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BEST PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
(WITH MAPS AND PHOTOS)
Zion National Park is a photographer’s dream.
Here are my favorite photography locations and viewpoints in Zion National Park.
Plus, BONUS! Since, taking photos in Zion National Park can be tricky, read my tested techniques on how to take great photos in Zion.
Make sure to include Zion Scenic Drive in your itinerary! It is a cool way to see the beauty of the Zion Canyon!
BEST PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
CANYON JUNCTION BRIDGE –
THE BEST LOCATION IN ZION NATIONAL PARK TO PHOTOGRAPH THE WATCHMAN – MOST ICONIC VIEW IN ZION
Image Credit: NPS
The spot right at Canyon Junction Bridge is the one of best photography locations in Zion National Park to capture the Watchman Mountain with the Virgin River flowing below.
Hands down, it is the most iconic view of Zion National Park.
Canyon Junction Bridge is a very popular spot to photograph the Watchman at sunset.
Needless to say, expect plenty of company. There will be a lot of photographers waiting for a perfect shot of this stunning red-rock mountain.
So, make sure to arrive way before the sunset to secure your spot.
HOW TO TAKE GREAT PICTURES AT SUNSET IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
First of all, some of the best light will happen shortly after sunset, and it is known as the Golden Hour. The light is warmer and softer and there are no sharp shadows during the Golden Hour.
Second, make sure to use a long exposure selection on your camera.
How do you do a long exposure? Simply, turn your camera’s mode dial to Manual and use a slow shutter speed (5-30 seconds) for a longer exposure. Additionally, use your camera self-timer to take a photo.
Next, make sure to include a strong foreground in your photo to give it deep three-dimensional perspective.
Finally, use a wide angle lens.
The view of the Watchman in the background and the Virgin River in the foreground is made for wide angle shots!
Finally, Canyon Junction Bridge is a not a bad spot to catch some photos of the Milky Way with the Watchman and the Virgin River.
It is not an ideal spot, because you will get a lot of light coming from Springdale, but it will work.
HOW TO TAKE THE MILKY WAY AND NIGHTTIME PHOTOS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
First of all, be patient and practice. It takes time to capture the great images of Milky Way. And, it takes a lot of experimenting with the camera settings.
Follow these nighttime photography rules:
- Have the camera on manual mode on a sturdy tripod. Turn off image stabilization.
- Have a wide angle lens between 14mm to 24mm to get a good view of the Milky Way in the frame along with foreground.
- Set the aperture to the widest – at least f2.8, but if you have only the kit lens, use it at 18mm / f3.5.
- Start with the lowest ISO possible, about 1600. Depending on the result, you can decrease further or increase the ISO up to 3200, above which the image quality can start to deteriorate.
- Put your lens on manual focus and focus on the brightest star in the sky. Zoom in on live view and turn the focus ring till the star shows up as a bright point in the screen.
- Use the mirror lockup feature if using a DSLR to avoid blur due to camera movement.
- Calculate shutter speed based on one of the rules:
HOW TO GET TO CANYON JUNCTION BRIDGE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Canyon Junction Bridge is located near the intersection of Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (Hwy 9) and the Valley Road.
There is a parking area, however, parking is very limited.
What I like to do is take the shuttle and get off at the Visitor’s Center and then take Pa’rus Trail to Canyon Junction Bridge. It is a easy trail with little elevation change.
Specifically, it is 1.7 miles one way with awesome views along the way!
If the shuttle is fully operational, then take the shuttle and get off Canyon Junction – shuttle stop # 3.
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CANYON OVERLOOK –
ONE OF MY FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK TO GE THE PHOTO OF ZION CANYON
Image Credit: NPS
Canyon Overlook is the best viewpoint in Zion National Park to photograph the Zion Canyon with the switchbacks below the west end of the Mount Carmel Tunnel, West Temple, the Towers of the Virgins, the Streaked Wall, and the Beehives.
East Temple rises directly above the Overlook, towering more than 2,200 feet above the canyon floor.
The view is simply off the charts!
I have to say that you will get awesome phots at sunrise and sunset at Canyon Overlook.
However, Canyon Overlook is a great place to get some nighttime photos as well!
HOW TO GET TO CANYON OVERLOOK TRAILHEAD
The Canyon Overlook Trailhead is located on Highway 9, right by the east entrance to the Mount Carmel Tunnel. There is no shuttle service available is this area, so you will need to use your vehicle.
The parking area is located on the south side of the road, and the trailhead is across the street, on the north side of the road.
The hike from the trailhead to the Canyon Overlook is about 1-mile one-way. It is a moderate hike with some sharp however short inclines.
BEHIND ZION HUMAN HISTORY MUSEUM –
THE BEST PLACE TO PHOTOGRAPH THE TEMPLES AND TOWERS OF THE VIRGIN
Image Source: NPS
The Towers of the Virgin, the large collection of peaks, are best photographed from anywhere behind the Zion Human History Museum.
Starting from the left, you can see the West Temple. Next to it is the Sundial, and, then the Towers of the Virgin, followed by the Altar of Sacrifice.
