Photographing Desert Scenery at its Best

Kodachrome State Park, Utah

Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah is a smorgasbord for photographers seeking desert scenery or for the vacationer just looking to get away and enjoy the red rock glory of the American Southwest. With towering spires of sandstone, spectacular vistas of red and white, and the blue skies that will make a cowboy sing, Kodachrome State Park is the perfect area to get lost in nature and soak in the desert sun.

sunrise at Kodachrome state park Utah, Desert red rock and clouds


Kodachrome Basin State Park is 12 miles south of Utah State Route 12 near Cannonville, Utah. It is also about 20 miles southeast of Bryce Canyon National Park. If you are in the area it is well worth the visit though I would plan on a full day if you want to enjoy the park to its fullest and hike some of the wonderful trails.

The Grand Parade Trail is an easy mile-and-a-half hike that winds across the floor of Kodachrome Basin. The Panorama Trail is a moderate three-to-six-mile hike that traverses the western side of the park. The Angels Palace Trail is a moderately difficult mile-and-a-half hike that gives amazing views of the valley floor. The Nature Trail is an easy half mile hike and is ADA accessible. The Shakespeare Arch/Sentinel Trail is a mile-and-three-quarters hike of easy to moderate difficulty that travels through hoodoos and takes in some of the most amazing scenery. Shakespeare Arch fell in April 2019 and is now a pile of rubble but this hike is well worth the views.

There are five campgrounds in the park: Arch Campground, Basin Campground, Bryce View Campground, Bunkhouse and Sheppard Loop. Reservations are required at all campsites and fill quickly, so book months in advance.


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Kodachrome Basin has 67 monolithic stone spires, called sedimentary pipes. These unique features, also known as chimneys or spires, are not found anywhere else on earth. Ranging from 6.5 to over 170 feet in height these pipes tower over the park providing spectacular scenery as backdrops for your photographic adventures.


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Kodachrome Basin, originally named Kodachrome Flat, by The National Geographic Society in 1948 after they explored and photographed the area. It was named after the well-known kodak film that was famous for its bright colors. The pictures and story appeared in the September 1949 issue of the National Geographic magazine. In 1962 the area was designated a State Park under the name of Chimney Rock State Park because the state of Utah feared repercussions from Kodak if they used the Kodachrome name. A few years later with Kodak's permission the park was renamed Kodachrome Basin.

The deep rich vibrant colors of Kodachrome State Park are truly amazing to photograph. One of the many techniques to photographing nature and landscapes is to be there when the light is perfect. The best time of the day is one hour before and after sunrise and sunset. It is possible to capture amazing photographs outside these "magic hour" windows but your best chances are to be ready to photograph in these timeframes. I like spending the middle of the day scouting for locations to photograph and then make sure I am back on site an hour or two before the perfect light happens.


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Try to look for the not so obvious scenes! Many times the best perspectives or subjects get overlooked for the bigger picture. Try to see the picture in the picture, what I call the 'detail shots' of the landscape. Look at the scene from a different angle such as ground level or from the height of a cliff. Photographing nature is all about capturing the world through your own eyes so do not be afraid to experiment with what you see to find your own view of the world. It is also good to have an idea of what you want to photograph so you will be on the lookout for that subject. I love dead or twisted trees and the morning I spent photographing in the park I specifically looked for these subjects. While I was hiking on the Grande Parade Trail, I found this dead tree in the following image. I loved the light on the background providing the contrast, the cloudy sky and the flowers in the foreground with the tree as the subject. Showing the stark yet beautiful simplicity in nature is many times the most effective way to create a beautiful photograph.


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If you are looking for a desert getaway without the crowds of the big five Utah National Parks, Kodachrome Basin State Park is the perfect spot. There are clean bathrooms in the park at the Red Dirt Wash and Dry Laundromat, showers at the Oasis Group campsite, horseback rides, and hiking and desert scenery that will inspire any photographer hoping to photograph the red rock desert sandstone that only this area has to offer.

Here is a video of my adventure in the park for your enjoyment.

Happy Trails!