Photographing in the Colorado Plateau

Winter Storm hovers above and in the Needles Mountains, on the Eastern edge of the Weminuche Wilderness. ©Kit Frost

Winter Storm hovers above and in the Needles Mountains, on the Eastern edge of the Weminuche Wilderness. ©Kit Frost

Why I Live Here

I taught Art, Crafts and Photography at Bayonne High School in New Jersey for over 20 years.  I love teaching.  I love the feedback and I love working with teenagers and young adults.  During semester breaks and holidays I traveled out West to Sedona, Patagonia and the Saguaros of Southern Arizona, the Grand Canyon, White Water Rafted the Colorado River, explored the Pueblos of New Mexico, and the galleries of Santa Fe. I took winter vacations in Yosemite and love the Merced river, Yosemite Valley and the granite peaks in a fresh snowfall.  I dreamed of retiring to the West.  As I explored the Southwest more and more I realized that the sky, the red rock, the grand and the intimate landscapes, the space, oh, the space was calling my name.
I had spent most of my life in North Jersey. Bayonne, New Jersey was home, but also a place I loved to get away from in order to see the world.  And though I loved growing up there and living there, and being so close to New York City, galleries and art districts, the city was urban, crowded, and I never knew the sky and the stars.  It wasn’t until I made yearly White Water Rafting trips down the Colorado River, through Cataract and Westwater Canyon that I met the sky, the star show, meteors and canyon walls lit by the moon.  When I saw the Perseid’s Meteor Shower for the first time, I thought someone at camp had turned a big, bright flashlight on.
I live in Durango Colorado.  Initially I thought I would settle in Northern New Mexico, near but not in Santa Fe.  Little did I know how challenging the move would be.  And New Mexico is very different than Colorado; at least it was in 1995 when I tried to settle there.  This inner Jersey Girl would need a few more years to adjust to the quiet, the light, the extremes of the seasons and the “city” would take awhile to leave me.  I’m not sure it has.  Just imagine, I still say coffee, dog, walk and talk with my jersey accent=coughee, dawn, waulk, taulk. I didn’t realize how long it would take me to feel at home.
But today, home is the Colorado Plateau.  I explore, hike, drive, backpack, camp, photograph, paint, sketch and enjoy the Plateau Lands.  My copies of maps and books on the area are worn out with notes and journal entries.  Sandra Hinchman’s book of the Colorado Plateau hiking was my “bible” for years.  The information and hand drawn maps helped me to understand how to approach, plan and pack for explorations in the Four Corners.  I have followed her advice and divided the vast canyon country into segments, taking my time to see it all. I am on a mission to explore every canyon in the Colorado Plateau, starting with Utah; a lifetime mission, bucket list, if you will.
Innumerable Ancient Puebloan sites are scattered throughout the Colorado Plateau.  ©Kit Frost

Innumerable Ancient Puebloan sites are scattered throughout the Colorado Plateau. I never reveal the location of ruins, as pothunters and casual visitors are damaging many sites in the Four Corners. ©Kit Frost

The Colorado Plateau

Stretching across four states, and four corners of those states, the Colorado Plateau encompasses areas in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  This relatively high semi-arid province produces many distinctive erosional features such as arches, arroyos, canyons, cliffs, fins, natural bridges, pinnacles,hoodoos, and monoliths that, in various places and extents, have been protected for their beauty, and natural features and wilderness qualities;  Unique, exotic, awesome, are just some descriptions of these land forms.
There are nine U.S. National Parks, a National Historical Park, sixteen U.S. National Monuments and dozens of wilderness areas in the province along with millions of acres in U.S. National Forests, many state parks, and other protected lands. In fact, this region has the highest concentration of parklands in North America.
I settled in Durango because of it’s music and art scene, it’s location, it’s mix of mountains and high desert, and the proximity to some of the most amazing photographic opportunities in the country.  And built a life here, centered in Art, Teaching and Travel. Here are a few places that have become like a second home to me.  And most of my friends and family know that at least once a month I can be found in any of the following places on the Colorado Plateau.
  • Petrified Forest National Park, although its been more than 20 years since visiting the Petrified Forest, I pass it every time I drive across Arizona.
  • Grand Canyon National Park, the south rim is a 5 hour drive, if I don’t stop for photography (NOT) on the Navajo Reservation. The north rim is a much longer drive, closer to 8 hours from Durango, but the landscapes along the way include the slot canyons of the Utah, Arizona border, Paria Canyon, the Coyote Buttes, Vermillion Cliffs and the high altitude approach to the rim, and no trip to the north rim of the grand is complete without a drive to Toroweap Point.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only accessible in three seasons, as the road south from Jacob's Lake is closed in winter, but the long drive at other times of the year is worth it.  ©Kit Frost