Some visitors claim they can see the shrouded figure of the Virgin Mary on the face of the central peak.
It is said the this collection of peaks is best viewed early in the morning. However, sunsets could be quite spectacular at this location as well.
It is true that during the Golden Hour (right after sunset), the light is softer and takes on a warmer, more orange color temperature.
However, I like to linger on and stay a bit longer and wait for the Blue Hour. It is when the sun is at a significant depth below the horizon and the light takes on a blue shade.
It is not a set rule, but set the aperture to somewhere between around f/9 and f/14. Then, keep to ISO 100 or 200.
Finally the shutter speed should be about five seconds to let enough light in.
Above all, be patient and experiment.
HOW TO GET TO ZION HUMAN HISTORY MUSEUM TO PHOTOGRAPH THE TOWERS OF THE VIRGIN
The Zion Human History Museum is located inside the park, 1.5 miles north of the park’s South Entrance on the main park road, or 11 miles west from the park’s East Entrance.
Make sure to check out my post: how to get around in Zion National Park to help you navigate throughout the park.
If the shuttle is fully operational, you can take the shuttle and get off at Museum – Shuttle stop # 2.
THE COURT OF THE PATRIARCHS VIEWPOINT –
ONE OF THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK TO TAKE PHOTOS OF THE MOST INSPIRING LANDMARK IN ZION
The Court of the Patriarchs is the famous landmark that you should not miss and make sure that you photograph in Zion National Park.
The Court of the Patriarchs is a grouping of sandstone cliffs named after the biblical figures of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
My recommendation is that you take a short hike to that starts at the Shuttle stop # 4. It is not really much of the hike, but it will give you more elevation and an opportunity to take better pictures.
HOW TO GET TO THE COURT OF PATRIARCHS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
You can take the shuttle and get off at the Court of Patriarchs, which is shuttle stop # 4.
If the shuttle temporarily does not stop at # 4, then get off at stop # 5 and take a leisurely walk (south) to the Court of Patriarchs.
ANGELS LANDING –
THE MOST POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATION IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Angels Landing is probably the most popular photography location in Zion National Park.
If you are adventurous and fit for a strenuous hike then take Angels Landing Trail for the most iconic photographs of the Zion Canyon.
Even though it is a strenuous and a scary hike, it is one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park. With that being the case, do not expect any solitude on this hike. You will have plenty of company along the way. And, once you get to Angels Landing, you will have to wait in line to take some pictures.
However, it is all worth it! Hands down, the views at Angels Landing are awesome!
Angels Landing hike is not for people with the fear of heights. The last section of the trail is on the narrow spine of the mountain. You will have to use chains to help you up.
And, it is ok to complete your hike before the section with the chains. Trust me, you will still get some awesome pictures!
HOW TO GET TO ANGELS LANDING TRAILHEAD
If you are visiting the park between the months of March through October, then you will have to use the shuttle.
No private vehicles are allowed inside the park.
By the same token, shuttle is free. Your park entrance ticket covers the cost of the shuttle. The shuttle operates in Springdale, Utah, as well as inside the park.
To get to the start of Angels Landing Hike, get off at the Grotto, which is shuttle stop number 6.
OBSERVATION POINT –
THE TOP PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATION IN ZION NATIONAL PARK TO TAKE PHOTOS OF THE ENTIRE ZION CANYON
Hands down, Observation Point is the top spot to photograph the entire canyon in Zion National Park. However, it requires some hiking along Observation Point Trail.
If you are up for a strenuous hike, then you will be rewarded with the most stunning 360-degree views.
What I like about Observation Point Trail is that it is not as busy as the Angels Landing Trail. You will get to enjoy some peaceful moments on this trail, plus you will not have to wait in line to take some photos.
Once you get to Observation Point, you will be amazed by the views!
To your right will be the West Rim Trail and the inspiring Angels Landing.
A little farther down canyon you will be able to see the Three Patriarchs.
On the left will be the East Rim, Cable Mountain, Great White Throne.
Far down canyon, you will be able to see the Watchman.
And, right below you will be the valley with the Virgin River going around the Organ and the Angels Landing and forming the Big Bend.
HOW TO GET TO OBSERVATION POINT IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
If you are using the shuttle, then get off at Weeping Rock, which is shuttle stop number 7. Weeping Rock is the starting point for the Observation Point Trail.
The Observation Point Trail is 8 miles round-trip. It takes about four to six hours to hike from Weeping Rock trailhead to Observation Point and back.
Make sure to check out my post and get all the details.
THE ZION NARROWS –
THE MOST FAMOUS LOCATION TO PHOTOGRAPH IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
The Zion Narrows Trail in Zion National Park is no doubt the most famous location that needs to be on your list of places to photograph in Zion.
In addition, the Zion Narrows Trail is one of the most challenging spots to photograph. Why? Notably, you are hiking the Virgin River upstream.
The river is your trail!
And, yes, the water is cold and the current is strong. And, you are hiking in knee deep to sometimes waist deep water. The riverbed has sections of sand and sections of slippery rocks. So, you need to prepare, because it is a challenging location.
