Your favorite national park in the Southwest

Discussion in 'Travel' started by smarksphotography, Mar 2, 2011.

  1. Hi,
    I'd like to go take a short trip to photograph Southwest Landscapes and was hoping to get some comments that would help me decide where to go.
    Almost on a whim, I was thinking of going to Monument Valley in Utah after helping my daughter on a research project and stumbling on some pictures of the place. But then I decided maybe I should give this a little more thought as it is not often I'll be able take such a trip. Since I am not really familiar with the Southwest, I am not sure how to go about coming up with possible destinations. (Googling around only took me so far). I figured maybe a decision here would help and hopefully the thread might become be useful for future travelers too.
    Here's some of my criteria:
    Basically, I think my criteria for what I am looking for is fairly flexible. Maybe Southwest natural wonders sums it up. I want to photograph (and just see) some spectacular bits of nature. I am not limiting myself to rock formations, but I think that's a large draw. Interesting flora and fauna are always interesting. I am thinking of smaller scale things rather than huge ones.
    The more mundane criteria for the trip: time and budget are better defined.
    I am only planning 3 or 4 days for the trip and keeping the costs down are important. More concretely, I think could visit Monument Valley (including airfare) for less than $1500. So, that's my working budget for this excursion. So if you don't mind suggesting others places I should consider (and perhaps some specific tips that would make the trip more successful), I'd really appreciate it.
    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. I went to az a few years ago, here were my choices after extensive research.

    Sedona, Grand canyon south rim, Page (Glen canyon dam, Antelope canyon, lake Powell). Only negative was our boat trip
    on lake powell, unexpectedly very rough.

    Monument valley would have been next on my list. It is less kid friendly than any of the places I went.
     
  3. Zion, Bryce, Sequoya, Yosemite, Avenue of the Giants, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, ...
     
  4. In addition to what I mentioned previoiusly, someone on a strict budget should consider flying into Las Vegas and going to Hoover Dam, Bryce, & Zion. Flying to LV is usually one of the best deals per mile in the country.
     
  5. If I had to pick only one in the SouthWest.... Zion!
    Julie
     
  6. Big Bend!
     
  7. Bryce Canyon is my favorite.
    Some places are closed for 6 months or more during the winter and spring due to snow. I suggest visiting the travel section of a book store. There are tons of books on the US southwest and national parks. The rental car rates and taxes in Vegas are much cheaper than most places. I think I could rent a car for 3 weeks from Vegas for the same price as one week in Denver. Do your research and have fun.
     
  8. Thanks for all the suggestions so quickly. Lots to to consider. I was going to write down my short list, but at this point I don't think it is too short anymore. I'd like to find a place that is not too crowded (I know that's hugely variable with time and place) and not to oriented to just driving around. On the other hand, I don't want to have to hike many miles to get to the "good parts". I'd like to find a place where after 3 or 4 days I felt like I had a good sense of it (i.e. a smaller park).
     
  9. Having recently retired, my first major trip is going to be Arches NP in April. Arches has always been high on my bucket list, and I plan on staying in Moab. The nice thing about Arches is most of the hiking trails are not that long, and most are not strenuous. Though I am sure one could spend a lifetime exploring any of the major parks, I have the impression a 3-4 day stay will allow me to do some hiking and see the major attractions of the park during the best hours for photography. I talked to an Arches NP representative and she suggested 2-4 days in Arches, but also allow a day for Canyonlands NP, which is only about an hour from Moab. She described Arches as feeling like an ant looking up at the scenery, and a visit to Canyonlands is like an eagle soaring above it. Quite a contrast for just an hour's driving. If you do some internet searching, you will find there are a lot of other attractions within a couple hours drive of Moab. I highly recommend the "Photographing the Southwest" series of books by Laurent Martres. Those books have been a valuable resource for planning this trip, and if all works out should be a great reference for future trips. Google has also been invaluable, as I search for specific places and look at the images posted.
     
