaseholder or local guide is required to visit the arch. A two mile round trip off-trail hike is also necessary. Margaret Arch is best shot at sunset and is a good night photography location. A bit of Margaret's history, shooting recommendations, and a map and directions can be found here. Margaret is a fun trip to unexplored territory and you will almost certainly have the area to yourself.
Finally, I've added a few images of the June full moon (the "Strawberry Moon") setting inside of White Mesa Arch. The full moon appears inside the northeast side of White Mesa Arch only in June and early July. As always, to capture the full moon setting (sun rising) you should plan to shoot the day after the moon is totally full, so that the sun has already risen and the moon is still above the horizon. My shooting location is shown on the maps page.
I've added many new locations, shooting recommendations, and photos to the Arches section of this website. New locations within Arches National Park include Eye of the Whale Arch, Tower Arch and the Marching Men, and the seldom visited Covert and La Boca Arches. Locations added outside the park include Delta Pool, Faux Falls, Secret Spire, Corona Arch, and Fisher Towers. Delta Pool sits high on a mesa and access is not obvious. Well, no longer. On the Arches Map page you can find GPS coordinates of and a route to a crack near the mesa top which makes access easy. I've also added new images of Mesa Arch and False Kiva, and provided the route to False Kiva.
Southern Utah News has reported that the Arizona/BLM Resource Advisory Council (RAC) has tabled further consideration of the 2015 Draft Management Plan for The Wave. This plan would have replaced the walk-in lottery currently held in Kanab with an on-line lottery. The total number of permits granted would have remained the same. Reportedly the plan was put aside as the BLM did not provide sufficient information for the RAC to vote on it. Local opposition to the proposed plan may have been a factor as well, as the walk-in lottery contributes as much as $6.9 million to the Kanab economy. There are many arguments both in favor of the current system and in favor of an on-line system and I expect that some version of this plan will reemerge in the future. More information about the shelved plan can be found here, and the Southern Utah News article here.
In mid-April I revisited Cape Solitude and was greeted with much better conditions than those of my first trip. Arizona is in the middle of a dry spell so the Little Colorado river was running turquoise, and the light in April is much better than in November. The trip to Cape Solitude requires either a a three hour drive over a very bumpy rocky road, or a 2-3 day backpack. If you choose the drive as I did you'll need high clearance 4WD and should either go with another vehicle or at least a satellite phone or Spot as this area is rarely visited. I suggest you also check the color of the Little Colorado river before embarking on the trip, it should be turquoise. The best way to do this is to call one of the rafting companies in Lees Ferry, or one of the Grand Canyon flightseeing companies. The new images of Cape Solitude can be found here.
The view of Reflection Canyon from the rim is one of the most spectacular in the southwest, and shooting it has been on my bucket list for some time. Last fall Gary Ladd told me of a possible route to the rim from the main channel of Lake Powell. The route would require a two mile round trip hike, instead of the usual sixteen mile off-trail waterless hike from Hole in the Rock Road. Reflection canyon is best seen at low water so I booked a boat trip for mid April when Lake Powell water levels are normally at their lowest. To keep costs minimal seven people were in our group, and we campled on shore. A pontoon boat with a speed of 30 knots was used for transportation. On April 14 we hiked from the lake to the Reflection Canyon rim without much difficulty. While conditions were far from ideal (soft light, windy) and our time was limited we got many good images as seen here. Our Lake Powell map has been updated to show the route to the rim from the lake, and to show the overland track.
During this trip we were on the lake for a total of five days and got many other good images. Our Lake Powell gallery has been updated to include these. To view the new images click on one of the new images buttons found on the right side of each gallery thumbnail page.
Grand Teton National Park is one of the most visited US National Parks drawing nearly three million visitors a year. Despite the crowds it is one of my favorite US destinations, especially in late September when the aspen are changing color and the crowds have started to recede. The imposing Teton mountain range stands lies nearly 7,000 feet above the valley below, and is best shot at sunrise. I've added a gallery of images of the park here, and a map showing various shooting locations here.
I've added many new maps to the site including Sedona and the Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Petrified Forest, Saguaro, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks. Topo maps are now available for all Arizona and Utah National Parks. All topo maps on the site are now decollared, and I've created merged USGS 24K topo maps for all areas. The maps distributed by the US National Park Service at entrance stations are now available in geocoded format so you can follow the NPS map on your Android or iPhone as you drive through the park. Instructions have been added on how to decollar maps and how to merge them, and on how to create geocoded national park maps. Finally I've added some notes on creating maps for Garmin devices and discussed the limitations of Garmin custom maps.
