Snow in the Sonoran Desert

New Year’s Eve I stayed home in anticipation of snow in the Sonoran Desert on New Year’s morning.   However, I did have an adult beverage, who says you can’t celebrate even while cleaning your photography gear and watching the weather radar.  Knowing I would be up early, I was in bed before midnight.  It was two years ago when I captured my image Desert Snow and to have another opportunity for snow in the desert was greatly anticipated.  The weather forecast was for the chance of snow down to an elevation of 2000 feet which meant possible snow in Phoenix.  While watching the radar I noticed the McDowell Mountains were getting snow and it looked like more than a dusting.  From my street I can see a small section of these mountains, so the thought of sunrise with snow on the McDowell Mountains was exciting!

I arose early and dressed warm, loaded my camera gear and headed to a location about 10 minutes from my house.  Not knowing how long I would be out shooting snow, I took a couple of granola bars, hot coffee and water.  Although I have been a desert dweller for most of my adult life, I was raised in the Midwest where it gets extremely cold in the winter, and knew to take extra coats, scarf, fleece-lined wool hat and two pair of gloves.  I even packed my rain gear so as not to get wet in case I did some macro photography on the snow covered ground.  It was dark when I arrived at my location and it looked like the sky was completely covered in clouds.  So dark, I couldn’t tell if the mountains had snow on them.  I set up my gear and watched as the sun was coming up over the horizon.  I couldn’t believe the view in front of me!  There was more snow and lower than I had ever seen on the McDowell Mountains!  There was a small break in the clouds and color was starting to show.  There were swirling clouds just above the mountains  and the sight was breathtaking!  This is one of several images I made before the color was gone (a larger image can be seen in the gallery below).

McDowell Mountains covered in snow New Year's Day Morning

McDowell Mountains covered in snow New Year’s Day Morning

McDowell Mountain Preserve

McDowell Mountain Preserve

Once the color was gone,  I packed up my gear and headed to the McDowell Mountain Preserve to see what I could find.  The mountains were so beautiful with the snow and the desert floor was verdant due to all the rain in December.  I only hiked about 2 miles round trip and didn’t see any snow on the vegetation.  Other places in the surrounding area had snow on the vegetation, but I knew those locations would be packed with people out to see this amazing sight.

Spur Cross Ranch

Spur Cross Ranch

On a whim I chose to drive north to Cave Creek to the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.  It was late morning by this time and the snow was starting to melt.  The highest elevations still had snow, but the desert floor was green.  From the road I could see a few trees still yellow with fall color.  In the desert, fall color can last until January.

I hadn’t packed a lunch so it was time to head home, eat lunch, warm up and process my images from the morning.   While processing my images I was once again watching the weather radar to see if the clouds would move out enough to bring a vibrant sunset.

Hoping for an amazing sunset I loaded my gear once again, and talked my husband into coming with me.  We took Molly with us too.  Hoping the clouds would not be covering Four Peaks which were completely covered in snow, we headed to the Lower Salt River.  We had left to late to go up the Four Peaks road and it would have been packed with people, some not knowing how to drive in winter conditions.  The clouds didn’t move off the peaks, so other images were quickly being sought.  Some beautiful golden light shone on Bulldog Rock.  I realized the clouds were not going to turn color above Bulldog Rock, but looking to my right down the Lower Salt River were some amazing clouds.  The sun was getting low and it looked like the clouds would burst with color.  I made a few images (in the gallery below), but unfortunately the color was pale and only lasted a few minutes.  I still made several images and plan to return to this location for another sunset shoot.

It was an amazing first day of 2015 with snow in the Sonoran Desert!


10 thoughts on “Snow in the Sonoran Desert

  1. seekraz

    I could see the snow on the mountains north of Anthem, somewhere around Table Mesa, probably…it was quite attractive, even from a distance. Very nice images…I especially like the one from the McDowell Mountain Preserve.

    1. tbeckerphotos Post author

      Thank you! It was an incredible sight to see and experience firsthand! This was the second time I have had the opportunity to photograph snow in the desert.

    1. tbeckerphotos Post author

      The Superstitions were covered as well! About half the state received snow, including Lake Havasu City! I think half of the valley went out looking for snow yesterday! The Beeline was bumper to bumper in one place and I’m sure the Superstitions and Apache Trail were full of people too. I have so many photos from Tucson to the Grand Canyon of snow! It was certainly spectacular to see, especially the McDowell’s. I have never seen so much snow and so low on those mountains. With so many people on the road yesterday, I stayed away from the popular spots as not everyone knows how to drive in winter conditions.


      1. mrsbearfoot

        That’s pretty rare if Havasu City had snow! WOW! I’ll share these with Mike. He will enjoy them and will be envious that he didn’t see it for himself! 😀 Several years ago now, he was able to get snow images from on top of the Superstitions when we lived out there, up on Siphon Draw. (That’s a slick climb even on a normal day!)

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s