After walking through Antelope Canyon on our southwest parks road trip, we drove to Zion National Park, where we crossed the Virgin River to hike to Emerald Pools. In early June, the Virgin River is quiet, so it’s hard to imagine that this river carved the Zion Canyon through the red rock. The peak in the photo is 1,400 feet above the river.
We purchased tickets for the tour of the Balcony House when we entered Mesa Verde National Park , but after seeing the Cliff Palace the evening before and waking at 2 am to photograph the Milky Way, I was tired and wondered if the Balcony House offered much beyond the Cliff Palace. As it turned out, I thoroughly enjoying the ranger-led tour of Balcony House for both the adventure and a closer look at a cliff dwelling.
The Park Service advises “The Balcony House tour requires visitors to descend a 100 foot staircase into the canyon; climb a 32 foot ladder; crawl through a 12 foot, 18 inches wide tunnel; and clamber up an additional 60 feet on ladders and stone steps.” And you’re at 7,000-foot elevation.
Above, we climbed a ladder and stone steps to exit Balcony House, with the canyon floor far below. Look down the steps and railing to the top of a ladder, and you’ll see a park ranger (wearing a hat) at the bottom of the ladder, 60 feet below.
Above, on our first night I photographed from the balcony of our south-facing room at the Far View Lodge. At 2:20 am, the Milky Way is more horizontal than vertical. With a 30-second exposure, the glow of distant lights is apparent.
On our first evening in Mesa Verde National Park, we took the twilight photography tour of the Cliff Palace, one of the largest cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. “Recent studies reveal that the Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas and had a population of approximately 100 people.”
Shown above, a tour group is gathering on the upper left while another group prepares to exit to the right.
Above, the Spruce Tree House, the best preserved cliff dwelling in the park, was closed to the public in 2015 after a rock fall and subsequent investigation.
On our last evening in Moab, we drove to Arches National Park to photograph during the golden hour, our only sunset photos at Arches NP due to the park’s nighttime road closures. We returned to Balanced Rock and the Windows, which have interesting rock formations close to a parking lot.
From our time-tagged photos, we can observe how light changed as the sun set. Above, the sun just before sunset makes the rock glow red.
Above, the red rock of Arches NP contrasts with the Colorado River and the sky, as two rafts float down the river. A great activity for a warm afternoon. Colorado means red in Spanish. Running through all the red rock of the Colorado Plateau, the river water might have a reddish tint, but I wouldn’t call it red.