Mesa Arch Canyonlands Photography

Having dreamed for years of visiting and photographing Mesa Arch, in 2016 this dream became a reality. Staying 3 days in Moab to explore and photograph the beautiful locations within a short travelling distance, Mesa Arch at sunrise was top of the list being under an hours drive. Had I not done a lot of research beforehand, I’m confident that I would have been unsuccessful in getting any images of this location. Here’s a quick guide to increase your chances of successfully photographing this site:

Plan your trip

Getting to Mesa Arch is pretty straight forward. The road into Canyonlands National Park (Grand View Point Road) is straight and leads directly to the pull in and car park for Mesa Arch which is signposted. This car park can fill up quickly in the mornings with photographers, which leads to my second point.

Get there EARLY

I can’t stress this point strongly enough. Mesa Arch is quite small and there’s space for about 10-15 photographers side by side until there’s literally no more space. It’s not uncommon for photographers to have tripod legs overlapped and be crammed together, but it’s very limited once the row is full. The chances are you’ll have to work with and communicate with the other photographers to ensure no equipment, tripod legs, lenses or bags are in the frame for the others nearby.  Most photographers try to be accommodating and let you squeeze in if there’s space but you still need to there EARLY. It may seem extreme, but it’s strongly recommended that you get there AT LEAST 2 hours before sunrise; this is not a location you can turn up to 20 minutes before the sun rise.

Mesa Arch Canyonlands Photography

It wasn’t until after others had left that I had the chance to move around

Don’t leave immediately

Depending on the time of year, the sun may rise behind the mountains meaning it will be 15-20 minutes past this before you actually see the sun above the mountains and onto the canyons. Once the sun is visible and lights up the underside of the arch, you’ll find that the viewpoint empties quite quickly as photographers leave to go elsewhere. If you want to work with various compositions and light, DO NOT LEAVE! Depending on conditions and the time of the year, you can get fantastic images an hour or more past sunrise and you’ll have plenty of space to yourself to do this!  On the days I visited (August) I had the arch to myself 30 minutes after sunrise and was able to move around freely and the light was still fantastic.

Be considerate of others

If possible, be considerate of other photographers; simple things like asking before you move to ensure you’re not in other peoples images, keeping your equipment back and trying to be accommodating will make the experience as stress free as possible for everyone.