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.
1 mile round trip
200 feet elevation gain
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.
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.
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.
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.
It then heads under the rock before continuing up some more stairs.
From here the trail is mostly over and it just heads straight over a flat path until it drops you at the observation point.
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.
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.
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.
If you are looking for a great spot for sunrise or just a fun hike in general then check out the Overlook Trail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many people came and went during this time but there was never more the 15 people at the arch with us, it was fantastic.
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.
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…
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 most amazing sunrises I have ever seen and it was overcast when I was there. But make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, Mesa Arch is remote, popular and requires planning. Here is all the info:
You need to get there pre-dawn in order to get a chance to get a good spot. I have seen as many as 2 dozen photographers here at first light and the arch is tiny
It is about a 10 minute walk so make sure to have a headlamp if you will be there in the dark.
Bring a tripod
Wide angle lens is a must to capture the full arch
I was staying at the Motel 6 in Moab and planned on a 50 minute drive to get to the trail head. Add to this a 10 minute walk and wanting to get there early to claim a spot and I ended up leaving an hour and a half before sunrise.
The drive to the trailhead was anticlimactic in the dark, but make sure to watch out for deer and cows on the road as they are windy so you can’t see very far ahead of you. When we got to the trailhead there were a few other cars in the lot. We set out on the trail and while it is relatively easy to follow be sure to look for the worn sections so you do not get off of at the wrong area. Here is a photo of the light levels when I got set up
Ten minutes later we were at the arch and there were only two other photographers. I claimed a spot with my tripod and waited for the light to start. 20 minutes later the entire area was full of photographers and there were no spots to set up your tripod. Here is a photo:
I sat next to my 20 new friends for the next 45 minutes as the light started to come up. Like I said, I had claimed a spot and with so many people there was not a lot of opportunity to move around and get other shots. Towards the end of sunrise though people started to leave so I left my spot and wandered around getting a few different angles.
I would say that you want to use the app Photographer Ephemeris and plan where the sun will be coming up so that you can grab a spot with the sun slightly off-center like the above photo.
All in all I was happy with the spot and got a few photos I am proud of. Even with the mayhem that is photographing sunrise at this spot I still highly recommend it if you are a budding photographer. It has earned its title of best sunrise in the South West and it is probably the most beautiful I have ever seen as well.
Zion National Park is pretty much perfect in the winter time, the views are spectacular, you can drive yourself without the shuttle and there is 10% of the normal amount…
Zion National Park is pretty much perfect in the winter time, the views are spectacular, you can drive yourself without the shuttle and there is 10% of the normal amount of people. I got an opportunity to spend three days in the park last winter and here are my recommendations for what you should do and where you should go for photography.
$20 for park entrance but I recommend just buying a year pass for all National Parks for $80
The Stops / Parking Areas
This area is where the visitors center is and where the short loop to see the Watchmen mountains are. It is a good winter hike and if you are feeling hungry or thirsty there is a brew pub / restaurant here as well.
From this stop you can visit the museum and see the famous Alter of Sacrifice Mountain. This mountain really is crazy to see as it does look like there is blood that has stained the rocks.
The parking here can be difficult as this is a really popular area for photographing the sunset in the park. The main view is on the bridge looking back at the Watchman but you can see a lot of the other mountains around too. I would recommend coming here for sunset if you are a photographer.
Court of the Patriarchs
This quick stop has a few hikes, but during the winter it is just a great place to get out and take some pictures. The mountains that ascend on both sides of you and the river that flows through the middle provide a perfect backdrop for beautiful photos.
This is a great place to stay as it is the only place you can stay in the park. It is also the stop for the incredibly popular Emerald Pools Trail. The Lower Emerald Pools can be closed in the winter though so if it is then go up one more stop to the Grotto where you can hike the Kayenta Trail and reach the pools where they are not closed.
This is the most popular parking area in Zion during the winter and because of that it can be hard to find a spot. This is the trailhead you will leave from if you choose to hike Angels Landing. I would honestly recommend that you don’t do this in the winter if you are not prepared though as it is really sketchy, I did it in the summer and it was sketchy enough without snow and ice on the ground. The Kayenta Trail though is a fantastic trail that I highly recommend in the winter, it has beautiful views and takes you to the Emerald Pools. Read more about it here.
This short hike is a nice, easy winter hike. It will take you up to the famous rock that drips water like it is crying. This is also the trailhead for the Observation Point hike which is popular but can be hard in the winter.
This stop is mostly for photographs as there are only a few places to park, but it really does make you feel like you are in a canyon and the views are stunning.
Temple of Sinawava
As the last stop in the park this is a good place to take the easy river walk trail. It will take you all the way to end of the Narrows Trail which is a fantastic spot in hike in the summer and provides a lot of beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
If you want a nice easy way to see a spectacular view then the Overlook Trail, which is above the park, is a good choice. From here you can see the Zion Canyon itself and get a taste of the snow since it is higher in elevation.
Where to See the Sunrise
Overlook Canyon Trail that I wrote about above is the best place in the park for sunrise, mostly due to the incredible payoff and view for the ease of access. The view with the sun rising behind you and warming up the canyon in front of you is something you will not soon forget and an amazing place for photography.
Where to See the Sunset
There are so many good spots for sunset, but for me I prefer the bridge near Canyon Junction as it has a great composition with the river running below you and Watchman in the distance. There are also a bunch of other mountains that you can see around you as well.
