Recommendations for late fall trip to SW

hi everyone,

i’m looking for recommendations for a two week trip to the SW. i will be going from mid-nov to early-dec. as far as i understood fall colour will be long past peak. i was thinking: death valley/utah/arizona.

do you have any areas that you would specifically recommend in late nov? why?
any areas that are not recommended at all? why?
when going to death valley/utah - will i need a 4x4? how much further would it take me?
do i have to hike to stand a chance to shoot anything other than icons or something unique? (don’t get me wrong, i love hiking - but this time i’ll be travelling in a hurry and with a 1.5 year old kid)

thanks in advance!

p.s. i hope this is the appropriate forum for a question like this. if not, moderators please move the topic.

For that time of the year, I would also be looking into desert, or to something really far south. Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Big Bend, Everglades/other Florida swamp areas come to mind. I have not been to Utah yet, but my guess is it will be a little colder than normal and the trees won’t look amazing, but the rocks still will!

There is a ton of great stuff you can get to in Death Valley without a 4x4 high clearance vehicle, like the mesquite dunes, badwater basin, the panamint area, zabriski point area, etc. There are other dune fields and features that have rougher roads, and you can rent jeeps within the park for only a single arm and leg.


I have been researching a trip to Zion NP. From what I understand you might have a chance of some fall color there in mid November . Bryce looks to be nice if there is some early light snowfall.

This is all book research not actual on the ground.


We’ve spent a lot of time in that area over the last 20 years, all the while using our personal 4WD pickup. Frankly, I’ve seldom put it in 4WD, but almost daily I relish the extra ground clearance on back roads.

That’s specific for our tastes, because in fact we find some of our most interesting places off the asphalt on back roads. And escape about 90% of the people while we’re at it. You’ll find plenty to enjoy and photograph while never venturing onto the back roads. But it’s a much better experience to get away from people and discover sights and settings you’ve never heard of.

BTW- Specific to 4WD, when we’ve needed it, we’v really needed it. That happens when and if it rains down there. If you’re on a dirt road, head immediately for the nearest asphalt and stay there. Much of the soil has a high clay content, and it turns to peanut butter in very short order when wet. I’m talking as little as half an hour of rain. The mud can get so slick and deep, I’ve even had to chain up our truck and shift into low range 4WD just to make the jaunt back to asphalt, if you can imagine.

thanks everyone! will go ahead as planned - plus i’ll add another week to the itinerary.

forgot to ask an important question: my main interests lie in death valley and utahs deserts and canyons. in which order would you go? is there anywhere where i could expect significantly better conditions in mid november vs. in early december?

thanks for the info @Hank_Pennington - makes total sense, and could be a lifesaver :wink:

I’ve had the most satisfying results when I let the weather forecasts drive my itinerary. I mostly hate bald blue skies, so I’m always on the hunt for more interesting clouds and the results on the landscape. It’s close enough between the two, you don’t lose a heck of a lot of time shifting between them.

Here’s the scenario for my most successful shooting adventure in both places on the same trip. It amply illustrates my point:

I was in Vegas, deciding whether to venture east or west. The forecast called for a small storm approaching DV in 24 hours. I went that way and was on hand waiting. I got really dramatic light and clouds as it arrived, stopped for lunch, then shot equally well as it departed eastward. Then I drove through it and beyond Vegas to get ahead of it again in the Zion region. I repeated the cycle there, meanwhile adding great runoff shots because it actually rained in Zion. Probably the most productive 72 hours of landscape shooting I’ve ever enjoyed.

thanks @Hank_Pennington - i think that would be the way to go. any recommendation on a weather forecast? in my part of the world i use windguru, not sure how accurate it would be in the US.

I use this portal into the National Weather Service. It gives continent-wide views of all sorts of measures, accessed by the second drop-down menu at the top left of the map (currently labeled Maximum Temp). The slider on the top right of the map lets you watch the patterns develop and move day by day over the next week. It’s priceless for mobile photographers watching for particular weather over a region.