Best National Parks for Photography in the Southwest
- Yaki Point
- Mather Point
- Mohave Point
- Hopi Point
- Desert View Point
- Point Imperial
- Bright Angel Point
- Cape Royal
- Cedar Ridge
- Horseshoe Mesa
- Plateau Point
- Angel’s Landing
- The Narrows
- Canyon Junction Bridge
- Observation Point
- Towers of the Virgin
- Canyon Overlook
- Lower Pine Creek Falls
- Emerald Pools
- Gates Pass
- Red Hills Visitor Center
- Bajada Loop Drive
- Wasson Peak
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
- Saguaro East
- Delicate Arch
- Double Arch
- Balanced Rock
- The Windows
- Fiery Furnace
- Courthouse Towers
- Park Avenue
- Arches Scenic Drive
- Landscape Arch
- Alkali Flats Trail
- Playa Trail
- Dune Life Nature Trail
- Backcountry Loop
- Interdune Boardwalk
- Canyonlands National Park
- Petrified Forest National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Great Basin National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Horseshoe Bend
- Antelope Canyon
- Monument Valley
- Canon EOS R5
- Peak Design Travel Tripod
- Acratech GP-SS Ball Head
- Haida M10 Pro Filter Kit with Drop-In Circular Polarizer
- Haida M10 ND Filter Kit
- Peak Design Everyday Packpack V2
- How to Increase the Wow Factor of Wide-Angle Landscape Photography
- Advanced Landscape Photography Tips
photo by piola666 via iStock
For many photographers, the Southwest region made up of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Nevada is their dream part of the country to shoot in!
The desert landscapes are home to eleven national parks featuring larger-than-life canyons, sweeping sand dunes, strange rock formations, an abundance of wildlife, and cacti as tall as trees!
My top overall tip for national park photography, which applies to every park, is to arrive early and stay late. Sunrise and sunset are two of the best times for photographers to capture sensational images, and on top of that you will avoid the crazy crowds!
Two other important things to keep in mind when visiting national parks are that some of the most iconic destinations require permits to visit which must be booked months in advance, and that drones are strictly prohibited inside the borders of every park unless you have a special use permit.
Keep reading this ultimate Southwest national parks photography guide to discover which parks are the best to visit for photographers, where the top photo spots are in each park, and much much more!
Best National Parks for Photography in the Southwest: Grand Canyon National Park
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Located in Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park boasts one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is one of the most recognizable places on earth! Home to a 277-mile-long canyon that reaches depths of up to a mile, there's no shortage of spectacular views and photo opportunities.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most visited area of the park and has the majority of the famous viewpoints, but the North Rim is a great spot to visit if you are looking for an off the beaten path location with less tourists. Hiking down into the canyon or flying over it in a helicopter are both phenomenal ways to capture unique perspectives as well!
Photography Tip: Bring a range of ND filters when photographing southwest national parks! The sun is super bright during the day and they can help avoid overexposed images.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular spots for Grand Canyon National Park photography:
Best National Parks for Photography in the Southwest: Zion National Park
photo by benedek via iStock
Zion National Park is tucked away in the Southwest corner of Utah and it's unquestionably one of the top national parks for photography in the Southwest! While it may not have the name recognition of the Grand Canyon, you may be surprised to learn that on average Zion actually receives more visitors per year.
The jagged red cliffs are the star of the park, but the narrow slot canyons, winding rivers, hanging gardens, and waterfalls are all fantastic landscapes to shoot too!
Photography Tip: Come prepared with waterproof gear. Some of the best photos of this southwest national park can only be taken if you aren’t afraid to get a little wet.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular spots for Zion National Park photography:
Best National Parks for Photography in the Southwest: Saguaro National Park
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Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona is a magical place like no other, and I’m not just saying that because I grew up in Tucson! The iconic saguaro cactus can only be found in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico, and here you will find literal forests of these majestic cacti.
Furthermore, it’s one of the best national parks for photography in the Southwest due to the diverse amount of wildlife. From cute cats, to rare snakes and lizards, to hundreds of species of birds, Saguaro National Park is a haven for wildlife photographers!
Photography Tip: Pack a good lens for shooting in the dark and a sturdy tripod because you can take some astonishing astrophotography images if you are willing to stay out late!
Here’s a list of some of the most popular spots for Saguaro National Park photography:
Best National Parks for Photography in the Southwest: Arches National Park
photo by jose1983 via iStock
Welcome to Mars, no wait, it’s actually Arches National Park in eastern Utah! Driving through Arches, located just outside of Moab, truly does feel like you’ve been transported to some strange alien planet.
And who wouldn’t want to capture otherworldly landscapes on camera?! Everything from the red color of the earth to the wacky rock formations presents gorgeous photo opportunities. All in all, the park features over 2,000 natural stone arches, let’s see how many you can track down!
Photography Tip: Bring sturdy hiking shoes and a water bottle. While not extremely strenuous hikes, all the top-tier photo points require some walking to get to.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular spots for Arches National Park photography:
Best National Parks for Photography in the Southwest: White Sands National Park
photo by YayaErnst via iStock
White Sands National Park is one of the newest in the country, making the switch from National Monument to National Park only in 2019. It also happens to be on the top national parks for photography in the Southwest!
Situated in southern New Mexico, it has 275 square miles of sand dunes, which makes it the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. The barren environment makes it easy to create stunning photos, and including a subject in your photos is a great way to show off just how vast the seemingly never ending desert is!
Photography Tip: Always carry a cleaning kit with you! Having one on hand will allow you to get the sharpest images even if sand gets in your camera.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular spots for White Sands National Park photography:
More National Parks for Photography in the Southwest
photo by Ron and Patty Thomas via iStock
Those may be the most picturesque national parks for Photography in the Southwest, but they are far from the only ones! Here are the rest of the beautiful national parks, plus a couple bonus photo destinations in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico!