Northern Arizona Part 2: Vermillion Cliffs National Monument & Horseshoe Bend
Updated: Feb 17
On the second full day of our trip to Northern Arizona, we opted to check out the south side of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. This is also the road to Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona. We don't get out this way very often. Since we were less than 100 miles away, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to photograph one of the most iconic places in the Southwest!
Driving along the cliffs through the desert on this very long straight road gives the perspective of how tiny we are as individual humans.
The Historic Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon was a unique sight. I had never seen a double bridge before. Although the temperatures we already pretty warm, we stopped and walked along the pedestrian side of the bridge to check out the mighty Colorado River.
One of the best experiences of the day was seeing the California Condor up close. The wingspan was huge, and its eyes were eerily human! When this bird turned his head, I felt like he could see directly into my soul.
After a late start in the morning, we finally made it to Horseshoe Bend at about 11:15 am. It was already 98 degrees outside. We went for it knowing it wasn't going to get any cooler and that we didn't have enough to do in Page to keep us occupied until the sun was lower in the sky! As of the date of this writing, the average high temperature for August-September in Page, Arizona, is only 86-94 degrees. Needless to say, I did not expect such temperatures.
The hike from the parking lot to the overlook is about three-quarters of a mile one way, 1.5 miles round trip with a 137-foot elevation gain on the way back up the hill. Don't get me wrong, a 137-foot gain over three-quarters of a mile isn't nothing, but it isn't super difficult either. Unless it's nearing 100 degrees outside! There are two awnings along the trail to provide shade for a rest. I urge anyone to prepare themselves accordingly when setting out on this trail. Remember, steep downhill makes a challenging uphill, especially when it's sweltering outside. Check this one off your list when the weather is cooler. Definitely not recommended during warmer months.
Despite the weather, this area was quite a bit more crowded than I would have expected. It was pretty challenging to find a spot along the cliff's edge where a good picture could be composed without waiting several minutes for others to clear out of the way.
Back at the campsite later that day, we took a walk to check out Jacob Lake and the Historic Jacob Lake Ranger Station. Although it was "temporarily closed," the doors to the station are made of plexiglass, so you can easily see inside and get a good feel for the atmosphere and conditions where rangers once lived.
There wasn't much of a lake left of Jacob Lake due to the drought in the Southwest. The lake was more of a puddle. It was also fully gated to keep people away from the area. Although this photographic opportunity quickly dwindled, even better ones quickly arose!
The setting sun provided great lighting for my new favorite photographic technique, Intentional Camera Movement. I created a couple of beautiful shots of the grasses and surrounding wildflowers in the area.
On the walk back, we met a fellow (and very talented) wildlife photographer named Ian. He told us about his encounters with the Kaibab Squirrels earlier that day. During his story, he even found one for us to take a picture of too!
The Kaibab Squirrel is "one of the rarest mammals in the national park system" and is only found on the Kaibab Plateau on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This is an area that is only about 20 by 40 square miles.
The following morning we woke up early and set out for a nature walk, hoping to find more Kaibab Squirrels. While the squirrels were scarce that day, we did find a birdfeeder at the edge of our campground that was attracting these stunning bluebirds. They put on quite a show for the camera!