Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Canyon Overlook Trail at Sunrise: Zion National Park

Over the winter I got the opportunity to spend a few days in Zion National Park, you can read all about the parks best attractions here. During that time I…

Over the winter I got the opportunity to spend a few days in Zion National Park, you can read all about the parks best attractions here. During that time I was determined to find the best spot for sunrise and after a few attempts I finally went to Canyon Overlook Trail, which is clearly my favorite spot for sunrise in the park. Here is all the details so you can see / photograph it yourself.

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Details

  • 1 mile round trip
  • 200 feet elevation gain

Getting There

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From Springdale I would recommend leaving about an hour before sunrise. It takes 20 minutes to drive to the spot and another 20 to hike to the viewpoint, plus you want to make sure you are there early enough set up. After driving up and out of the East entrance to Zion National Park you will pass a long tunnel, immediately after the tunnel there is a small parking lot on the right where you will park for the hike.

The Hike

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From the parking lot you will cross the street and then immediately head up a series of steps. Be sure to bring traction devices if you do this in the snow or ice.

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The trail flattens out and the hugs a cliff side for the next .15 miles. This area has a decent drop but there is a guard rail beside you for most of the way.

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The trail then heads across a platform that was built into the rock wall itself and that allows you to pass what would normally have been a sketchy area.

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It then heads under the rock before continuing up some more stairs.

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From here the trail is mostly over and it just heads straight over a flat path until it drops you at the observation point.

Canyon Overlook

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The payoff for how easy this hike is immense. The views of the canyon itself and the road you took to get up are stunning.

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When you see the first light come over the hill behind you and hit the mountains in front of you it will take your breath away. Here is what it looks like about 45 minutes after first light too.

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It was incredibly windy and cold when I went so it wasn’t great for waiting around but I had a lot of fun and saw only 4-5 other people the entire time.

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If you are looking for a great spot for sunrise or just a fun hike in general then check out the Overlook Trail. 

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Panoramic Point in Kings Canyon National Park at Sunrise

At a quick 5-10 minute drive from Grant Grove, this viewpoint is one of the best places to stare down into Kings Canyon from above and one of the best places…

At a quick 5-10 minute drive from Grant Grove, this viewpoint is one of the best places to stare down into Kings Canyon from above and one of the best places to see and photograph the sunrise. I got the opportunity to spend some time here recently and here is everything you need to know about sunrise at Panoramic Point.

Details

  • Two mile drive uphill and a less than .5 mile hike to the lookout point
  • Arrive around 30 minutes before the sunrise is scheduled so that you can hike and set up

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The drive itself is one and a half lanes most of the way, but at sunrise there is never much traffic so you shouldn’t have much issue getting to the top. Do watch out for deer and bears though, we saw a lot of deer and one small bear while driving up.

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From the parking lot you will take the short paved road and follow the signs for Panoramic Point. The path is a gradual uphill but it is not very difficult, when you reach the first plaque you can set up here or proceed uphill.

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Personally, I would recommend proceeding uphill to the area near the second plaque as this area has a better view of Hume Lake below so it adds some contrast to the sea of trees.

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After setting up you will just be waiting for the sun to start doing its thing. I like to take pictures before, during and after so that you can see the progression of the light.

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Here are a few photos from my time up there, I mostly shot with a 24-105 lens and loved being able to have the zoom range that it provided to craft my shots. I had a wide angle with me as well but it took away from the view.

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As you can see this is a fantastic place for sunrise, it is one of the better ones I have seen on my travels in California and I can easily say that it is worth the effort to set your alarm and get out of bed. Heck, you might even make a new friend while heading down the path.

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If you have another spot you like for sunrise be sure let me know and read more about my time in this National Park at my other blog CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com.

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Delicate Arch at Sunrise: Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is probably one of the most well-known attractions in any park in the United States. I would put it up there near Half Dome and Devils Tower as…

Delicate Arch is probably one of the most well-known attractions in any park in the United States. I would put it up there near Half Dome and Devils Tower as one of those spots everyone has seen, even if they don’t know where they saw it at. I got a chance to check it out myself and I have to say it should be on everyone’s bucket list as it is even more amazing in person. That being said it can be busy and I would recommend visiting at sunrise to miss the rush. I sat at the arch with 15 other people on a busy 4th of July weekend and on the way down after sunrise I passed 150 people coming up the trail. Here is all the info if you want to do what I did.

