Famous Views of Mesa Arch
Another new National Park means another early wake up call! Our alarm sounded at 5:00am and we were out of our tent by 5:30am. It was about 45 minutes drive from our campsite to Canyonlands National Park, more specifically Mesa Arch.
You’ve probably seen photos of this beautiful location before. It might even be your laptop background as we speak! Over the years it’s become a pretty famous Instagram spot too and one of the main reasons people visit Canyonlands.
We drove through the dark, crossing over countless cattlegrids which seemed to appear out of nowhere. Once we entered the National Park we could see the horizon brightening in the rear view mirror. We curved around the endless bends in the road and up and down steep hills. The moon was still out and illuminated the landscape, giving us a sneak preview of the canyon and what was to come at the end of the road.
As we pulled up to the Mesa Arch trail carpark we were surprised to not be the first ones there. It was actually almost full at just past 6am. Many of the best views in Canyonlands are just a few minutes walk away from your parking spot, so it’s no surprise that it draws greater crowds than some harder to get to places.
We grabbed our bags and set off to the viewpoint. It was only a 5 minute walk before we met everyone else, the sky brightening with every step. We walked up to the viewpoint and had to squeeze in-between 20 or so people to get a good angle.
Together, we waited in anticipation for something we’d mostly likely all seen in some form before, but now had the privilege of seeing it in person.
It wasn’t long until the sun poked over the distant mountains and brought the landscape before us to life.
It was beautiful. As the sun inched higher it shone through the arch and gave it the iconic orange glow that has made this place so famous. We forgot all about the crowds for a moment as we felt the warmth of the morning sun on our faces. Just before it rose above the arch, it created a stunning star flare and the brightest orange light on the underside of the arch. The photo speaks for itself…
As the sun continued to rise, it passed the top of the arch and the light was gone. Anybody that arrived a little later, might not have believed that these moments were real. But we, and 20 others, witnessed that famous view of Mesa Arch.
The funny thing about these viewpoints is that if you just walk a few metres in any direction you’ll find space all to yourself. That’s exactly what we did once the sun had risen above the arch. We walked a few metres to the right and had an unobstructed view of the huge canyon below us. The sun was still hidden in haze and created this amazing atmosphere and glow for a few more photos as we played around on the rocks.
All in all, despite the crowds, it was an amazing experience. Mesa Arch definitely fits into the famous category and rightly so. If you’re in Utah, an early morning at this viewpoint needs to be at the top of your list. Just make sure you leave even earlier than early!
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Canyonlands was the second stop on The Big Trip. Click here to follow the rest of our journey as we spend 3 months exploring America’s most beautiful National Parks. You can also become a patron for The Big Trip and help support us as we continue our adventure, sharing more photos, stories and travel guides as we go.