  10. Having recently retired, my first major trip is going to be Arches NP in April. Arches has always been high on my bucket list, and I plan on staying in Moab. The nice thing about Arches is most of the hiking trails are not that long, and most are not strenuous. Though I am sure one could spend a lifetime exploring any of the major parks, I have the impression a 3-4 day stay will allow me to do some hiking and see the major attractions of the park during the best hours for photography. I talked to an Arches NP representative and she suggested 2-4 days in Arches, but also allow a day for Canyonlands NP, which is only about an hour from Moab. She described Arches as feeling like an ant looking up at the scenery, and a visit to Canyonlands is like an eagle soaring above it. Quite a contrast for just an hour's driving. If you do some internet searching, you will find there are a lot of other attractions within a couple hours drive of Moab. I highly recommend the "Photographing the Southwest" series of books by Laurent Martres. Those books have been a valuable resource for planning this trip, and if all works out should be a great reference for future trips. Google has also been invaluable, as I search for specific places and look at the images posted.
     
  11. If you fly into Vegas, you have lots of choices. Personally I'd probably try and get a connection into St George (although you can drive there from Vegas in a couple hours) and then head to Kanab. North Rim of the Grand Canyon, much less visited then the South Rim. And then I'd second Arches, also less visited then Zion and Bryce. Really, hard to go wrong with any of these. If you've never really traveled in the SW, any of these parks will WOW you.
    00YJpz-336595584.JPG
     
  12. If you fly into Las Vegas, the drive over to SE Utah where Arches and Canyonlands are located will take the better part of an entire day.
     
  13. I finally started looking at a map carefully and was surprised to see how close (relatively) a lot of these places are to each other. One problem with this research is that its going to make wish I had more time for the trip.
    These posts have been really helpful though, especially the detailed ones.
     
  14. Make sure you plan the trip to get at each location for sunrise/early morning or late afternoon/sunset. It's the LIGHT that you are after for great shots. While I am sure you can get some great stuff anytime, to get great skies you want to plan ahead.
     
  15. You don't say when you want to visit. All the national parks are very busy during the peak summer travel months. Zion meets many of your criteria, i.e., it is compact, offers a lot of variety in scenery and activities, and is drop-dead spectacular. It is also extremely crowded in summer. In off-peak months, it is ideal for a 3-4 day visit and would be my first recommendation. Be prepared for some moderately strenuous walking if you want to really see the park (although there are certainly nice sights to be seen along the roadways).
    Moab would be my other suggestion, because there are so many different things to see within manageable driving distance--Arches NP, Canyonlands NP (a vast area with many different options), Dead Horse Point, Horseshoe Canyon (part of Canyonlands), Colorado River Gorge, etc. Arches is also very compact and therefore can be crowded in peak times. Canyonlands is vast and less crowded. Most visitors to national parks seem to be intent on seeing as many parks as possible and they spend just a few hours at each park, resulting in huge crowds on the roadways and at the most accessible viewpoints. If you get out and walk, you can usually leave the crowds behind, but you need to be prepared for hiking with adequate clothing and sufficient water. Access to most of Arches and to the major viewpoints in Canyonlands is on paved roads, but some of the more interesting areas require 4WD or at least a vehicle with good ground clearance and all terrain tires (Jeep rentals are available in Moab).
    Monument Valley is a great area to photograph, but personally I wouldn't spend more than a day there in a single trip. If you decide to do Monument Valley, you might want to combine it with either Canyon de Chelly or Mesa Verde.
    Two notes of caution: First, the Congress seems to be heading toward a game of budgetary chicken, with a partial government shutdown at least possible...if that happens national parks would likely be closed. Second, don't be deceived by the apparent closeness of things on a map--distances in the Southwest are vast. You are wise to limit your visit to a compact area and enjoy the time you have available in a defined area rather than spending your entire holiday in a car.
     
  16. It's not about my favorite SW park. It's about what to do with that amount of time. I would fly into Vegas, and see Bryce and Zion, or maybe just Zion. Watch the airline prices soaring in the next few weeks. You may want to buy your tickets immediately.
     
  17. I didn't say when because I have some flexibility. I was assuming not during the summer months though. I want to avoid the heat and the crowds.
    These comments have been great. I really appreciate everyone's effort to provide them. There are some great details and some good advise.
    I clearly have some more thinking to do, but I am leaning towards, Zion and or Bryce, but the idea of going to Moab and visiting Arches and the other close by parks is also appealing. Besides the name recognition, I know so little about these parks. I definitely don't mind a little hiking and think I'd also prefer the smaller ones. (Ideally, I'd like to park and walk rather than drive around in a big loop with lots of other cars). I like the locality of Moab to the NPs. The drive from Vegas to Zion and or Bryce (and then back again) seems like an entire day more or less. Is that drive itself scenic?
    Thanks again.
     
