2015 Utah Trip

Photo Notes

Bisti Badlands

Route to Southern Features

From the parking lot, hike toward red hill in the distance. You want to stay just to the left of this hill and the ensuing ridges beyond it. The closer you stay to the right of the wash, the more you cut down on the mileage. At about 1.5 miles, you'll see a break in the dark ridge that cuts across the wash from left to right. Go through the gap and look for the white features nearly straight ahead. That is the area we call "Hoodoos 3." Just before Hoodoos 3, you'll see a small mound of petrified wood, with about three medium-sized petrified branches. Hoodoos 3 is a great place to wander around. Be sure to find the small mushroom with the tall support, the sea serpents, and the group of hoodoos just to the right of the mushroom. Time permitting, also wander around the smaller canyons to the south of Hoodoos 3. There are some excellent back canyons that would be morning shots to the southwest of Hoodoos 3.

Hike through Hoodoos 3 and look for the two dark buttes to the right as you hike east. They are the marker for the Egg Factory and the petrified logs sections. Stay just to the left of the buttes and hike south along the edge of the wash. The section we called "Hoodoos 5" are straight ahead and look like a jumbled pile of white hoodoos. If you look in the near distance to your right, you'll see an obvious hoodoo sitting on top of a ridge. Hike over to that area, but look for the fabulous "Alien in a Car Seat" feature. It's just to the right of the hoodoo on the ridge.

Keep hiking past Hoodoos 5 on the left and look for a break in the small hills straight ahead. The Egg Factory are right behind the hills. Hike through the small gap and the Egg Factory is to your left. This is a great golden light shot, although the clouds rolled in and obscured the sun just as we reached golden light while we were there in September.

To reach the petrified logs section, hike through the Egg Factory and turn right into the main wash. You want to hike right along the right edge of the wash. After about 1/4 mile, walk into the gap on your right to a small alcove. You'll know you're in the right place if you see a large petrified log on your left shortly after you enter the small canyon. Just beyond the petrified wood, you'll see a woman's hat hoodoo and just beyond that to your right will be the famous perched log. Just past the perched log, is a gap in the low ridge that you can cross to drop into the large open wash to the south. Be sure to also include Statuary Wash and Red Rock Gulch in this area. This entire area is an amazing collection of petrified logs, hoodoos, and unusual combinations of formations.It's my favorite area of the Bisti Badlands so far.

There is a great iron-red arch in the middle of the main wash, northeast of Hoodoo 5. If you get low, you can get some good formations through the arch. Straight north of the arch is "Bowling Ball Valley," the Elegant Hoodoo, and Alien Woman, all of which are worth the time to hunt down. The Bisti Rock Garden is also in the immediate area.

Route to Northern Features

Park in the second parking lot, about 1/2 mile beyond the main parking area. Keep to the left edge of the main wash and continue hiking east. When you see the barbed-wire fence, stay on the main wash side of the fence. Hike to the end of the fence, and then turn left (north) up the side wash. You will see a derby-shaped butte to the right and a tall striped butted we called "The Lighthouse" farther up the wash. You can pass The Lighthouse on either side. Just past The Lighthouse, you need to find a route up to the top of the plateau. There are several obvious routes. As soon as you reach the top of plateau, The Pedestal will be 20 or 30 yards ahead and very obvious.

From The Pedestal area, you can see the Bisti Wings section straight ahead (east). Hike straight toward them to find a point on the plateau where you are looking straight across at the Wings. Just to the right of the point is a small ravine leading down to the wash below the Wings. There is an obvious Photographer's trail down the ravine.

Hike past the Wings in the wash to the left and take the next wash to your right and look up on the ridge. The Jetsons Pillar is supposed to be up there, but we missed it.

Hike back into the main wash and begin looking for a way to hike west to the right of the taller formations. You cross a very low ridge and drop down into a smaller "canyon." Walk to west end of the canyon and look to your left for access to the larger canyon and main features of this area. There is an amazing hoodoo right at the entrance to the canyon (and I use the term "canyon" very loosely) and the King's Men stand atop a ridge that runs east and west. This is a fabulous area of white hoodoos with red caprocks. You can also access this area from the Pedestal by simply walking northwest across the plateau and look for a ravine that drops into this area.

