Mesa arch with sunlit clouds and a flare from the sunrise as it appears under the arch.

Mesa Arch at sunrise is a lovely place to get a great picture. That orange light under the arch is really apparent even to the naked eye.

Mesa Arch at sunrise is a reliable venue for a fine picture from Canyonlands National Park.  To accomplish this you’ll need a couple of items besides your camera.  In winter, you’ll need a warm coat, but any time of year bring a stable tripod and a headlamp to light your way along the trail.  You will also want to have an alarm set on your phone or clock because you have to get up EARLY for this one.  I got up at 3 am in Moab, grabbed a little bite to eat and drove to the trailhead in Canyonlands.  That was for a 6:30 am first light.  Takes 45 minutes to get there and you have to prep and hike to the arch.  Getting going at that time I got a good spot for my tripod and plenty of time to meet the other photographers.

Just take the same road that takes you past Dead Horse Point State Park, but instead of turning into Dead Horse proceed directly down the road towards the Island in the Sky Canyonlands area (Toward the Grandview Lookout).  Mesa Arch is well marked on the road and has a dedicated parking area.  Unless you get up really early, there may already be 2-3 cars there when you arrive.  This venue is popular.  You’ll likely be packed with photographers by the time the sun comes up.

It is a short hike (at most 1/2 mile) to the arch.  Use caution hiking by headlamp if you aren’t used to it.  If snow and ice cover the path, then some traction assistance is useful.  Yaktrax or hiking poles can really help.

I suggest cleaning your lenses meticulously.  The direct sun will really accentuate anything left on the lens.  A polarizer is pretty useless directly into the sun. You can use cable release or the self time to reduce shake on a timed shot.  Shoot manually with a tilt shift or if you are using an auto focus wide angle (14mm to 24mm is perfect) you’ll find the autofocus will kick in before the light gets really underway.

After the sunrise you might visit with the other photographers.  Also, it is a  great time to go see Dead Horse Point State Park or visit other nearby views from Canyonlands. Spokane Photographer Alan Tower

After grabbing your sunrise shot, go right down the road for a variety of views into Canyonlands.

Take lots of images and you’ll have many from which to choose when you get home.  Have fun creating your own iconic shot from Mesa Arch at Sunrise.