Zion National Park & Surroundings photography guide
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Zion is often the first national park visited by travelers making the so-called ‘Grand Circle’. It’s a spectacular introduction to the discovery of the Colorado Plateau and its national parks located in the ‘Four Corners’ states.
The park essentially consists of two parts: the Valley (or Canyon) and the Plateau; Zion Canyon is deeply cut (between 2,000 and 2,500 feet), which doesn’t make for easy photography due to the high contrast between the sunlit summits and the valley, the latter often plunged in deep shadow.
Arriving at Zion NP by way of the East Entrance can be exhilarating, since the views are particularly spectacular coming from Mt. Carmel. In addition, light is best in the morning at the main viewpoints of the Plateau.
Most popular Zion National Park & Surroundings photo spots
Zion Canyon is a must, as it packs a tremendous amount of scenic locations. There are the "no-brainers" requiring almost no walking: the Towers of the Virgin, Court of the Patriarchs, Photo Point, and the Temple of Sinawava.
For those willing to do a little walking I recommend Lower Emerald Pools.
For arduous hikes with sensational views head to Angels Landing and Observation Point.
And for the ultimate Zion Canyon you simply have to experience the Narrows.
Outside of the Canyon, The Subway ‘from the Bottom’ is a world-class photography location, but it requires a long hike and a permit. Time permitting, you should also drive the Zion Plateau to the East entrance.
In the vicinity of the Park, make a point of visiting the amazing Snow Canyon, and for the more advanturous try Yant Flat.
From late March to early November as well as weekends in November, a mandatory shuttle service is in place to reduce congestion and pollution in the Valley. The service runs smoothly and delivers you and your camera gear to the location of your choice in the Canyon. Shuttle schedules vary depending on the season and may be subject to change. Shuttles run from 6 am (from the Visitor Center) to 9:15 pm (from the Temple of Sinawava) with an average wait of 15 minutes or less during peak hours. The shuttle trip to the end of the canyon takes 45 minutes.
Note that the Visitor Center parking lot usually fills up by mid-morning. If that’s the case, you must park in Springdale and take a first shuttle from town to the Visitor Center.
If you are visiting by car outside the mandatory shuttle season, you can travel with the sun as it crosses the valley and harvest a great crop of photos.
If you travel by RV, note that there are some parking restrictions in the Valley. Also and you will need an escort to go through the tunnel on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway (aka Scenic Byway 9) leading to and from the Plateau.
There are no events that stand out as particularly photography-worthy in the park, but you'll find a list of events on the Zion National Park website and some of these might be worth a look if your visit coincides.
Zion National Park events calendar
Laurent Martres Curator
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