The Recapture Pocket is a small area of badlands and hoodoos near Bluff, Utah, reminiscent of Goblin Valley. The badlands are rarely visited except for locals, and there are currently no images on Google Earth of the area. I've added a small gallery of images here, and a map with travel directions and some shooting locations here.
In mid-November I finally visited Cape Solitude. Appropriately named Cape Solitude lies on the east rim of the Grand Canyon. It overlooks the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers 3,000 feet below. It is rarely visited since the normal route involves a two-three day backpack over waterless terrain. Well, there is a largely unknown alternate route via a long drive followed by a moderate hike. This route is described on my Confluence Maps page, and some images taken on a cloudless day can be found in this gallery. Cape Solitude should be visited by every desert rat. The great Edward Abbey wrote of the cape: "There comes a day when a man must hide. Must slip away from the human world and its clutching, insane, insatiable demands." and "Tonight and tomorrow and for the next few days I am going to walk the rim of Cape Solitude, along the palisades of the desert, and save myself." What more can be said.
In early November I took another tour of Lake Powell, this time for ten days. The tour was once again led by Gary Ladd. We visited several new locations and revisited some of the older locations in better light. New locations include the Dominguez Butte area which is best shot at sunset, the hoodoos near Cookie Jar Butte, a very deep alcove off Fiftymile Creek, Rainbow Bridge Creek, and some good viewpoints of Navajo Mountain. The gallery can be found here. Image previews in the gallery have been increased in size to reflect the trends in monitor resolution over time. The revised maps can be found here. Highly recommended.
Going forward I will provide topo maps in Avenza PDF Maps format. PDF Maps is an excellent GPS and map app available for both the iPhone and iPad, and for Android devices. Oruxmaps formatted files and KMZ files will continue to be supplied. I've also found a simpler more reliable way to make decollared USGS topo maps using G-Raster, and a better way to convert GeoTiff files to various mobile formats using MAPC2MAPC. Instructions on how to make and use the maps on this site can be found here, or via the menu Maps Using the Maps above. Almost all smartphones and tablets now contain a GPS, and numerous free maps are available for navigation, so give up your old handheld GPS and move on to a more modern way of navigating.
I've added many new images of Eggshell Arch taken a few days before Thanskgiving, which is close to optimal. Unlike last years trip the sky was clear which led to an even stronger glow under the arch at sunset. Eggshell Arch is in the Navajo Nation and permission of the local leaseholder is needed to visit it. Many of the images included sunstars either above the arch, or within it, so I also added a tutorial on how to shoot sunstars.
I've added many new images of White Mesa Arch taken at sunrise, and a few images of nearby Margaret Arch and Navajo Stand Rock taken mid morning. White Mesa Arch is great at night as well, here it frames the Milky Way Cygnus Rift. White Mesa Arch is in the Navajo Nation and permission of the local leaseholder is needed to visit it.
The comment period for the proposed Paria Canyon/ Coyote Buttes regulations has been extended until October 16 per this article in the St George News.
US 89A is closed between Marble Canyon and Jacob Lake due to a landslide yesterday. Access from the south to Wirepass trailhead, Coyote Buttes South, and The White Pocket via House Rock Road is not possible. To visit these areas you need to drive in from the north via US 89 and House Rock Road. Cliffdwellers Lodge on US 89A is also temporarily closed since it is inaccessible.
Crews are now working to remove mud and boulders from Highway 89A. There is no estimated time for when the road will reopen. The closure is expected to remain in place until at least late Monday morning. For more information and updates see here.
The White Pocket gallery has been updated to include new images from a recent trip taken as a storm cleared. There was quite a bit of water present, and the water pools had many tadpoles. Most of the new images include either The Swirl or The Citadel. I've been hearing from several sources in Kanab that permits will be required to visit the White Pocket in the future, so if you wish to see it on your terms I suggest you go now.
I've also revised my White Pocket screensaver with new or updated images. The screensaver is available for Windows based PCs here. I've also added a Coyote Buttes North screensaver. Unlike most screeensavers both have been customized to exactly fit over 90% of the Windows PC monitors in use today. Displayed images fill the screen without the presence of black bars (pillar boxing) or cropping. Both screensavers are free for non commercial use.
