Plein Air Painting Sites - Utah

Get ready to be smitten with the other worldly landscape of Southern Utah. This part of the Beehive State covers a good chunk of the Colorado Plateau and Grand Canyon geologic formations. Hot pinks, orange, vermillion, violet, black and grey – not to mention sage greens, yellow ocher and cream. And this just describes the rock colors – sometimes all combined together in layers. If you love color, and who doesn't, this place is a feast for the eyes and imagination.

Plein Air Painting Sites covered on this page include, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Mount Carmel, Capitol Reef Nat'l Monument, Logan Canyon. Additional Utah sites will be added over time.

If you are a Utah plein air painter, please provide site information that you know about so that we share our collective knowledge.

We'll start with Bryce Canyon National Park and Hoodoos. Hoodoos are pillars of rock formed by erosion of wind, rain and ice over the ages – as seen in this plein air painting done at Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is unique in that you take a road through the park along the canyon rim where you are looking down at the formations of rock below. This creates a special perspective that we normally don't experience while out plein air painting.

The landscape is so overwhelming in it's complexity and strangeness that it takes a while to get one's bearings and figure out what to paint.

Also note – the altitude of 8100 ft. above sea level and bright light create their own challenges.

Drive into the Park – All along the rim trail are viewing spots – Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point – within a few feet of the parking lots you will find panoramic views overlooking thousands of hoodoos, all fit together like some giant jigsaw puzzle. Plan to plein air paint here most of the day except the middle of the day. - The one downside to these sites is that there are no public bathrooms at most of them - I had to drive to a campground about a mile away to find one. But at least it is reasonably close. Take lots of water – no water on site either. Take food. You have to exit the park to find a restaurant.

Painting at Bryce was one of the most inspiring painting experiences I have ever had. So go for it! You will be glad you did.

Share your adventure here by posting your stories and photos of paintings done at Bryce.

Zion National Park, Utah

Wow! Zion National Park is a true jewel - and only about 60 miles from Bryce Canyon - yet, both so very different. The best way to experience the full magnificence of this park is to enter it from the Eastern side through the 1 mile tunnel in the mountain. Stay in Mount Carmel Junction (there is a good Best Western there with a golf course) - it's about 20 miles from Mount Carmel Junction to the Zion Park Headquarters.

During the summer/fall season, you can only drive your vehicle into Zion as far as the Park Headquarters. Shuttle buses, that run every 10 minutes, and stop at all the major spots in the park are free and really good. Take your plein air painting gear, food and water and set out from the Park Headquarters for a day of amazing painting. The altitude is much lower than Bryce - about 6000 ft. above sea level.

In Zion Park you will be looking up at vast mountains of stone - you will be traveling along the Virgin River valley in the park. The Zion Lodge is about half way through the shuttle bus route - a good place to stop for lunch and cool off under the shade of the cotton wood trees along the river. Also a place to refill your water canteen and find other comforts (such as ice cream).

I spent the entire day alone in Zion riding the shuttle from painting site to painting site - felt perfectly safe the whole time.

The three painting sites I stopped at on the shuttle loop where: Court of the Patriarchs, Zion Lodge and the Temple of Sinawava. More information on each of these three sites follows:

Court of the Patriarchs This site is the first stop on the Park Shuttle Bus after leaving the Zion Visitors Center. Take the short trail up the hillside to a level viewing area - set up your easel here - awe inspiring view of The Sentinel at 7157 Ft. in altitude as well as the other monolithic peaks in the Patriarch group. This is a classic Zion painting site - practice blocking in the large shapes - don't get sucked into the details. Paint bold and have fun!

Zion Lodge Lots to choose from at this stop - the Virgin River is very close by - take the trail along the river and paint anywhere along that trail. I found my spot near the horse corral and the river. The Emerald Pools may not be worth the long hike with all your gear in the middle of Summer in the heat but could be worth it in cooler weather like late Fall.

The Temple of Sinawava Last stop on the Shuttle loop before it circles back around - Fantastic spot! Take the trail along the Virgin River - I set up my gear just before the trail takes one into The Narrows - decided it would be easier to paint the slot canyon scene from a bit of a distance. A lot of looking up involved - so pace yourself if you have neck issues to contend with.

Capitol Reef National Monument

This area could take days to explore and paint - a good starting point is the Capitol Reef Visitors Center - amazing vistas of red rock and strange rock formations in stunning color palettes. Capitol Reef is a long and skinny park with one road (Route 24) running West to East. Many stopping points all along the way.

The only place that I spotted restrooms was at the Visitors Center. Take your water and food with you - Bicknell or Torrey to the West of the park entrance are good spots to stop and fuel yourselves and your vehicles before a day of painting in Capitol Reef.

Logan Canyon in Northern Utah Information coming in a day or two

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