However, what is really neat about this trail, is that you are hiking in the canyon where in some areas the walls rise up to more than 1,000 feet, however they are only 20 feet apart.
Conversely, the rewards are great! You will see waterfalls, huge boulders, hidden canyons, hanging gardens, and so much more.
The Zion Narrows Trail is a very popular hike. You will have a lot of company along the way and it will be challenging to get any pictures without people in them. So, start early.
Next, make sure to buy a dry-bag to protect your camera and your valuables.
Finally, you need to have a hiking stick or hiking poles. The stones in the riverbed are slippery. In addition, it is hard to see the bottom of the river.
And, lastly, review my post to get all the details.
The photo opportunities along the Zion Narrows Trail are endless. You will end up with breathtaking photos!
HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THE ZION NARROWS
How to photograph the Zion Narrows? Honestly, just experiment and practice.
The following are just a few tips that might help you achieve the desired effect:
- Use HDR
Have you ever created HDR images? Well, the Zion Narrows is a good place to give it a try.
At the most basic level, an HDR photo consists of several photos taken at different exposure levels and then mashed together with software to create a better picture.
- Use Tripod
There is not much light in the canyon, so you will definitely need a tripod.
- Use Low ISO Setting
ISO refers to how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light.
A high ISO value (e.g. 800, 1600 or higher) means a high sensitivity to light. This helps in low-light situations where you need the camera to capture more light for a better-exposed image.
HOW TO GET TO THE ZION NARROWS TRAIL IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
The Zion Narrows Trailhead is located at North End of Riverside Walk. To get there, you will start at Temple of Sinawava and take Riverside Walk, and have your camera ready, because along the way, you will have plenty of photo opportunities.
You will get the best photo opportunities once you reach a section of the Zion Narrows called Wall Street.
Following are the distances between each section:
- Temple of Sinawava to Gateway to the Narrows – 1 mile
- Gateway to the Narrows to Mystery Falls – .5 mile
- Mystery Falls to Wall Street – 1.25 miles
EMARALD POOLS –
THE MOST SCENIC PLACE TO PHOTOGRAPH IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Emerald Pool Trail is an amazing trail where you can photograph three beautiful pools and (depending on the time of the year) two magnificent waterfalls.
What is really cool about this trail is that takes you right under the waterfalls along an alcove. And, you can take really awesome pictures of the waterfalls as they pour down into the pools.
HOW TO GET TO EMERALD POOLS TRAIL IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
The Emerald Pools Trailhead is located right next to Zion Lodge.
If you are taking the shuttle, then get off at shuttle stop # 5.
Next, cross the footbridge and continue on Emerald Pools Trail the trail along the Virgin River.
HOW TO TAKE GREAT PICTURES IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
- Zoom In on the Zion Canyon
It is ok to zoom in! I find myself always struggling with a need to include the entire panorama in every photo.
The Zion Canyon photography can be challenging and overwhelming because it is simply impossible to convey its sheer magnitude of the Zion Canyon in a single photo.
Being that, zoom in and capture the spectacular display of erosion. Or, peer over the edge and gasp in wonder and awe at the canyon below.
- Arrive Early to Photograph Sunrise or Sunset in Zion National Park
Arrive way before the sunrise or sunset to secure a good spot. It gets crowded at all the popular viewpoints especially in the summertime.
- Include Foreground, Middleground, and Background in Your Photos
The Zion Canyon is vast and getting a sense of scale can be a bit challenging. The best to overcome that hurdle is to find a strong foreground. For instance, try finding a tree, or a protruding rock. And, then work on focusing on middleground, and background to give your photo a nice 3-dimensional perspective.
Include people in your photos to give some sense of how big the place is.
- Bring a Tripod to Photograph Sunrise and Sunset in the Zion National Park
Having a tripod will help you minimize the risk of any movement while you are capturing longer exposures and allowing more light to enter the camera.
INTREPID SCOUT’S POINTERS FOR THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
- Do not expect any solitude at any of these photography locations in the Zion National Park. You will have plenty of company!
- If you plan on taking pictures at sunrise or sunset, then you need to plan accordingly. First of all, check sunrise and sunset times. Next, check the weather conditions. Finally, allow enough time to get to the best sunrise and sunset photography locations. My recommendation is to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunrise or sunset, just in time for the Golden Hour.
- It can be very cold in the morning even during summer months. So, make sure to dress warmly and dress in layers. Check the weather forecast as well. The weather can change within a few hours, so be prepared.
Also, to give you more ideas for some other great spots for photography locations check out my other posts:
A trip to Zion National is perfect paired with a side trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, or Canyonlands, Capitol Reef National Parks.
Check out my post: Zion to Bryce Canyon: 3-Day Adventure (with Maps and Photos)
Did you know that Utah has five national parks known as ‘The Mighty 5‘. Have you visited any of them? Which is your favorite Utah National Park?
- Arches National Park
- Bryce National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park, and
- Zion National Park
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