  18. Well, it is favorite + given the amount of time. : > But time is definitely an important part of the equation for me. On the other hand, I am getting some good ideas for possible extended family vacation too, but then it would be summer and crowded, and hot, and I am not sure how impressed the under 11 year old set would be after the initial excitement wore off. How are these parks in April?
    Agreed, about the fuel prices, but sadly I am not quite ready to book, so I will just have to cope. Hopefully, it won't be too bad. Right now its around 500 from BOS to Vegas or airport near Monument.
     
  19. Realize the scale out there is large. What looks like a short hop is a few hours or more by car. I like Canyonlands - the Needles and Island in the Sky districts. Arches too if you can dodge the crowds. Bryce Canyon is memorable. If you have small children be very cautious at any of these places. Towns are spread out so carry extra water and snacks with you, and fill the gas tank often.
     
  20. And while you're in Vegas, hop over to Death Valley, my favourite park in the US! Unlike all the other places, this one has a riot of colors.
     
  21. Spencer,
    I think it depends on what you want to photograph. There are amazing rock formations, incredible vistas, loads of great mountain ranges, desert.
    I'm sure you already know the big ones, monument valley, Grand Canyon, Arches, Death Valley. I'll throw out some others that haven't been mentioned. Channel Islands, Saguaro, White Sands, Petrified Forest, Madera Canyon, Kitt Peak, Mojave, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon / Sequoia.
    I would suggest going to Tucson, AZ. You can check out the Ansel Adams Collection, Madera Canyon can be phenomenal, Saguaro National Park, Many of the Missions, Mount Lemon and Kitt Peak can all be done within an hour or two drive from Tucson. My wife and I went last fall, flying into phoenix and then driving to Tucson for 3 days, 4 to 5 days would've been much better.
    Unfortunately many of the places on your list are just way too big to do in a couple of days, many are also ridiculously popular thus you spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. If you don't take a few days to hike the grand canyon then you've missed many of the smaller details that are equal to the grand vistas in my opinion.
    My second bit of advice as someone who does 7 or 8 three day trips a year. Don't bite off too much. When traveling primarily for photography, I can get two things per day, with up to four hours for travel and downtime in between. That isn't much particularly if you have to hike a bit to get the really good stuff. Pick a place and then ask for 6 to 8 things in that place to photograph for a couple of hours. Look up on travel wiki, and the forums for advice. If you might want to go to Arizona, check out Arizona Highways for ideas.
    Presumably you'll be flying. Carry all your camera gear carry on if you can. When given a choice try to do less, you'll enjoy it more.
     
  22. I agree that Laurent Martres' books are a great place to start planning a trip to the southwest. Go to his web site www.phototripusa.com and click on "images" to give you an idea of what can be done with photography in the southwest.
    My favorites are Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion. A usually overlooked place that is also a favorite of mine is the tiny Natural Bridges National Monument which is also in the same general area.
     
  23. I just ordered a couple of the books, but I hadn't found the website so thanks for that pointer. I have heard of (but had since forgotten) Natural Bridges National Monument. I'll have to see how close to Arches it is.
    Anyone care to comment how Bryce compares with Zion? Should I try to do both, or just stick with one (probably Zion?) That and Arches/Moab/ area are making their way to the top of the list.
    I am intrigued by Death Valley though. Hadn't considered that for this trip, but maybe I should. Tucson, AZ and Sedona are also on the short list too though. Anyone whose been feel like commenting on Sedona?
    Thanks again for all the great replies.
     
  24. Spencer - a little practical info.
    Flying into Vegas is a good idea. Because of its position in the tourist industry, it commands lots of flights, lots of nonstops from all sorts of places, and can be relatively cheap because of the abundance of flights.
    The drive from Vegas to the visitor center in Zion Canyon is about 3 hours plus any stops you might make along the way (3/4 of it on an interstate). It's a single day, out-and-back trip for me from here in Vegas.
    Bryce is a 2 hour drive (maybe less) from Zion. Bryce is very different, not only from Zion , but from anywhere else. The hoodoo rock formations happen at a variety of places around the world, but nowhere else has the color that Bryce does. Unless you want to do a lot of hiking amongst the hoodoos, Bryce really is a one day visit - full day to be sure, but you can get a great look in one day. Planning only one day is risky though - the weather doen't always cooperate.
    North Rim - check the NPS website for the Grand Canyon to find out when they plan to open the North Rim. It may well be closed in April. If it's open, a 4 days visit covering Zion, Bryce, and the North Rim would be easy and an excellent assortment of places.
    There is also a recommendation for Death Valley - it's a 2.5 hour drive from my house and one of my favorite places, too. But with just 3-4 days, trying to go both east and west from Las Vegas probably isn't practical. If you are into hiking, you could easily spend all your time the DV and come away with a great experience, but you'd be giving up some of the variety that going the Zion/Bryce/Grand canyon route will offer. That will have to be a personal choice.
    Have a great time wherever you choose to go.
     
