On a Trip Through America’s Southwest With Photographer Matt Lief Anderson

Chicago-based photographer Matt Lief Anderson creates amazing travel images, capturing his many roadtrips in intriguing photographs that make us want to pack our bags and head into the great outdoors. Matt Lief Anderson specialized in travel photography as well as music and fashion images.

For this exclusive 24 Hours episode he takes us on his trip around the Southwest through Colorado, Utah and Arizona while we get to spend a few more days than usual on the photographers side to check out the beautiful changing landscape of America’s Southwest. For more visit Matt Lief Anderson on his website, Facebook and Instagram.

The unofficial start to the trip is in South Dakota’s Badlands, where you can pitch a tent anywhere in the park as long as you are out of site of other campers. I race South on assignment to shoot a music festival in Colorado.

I have a break from the music festival I’m shooting so I take a drive around Roosevelt National Forest.

The festival is over and I start my trip. I’ll be drifting around The Southwest for the next couple of weeks. The first stop is Rocky Mountain National Park.

I take a quick hike to Dream Lake, I try to take a shortcut and almost fall off of a mountain. The paths are covered in 3 feet of snow. The shortcut was a bad idea, but the lake was incredible and I have it all to myself. It’s a great spot for lunch.

The road south on HWY 285 is mind-blowing. The snow gives way to sand and dust. It actually feels like summer finally.

I make the hike into the Great Sand Dunes during sunset. It’s an incredible place, but walking up dunes is a huge chore. It takes an hour to walk a mile.

The sun goes down and take a break to enjoy the stars. Storm clouds form and I have to hike back to my car in the dark. I arrive just in time to avoid some intense hail. I skip camping and drive to Alamosa for a cheap motel.

I turn off the road on a mountain to make coffee and see this. I keep heading South because I have to be in Phoenix to pick up my girlfriend Sandra who is joining me for the rest of the trip.

I trek down a dusty road at Monument Valley and hitch back up to the top where my car is parked. I drive back to Goosenecks in Utah where I’m camping for the night.

Goosenecks is one of the best places I’ve ever camped. I love that you can throw a tent up 10 feet from the lip of a giant ravine. I’m definitely keeping this in mind on my way back through with Sandra.

On my way out, I take another drive through Monument Valley.

I make a quick stop in Page to check out Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe bend. It’s incredibly beautiful, but it’s far too touristy. I ditch the crowds of people and keep heading South.

I pick Sandra up and we stay in Phoenix in an Airbnb. We got lucky and stayed in a cheap room in a huge house with a big backyard, hammock, and a dog. It feels like a resort. The next day we back North to the Grand Canyon. It’s Sandra’s first time.

We start the next morning with a hike around Bryce Canyon.

We stop for a quick picnic somewhere overlooking Lake Powell for lunch.

I couldn’t resist bringing Sandra back to Goosenecks to camp. I still can’t believe you can pitch a tent so close to a cliff’s edge. April in Utah is really cold, so we build a fire and drink some bourbon.

We head back to the border one more time for Monument Valley. Sandra doesn’t like it as much as I did. It’s too dusty for her. We make the trip back through a snowstorm in Northern Colorado and stop in Denver for dinner with friends and call it a night. The next morning we make our way back to Chicago.

All images © Matt Lief Anderson

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