PHOTOGRAPHY IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
2. What are some good spots for photography?
EVERYWHERE is a good spot for photography in Zion! No seriously, I mean it. I can't think of any spot in Zion that isn't photogenic or interesting in the right light. Wander around, explore, and be willing to hike a little bit, and you are sure to find photographic opportunities from majestic viewpoints to smaller-scale subjects like sandstone textures and delicate plantlife. The suggestions below are only starting points.
2a. Common spots to catch sunrises/sunsets:
- The Towers of the Virgin from behind the Zion Human History Museum (sunrise). This is a common and convenient spot to catch sunrise; behind the museum, you can get a great view of the famous Towers of the Virgin in first light. You will typically be sharing this spot with several other photographers.
|Altar of Sacrifice in early morning light.|
- Canyon Junction (sunset). The view from the automobile bridge at Canyon Junction is absolutely iconic. Unfortunately, due to overwhelming popularity and lack of parking and room to stand on the bridge, this spot is now banned to pedestrians as of 2022. (Boo!!!) But you can still find somewhat comparable views along the shores of the Virgin River and along the nearby Pa'rus Trail.
- The Canyon Overlook Trail viewpoint (sunrise). A pre-dawn drive to the Upper East Canyon and a quick hike gives you a great view down into the main canyon with first light hitting the East Temple just above. Of course this viewpoint is beautiful any time of day, especially when the clouds are putting on a good show!
|Canyon Overlook on a wonderful cloud day!|
- The Kolob Canyons viewpoint (sunset). Late afternoon is a great time to drive to the end of the Kolob Canyons Road in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park for a glorious panoramic view of the Kolob Finger Canyons. The view from the parking lot is one of the best in the park; no hiking is required.
|Sunset makes the sandstone colors glow at Shuntavi Butte.|
- Upper East Canyon (sunrise, sunset). Route 9 weaves through the glorious slickrock wonderland of the Upper East Canyon and there are several safe spots to pull over and park and easily explore the nearby sandstone formations. Scope out a location and make it your own in early or late dramatic light! (Light fades quickly after sunset, so bring a headlamp to make sure you can easily find your way back to your car.)
|Mystical hoodoo catching the final rays of evening light.|
|"Cliffdiver!" This is one of the more famous roadside pinyon pine/hoodoo landmarks.|
- Kolob Terrace Road (sunset). The Kolob Terrace Road passes through some beautiful scenery as it ascends from the lower desert elevations to Lava Point (the highest point in Zion National Park). Many of the large sandstone formations (especially between the Left Fork Trailhead and the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead) are most dramatic in the late afternoon sun. Scope out the area and you are likely to find a spot that appeals to you. Be warned that there are a few private insets of land within the park boundaries, so please obey any "no trespassing" signs.
|"Put a Needle on the Record!"|
2b. Photogenic landmarks and hikes:
- In the main canyon, landmarks like Weeping Rock and easy hikes along the Emerald Pools Trail and Riverside Walk offer great views of lush vegetation and flowing water with the backdrop of majestic sandstone walls. Note that the waterfalls along the Emerald Pools Trail only flow at full blast during the spring runoff (April-May) and heavy rainstorms.
|Lower Emerald Pools during a rainstorm.|
- Wandering along the banks of the Virgin River between the Zion Lodge and the Temple of Sinawava may also be interesting for photography at any time of day. Between Weeping Rock and Big Bend, you can catch iconic views of the Great White Throne and Angels Landing from below.
|Datura flowers in front of the Great White Throne.|
|Angels Landing surrounded by a halo of storm clouds.|
- Checkerboard Mesa in the Upper East Canyon is another famous Zion landmark. Along Route 9 close to the East Entrance is a large parking and viewing area to accommodate tourists and photographers. If you want to walk along the road to the base of the formation, please be careful and step aside from traffic as there isn't a lot of room to walk along the road.
|"Joyride through Wonderland."|
- For hiking photographers looking for iconic viewpoints, the hikes to Angels Landing and Observation Point offer stunning panoramic views. Both trails are fairly strenuous and involve a lot of uphill hiking, but the hard work is definitely worth it. The final spur hike to Angels Landing is exposed and involves holding on to chains in several sections, so this hike isn't a good idea for those who are out of shape or don't feel very balanced on their feet.
|Angels Landing "Step of Faith."|
- Just off of the main Observation Point Trail/East Rim Trail is the less-popular spur trail to Hidden Canyon which offers more intimate canyon scenery after you make it past the exposed and intimidating approach. (Sadly the lower East Rim Trail and Hidden Canyon Trail have been closed since 2019 due to a large rockfall. There is hope that these trails may open up again in a few years...)
|Reflective pothole at the mouth of Hidden Canyon.|
- The Zion Narrows is one of the signature hikes in Zion National Park. With beautiful emerald water flowing through dark alcoves and beautifully patterned sandstone walls, this is a wonderful place for photography for those who are prepared to get wet and have adequate protection for their camera gear (discussed later on this page).
|Bam! Magical light and color in the upper Zion Narrows.|
- The Subway (the Left Fork of North Creek). A few decades ago, this remote canyon was known by only a few, but it is now one of the most popular canyon hikes in Zion, offering iconic views for photographers. Aside from securing a permit for this strenuous hike, logistics of carspots, rappelling, swimming, and keeping camera equipment dry make this a challenging adventure. For those who want to forego the rappelling and swimming, the hike can be done from the bottom-up, but you will only see half of the beautiful "subway" formations.
|Every color of the rainbow in the lower Subway.|
- In the Kolob Section, two photogenic landmarks of note are the Double-Arch Alcove along the Taylor Creek Trail (Middle Fork of Taylor Creek) and the Kolob Arch, accessible via the La Verkin Creek Trail. Note that the Kolob Arch faces east, so the best time to catch the arch in direct sunlight is the morning. As this is a fairly long hike, starting very early or doing this as an overnight hike might be useful for photography.
|Looking up at the Kolob Arch.|
In 1980, the National Park Service printed a useful little photographic hints pamphlet that is now out of print. (Special thanks to Jeff S. for finding and scanning this great old document!) For more hiking ideas, please see my Recommended Hikes and Even More Hikes pages for detailed information on exploring Zion by foot. Do not limit yourself to being a photographer who only shoots a few feet away from his or her car!