  25. If you're going to be in the car, Bryce is ecstatic. I didn't find anything at Zion that didn't require hiking. Zion is a mountainous terrain (so light is tricky) and Bryce (the part that you'll want to shoot) and Arches are flat. Also, Arches and Bryce have red rocks that look like on fire at sunset. I'll still go with Death Valley though, it's got much more than just red rocks.
    ps: all that was a gross oversimplification, but it's difficult to explain the west without being there. On the other hand, you'll eventually want to visit them all multiple times, so just pick any one and go with it. Check the weather before you go, and drive safe.
     
  26. I would say I am only into hiking as means to get some good images. The primary goal of the trip is to try an capture some good images.
    While I don't mind driving to a place, once I get there I'd prefer to be mostly outside of the car, rather than driving around the place.
    Originally I thought I'd find a place and wondering around and see what presented itself, but that is starting to sound like a naive approach now. After looking some of the images online, and considering the size of the places, I wonder if I should plan to shoot specific things. Perhaps the books will help with that.
    Now, I am definitely intrigued by Death Valley, have only considered it for camping someday. Would people who have been there say its equally good for hiking and photography, or more so for just hiking? How close to DV are accommodations?
    thanks again.
    Several people have commented on the weather. Is it generally unpredictable?
     
  27. Spencer,
    I've lived in and photographed the southwest the past 15 years. My three favorites are Moab, Page, and Grand Canyon. Monument Valley is very scenic but a lot of areas require a guide at $20.00/hr.
    If you are considering Moab, it might be more convenient to fly into Grand Junction, Colorado and drive over; about 100 miles and one traffic light. In addition to Arches and Canyonlands, there is Dead Horse Point and the Fisher Towers area, certainly enough to keep you busy for 4 days.
    Moab motels are cheap unless there is a dirt bike or off road festival happening the week you are there.
    Natural Bridges is west of Blanding, about 40 miles, about 120 total from Moab and really requires work and luck to get shots.
    Grand Canyon south rim is just what it says, GRAND. North Rim will be closed until May and offers fewer photo ops.
    Page has the slots and the Wave, Allstrom Point, Horseshoe Bend, more slots and cheap motels.
    Zion and Bryce are great as well, but as others pointed out, a lot of hiking for some shots.
    See some of my stuff at www.billproudphotography.com
    Hope this helps.
     
  28. Vegas to St. George, then on to Snow Canyon and Zion.
    00YJzl-336709584.jpg
     
  29. Spencer,
    If you're going to Monument Valley, don't miss Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de SHAY). It's not far southeast of Monument Valley and the place is spectacular. Google "Spider Rock" for an idea. It's a national monument, but it's run by the Navajo Nation, so even if Washington shuts down you can get in. Get a Navajo taco and listen to KTNN AM 660 in Navajo and English.
    By the way, the entrance to Monument Valley is in Utah, but the monument itself is in Arizona. That may seem like picking nits, but I've run into people who only brought a map of one state or the other.
    Have a great trip.
     
  30. Another vote for Zion, a park full of natural wonders, rock formations, beautiful flora, wildlife, rivers and streams, waterfalls, and glorious hiking. Zion is smaller, and inviting for the exploration of its nooks and crannies. Relax, park your car at the Zion Canyon Visitors Center, and take a shuttle to explore Zion Canyon. There are side canyons to explore, and photographic opportunities abound. There are children's programs, and hikes with Rangers. After at least two days of exploring Zion Canyon, you can drive through the highway 9 tunnel to explore the east side of the park. Another day can be spent in the Kolob region, where you can drive the Kolob Canyons Road, or take a hike to the photogenic Double Arch Alcove. If you have more time, take the scenic drive and spend a day and one night at Bryce Canon, so you can at photograph at sunrise and sunset. April would be a perfect time to go to Zion National Park.
    You could stay in a cowboy cabin, and increase your vacation opportunities at a reasonable rate:
    http://www.zionponderosa.com/index.htm
    00YK22-336725584.jpg
     