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only accessible in three seasons, as the road south from Jacob’s Lake is closed in winter, but the long drive at other times of the year is worth it. ©Kit Frost

  • Zion National Park is my number one fall National Park destination.  What a gem that Virgin River Canyon is.  More to come on that one as not only is the drive spectacular, the canyons of Zion seduce me for miles before I get there.  It’s a day’s drive.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park is another good location for winter photography, and I was there once in late August and it snowed.
  • Capitol Reef National Park, shhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody.

    Some locations are in National Parks, such as this one in Capitol Reef.  But a 50 mile dirt road is the access. ©Kit Frost

    Some locations are in National Parks, such as this one in Capitol Reef. But a 50 mile dirt road is the access. ©Kit Frost

  • Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, Mesa Verde National Park are all in my backyard.  So it’s rare that I don’t visit Moab at least once a year or more.
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, my last trip there was about 10 years ago.  I’ll be right back 🙂
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park is my favorite (really) place to camp and ride my bike and photograph the HUGE ruins.
National Monuments of the Colorado Plateau
  • Aztec Ruins National Monument
  • Canyon De Chelly National Monument
  • Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument
  • Colorado National Monument
  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
The distance from the Grand Canyon North Rim to Toroweap Point is great and is accessed from a 60 mile 4wd road.  Bring extra gas and tires! ©Kit Frost

The distance from the Grand Canyon North Rim to Toroweap Point is great and is accessed from a 60 mile 4wd road. Bring extra gas and tires! ©Kit Frost

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
  • El Malpais National Monument
  • El Morro National Monument
  • Hovenweep National Monument
  • Navajo National Monument
  • Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Rainbow Bridge National Monument
  • Sunset Crater National Monument
  • Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
  • Walnut Canyon National Monument
  • Wupatki National Monument
Wilderness areas of the Colorado Plateau, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico:
  • Kachina Peaks Wilderness
  • Strawberry Crater Wilderness
  • Kendrick Mountain Wilderness
  • Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness
  • Paiute Wilderness
  • Grand Wash Cliffs Wilderness
  • Mount Logan Wilderness
  • Mount Trumbull Wilderness
  • Kanab Creek Wilderness
  • Cottonwood Point Wilderness
  • Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness
Looking West towards the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area ©Kit Frost

Looking West towards the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area ©Kit Frost

  • Saddle Mountain Wilderness
  • Mount Baldy Wilderness
  • Escudilla Wilderness
  • Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness
  • Flat Tops Wilderness
  • Uncompahgre Wilderness
  • Mount Sneffels Wilderness
Dallas Creek, floating through the forest near Mt. Sneffels. ©Kit Frost

Dallas Creek, floating through the forest near Mt. Sneffels. ©Kit Frost

  • Lizard Head Wilderness
  • Weminuche Wilderness
Your Weminuche Wilderness, but shhhhsh, don't tell anybody.  ©Kit Frost

Your Weminuche Wilderness, but shhhhsh, don’t tell anybody. ©Kit Frost

Another view of the Grenadier Range and the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado.  ©Kit Frost

Another view of the Grenadier Range and the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado. ©Kit Frost

  • South San Juan Wilderness
  • Cebolla Wilderness
  • Ojito Wilderness
  • West Malpais Wilderness
  • Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness
  • Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness
  • Ashdown Gorge Wilderness
  • Box-Death Hollow Wilderness
  • Dark Canyon Wilderness
  • High Uintas Wilderness
 
Other notable protected areas include:
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Many folks enjoy the visit to Lake Powell, near Page.  I prefer to get below the damn and see the Colorado River flowing without the bathtub ring of the reservoir.  ©Kit Frost

Many folks enjoy the visit to Lake Powell, near Page. I prefer to get below the damn and see the Colorado River flowing without the bathtub ring of the reservoir. ©Kit Frost

Dead Horse Point State Park
Goosenecks State Park
San Rafael Swell
Grand Gulch Primitive Area
Kodachrome Basin State Park
Goblin Valley State Park
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