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Details

  • Need to get to the trailhead about 45 minutes before sunrise as it is a 1.5 mile hike with 500 feet of elevation
  • Small parking lot so early is better to get parking
  • Bring a headlamp

Sunset is the popular time at this attraction and it is easy to see why, the colors dance all over the arch. Sunrise is not as majestic, but you have fewer people so it can be more relaxing to experience, especially if you are not a professional photographer.

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I was staying at the Motel 6 in Moab so I checked Google Maps the night before and realized it would take about 45 minutes to get to the arch parking lot in the morning. Knowing that it was a 1.5 mile uphill climb I left about an hour and a half before sunrise. I was in the parking lot walking towards the arch in the pre dawn light. It was a full moon so I didn’t need a headlamp but you should bring one just in case.

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The hike to the arch this early in the morning is not too memorable as you are just trying to get to the destination. It does head over single track most of the way, then you are just walking up a large sandstone slab towards the end, be sure to follow the cairns in this section.

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Once at the top of this hill you will proceed through small trees and brush till you reach a small slab of trail that hugs the side of a mountain.

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From here do not forget to make it up to frame arch, which is a perfect spot to view Delicate from as it is framed within the arch. It requires a small scramble but you can see it from the trail.

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After this you will proceed around the last bend and see the first view of Delicate Arch. This view will probably take your breath away as it is awe-inspiring. 

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In the predawn light the arch is beautiful as it is still fully shaded. As the sun goes up it will slowly light the arch up from the top down. I stayed for the entire lighting process and just sat at its feet taking it all in. 

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Many people came and went during this time but there was never more the 15 people at the arch with us, it was fantastic. 

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After that we proceeded down the hill and like I said, passed over 150 people, including two tour buses full of tourists. I cannot stress more how amazing it is to be here for sunrise and even though the light is not as good as sunset fantastic, the experience of fewer people at this famous spot is not to be missed. 

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Mesa Arch at Sunrise: Canyonlands National Park

If you are reading this, then you probably know how insanely popular Mesa Arch is as a sunrise spot. This is for good reason, as it is one of the…

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Horseshoe Bend at Sunrise: Grand Canyon’s Famous Bend

Let me just say that Horseshoe Bend is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I have been blessed to the opportunity to visit Taj Mahal, the pyramids…

Let me just say that Horseshoe Bend is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I have been blessed to the opportunity to visit Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt and many of the great wonders of the world but Horseshoe Bend can compare with the best of them. It is one of those spots that you just see and cannot believe it is real. You should have it on your bucket list. I would also recommend seeing it at sunrise as well for two reasons. 1. You will be pretty much by yourself. 2. The light is not shadowing any of the canyon so you can take amazing photos with a tripod. Here is all of the info so you can do it yourself.

Main Details

  • .75 mile hike that takes about 15 minutes
  • 10 minute drive from Page, AZ
  • Bring a wide-angle lens

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I decided to leave about an hour before sunrise from Page, AZ. It was a ten minute drive to the trailhead and there were only 2 other cars, both of which looked like they had people sleeping in them. We set out on the trail which is all in sand and is up and over one hill then down to the viewpoint. It took about 15 minutes because the sand makes it slower going.

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When we arrived at Horseshoe Bend we were the only people there. I set up right in the middle with my tripod and just sat there in awe as I fired away pictures with every change of light. Here is the first photo I took.

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The bend itself was perfect at this time as there were no shadows in the early morning light, so everything lit up well.  About 10 minutes later we were joined by a few other people but it was never more than 10 viewing the sunrise with us. 

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We even got to watch a young man propose to his girlfriend in the beautiful sunrise light, and I got the chance to photograph them after it was over. We sat at the bend for around an hour and a half until the sun was fully up. Once the sun is up the bend becomes much harder to shoot as the light can make hard contrasts. 

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I also saw a small boat and a tent down on the water / beach below. I guess you can boat into the bend and stay, which sounds like it would fantastic and a unique adventure for sure. Be sure to bring a wide-angle lens so you can get fun photos like this.

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After photographing for an hour and a half I packed up my stuff and headed back to the car to get a nap in before visiting Antelope Canyon. All I can say is that you really need to go to Horseshoe Bend for sunrise, the lighting is perfect and you will be able to see this amazing place all by yourself. It is worth losing a few hours of sleep over.

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Niagara Falls in 24 Hours

Niagara Falls straddles the border between the USA and Canada, and it is one of the biggest natural attractions visited in each country. I have seen a lot of waterfalls…

Niagara Falls straddles the border between the USA and Canada, and it is one of the biggest natural attractions visited in each country. I have seen a lot of waterfalls in my life, but it’s hard to think of one more impressive than Niagara Falls. Sure it’s a touristy spot, but that doesn’t make the flow any less impressive. I spent 24 hours exploring the city and created an itinerary that you can follow along with below. Let me know if I left off one of your favorite spots in the comments.

