Plein Air Painting Trip through Utah

Plein Air Painting in Logan Canyon – Utah in September

It was September, my favorite time of year for traveling and plein air painting. We had the offer of an old cabin up in Logan Canyon and decided to start our Utah adventure in the Northern part of that State.

We spent the night in Logan and headed up the Canyon early the next morning in search of the cabin. Much easier to find and get up the unpaved road during daylight we decided.

The log cabin was very charming - it was set against the steep mountainside right next to a gurgling and rushing stream of clear ice-cold water. It was sunny when we arrived. The cabin was an A frame built in 1950. Rustic and very close to nature.

Shortly after arriving I packed up my painting gear (see photo) and set off up a trail up the mountain behind the cabin. I took my whistle – in case of bears or whatever. The wind was picking up and threatening clouds began to appear. I found an old logging road off the trail and found an unobstructed view of the Logan Canyon – I had found my painting site for the afternoon. I set up my gear and used the tripod apron filled with rocks as ballast against the rising and gusty wind. It was really wonderful up there overlooking big mountains and rocks.

The painting shown here is what I did that afternoon in about 2 hours.

Logan Canyon leads directly to Bear Lake which is on the border of Utah and Idaho. We drove up the canyon enjoying the beautiful Logan River running next to the road.

I spotted lots of other good painting sites next to the river and many nice camp grounds. More and more aspen covered mountainsides appeared as we drove closer to Bear Lake.


After an adventurous night in the cabin with violent claps of thunder and strikes of lightning almost directly overhead we emerged the next morning to sunlight and a beautiful fall day.

I set up my painting gear at the kitchen table and painted the view of the canyon wall and fall trees turning color. This little painting ( 8” x 10”) I left as a thank you gift to the cabin owners.

On Rt. 89 to Bryce and Zion - Southern Utah

We had a leisurely morning at the sweet little Logan Canyon cabin and then packed and set off for the Southern Utah. A lot of driving lay ahead – past Salt Lake City, Provo and then South. We eventually exited Route I15 at Scipio onto Rt. 50 – thence to Richfield on Rt. 89. We encountered more violent weather along the way – cloud bursts of water so extreme that we had to stop the car. We had high winds and dramatic lightning strikes all around in the towering mountain ranges.

We stopped in the town of Richfield in late afternoon. Apparently this is a mecca for ATV enthusiasts - they were having a get together. We were fortunate to find one of the last rooms in town for the night.

Within sight of our motel was an amazing mesa of pink, vermilion and greenish rock - all set in the dramatic stormy sky.

I took the car and drove down the road and set up to paint on a patch of waste land next to an old graveyard. It wasn't 15 minutes before big rain drops hit as well as lightning strikes. I moved my palette off the tripod and onto my lap in the safety of the car. I kept painting. The storm and lightning moved on and I was able to finish my painting. The result is the painting you see above.

Save On Airport Parking

Capitol Reef National Park, Escalante, Tropic, Utah

After leaving Richfield we drove to Capitol Reef National Park on Route 24. Absolutely amazing red rock country with huge butts and eroded stone in every direction. I didn't paint at Capitol Reef even though I really wanted to. We just had too much difficult driving to do on our way to Tropic.

I recommend painting at the Visitors Center at Capital Reef if you get the chance and have time.

We took Highway 22 to Tropic (at the entrance to Bryce Canyon N. P.) via Escalante. It was about 120 miles of some of the most magnificent country I have ever seen – pink, red and yellow ocher canyons – sculpted mountains with artistic patterned rock. The sheer scale of the landscape is humbling and biblical. Makes one understand and appreciate why the Mormon pioneers choose this place in which to live.

We crested Boulder Mountain at almost 10,000 ft. - we had sleet/snow on the way up. This mountain range is part of the Escalante Grand Staircase formation of the Grand Canyon.

In the tiny town of Tropic, we found our spotlessly clean motel – Bysbee Stepping Stone Motel – also very affordable! Right across the road from our motel I found my evening painting site opposite the Tropic High School.

The rain drops and wind started almost immediately but I decided that today I would stand and paint unless it was a deluge. The rain drops drilled into my first layer of paint and left white spots on my panel! I confess to feeling quite miserable as I saw this, plus feeling that I just couldn't paint at all – it was all so difficult. Those red and pink butts are very difficult to paint in the dripping rain! The photo above is of the painting I did that evening – Stand and Endure is my motto!

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

One of the most taxing painting sites I have yet encountered - the altitude of 8100 ft. above sea level was difficult as I wasn't yet used to it. The sheer complexity and other-worldly landscape made it unlike anything I have ever painted before.

We stopped at a couple of places along the Canyon rim before I settled on Bryce Point as my plein air painting spot. It had the right mix of possibly paintable scenes and shade in the exact right spot for the painter.

It was crowded with tons of visitors like us with their eyes out on stalks at the sheer breathtaking beauty of all the pink, red, orange, cream and yellow ocher rock hoodoos and butts. All shimmering and seeming to glow from within with scintillating color - almost fluorescent. The shadow areas were rich with reflected light and were sublime in their own right.

The subject I chose to paint was a small piece of one large Hoodoo, a tiny conifer tree next to it conveying the massive scale of the hoodoo and solitude of self. I focused intensely to see the abstract shapes and patterns. The resulting painting is called "Hoodoo Voodoo".

Paintings and stories of my day at Zion National Park at the link below:

Zion National Park, Utah
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