  31. Actually you're probably going to have go see all of them at some point or other if not on this trip!
    But if you're looking at the Moab/Arches area for now then another source of potential local attraction/photo points are the various stops along the so called Dinosaur Diamond between Price, Vernal, Grand Junction and Moab. The leg between Vernal and Grand Junction takes you past the southern side of Dinosaur Monument so you might as well go in and check out the Fossil Trail or if you're looking at a fall trip the spectacular wall of bones in the Quarry Exhibit (will hopefully be finally open for visitors again this October). Another good Dino siversion north of Vernal is Red Fleet State Park where you can hike in to see dinosaur tracks by accessing from the road at the north side (not the southern main entrance) along the hike you can also take interesting shots of dwarfed pines and junipers in deep red landscape.
     
  32. Now, I am definitely intrigued by Death Valley, have only considered it for camping someday. Would people who have been there say its equally good for hiking and photography, or more so for just hiking? How close to DV are accommodations?​
    Death Valley is a wonderful place for photography, at least as good as any of the other locations. It is also a vast area, about 1-1/2 times the size of the state of Delaware, so it doesn't fit your desire for a compact destination. There is a lot to see, but you will be doing a lot of driving also. Because it's so big, it is definitely not crowded, particularly if you get off the beaten path. There are accommodations in the park, at Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek (and a private facility at Panamint Springs), plus several campgrounds. Staying outside the park is not a good option because the driving distances are so great anyway. Stovepipe Wells is very popular with photographers because it is close to the dunes for morning shooting. Don't even think of going in the summer.
     
  33. Death Valley is a long way off, It may be 2.5 hours from Vegas, but once in the valley, EVERYTHING is quite a distance from each other, and the speed limit will make them seem further away. From the center of the valley, for instance, the "Race Track, is hours away. 27 miles on rough dirt road, one way, plus the miles up to Scotty's Castle to the start of the dirt.
    For a few day explore, If you could see Zion and Bryce Canyon, as well as the area just east of Zion, where the Checkerboard Mesa is, might be enough on your plate. I would love to add Antelope Canyon, but it's a good drive from Zion. Use Google Earth and zoom in to see lots of people's picture of all of these spots.
     
  34. I've been to all the major parks out that way. In my opinion they are all mostly equally spectacular, different, and also similar in many ways. Everyone has their favorites but that doesn't really mean they will be your favorite. The distances and times are bigger than you might think. With 3-4 days I would minimize your driving time. Fly to Vegas and go to Zion. If you run out of things to do because you don't want to hike that much, you can go to Bryce.
     
  35. Dartmoor. Definitely Dartmoor.
     
  36. Another good opportunity very close to Las Vegas heading east is Valley of Fire State Park, perhaps worth a pass through on your way to Utah.
    Something else to consider given your limited time and desire to see lots is not flying round-trip to the same city. Southwest Airlines has their fare structure so there's no penalty for flying into Las Vegas and then flying home out of some other city such as Phoenix or Salt Lake or Albuquerque and I think other airlines do likewise.
    My work recently took me from my home in Maryland out to Los Angeles. I arranged a rental car for a week with pick-up in LA and drop off in Las Vegas and I flew home from Las Vegas. The car rental was $210, I was floored by how cheap it was for a full week. I took a weeks vacation and spent time in Joshua Tree NP, old Rt 66, Mojave Preserve and Death Valley. It was a fantastic week of photography and between 3 great nights camping in the parks and cheap motels it cost very little (but for the gasoline to feed the car ;-).
     
  37. FWIW, Delta now flies jets (via Skywest Delta Connection) into St. George, Utah's new airport. Car rentals in St. George are likely a lot less expensive than in Las Vegas, partially offsetting ticket costs. If you have three days, my vote would be for Zion, Snow Canyon in St. George, Bryce Canyon and Page, AZ (Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon). You could also consider Pink Coral Sands State Park (sand dunes) and Cedar Breaks National Monument (depending on time of year). Flying in and out of St. George would eliminate essentially a day of travel to and from Las Vegas and reliable/clean 'mom/pop' motels in St. George are far less expensive than in Las Vegas or most of Utah, for that matter.
     