Where to Stay
There is a lodge in the park, but I like the Driftwood Lodge in town. The rooms here are massive with a living area and a large patio. Plus, the views are great and the price is as well during the winter.
Where to Eat
You won’t find all of the traditional chain companies here which is a plus, so here are my recommendations for food and coffee.
For coffee the main spot in the area is Deep Creek Coffee Company. It’s in a small little building but the coffee is great.
For breakfast I really like Oscar’s. They have a unique menu with fun things like M&M pancakes and Corn Flake Crusted French Toast. Oscars is one of the most popular spots for all meals in the area though so it could be a wait.
For lunch it is hard to beat Brew Pub, one because it is the closest meal to the park, which you will surely be in the middle of exploring and two because they make their own beer on the property. Also, the location / view is hard to beat. You can always grab food at the market and take it into the park with you if you prefer though.
For dinner I like to keep it simple so I usually grab a pizza at Flying Monkey. The pizza has a Neapolitan style with light cheese and a lot of sauce. I like the crust a lot as well since the pizza is cooked in a wood fire oven. Also, you can go to Oscar’s which I wrote about above and which has really good Mexican / American food for dinner.
So there you have it, my recommendation for how to spend some time in the park. Let me know what I left off in the comments.
Often overlooked in Bryce Canyon National Park, Mossy Cave is East of the main entrance, but it is a great little hike to a very unique cave, especially in the…
Often overlooked in Bryce Canyon National Park, Mossy Cave is East of the main entrance, but it is a great little hike to a very unique cave, especially in the winter. The cave has a series of hanging icicles that makes it like something you would expect to see in Alaska, not in Utah. Here is all the info:
.8 miles round trip
200 feet of elevation
Not a lot of parking and trailhead and no sign from the road
After heading out of Bryce you will turn right on Highway 12 and from there proceed 4 miles till you reach the base of the hill you are going down. You will see the parking area on the right, do not that this area can jump out at you as there are no signs from the road but if you are generally watching for four miles then you will see it.
After parking there is a small pit toilet and the trial heads out from behind it. I went during the winter and since it is not a very popular area we had to pretty much make the trail ourselves.
The trail heads up over a small hill and you can see a few tiny rock arches in the distance. From there it crosses a bridge and then hugs the river until it crosses a second bridge.
From here it heads up a series of short switchbacks and at the top of the switchbacks you can go left to the cave or right to the waterfall, both are close so go to both.
Since it was in the winter and there was no trail blazed, I am not sure if this trail went longer or not but we walked about 50 feet and saw a small waterfall flowing. In the distance though was a snow waterfall which was more impressive as you can see above.
After leaving the waterfall you will head up the other part of the path to the cave. About 300 feet from the split you will reach the platform that you view the cave from.
During the winter this cave is amazing as it has water that flows from inside of it and the water freezes so that it forms a bunch of icicles hanging in the cave.
I had never seen a cave like this before and it reminded me of something you would see in Alaska or something, it was really cool. After that you will just head back down the way you came, completing the almost one full mile.
I recommend checking out this area in the park if you go as it is a nice little hike with an awesome winter payoff. You can read about my time at Bryce Canyon here if you are interested as well.
If you are looking for one of the best winter hikes in Zion National Park that most people in the family could do, then look no further then the Kayenta…
If you are looking for one of the best winter hikes in Zion National Park that most people in the family could do, then look no further then the Kayenta Trail. This hike takes you along ridges, down to the Emerald Pools and up to a tall snow waterfall (depending on the season). Here is all the info:
200 feet of elevation
Bring traction devices such as Yaktrax if it is icy.
Location: Grotto Parking Area
In the summer you will need to ride the shuttle to the Grotto stop, during the winter you can drive up to the small parking lot, then assuming you are able to find a spot, you are good to go.
The trail starts when you cross the bridge over the river. Once you get across the bridge you will spilt to the left as the right goes to Angels Landing. The trail then starts to climb up a set of switchbacks for the next tenth of a mile.
As soon as you start to gain elevation you get a good understanding of how beautiful this area is as you have large drop offs on your left and a beautiful river flowing below.
I was shocked by how awesome the views were here. I couldn’t stop taking pictures as each turn was better then the last.
The trail continues for about .75 miles then it starts to head back into the area where the Emerald Pools are located.
About .15 miles from there you will see a split in the trail where right leads to the upper pools and left leads to the lower. I recommend heading to the lower first as there is a set of stairs that will take you back to a connect with a trail to the upper after.
Lower Emerald Pools
This area is incredibly beautiful as you see the water flowing over a few small waterfalls as it cascades down to the river below. You can walk around the trail itself which takes you into a cutout of the rock and allows you to walk behind the waterfalls which is epic.
When you are done with the Lower Pools you will want to head back to the stairs and take them up to where it connects with the original trail again.
The trail then continues upwards and gains elevation until it is above the lower pools you saw earlier.
You will then have a small river crossing which you can see above. This river feeds the small waterfall below.
Don’t go too fast on this trail though as it has amazing views back towards Zion Canyon.
Upper Emerald Pool
The Upper Emerald Pool is even better than the lower as it has a 200 foot waterfall that cascades down to the pool below. The waterfall was snow when I went which was beautiful. It was amazing to just sit here and watch the snow cascade down to the frozen pool.
Since it was winter there was no one else enjoying the view with us which is amazing in and of itself. I recommend taking a panorama with your smart phone so you can capture it all in one photo.
As you can see this is an amazing hike that you won’t believe until you see it yourself. I highly recommend that you add this to your list if you are in the area, especially during the winter.