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If you want to know all about the best photo spots in Zion National Park, you’re in the right place!
I remember so vividly my first view of Zion National Park. It wasn’t on the main road leading into the park; instead, it was from the window of the airplane that was taking me to Zion.
At 32,000 feet above Utah, on the way to Las Vegas, I suddenly noticed an interesting texture in the ground below. Where there had been scrubby flat desert before, giant domes of rock suddenly rose out of the ground like bumps on a grip pad.
They were not mountains but the deep canyons and gleaming stone temples of Zion National Park.
At first, I didn’t know what I was seeing. It wasn’t until after we landed in Las Vegas and drove to the park that I realized the beauty within those canyons. The early Mormon settlers named this place after a Hebrew word for heaven, and Zion certainly lives up to its name.
In this article, we’re going to give you a rundown on the best photo spots in Zion National Park—from the intimate golden-red walls and rare, lacy waterfall of the Temple of Sinawava, to the soaring cliffs of Kolob Canyon Overlook and the impossibly narrow cracks in the earth that are the Narrows and Subway.
You’ll soar with the birds on Angel’s Landing, and catch the setting sun turning the rock walls to flame on the Canyon Overlook Trail. Photographing Zion National Park can’t be beat.
Best Photo Spots in Zion National Park
Have you ever dreamed of standing on a massive rock arch, looking out over a gorgeous canyon? If so, you’re in luck. The Canyon Overlook trail does just that.
Here, you’ll stand at a stunning vantage point looking into the depths of Zion Canyon, with the blue sky above, the emerald-green riverbanks below, and the ruby-red canyon walls soaring high above you.
You’ll feel like you’re flying, like you’ve soared high above the surrounding detritus of life. The sky will dye the distant canyon walls blue, and you’ll feel like you’ve been granted a vision very few mortals get to see.
To get to this serene spot, you’ll need to go for a little bit of a hike. The trail starts just inside the park entrance. The park shuttle doesn’t go here, so you’ll have to drive your own vehicle.
Parking tends to fill up early, especially during the summer months, so plan to get there in the early morning or late afternoon—which is, coincidentally, the best time to see the light turn the canyon walls golden, as well.
The trail itself is 1 mile to the overlook (so 2 miles both ways), and, although flat, can be quite rocky and tree-root-y at times. It’s also not for those with a fear of heights. Bring water.
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This serene series of little pools, reminiscent of the Seven Sacred Pools on Maui, couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the Canyon Overlook if they tried.
Where the Canyon Overlook is all about soaring, sweeping views, the Emerald Pool Trail delights in showing you a quiet, hidden beauty.
On this trail, you’ll see three separate pools, formed by a tributary of the Virgin River as it steps down the canyon walls: the beautiful Lower Pool, tucked gently in an amphitheater with a trickle of a waterfall running down one side. Moss, fed by the dripping water, hangs in veils, startlingly green against the sandstone wall.
The Middle Pool is directly above the Lower Pool and is probably the least spectacular of the three. It’s wide, sandy, shallow, and also not particularly “emerald”—more like smoky quartz. Though it’s mere feet from the lower pool as the crow flies, you will have to hike around the sheer cliff in between.
The view from here is nicer than the Lower Pool, with a better vantage point of the canyon, but it’s not what you’ll see at, say, Canyon Overlook or Scout’s Lookout.
From here on out, the trail turns rougher, rockier, and steeper—all to prepare you for the last, most beautiful pool. Where the waterfall for the Lower Emerald Pool has a quiet, misty beauty all on its own, the waterfall of the Upper Emerald Pool is nothing short of spectacular.
Here, the unnamed, slender stream that feeds the Emerald Pools gushes over the valley’s cliffs in a graceful arc of white foam that contrasts sharply with the red of the canyon walls. Surrounded by craggy boulders, the pool itself shines like the jewel that’s in its name.
For the Emerald Pools, any time of day is great for photographing them—though if you can get them while the sun is shining through the Lower Pool waterfall, it’s even better.
If you’re going to hike them at midday in the summer, though, bring water, sun protection, and salty snacks—the author collapsed from heat exhaustion on this trail as a teenager. The trail to the Upper Pool is moderately strenuous, the Middle Pool is moderate, and the Lower Pool is easy—nicely self-sorting.
Kolob Terrace Road
This is the less-visited corner of Zion, the side most tourists never quite get to see; however, it’s equal to, if not surpassing, Zion Canyon in beauty.
The three forks of the Kolob River cut deeply into the sandstone, carving out rose-gold sandstone walls that rise majestically into the air like buttresses on Mother Nature’s cathedral.
You’ll see the verdant green of the riparian woodlands below you, and the blue and white of the sky above. The beauty will bring tears to the eyes of even the most hardened grump.
As this is a drive-up photo op, there’s no need to explain the hiking trail—just show up, get out, and start clicking away. The best time of day is usually sunset, as the west-facing canyons catch the amber light of the setting sun, turning them to tongues of flame.
You can hike into the canyons for a closer look, but most of those trails are relatively difficult and hard to get to.
If you’ve heard of any photo op in Zion, it’s probably this. This death-defying sandstone fin just out precipitously into the canyon, rising to a narrow point that soars 1,500 feet above the canyon floor.
You’ll ascend the nail-biting path to the top, gripping steel chains as you traverse a steep sandstone ridge barely wider than a sidewalk, with a thousand-foot sheer drop on either side. Once you reach the peak, however, you’ll be treated to a jaw-dropping view.