If you're in the Four Corners area consider visiting Shiprock and Royal Arch. Royal Arch is 25 miles from Shiprock; both can be shot in one day. Shiprock photographs best near dawn. Royal Arch can be shot from a distance and is best at dawn, or close up which is best from mid afternoon on. A private passenger car is sufficient for Shiprock; high clearance 4WD is definitely needed for Royal Arch. Royal Arch is rarely visited and the road is heavily rutted so I suggest you go wih two vehicles, a GPS, and good maps. I've added a gallery of images of Shiprock here, images of Royal Arch here, and a map with directions to both here.
This site has been redesigned so that it functions properly on tablets and mobile phones. The site has been tested on the latest versions of Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Windows 10 Microsoft Edge. I have no easy way to check functionality under Safari. If webpages appear to be incorrect I suggest you try one of the following: refresh the webpage, upgrade your browser to the latest version, clear your browser cache, try Google Chrome, or contact me.
The BLM has issued a draft business plan containing changes to the Coyote Buttes permit system. Changes include:
Permits for ten people per day would be issued via an on-line semi-annual lottery. One lottery would be held on December 1st for the months of January-June, and one on June 1st for July-December. Lottery applications would be accepted during the two months prior to the lottery date. The semi annual lottery would go live for the July-December 2016 period.
The walk-in lottery would be replaced by an on-line lottery held two days in advance of the permit date. Permit for ten people per day would be issued via this two day lottery. The two day lottery would go live March 15, 2016.
Permit fees would be increased to $12 per person for both Coyote Buttes North and South. An additional fee of $6 per permit issued would also be charged.
The total number of people allowed into each permit area would remain at 20.
I've added some photos of Point Hansbrough and a nice bend in the Colorado River taken from just south of Tatahatso Point. Tatahatso Point is part of the Navajo Nation and is on the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. I've also added some new photos of The Confluence showing the turquoise Little Colorado mixing with the brown Colorado rivers. The map of the confluence area has been expanded to show access routes to the East Rim, a good overlook of the Little Colorado, and the Hopi Salt Trail. The Hopi Salt Trail can be used to access the Little Colorado from the rim.
With the Arizona Monsoon Season coming and its associated dramatic weather now is a good time to start planning a trip to The Confluence and the East Rim.
Some time ago Randy Langstraat emailed me that High Heel Arch partially collapsed. His report on the collapse and some very good photos appear on his blog here. I recently visited High Heel, the arch is significantly more photogenic now than it was before.
I also visited the close-by little known Moby Dick Arch. Despite the fact that it has an estimated forty foot span the arch does not seem to appear in any arch catalogs or on the web. For now I'll credit Victor of the excellent Rocking V Cafe in Kanab with its "discovery" and have accepted his name.
I received this paraphrased email from the Grand Canyon Trust recently:
On May 12, new Navajo President Russell Begaye took office. The next day he issued a firm statement against Escalade. Begaye’s vice president, Jonathan Nez, added “any attempts to pass legislation to proceed with the development would be vetoed by the president.”
Save the Confluence family members expressed relief and thanked the new leaders for ending their “nightmare” under the Ben Shelly administration: “We believe ‘the two mighty’ rivers, the Colorado and the Little Colorado, have spoken.” They concluded that “while the president’s stance is being recognized as good and welcome news, we will remain cautious of the Navajo Nation Council.”
Amazing Eggshell Arch is, in my opinion, the most beautiful arch in Arizona. It is nearly as spectacular as the better known spans of Delicate Arch, Mesa Arch, and Rainbow Bridge. Eggshell arch lies in the Inscription House chapter of the Navajo Nation and is on private land. If you wish to visit the arch you must get the permission of a local leaseholder, as I did. Navajo Parks and Recreation permits are not available for this area.
The arch is best photographed at sunset. From late November through January it is bathed in a red glow similar to the glow Mesa Arch gets at sunrise. I have heard Eggshell arch referred to as Thanksgiving Arch as Thanksgiving is a very good time to photograph it.
I've added a gallery of images of the arch here. I have not included a map showing the route to Eggshell. Visiting Eggshell without permission may subject you to legal or other action. It is also dangerous due to the confusing array of very rough sandstone / dirt roads in the area, and due to the presence of mountain lions.
