There are many natural beauties in the American West, but very few compare to the lush incendiary colors that fill the sunsets and sunrises out west. Watching the night sky turn to early dawn with the sun just beginning to peak its head into the long stretches of desert and illuminate the cacti and creosote filled canyons with brushes of warm orange and yellow are breathtaking. Once the day is through and the dusk is near the sky fills with swirls of every color from purple, cotton candy pink, bright orange and robin’s egg blue. The sight of a sunrise or sunset in the American West is so dramatic and beautiful that it can almost fill up the senses with just one glance. Whether you’re planning a trip or are a local to the American West, here are a few of our favorite spots to soak in the awesome colors of the desert and experience the transformation that each sunrise and sunset brings out west.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West
If you are visiting or reside in the greater Phoenix or Scottsdale area it is time you experience the great pleasure of touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Frank Lloyd Wright is the famous American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator who designed more than 1000 structures and completed 532 works. Wright designed his structures to be in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture. Today, Taliesin West is the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Whether dining al fresco as unsurpassed sunsets cede to the lights of Scottsdale twinkling in the Valley below or inside Wright’s dynamic Music Pavilion, you are sure to experience sensational displays of vivid desert sunrises and sunsets. Set on a 491-acre Sonoran Desert Preserve in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, Taliesin West offers breathtaking views, rich history and is sure to provide an unforgettable evening under the warm pink, blue and orange hues of the desert sky; especially if you book their sunset walking tour which allows you to watch the twinkling lights of Phoenix and Scottsdale set against the rich colors of the sunset sky.
Imagine viewing shades of rich purple with pink and peach highlights at one of the highest points in the country – this is what you are sure to experience when visiting Mt. Humphreys. With an elevation of 12,633 feet, Humphreys Peak is the highest natural point in the U.S. state of Arizona and is located within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness in the Coconino National Forest, about 11 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s the highest point in Arizona, and the hike to the summit is sure to result in sensational sunset and sunrise views, with views that stretch for 60 miles. On a clear day you can see all the way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The best time of year to go is the fall when the trees are changing, but you can hike all summer as well once the snow melts enough to see the trail – and you can enjoy the luscious colors of sunrise and sunset all year long.
San Francisco Peaks
The San Francisco Peaks are known for their warm gold hues painting the sky with soft peach undertones. You are sure to experience incredible sunrises and sunsets when you visit the San Francisco Peaks. Located just north of Flagstaff, Arizona on U.S. 180, the San Francisco Peaks soar to heights reaching 12,633 feet and serve as one of the most distinct geological features of the Colorado Plateau. Named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi by the Spanish Friars that settled the area in the 1620’s, these scenic mountains are known locally as simply the Peaks.
Today over a quarter of a million-people flock to the Peaks each year for hiking, skiing, camping, wildlife viewing and wilderness solitude. The Peaks tower so dramatically against the landscape of Flagstaff and surrounding area that they are even visible from the pueblo ruins at Wupatki National Monument, dozens of miles away and on a clear day, you can see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon over eighty miles away.
Valley of Fire
Imagine visiting a place where the sunset sky is painted with colors as distinctive as the waves in the landscape and rock. Valley of Fire is located in the Mojave Desert approximately 58 miles Northeast of the Las Vegas Strip and is the oldest Nevada State Park and was dedicated in 1935. Valley of Fire State Park covers an area of approximately 35,000 acres and was named for the magnificent red sandstone formations that were formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of the dinosaurs more than 150 million years ago.
These brilliant sandstone formations can appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun’s rays. The stunning combinations of limestone, shale, and conglomerates stone mixed with the lush creosote bush, burro bush, and brittlebush sets the perfect stage for sunset gazing with a wide array of colors and sights to experience. Whether its viewing this stunning paradise at sunrise or sunset, you are guaranteed to see exquisite colors and sights at Valley of Fire.
The only thing that tops viewing one of the natural wonders of the world, is seeing the beauty of sunrise or sunset in the Canyon. Visiting the Grand Canyon National Park is a shutterbug’s paradise. Whether you are an amateur or a professional photographer, when you watch the sun rise or set, you’re going to get the chance to capture some excellent scenery. Ideally, the best way to enjoy the chameleon-like splendor of the Grand Canyon is to watch the subtle changes that take place over the course of a day. To make the most of your time and see the magnificence of it all, try seeing the Canyon at sunrise or sunset.
When planning your sunrise viewing, you can expect to see the sun first touch the tops of the rocks and gradually travel down into the canyon- the morning light is fantastic for photography. Be sure to arrive at least a half-hour before sunrise so you can see the magic happen in its entirety. Seeing the sun set over the Grand Canyon is also a moving experience. Not only will you see every possible color you could ever expect to see in a sunset, but you will see the shadows creep up the canyon walls and see their lengthening shadows and deep orange glow of the setting sun against these walls. Watch the formations take on different colors and shapes with the angles of the sun. There is nothing more magical than experiencing the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon at sunrise or sunset.
Where’s your favorite place to capture the best sunrise or sunset views in the Southwest? Be sure to share below!