  38. I just (quickly) checked flights from BOS to St. George in UT. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be many good options there. Some even required a connection at LAX. It looks like the time I'd save not driving would largely be eaten up by extended flight time. I'll have to double check this though.
    If I went with the Zion / Bryce Canyon suggestion would I be better served with a four wheel drive vehicle, or will flavor car do?
    Thanks again for all the wonderful, rich, responses. There's lots of really great info here.
     
  39. For only a few days you don't need 4WD.
     
  40. Big Bend National Park-mountains, beautiful river with great kayaking, abundant wildlife...and most of all, NO crowds...as long as you don't come during spring break.
     
  41. If I went with the Zion / Bryce Canyon suggestion would I be better served with a four wheel drive vehicle, or will flavor car do?​
    For a 3-5 day visit, you almost certainly will be staying on paved roads, suitable for a passenger car. Be aware that Bryce Canyon road is at 8,000-9,000 feet of elevation so winter driving conditions are possible for much of the year. (Bryce is quite beautiful in the snow however.)
     
  42. The only parts of Utah I've been to are SLC and inside Four Corners, so no comments about that.
    My favourite places: Canyon de Chelly, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon. None are for natural wonder though, all anthropological sites. At Chaco Canyon, you might run into a dozen people, it is VERY remote.
     
  43. At Chaco Canyon, you might run into a dozen people, it is VERY remote.​
    Chaco Canyon is a fascinating place. Your comment made me think of a piece I saw a while back in which the rangers at Chaco listed the questions they were most frequently asked. High on the list was "why did the Indians build so far from the highway?" Also near the top was "how many undiscovered ruins are there?"
     
  44. I think Moab is your best bet. Having lived in Vegas, Salt Lake, and Phoenix, I'd fly into SLC and drive down to Moab (you can look at Nine Mile Canyon on the way). Moab is relatively cheap and there are a lot of places for good pictures. You do NOT want to spend all your time in the car, but if you get bored in Moab, head south and then west on Utah 95, then back north to SLC at the junction in Hanksville.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/1120233
     
  45. Now that this thread is winding down a little I wanted to post one last thank you to everyone who has provide me with such a wealth a info. As a result, I am already thinking about my second and third trips (someday) not just my first.
    Thanks again. I'll post results here. Thanks again!
     
  46. Holy Cow, lots of advice here! I think the best was a few posts back that suggests you really can't go wrong in this area of the country. Different strokes and all that as far as the various qualities of the National Parks. Anyway, here's my 2 cents as well:
    I live in Tucson, and my recommendation would be Zion/Bryce out of Vegas. I've been to every park in the region, and more than once to Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce. I would spend the bulk of the time in Zion, and make an overnight trip to Bryce (shoot sunset, sunrise the next morning, hike a bit among the hoodoos, then back to Zion). Every park is beautiful, just different. In Zion, I would highly recommend renting drysuits in Springdale and hiking up the Narrows...best $100 (for two outfits) I've ever spent in a National Park (besides the $200 I spent to get married in Yosemite!). The photography in the Narrows isn't necessarily unique, but it's gorgeous and a spectacular hike. Zion has peaks, river/creeks, high hikes with views, low hikes, etc. I think it offers a more total package than any of the other parks in the area.
    If you haven't been to the Grand Canyon, it's hard to pick something else, and you could easily fill 3-4 days shooting sunrises/sunsets, but the hiking is somewhat limited (into the canyon or along the rim, not much else) so the middle of days may be a bit uneventful. It is truly a marvel though.
    As far as visiting Tucson, don't. Saguaro NP is beautiful, and the Sonoran Desert Museum is fantastic (not really a "museum" or a "zoo," but better than both). Unfortunately, they don't hold a candle to the Utah parks.
    Sedona is beautiful, and not quite like anywhere else I've been, but I still wouldn't put it on the same level as the Utah parks.
    Finally, for 3-4 days, I'd keep your area of exploration small. Each park in that area has plenty to fill that many days
    Todd
     
  47. Let me qualify my response... My favorite park for photography "in the Spring before masses of tourists arrive and while the waterfalls are still flowing abundantly" is Yosemite National Park in Central California. However I dislike that park after the hoards of tourists arrive.
     

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