Photographing the Grand Canyon at Sunset

Jessica Peterson

Watchtower at Grand Canyon, Arizona

I’m one of those weirdos who travels for days to get to far-flung jungles in Borneo before I visit a ton of closer and more obvious destinations such as the Grand Canyon.

I decided to devote a year to U.S. travel and started with a road trip through Arizona in May. Basing myself in Page, I hit up White Pocket, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and the Grand Canyon in one week. I also took time to admire the red rocks of Sedona.

So, how does a place as storied as the Grand Canyon measure up in reality? The first thing that struck me about the canyon is how remote it is. Cell service is almost non-existent and there’s no gaudy tourist traps nearby — both good things, really. Secondly, entrance to Grand Canyon National Park is pricey, starting at $25 per vehicle. Third, it’s better to budget more than enough rather than too little time for the canyon. I spent only an afternoon in one location, so I have a very incomplete picture of this national treasure.

I entered at the South Rim and headed for the Watchtower, an imposing 70-foot stone tower constructed in 1932. There are lots of places to perch and admire the bending Colorado River below. Some visitors do so less reverentially than others, but I’m not judging. I watched as couples took selfies and Millennial males stripped off their tops and flexed for what I’m sure they hoped would be viral Insta captures.

I sat solitary waiting for the sun to set, shivering in the dim May light, but unwilling to miss such good photography conditions. Fortunately, a stranger photographed me while I soldiered along in my quest for the perfect canyon photo. Thank you, Claire Webster!

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Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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  • Colleen Eaddy

    Absolutely Gorgeous! This article and your glorious photos renewed my resolve to visit the Grand Canyon sooner rather than later. Looking forward to your upcoming stories on US Travel. Hubbie and I are planning trips & need your tips. Thanks!

    • Hi Colleen! Thanks for reading. I’ve got new posts on Asheville, NC, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, and Charleston planned for this year.

  • I love natural places at sunset. The reds seem to glow even more.

  • These pictures are absolutely stunning!! I am itching to get to the Grand Canyon and this has only spurred on my drive to get there ASAP!! Hoping for mid 2017!!

  • C.J. Haughey

    These are great photos, especially the shot of you waiting for the perfect shot. I hope it was worth braving the chilly weather.
    I’m going to the Colca Canyon this year, I hope the Grand Canyon is still as spectacular in comparison. Pics like this give me great hope, even if I do have to wait for a posing millennial male to get out of my shot!

  • I’ve never had an itch to visit the Grand Canyon but your post was certainly eye-opening. I’m happy to hear there aren’t any “gaudy tourist traps.” Nothing ruins an experience abroad like these tacky souvenir shops.

  • Jennifer Morrow

    The Grand Canyon is so worth visiting! I love going in the Winter when there is a little snow on the ground, but summer is also pretty great for hiking & camping. Love the way you captured the beauty of the canyon.

  • oh these pictures are absolutely amazing. i ve never been at the grand canyon, but these are really pushing me to go. the colours are tremendous.

  • Kristine AARSHEIM

    Your photos are amazing. I love the Grand Canyon. Only ever seen it from a tiny plane, though. But I had an amazing time enjoying the spectacular view. Would’ve loved to be down there and see it up close!

  • MelBTravel

    What a great idea devoting your time to traveling around America for a year. I would love to do that one day. I have been to Vegas but I not had the chance to head to the Grand Canyon, it is one of those places that I knew about as a kid and always wanted to venture too. I would definitely love to see a sunset.

  • Wow! I totally love those pictures. The views are so stunning and amazing. I hope I can visit Grand Canyon one day 🙂

  • This is amazing!! Despite living in the US, next door in California actually, I’ve still never been here. This has inspired me to go! Especially during golden hour. The best hour!

  • Cat Lin

    Grand Canyon is gorgeous at sunset! I’ve never seen that in person so thank you for sharing your beautiful photos!! $25 per vehicle is pretty pricey, I’ll keep in mind to schedule more time here next time we visit!

  • Janine Good

    These are such beautiful pictures! I love the Grand Canyon and need to head back there. It has been years. The Watchtower looks interesting! Would love to see this as well when I head back.