The Alabama Hills is a land of potato shaped boulders and myriad arches near Lone Pine, California. Over 400 movies and TV shows have been shot in the Alabama Hills. Mount Whitney is just to the west of the Alabama Hills and towers almost 10,000 feet above them. Many of the Alabama Hills arches frame Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Peak, also to the west. If you're planning a trip to Death Valley or the Eastern Sierras you should include the Alabama Hills in your itinerary.
If you're planning a second trip to The Wave, or are a strong hiker with good navigation skills able to do nine or more offtrail miles in a single day, you should think about visiting Top Rock. Top Rock is the area above the cliffs just east of The Wave. It has many unique features including four beautiful arches and an alcove whose walls are decorated with spectacular colors and patterns. Hiking up Top Rock is easier than it looks. Top Rock can be climbed via an easy scramble up the ramp near The Second Wave (0.3 miles one-way) or you can hike up from its east side (1.2 miles from The Wave). My actual tracks for both are available on the maps page here.
Top Rock is best visited mid afternoon to sunset. Visit Melody Arch first, then Hourglass Arch, and finish with Top Rock Arch and The Alcove. You might want to leave Top Rock about two hours before sunset, giving you time to shoot The Second Wave in best light. For the best images of Top Rock Arch and The Alcove you'll need to stay until the sun sets below the cliffs to the west. If you stay this late you'll need to hike out in the dark.
I've updated my Coyote Buttes gallery and maps pages to include more information about Top Rock including new images of Hourglass Arch, Melody Arch, and The Alcove. I've also added several new images and GPS coordinates of lace rock on the west side.
Grand Falls, part of the Little Colorado River, is a unique waterfall in that, when running, it is more a river of mud than one of water. Grand Falls is also known as Chocolate Falls or Muddy Falls. It is best shot in the late afternoon during the few days each year when it flows. Grand Falls typically flows during snow-melt season in late March / early April, or a few days after a heavy rain. It is dry and uninteresting most of the year. Your best of getting a good image of the falls is to go 2 - 3 days after the USGS flow gauge on the Little Colorado River in Winslow registers a flow exceeding 400 cubic feet per second. Winslow flow can be tracked here or you can register for an email or text alert here. I've added a gallery of Grand Falls images here, and travel directions and more detailed flow statistics here.
This from the Arizona Dept of Transportation - "Two years after a landslide ripped apart a 500-foot section of US 89 and split the communities of Bitter Springs and Page, the Arizona Department of Transportation anticipates reopening the highway to traffic on the afternoon of Friday, March 27, barring any potential weather delays or mechanical breakdowns during the paving process, which began today."
Google Earth Pro licenses, formerly $395 per annum, are now free. Google Earth Pro can be freely downloaded here. During installation you will be asked for a username and license key. Use your email address and the key GEPFREE to sign in. One of the features in Google Earth Pro that was not in Google Earth is the ability to make aerial movies from folders and tracks. I've created medium (864x480) and high resolution (1080p 30fps) videos showing the hike from the Wirepass trailhead to The Wave so that hikers can get some idea of the terrain they will be traversing. The medium resolution version is on the maps page and the high resolution version can be downloaded by right clicking here. I've also added a tutorial showing how to create a smooth video from any GPS track.
Wupatki National Monument contains a number of 800-1000 year old ruins. The ruins photograph well and Wupatki gets good light year round making it an excellent destination for photographers. Wupatki is a better sunrise than sunset destination, especially in the winter months when the red rock of the ruins contrasts well with the snow on Mount Humphreys. I've added a gallery of Wupatki images here, and a map showing the locations of the six ruins open to the public here.
The Hopi Clown is a rarely photographed rock formation in Tohachi Wash, about 20 miles northeast of Wupatki National Monument. Tohachi Wash is in the southern section of the Adeii Eichii Cliffs, an area also known as Red Rock Cliffs. A Navajo Nation permit is required to visit the Hopi Clown.
The Red Rock Cliffs area is very remote and there are no named roads within fifteen miles of it. To get there you'll needs a high clearance 4WD vehicle. I suggest you go in with more than one vehicle and do not drive in or leave at night. I've added the Hopi Clown to my gallery of Adeii Eichii images here, and travel directions to my Adeii Eichii map here. As far as I know this website is the first English language site with travel directions to the clown.