The canyon unfolds like a storybook before you, impossibly deep and narrow.
You’ll see the tiny park road, with the shuttles almost directly beneath your feet looking like toys. You’ll see the massive sandstone walls of the canyon, a thousand times older than any city skyline. You’ll look out, in a place so named because only angels could land there, and know that this is what it must be like to fly.
Angels’ Landing is an extremely hard hike. It’s steep, rocky, exposed, and death-defying. Make sure you’re wearing good, solid hiking shoes, know what you’re doing, and have plenty of water. Oh yeah, and don’t trip.
It should go without saying that, although one of the best photo spots in Zion National Park, this is not a safe place for selfies. You should not want to back up to a thousand-plus-foot drop, and while you’re at it avoid leaning too far over the edge.
This is also a good trail to avoid in winter—the only thing scarier than walking on a narrow sandstone catwalk a thousand feet in the air (with no guardrails) is doing so on one that’s icy.
Those with more faint hearts, or common sense, should stop at Scout’s Lookout, the shoulder where the fin of Angels’ Landing connects to the wall of the canyon. The view here is nearly as impressive, and the work you put in for that view much less terrifying.
Both sites are at their best during the midmorning-midafternoon. As the sun slips down the sky, less and less light reaches the canyon bottom.
You might have seen pictures on the internet, when you search Zion National Park photography, of a narrow sandstone grotto with a misty ribbon of water dropping down its flame-red walls. No, this isn’t the Emerald Pools, and it’s a lot easier to get to—but the waterfall itself is a rare treat.
This lush little natural amphitheater is at the end of the Riverside Walk, an easy, 1-mile-long trail that leads to the start of Zion Canyon. In dry times, it looks much like the rest of the canyon—but after a rainstorm, a delicate little waterfall jumps down the cliff face, transforming this into one of the best photo spots in Zion National Park.
For taking photos here, you’ll probably want to wait until after a rain; however, if you’re planning on doing this and the Narrows in one trip (see below), waiting for rain might cause problems.
Just past the Temple of Sinawava, Zion Canyon becomes impossibly deep and slender, the frothing ribbon of the Virgin River gliding between soaring sandstone walls.
This is a slot canyon, where the sky can only be seen through the thin gap between the walls. With each step, the canyon unfolds before you, painting a new, picturesque view of the natural alley.
The Narrows are best at midday—you’ll be out of the heat, and you’ll get to see the rays of the sun reaching deep into the canyon, making the walls glow like coals. There’s no trail—you’ll be hiking in the river itself. Wear hiking shoes with good tread, and bring a hiking stick.
You’re obviously going to be getting quite wet here, so don’t wear your evening gown, and bring a waterproof camera. With the Narrows, there’s no starting or ending point to the hike—just go as far as you can before you turn around. Make sure you have the energy to make it back, though.
Court of the Patriarchs
This short little trail takes you to a good view of three gleaming sandstone outcroppings, named after the Biblical Patriarchs Abraham Issac, and Jacob. Their ivory tops slice into the sky like giant teeth, and the afternoon sun casts them with a golden glow.
And you’ll barely even have to get out of the park shuttle for this one; the trail is only two minutes to the view.
The Patriarchs look best in the late afternoon; once the rest of the valley is shrouded in shadow, the peaks of the Patriarchs will be catching the best light.
We’ve saved the best—and hardest to get to—for last.
This slot canyon is, simply put, not just one of the best photo spots in Zion National Park; it’s also one of the most beautiful places on earth. The canyon walls, their ruby-red sandstone stained by countless floods, are so narrow and steep they actually lean inwards, nearly forming a tunnel over your head.
You’ll come across turquoise pools sunk into the stone like jewels on a ring. You’ll climb down waterfalls and swim through pools. This hike is the biggest adventure you’ll find in Zion, and will give you the photos of a lifetime—if you’re prepared.
There are two main ways to hike the Subway: from the top down and from the bottom up. The top-down route is the more spectacular of the two, but also that much harder; it’s on the boundary between “hiking” and “canyoneering.”
You’ll have to rappel down (small!) waterfalls, clamber over bundles of debris blocking the canyon, and swim some stretches. Prepare to get cold, wet, and tired. This is not a trail for beginners, or those without route-finding experience; however, the reward in the form of the light dancing off the fluted sandstone walls is worth all the effort.
Those looking for a less extreme hike can start from the bottom of the canyon and work their way up. You’ll run into impassable obstacles going this way so you won’t be able to see the whole canyon, but you’ll at least be able to see one of the waterfalls and a bit of the curling Subway formation.
Whatever you do, do not do this if rain threatens. There is no escape from the awesome power of a flash flood as it hurtles through the narrow canyon walls. If you’re caught in a flood in the Subway, you are very unlikely to survive.
Make sure you wear sturdy shoes, have basic route-finding skills, are in good physical shape, and have water and emergency supplies—and, if you’re taking the top-down route, a good, sturdy rope.
This will take a full day to complete and is only recommended for advanced hikers with rappelling experience. A Wilderness Permit is needed to get here, which you can learn more about on the Zion website here.
Final Thoughts: Best Zion National Park Photo Spots
That’s the best photo spots in Zion National Park. Photographing Zion can be one of the most memorable experiences you’ll have in our national parks, and we hope we’ve provided you with a wonderful guide. Happy trails!
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