5 Reasons to Wake Up Early and Catch a Sunrise

Getting up at o-dark-thirty may not be the easiest thing you do all week, but it may be one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Ever go somewhere that you feel is so amazing, but the amount of people around and all of the talking and yelling takes away from it all? Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that more and more of our society is getting outdoors and enjoying nature. However, nothing quite compares to the feeling of an amazing place that takes your breath away when you can experience it with just a couple of buddies.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I stopped to visit the Fire Wave in Valley of Fire State Park. Since it was a state park that was outside of what I thought was one of the least appealing cities to the outdoors type, I figured it would not be very busy. However, when I made the short hike and walked up to the rock about an hour before sunset, I was greeted by about 15 other photographers. Now, this will never compare to the amount of photographers at the Canyon Junction Bridge in Zion National Park, or many other incredibly popular places, but for it's size, that was just too many. 

To make a long story short, I stuck it out, and ended up seeing the mediocre sunset, but I left disappointed. Not only did I leave without a good photo, but I left without something more important. That something more was a calm mind, relaxed after enjoying the sunset with a close buddy. I know for myself, and many others, we escape to the outdoors to get away from the real world. Away from the constant talking, the constant sound of our earbuds in, working away. Away from the stress of other people. And this is what I failed to escape that night. I was constantly on my toes, trying to make sure that I wasn't in anyone's way, listening to the constant yelling of "Get out of my way!", and a quick response of "Photoshop me out!".

However, my trip was long from over, and I decided to hit it again the next morning. I came back for sunrise to find exactly what I left behind. When I turned my alarm off at 3:15 AM and dragged myself out of bed, I knew this wasn't a moment I would soon regret. I shoved breakfast in my mouth as quickly as I could, and headed out into the night. I made the drive, threw on my headlamp, and began the short hike. A quick 20 minutes later, I was greeted by the same rock I had seen last night, except this time I was only greeted by the wind and the chirping birds waking up for the morning. No yelling, and no worrying about being in the way of others.

It only took about 10 minutes from the time I got there for the sky to begin lighting up. Every time I turned around, the sky was even more colorful. It was like every time I turned around, someone sneakily added a quick +10 to the saturation slider... This was no ordinary sunrise. The first person I saw that morning came through about a half hour after sunrise while I was packing up. This time, I was leaving with a full heart and a satisfied, cleared mind. I didn't know if the photos would turn out, but I was just happy to be outdoors enjoying the peace and quiet.

It is for this reason that I love sunrise. Sunrise never sees nearly the amount of people that sunsets do, and I am sure it is because the early wakeup call steers many away. However, don't let yourself be that person! With the warmer months coming quickly ahead of us, let me explain to you why it is worth it to catch as many sunrises as you can:

This is my image from that morning!

  • Serenity

As I explained in my story, the sunrise always sees far fewer people. If you're like me and you like getting outdoors to clear your mind and escape the stress of your daily life, you will like the serene environment that is provided with little to no other people out there. Nothing quite compares to being outdoors with just a buddy or two and not having to listen to anything but the blowing wind and chirping birds.

3:30 AM wakeup, kayaking on the lake during sunrise. Highly recommend!

  • Photographers: Less People!

For those of us photographers out there, sunrise means less people, which means better shooting conditions. There is a much lower chance that you'll have to fight for a spot to set up your tripod, or have someone sitting right in the center of your shot. With less people out there, you won't have to worry about asking someone to move, or getting in an argument over tripod territory.

3 AM wakeup, 4 miles of snowshoeing in the dark!

  • Early Start to the Day

How can you go wrong with an early start to the day? I have had days that I go out and shoot sunrise, and I am back home by 9 AM! That is early enough to go before class or work for many of us. Or, if you plan on exploring the rest of the day, you'll already be hitting the trail before all of the traffic comes. No matter which way you look at it, being up early is a win-win situation.

3:45 wakeup, 1.5 mile hike in the dark!

  • You Snooze, You Lose, Literally!

Ever opened Snapchat or Instagram after you wake up at 10 AM and see friends who went out to catch the sunrise and got surprised with an orange sky? You snooze, and you lose. Get up early every once in a while and go out and watch the sky. It might amaze you.

3:15 AM wakeup, 2 mile snowshoe in the dark!

  • Trade in Sleep for Memories

I can't stress this enough. Ten years down the road, are you going to remember the morning that you got 8 hours of sleep, or the morning you woke up tired at 3 AM, scrambled to the top of a peak, and watched the sky light up red with a good friend? Take a chance every once in a while, you might surprise yourself.

4 AM wakeup, 2 miles of snowshoeing in the dark!

Sunrise is a hard thing to predict. If you do get up and watch sunrises, you can agree with me that there is quite a few mornings that are just a pure bust. However, that one morning out of 10 that you get up and catch those awesome clouds lighting up the sky make everything worth it. If your goal in catching the sunrise is for awesome photos, cool Snapchat stories, or good Facebook posts, you're doing it all wrong and I guarantee you will leave disappointed at some point. Catch the sunrise because you want to take the chance of seeing something beautiful with your eyes, or because you want to get up early, or to spend some time clearing your mind. Catch the sunrise because it makes you feel alive. Like a smart man once said, "If you're feeling dead, you've got to do something that makes you feel alive."

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Austin JacksonExplorer

Photographer and adventurer living in Portland, Oregon. Contact: austinjamesjackson@hotmail.com