When in the vicinity of the Hopi Clown you should also explore/shoot the cliffs and formations surrounding Tohachi Wash. You could also shoot either Wupatki NM or Grand Falls depending on how you come in.
Many thanks again to my Belgian friend Rudi who provided me with GPS coordinates. I would never have found it without his help.
Update - I recently received an email which indicated that a gate on the road to Tohachi Wash will be locked going forward, and that the local leaseholder will post no trespassing signs shortly. For now the Hopi Clown is off limits.
White Sands National Monument contains the largest gypsum dune field in the world - 275 square miles. It is located in southcentral New Mexico and is less than two hours from El Paso, Texas by car. White Sands gets nearly 600,000 visitors every year and is very popular in the spring and summer months. Unlike the other major US sand dune fields ( Great Sand Dunes National Park and Death Valley NP), the sand in White Sands is perfectly white and very fine grained. Vegetation (grasses, yuccas, and occasional Cottonwoods) is common throughout much of the park and adds considerably to White Sands photographic appeal. I recently spent several days in the park photographing the cottonwood trees and yuccas and came away with many good images. I've added a gallery of images to this site here, and a map and some tips on photographing the park here.
With over two million visitors a year, it's hard to call Lake Powell a secret. However despite its dazzling beauty few professional photographers go out on the lake and shoot it. Gary Ladd, a resident of Page since 1981 and a well known Arizona Highways photographer, is one of those who regularly do so. When I found out he was leading a week tour of the lake this past October I booked it immediately. Despite imperfect weather I got some magnificent photos and had a great time during the week I spent on the lake.
The Lake offers almost everything a desert
rat (photographer) could hope for: great crossbedding, weathering pits, slot canyons, waterfalls, alcoves, arches, magnificent backgrounds, and, of course, the lake itself with its ephemeral reflections and wakes, and its often green hue. The locations we shot at on the Lake are indeed secrets known to just a few, lasting only as long as water levels allow. I've included some images shot on the tour here, and maps and descriptions of the locations we visited here.
Horizon Arch is a photogenic arch close to the town of Escalante, Utah. The arch is also known as Kissing Dragons Arch. Visiting the arch requires a five-seven mile off-trail hike where the mileage depends on whether your vehicle can reach the closer trailhead. Good navigation and route finding skills are needed. I've added a gallery of images here, and maps and directions to the arch here. The arch is best shot at sunset and is worth visiting if you are in the Escalante area.
Many thanks to Michael Haudek who provided me with excellent directions to the arch. His website contains directions in German and some good photos of the area.
October is perhaps the best month in which to visit the Southwest; temperatures are pleasant, and the aspen and cottonwoods are changing. I spent a few days in Escalante the first week of October revisiting Dance Hall Rock, and shooting Sunset and Moonrise arches. It was too early in October for the cottonwoods on Dance Hall Rock to change color but I did get a few good images. Sunset and Moonrise arches are only a few miles from Dance Hall Rock. The iconic shot of Sunset Arch frames Navajo Mountain, shooting the arch from the other side yields a nice sunburst. Moonrise arch frames the full moon at sunset. I was there a few days before the full moon but still got a reasonable image. I've added directions to both arches here, and some images here. Finally I revisited Balancing Rock near Boulder. I shot this last year mid day, sunset yields much better color. The shadow of the hoodoo was not optimal in early October, spring or summer would be better.
Google recently introduced a new version of Google Maps, called My Maps. The old version of Google Maps ("Classic") is being discontinued. My Maps offers several advantages over "Classic" Maps including layers and improved stability. In view of this change all of the maps on this site have been migrated to "My Maps'. Other enhancements to this site include:
Just outside Grand Canyon National Park there is a largely unknown overlook of the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. The view of The Confluence is as good as any in Grand Canyon National Park proper with one key difference, you will probably have the overlook all to yourself. You can camp right at the overlook on the rim of the Grand Canyon with the Colorado river visible 3,500 feet below. The viewpoint lies in the Navajo Nation and a $12 permit is needed to visit it. The viewpoint is the future site of the controversial "Escalade" project should it be approved and make its way through the courts, so I suggest you visit it now before construction begins.
I've added many images taken from the overlook here, and a map and directions here. A 4x4 and good navigation skills are needed to traverse the thirty offroad miles to the overlook. No hiking required.
Highly recommended, see it now!