No where else than in Southern Utah’s National Parks will you be as blown away by the sense of foundation and eternity it exudes. The landscape is a paradox, timeless, yet constantly changing as the natural elements of water, wind and sky wear it away.
Countless artists over the years have come to the parks to bear witness and recreate the stunning and otherworldly beauty of places like Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. And as the the saying goes, Art imitates life, right?
But if you look, you can find art itself in the timeless landscapes of Utah’s National Parks.
Shape – Arches National Park
Arches National Park, probably Utah’s most famous and one of the most well-known in the country, easily takes the cake for shape.
Arches is world renown for its eponymous shapes. There are supposedly more than 2,000 of the famous arches within the park.
Besides the famous arches, the park contains a wide variety of beautiful orange brown formations, from simple fallen rocks to towering buttes and hoodoos.
The park’s most famous arch, Delicate Arch, is an extreme case of the shape and (understandably) covered in tourists.
The unique arch is just one stage in the seemingly timeless process of erosion. Eventually, each and every arch in the park will further erode and collapse.
Space – Canyonlands National Park
No park in Utah better exemplifies space than Canyonlands. The expansive park contains 3 distinct regions, Island in the Sky, Needles and The Maze, most of which is only accessible by 4-wheeler.
Island in the Sky sits atop a gigantic butte, overlooking unusual and unique formations including the spectacular, vast White Rim sandstone shelf.
Needles is a vast landscape of small canyons and sprawling formations. Many of the canyon walls slope gently and are walkable, while also naturally drawing attention to the negative space of the geological form of the canyon.
Many of the canyon walls are dotted with small eroded pockets- a good home for some of the park’s smaller residents!
Color – Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is the smallest and probably the least visited park in Southern Utah’s 5 famous national parks. Which is a shame, because the expressions of color vary from beautiful pastel palettes to dramatic contrasts.
In parts of Capitol Reef, the bright orange to maroon rock creates an intense contrast between the blue sky.
The park is an artist’s playground. Subtle multicolored lichens, striking line patterns, and fading hues colonize rocks.
Form – Bryce Canyon National Park
No other park speaks to form like Bryce Canyon National Park and its famous hoodoos. Hoodoos is a funny term to describe a towering, often spire-like feature formed by erosion. The eponymous canyon contains a veritable forest of spindly hoodoos, each one unique.
Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos are an extreme example of form because of the sheer number of them. On such a large scale, the hoodoos tell the story of how the canyon came to be through their striated bright orange and white sediment color.
Some hoodoos are spindly, some are vase-shaped, while some have what seems to be a precariously balanced rock on top.
Texture – Zion National Park
You might think of Zion as color, and while it’s certainly true that there definitely the element of color at play, the spaces in the park are so expansive that texture is scraped across natural canvases the size of mountains.
Enormous, corrugated and reticulated rocks swell along the Virgin River for miles, forming Zion Canyon.
One of our favorite photos from the park, this heavily textured, mountainous rock is a beautiful example of the color variation in Zion’s geology. The pink and red hues comes from the concentration of iron in the rock.
Angel’s Landing, one of the most popular hikes in the park, is a dizzying climb above the canyon over entirely pink rock.
Zion’s most famous hiking trail, The Narrows, is a 9 mile walk through the Virgin River and the narrowest part of Zion Canyon, and is almost entirely in the water!
Since the canyon walls are so close in The Narrows, hikers get up close and personal with some of the amazing textured rock that makes Zion so beautiful.
Utah’s National Parks offers some of the most beautiful, naturally artful scenery on the planet. Have you been to any of these National Parks? Share your thoughts on these “elements of art” with us in the comments!