This post assumes you will be arriving either the night before or early morning. There is an FAQ at the end with information about the different sides of the falls.

9 AM – Maid of the Mist

No visit to the falls is complete without a ride on the iconic boat that takes you close. I recommend getting there when they open and taking the first or second boat that leaves. This attraction is really popular, and you can’t schedule a time in advance, so getting there early and getting it out of the way is your best bet.

The ride to the falls and back only takes about 20 minutes, so it is quick. It is a lot of fun though, and you will get wet from the mist coming off the falls, even with the poncho they provide.

Pro Tip: Everyone wants to stand on top of the boat, but for photos, it can be better to be on the bottom in the front.

When you finish your time on the boat, walk up the stairs they have built right next to the waterfall to get close to the American Falls. Also, be sure to walk out on the observation deck which is at the top of the elevator and included with your ticket purchase.

10 AM – Luna Island

After leaving the Maid of the Mist area, walk through the state park which provides many views of the falls below. Cross the pedestrian bridge to continue towards Cave of the Winds, but before going there, follow the signs for Luna Island.

This small “island” is almost entirely a viewing platform, but the views are directly down the waterfall itself, and they are amazing. This is one of my favorite viewing spots on the US side.

10:30 AM – Cave of the Winds

After leaving Luna Island, you are a short 5-minute walk from the ticket area for Cave of the Winds. Cave of the Winds is a set of stairs and platforms right below the American Falls and which is only open during the summer. A ticket purchase gets you a pair of sandal and a poncho to wear so you can keep a little dry. You will not be dry by the end though, especially if you go to the hurricane deck.

This spot is really fun to explore as it gives you a great vantage point for the American Falls. The highlight is the Hurricane Deck though where you are almost directly under one of the falls, and you get soaking wet.

After exploring Cave of the Winds, head back up to the ticket area and then head left to go to the observation deck for Horseshoe Falls from the American side.

This view is not super impressive when you compare it to the Candian, but it is worth seeing since you are in the area. After this, I would recommend getting changed and grabbing some lunch before crossing the border into Canada for the afternoon. be sure you bring your passports.

1 PM – Rainbow Bridge

Following lunch, you can drive or walk over to the Canadian side of the falls by crossing the Rainbow Bridge. The crossing was smooth both ways when we went since we were not staying more than a few hours on the Canadian side.

After crossing, you can drive up near the casinos and find a parking lot. Parking prices range from $7 to $20 if you want to park close to the falls. Also, you can just park in the lot for Skylon Tower if you want as it is in an excellent location. It does usually cost $15 though.

2 PM – Walking the Falls Overlook

After finding parking, head down to the long walkway that goes along Niagara Parkway and that provides amazing views of the falls.

I recommend walking the whole thing and taking your time as it is awe-inspiring to see it from many different angles.

You can even walk up close to where the water goes over Horsetail Falls which is fun.

5 PM – Tower

When you finish walking along the pathway, make your up to the large tower that looks like the Seattle Space Needle. This is a great observation deck that gives some excellent views of the falls. It does cost $18 though to ride up, but if you have a zoom lens it’s an epic photo spot.

The elevator will take you up to a deck at 160 feet which has a 360-degree view. There is even a restaurant up here if you want to grab something to eat. It is pricey though.

This is a great spot for sunset too if you want to stay up here for longer or come up later.

Dinner – Smoke’s Poutinerie

When you are done near the falls and observation tower, I recommend trying Canada’s famous dish poutine. There is a good spot about a mile away called Smoke’s Poutinerie, but there are a lot of other restaurants around as well.

Smoke’s has a dozen or so different styles of poutine, which is essentially fries with gravy and cheese curds (plus other assorted toppings). Don’t knock it till you try it though its great.

Falls at Night

After dinner, consider walking/driving back down to see the falls again at night as they are lit up.

I thought it would be lame, but it was actually cool to see them like this.

10 PM – Fireworks

If you are staying late, then watch the fireworks show that happens every day over the American Falls at 10 PM. It is only 5-10 minutes long, but it is fun to see. Do note that it doesn’t happen if it’s windy or if it is raining.

Video

Here is a video I made showing all of these.

That’s the end of the recommendations I have for 24 hours in Niagara Falls. Be sure to let me know what I left off and good job making the most of your time in this fun city.

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