Colorado Plateau Photo Odyssey 18: Zion

Zion SP13-160

After driving through the Four Corners area and northeastern Arizona, then passing by Lake Powell and through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, I arrived at Zion National Park. Zion is a fairly large park, but the main attraction is the canyon, similar in terms of depth and impressiveness to the canyon that makes up Yosemite Valley, only narrower, with walls of white, orange, and beige sandstone instead of sculpted gray granite of the Sierras. Zion canyon is the Yosemite valley of the desert. The map of it looks like this:

From April to October, passenger vehicles are not allowed to drive into the canyon. You have to take a shuttle. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. The principle advantages is it takes aways the traffic altogether. And let’s face it: it is the traffic primarily which makes popular national parks seem so crowded during the busy seasons. The primary disadvantage is that you can’t get into the canyon for early morning shots without either walking or riding a bicycle, because the shuttles don’t leave early enough.

I set up camp at the Watchman campground:

Then I boarded a shuttle and rode all the way to the end of the canyon. From thence I began making my way back, stopping to get various shots of the canyon and the sandstone monoliths rising above it:

In the evening, I tried to shoot The Watchman from the shores of the Virgin River:

In the morning, I went to shoot the sunrise at the Towers of the Virgin, which is in an unrestricted portion of the canyon, not far from the campgrounds. It was an entirely cloudless morning, which had a negative impact on what I could get:

From Towers of the Virgin, I made a brief foray into the canyon to photograph the three Patriarchs as seen from the Virgin River. The harsh sunlight didn’t make it an easier to get these shots:

I returned to camp to take down my tent and vacate my campsite. Then, parking at the Visitor Center, I made one last trek into the canyon to get a few more shots, starting with The Narrows, which is place toward the far end of the canyon, where the walls come together to form a narrow chasm through which only the Virgin River can fit:

And a few more shots of other areas in the canyon bathed in harsh noon sunshine:

It was crowded at Zion Canyon that Friday afternoon. To escape the crowds, I ventured forth to a much less well known section of the park, which I will describe in my next post: Kolob Canyons.