Superstition Mountains - Lost Dutchman
Location: Apache Junction, East Valley
This spot is on the north/west side of the Superstition Mountain range, an easy 45 minute drive from the central Valley. About a 5 minute flat hike gets you to great views, with some saguaros here and there. The photos above from left to right were taken at sunset, sunrise, sunset (inside the park), and on an overcast day. Sunrise is my preference for this spot, so the sun rises behind the mountains, keeping them in our view constantly. Sunset gives us a little more compact session, where I'll start shooting right as the sun is about to dip past the horizon, and continuing into blue hour. This gives us a little bit moodier photos, whereas sunrise may be brighter depending on cloud coverage.
Superstition Mountains — Southeast
Location: Gold Canyon, East Valley
This spot is located on a trail on the south side of the Superstitions, a little bit further drive than the north side. You'll drive off the highway on a dirt road for about 20 minutes, but it's easily passible in a regular car. No hiking or walking required, you can pull right up to the mountainside, with great views almost all the way around. The sun dips quickly here and the horizon is pretty open just like the north side, but I still love to shoot here at sunset the most (all three above are from sunset).
Schnebly Hill Road
The first two photos were taken at the vista point on Schnebly Hill Road in Sedona. This point is only accessible outside of winter months (generally closed from November through April, depending on weather) via I-17 going down the mountain facing west. This trail sees a lot of weather, but the forest road leading from I-17 is generally easily passable with a high clearance vehicle. Forests lead up to the vista, and you can walk right up to the rim without hiking at all. Lots of space for parking and photo taking.
Anything past the vista, or if you're traveling east up the mountain from Sedona village, you'll need a 4x4 or ATV vehicle to pass safely. The road gets progressively rockier as you climb, and is extremely bumpy the whole way. From the bottom parking lot to Merry Go Round Rock (third photo) takes about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the condition of the road. This is also a route accessible via a schedule Pink Jeep Tour, and guides can take you up. Merry Go Round Rock is accessible at most points during the year, except on rare occasions when the road from the bottom is impassible because of snow. You can reach this point and turn back during winter months. Parking is limited by the rock, there's generally room for about 10 vehicles. I don't recommend the bottom half of the road if you're afraid of heights — the (tiny) clients pictured were experienced climbers, taken in March.
Aspen Corner / Arizona Snowbowl
Right two photo credits: Saaty Photography
This road is accessible by regular car, but not open-year round. The Snowbowl hill (featured in the first and last photos) is used as a ski area in the winter and will not be open to photography. The first two photos were taken in July, and the second two photos were taken in October. Where the mountainside is located in Snowbowl, it's lined with Aspen trees, an easy walk from the parking lot. Aspen corner is nearby and similar, it's easily walkable, but with limited parking. These areas tend to get busy during fall months, so a weekday session is highly recommended.
This spot is in town (can you believe it?) with amazing, easily accessible views of Mt. Humphreys. There are a handful of pine trees lining the paths, and the park is flat and walkable. Depending on the season, the grasses may be a variety of colors, but I've mostly seen gold in the center with green toward the edges of the trees. This spot is great at sunset!
Photo credit: Austin Young
Crescent Moon Ranch
Entry fee: $14 per car
These photos were all taken in October on a partly cloudy day around 3 p.m. This location is a great combination of grass, water, forest, and mountain views of Cathedral Rock. All locations are an easy, flat walk, with a little bit of creek hopping depending on water levels. Sometimes I recommend to bring an extra pair of shoes just in case!
Sedona Scenic Byway
This is an easy pull off on the road near the start of the Bell Rock Pathway. The first two photos were taken on an overcast day, and the second two on a partly cloudy day. The sun will set on your right hand side of bell rock, which makes for super glowy orange colors and great dimension. This lot has limited parking, so using the shuttle service Thursday through Sunday is highly recommended (there's no fee for parking at the park and ride location). Parking at the trail is $5 per car.
Cathedral has iconic views, with about a 1.2 mile hike (more like scramble) to the top. They just did construction on this path so it's a little more passable, but it's not for the faint of heart. This spot can get especially busy on weekends, so getting iconic shots is going to be limited to sunrise only, and a climb in the dark. This trail is now accessible via Sedona's Thursday through Sunday shuttle service which will definitely help with accessibility! It's gorgeous at the bottom of the trail, too, and sunset times work during the off season weekdays, May through August.