The Southwest has some of the most breathtaking places for photographs on Earth. From desert scenery to majestic sunsets, your photos will always be eye capturing and mesmerizing. Here are the top eight gorgeous places photographers must visit in the Southwest United States.
Key Southwest Destinations For Photographers
1. Monument Valley
When you think of the Southwest, you probably picture the famous red buttes of Monument Valley. The valley has been featured in numerous movies and is gorgeous to photograph at any time, but especially at sunset. Located on the Arizona/Nevada border, it can get pretty hot in the summer. The best time to travel to Monument Valley is in the fall and you may want to camp within the park to get the full experience. There is also a hotel in the park, but be sure to book in advance. Kayenta, Arizona is the closest town to Monument Valley with several accommodations.
Bonus Tip: Monument Valley is in the Navajo Reservation and you should always ask before taking photos of the natives or their houses.
2. Saguaro National Park
You can’t visit the Southwest without capturing the striking Saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Saguaro can grow up to 45 feet and take decades to grow, and they make great silhouettes against Arizona’s famous sunsets. Saguaro National Park is divided between the east and west areas of Tucson. It is said that the west area of the park has more cacti, however they both have beautiful scenery. It is recommended to visit from September-April when climates are more bearable. You certainly won’t regret visiting this gorgeous display of southwestern cacti.
3. Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Chaco Canyon is a scared place of the Puebloan Native Americans that will take you back in time with its immense history and breathtaking landscape. The buildings of the ancestral Puebloans date back more than 1000 years ago and are a major landmarks of the southwest. This remote area is located in northwestern New Mexico near the Four Corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. The nearest city is Farmington, New Mexico, which is about 60 miles north and has many hotels. You can also camp in the park for beautiful pictures of the stars and sunrise. It is best to visit during the fall and as many photographers know, sunrise and sunset are the best times for stunning photographs.
4. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
These caverns in southeast New Mexico contain striking limestone formations including stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming for thousands of years. The natural entrance hike-in features thousands of bats and is a popular photography destination. Carlsbad Caverns has over 119 caverns to explore and a variety of plants and wildlife. Located outside the town of Carlsbad, it is best to visit the park in the fall or spring. The inside of the cave stays around a cool 60 degrees, however the summers can get hot. Although the main caves are lit, photography can be tricky underground. Be sure to bring the right equipment for this unique setting.
5. White Sands National Monument
White Sands is the world’s largest gypsum dune field located outside of Alamogordo, NM. The notorious white sand creates a beautiful image against the New Mexico scenery. The rolling dunes are commonly pictured with a yucca plant, New Mexico’s state flower, and a classic southwest sunset.
Sedona is surrounded by stunning red rocks and natural southwest beauty. Sedona is located in northern Arizona about two hours north of Phoenix. The glow of the light at sunrise and sunset lights up the sandstone rocks giving breathtaking views for photographers and tourists. To get to the hard to reach areas, you can go on a jeep tour. You could also rent a four-wheel drive vehicle to capture better sites on your own time. Cathedral Rock and Devil’s Bridge are some popular destinations for incredible photos.
7. Grand Canyon National Park
Your portfolio wouldn’t be complete without perhaps the most photographed natural attraction in the country- the Grand Canyon! There is so much to explore and whether you want to photograph from up top, or hike down below, your shots will not disappoint. The Grand Canyon is gorgeous at any time of year, however the north rim is closed in the winter. The south rim is open year round but the fall is good time to visit because of fewer tourists and better weather. Yavapai Point and Horseshoe Bend are beautiful areas of the park for sunrise and sunset photography.
8. Antelope Canyon
The colors of the canyon are amazing in both summer and winter, but because of brighter beams of sunlight, it’s more colorful in the summer. The canyon is a part of Navajo Nation and can only be accessed by tour. There are different tours, but the photography tour allows more time for taking photos. Many tourists and photographers flock to Antelope Canyon making it very crowded at some times. The Canyon can also be hard to capture in dim lighting, so be sure to bring necessary equipment. Located in northern Arizona, towns like Page are close to the canyon and have accommodations.
This article was written by Taylor Bishop.