Chaco Canyon

Be sure to hike the trail to the ridge above Pueblo Bonito. Early morning would provide the best lighting, but late, late afternoon would also work.

Pueblo Dell Arroyo is a good early morning destination.

Pueblo Bonito is much better in the late afternoon or sunset. Midday or early afternoon is a better time to shoot the doorways in Pueblo Bonito.

Chetro Ketl is best shot in the late afternoon.

Crow Canyon

Take the time to check out the cliffs directly in front of the parking area at the Main Panel. Because the main petroglyphs face mostly east, late morning is probably the best time to shoot them. They were in the shade in the afternoon.

The Warrior Panel is best shot in the afternoon. The pullout is marked and the trail begins right beside it.

Try to include time to shoot the 44 Panel. The elk with the spear through it is on this panel. It's a 1.6-mile round trip hike.

Bighorn Sheep Panel along Kane Creek

Easiest path to cliff petroglyphs is right across from the parking lot and switchback up the ridge. Most of the petroglyphs face south.

Lots of petroglyph panels all along the cliff face above the side canyon. To reach the main Bighorn Sheep Canyon, you have to hike to the head of the canyon you've been in and up through a notch to reach the next ridge above it.

Elk Panel Along Colorado River

The elk panel at 38°32'25.43"N, 109°36'7.52"W needs to be shot in the morning or on a bright overcast day. The elk is large but pretty subtle, so the lighting has to be right.

Owl Panel along Kane Creek

This looks like a fairly long and strenuous hike. The parking area at the trailhead is tiny and a bit precarious for turning around. You drop all the way down to cross the stream and then have to climb back up to reach the ridge where the panel is. We could see the basic trail from the Birthing Rock, but we couldn't see the exact location of the Owl Panel.

Arches National Park

We found two new places to shoot at Arches. The first is below the La Sal Mountain Overlook parking area. There is a use trail that goes south from the southwest edge of the parking lot. There are huge expanses of slickrock with lots of depressions for reflections after a rain. If it hasn't rained, it's still a good place to wonder around for views into Courthouse Wash or across to the La Sals.

The second area is between Balanced Rock and the Windows Section. Park along the road and hike west to find high ground for a shot southeast to include the Turret Arch area and the La Sals. There is also a great formation standing alone more south toward the La Sals.

Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument was a gem. It's very difficult to reach from I-70 because of the narrow roads and steep passes. The park itself covers a huge area with few roads joining the areas. Be sure to plan a sunset at Island Park Overlook ( 40°31'7.25"N, 109° 9'53.43"W) or right at the river level in the Hog Island area. Watch for moose. A couple had a moose in camp just down river at Rainbow Park.

McKee Spring was great for petroglyphs.

Allow lots of time for Echo Park and Harpers Corner. It takes a full day. We tried one day to also include Split Mountain and the quarry. We ran out of time and missed Harpers Corner. Echo Park is gorgeous at sunset. Lots of deer and elk at sunset also.

The dinosaur quarry would be best shot on a bright overcast day. Direct light with all the windows creates all kinds of weird bright spots and shadows.

Nine Mile Canyon

This is an all-day tour. It has more afternoon shots than morning, but you really need to be there in the morning, midday, and afternoon to get all the best petroglyphs. The road is now paved but has lots of dips that could be an issue after heavy rains.

We missed lots of the best petroglyphs: Big Buffalo & Pregnant Buffalo (N39° 46' 59", W110° 08' 04"), Daddy Canyon (N39° 47' 08", W110° 10' 00"), Rasmussen Cave ( N39° 47' 10", W110° 10' 07"), Devils Canyon Sheep Panel, Family Panel, Long-necked Sheep Panel, Owl Panel ( 39°49'12.17"N 110°18'48.48"W), Santa Clause Petroglyph, Wizard Petroglyph, and Wolfman Petroglyph.