sunrise at mesa arch
Utah,  We12inspire

Sunrise at Mesa Arch: how you can capture this!

How to capture the most stunning sunrise ever: the sunrise at Mesa Arch

When planning our four week USA roadtrip that we made in June 2013 and googling pictures of “must-sees” in Utah, I quickly stumbled upon a gorgeous picture of the sun rising behind an arch. I figured this picture was taken in Arches National Park but some further research learned me that it was actually taken in Canyonlands. Instantly I knew that I needed to go to this park. And see this sunrise for myself. Maybe even attempt to get a shot like that while seeing the sunrise at Mesa Arch.
With these simple steps that basically have nothing to do with photography itself, you will make a big step towards getting this awesome shot yourself and capturing the sunrise at Mesa Arch yourself. Anyone can do this, you don’t need to be a photographer. We are the living proof of that!

How to capture the sunrise at Mesa Arch in five simple steps

1. Book a flight to Salt Lake City, Denver or any other city that you can rent a car from. Then take the drive to Moab and find yourself a place to sleep.
2. Go to the Moab Visitors Center to inquire about sunrise time. The people behind the counter will most likely discourage you to drive all the way to Canyonlands to see the sunrise above Mesa Arch when you’re there in spring or summer. According to the gentleman we spoke to “we would never get the pictures we were looking before because the sun wasn’t high enough for that, rather go to Dead Horse State Park instead.” Don’t believe them, I’ve heard of people listening to this and they missed out on what I think was my prettiest sunrise ever.
3. Try to drive to Canyonlands when it’s still light to explore the route. We didn’t have time and ended up driving there in pitch dark, the roads around Moab aren’t lighted and there were no other cars out. We missed the exit twice and it caused midnight stress and arguments while driving. So some exploration may come in handy.
4. Wake up early! It’s about a 45-60 minute drive to Mesa Arch parking lot and from there another 15 minute walk to the arch. In our case the sun would rise just before 06.00 am, which meant we got up at 03.30, took off at 04.00 and got to Mesa Arch at about 05.00 am. We wanted to be sure we were in time as it would be a once in a lifetime for us.
5. When at the parking lot, put on your headlights and walk. You will not be the only one and not be the first one. The “real” photographers have gotten up way before you and have beaten you on the best spot. However, don’t be discouraged because there’s plenty of space for about 10 people at least without being in each other’s way.
mesa hike sunrise mesa 3 camera at mesa arch
By then you have arrived at Mesa Arch and if you haven’t been to this spot before to explore it a bit, you will have no clue what’s in the dark. Once the sun starts rising and the world starts lighting up, you will experience the grandeur of the vistas opening up behind Mesa Arch. Sunrise at Mesa Arch is just pure magic!
mesa arch 4 mesa arch 6
Oh and there’s one bonus piece of advice: enjoy it! Don’t watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch just through your lens but also take the time to really enjoy it. You won’t be sorry, this is a moment that will last in your memory forever!

Four things you should definitely not do when going to see sunrise at Mesa Arch

1. Be late. We were about the 6th or 7th persons to arrive at Mesa Arch, by the time we left and the sun had completely risen, there were about five times as much visitors. Most of them were too late. Too bad for them. Some even asked me if they could have some of my pictures. Nope…
2. Let yourself get discouraged by people saying it’s not the sunrise you will expect. If you keep expectations low, you will be surprised, just like we were.
3. Stand in front of any of the “professional” photographers. They will get really annoyed because unlike you, they have been waiting for this moment for their whole lives and they actually know that they just get one shot to capture that one moment they have been dreaming for ever since they were born. I would get annoyed if I were them, too.
sunrise at mesa arch
4. Be patient. You will be there early and most likely will have to wait another hour. When the sun rises, it still takes a while to get the orange glow on the arch. In the beginning we thought “is this it?” but once the glow started … we couldn’t stop taking pics.
Now start planning your trip, make sure you are going to Canyonlands and enjoy the magic!
together at sunrise
Want to read more inspiring blogs about Utah? You may also like these posts:
The best hikes in Zion National Park
How to spend 24 hours in Bryce Canyon National Park
How to spend a day in Arches National Park
Courting death in Canyonlands National Park, a blog by The Open Road Before Me
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