There are many locations to watch sunrise at Zion National Park. Keep in mind the best sunrise photography at Zion happens when the stone structures glow from the golden hour light.
Use this list of sunrise tips and photo spots along with our Zion National Park travel guide to plan your vacation itinerary.
Located in southwestern Utah, you’ll find stunning landscapes to photograph at Zion National Park like dramatic cliffs, emerald pools, winding rivers, and unique stone structures.
We live only a few hours away from Zion so we can visit often! The tips we share are based on our experiences taking sunrise, sunset, and night photos over the years.
Check out this list of the best places for Zion National Park sunrise photography, camera gear you’ll need to pack, and recommended places to stay near Zion.
Be sure to grab a copy of our Camera Gear Checklist so you’re prepared with the right equipment for taking sunrise photos. You can get a free printable by clicking the graphic below!
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Camera Gear for Zion National Park Photography
- Travel tripod
- Camera backpack: protect your camera from sand, dust, and water
- Neutral density filter: to compensate for variance of light you’ll need to use a neutral density filter. → Check out the Kase magnetic filters we use!
- Camera cleaning kit: remove dust or water that WILL get on your lens. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor.
- Memory cards: purchase name brand memory cards since you’re trusting your images to the card! → We use Lexar and Sandisk!
- External hard drive: copy photos to a portable external hard drive ‘just in case’.
- Headlamp: use when taking sunrise and sunset photos!
A Photo Tour of Zion National Park
Take a visual tour through Zion National Park to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!
Things To Know Before Visiting Zion
Before visiting Zion National Park you’ll need to know if the shuttle running when you’ll be there. If it is then you’ll have limited access to sunrise and sunset photography at the locations in Zion Canyon.
If your Zion vacation is in the spring, summer or fall when the Zion National Park shuttle is running, don’t worry. You can still get nice morning or late afternoon photos at the locations in the canyon.
To help you plan, we’ve indicated the “location” for each photo spot below. If it’s in Zion Canyon, then it’s only accessible using the shuttle during shuttle season.
Map of Zion Photo Spots
CLICK the link to access the Zion National Park photos spots Google Map with the pinned locations.
Tips for Taking Zion National Park Sunrise Photos
Here are a few sunrise photography tips to help you capture amazing images at Zion:
- Take advantage of the compositions provided by moving to different viewpoints of the formations.
- Use a sturdy tripod to maximize clarity and sharpness, and to expand creative possibilities.
- From a tripod: ISO 100, Aperture F/11 – F/13, adjust shutter speed to accommodate changing light conditions.
- Handheld: set shutter speed to twice the value of your lens focal length (ex. Lens focal length of 24mm = 1/50 shutter speed). Aperture F/11 – F/13, adjust ISO to accommodate shutter speed.
- Expose for the bright sunlit areas.
Check out these awesome SUNRISE AND SUNSET PRESETS at ETSY!
Sunrise Spots in Zion National Park
This Zion National Park Photography Guide outlines the best locations in the park to capture the glow on the landscape as the sun rises. Watch for the first rays of light to illuminate the tops of the cliffs!
Towers of the Virgin at Sunrise
Photograph the Towers of the Virgin on the patio behind the Zion Human History Museum. This is a popular spot for sunrise so we recommend getting there early so you can get a spot!
We like to be there well before sunrise to photograph the blue hour light before sunrise.
Then we capture the golden hour light as it shines on the towers.
If you wait long enough after sunrise, the light will illuminate most of the Tower of the Virgin rock face… and you could get the area to yourself!
After that, we like to move to the side and front of the museum to photograph the nice morning light on the tops of the canyon walls!
Use a variety of basic photography techniques to walk around and capture different compositions. We found a cool foreground element near the side patio!
Sunrise at Canyon Overlook Trail
We love photographing sunrise at the end of the Canyon Overlook Trail. It’s a short, easy Zion National Park hike with a stunning view of the main canyon with first light hitting the East Temple just above!
If you get there early enough, you can capture light trails as the cars drive along the switchbacks below.
Start your hike an hour before sunrise so you’ll be at the overlook in time to
capture the glow on the tops of the mountains across the valley. You’ll need a headlamp for the first part of the hike.
The trailhead is located behind the ranger traffic booth on the north side of the road. There are spots along this 1 mile round-trip trail with steep drop offs.
Canyon Overlook is a good location to get a wide angle photo to show the entire canyon! And it works well to capture a vertical orientation image too.
We find it’s always windy up there and gets chilly in the spring, fall, and definitely winter so be prepared with layers!
Mt. Carmel Road Switchbacks in the Early Morning
For sunrise and morning photography, drive from Zion Canyon and climb the switchbacks toward the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. The pullouts along the switchbacks on this Zion National Park scenic drive provide wonderful sunrise photography views to capture the light on the tops of the cliffs.
Early morning you won’t have as much traffic on the road making it easier to find an open pullout.
The switchbacks and turns along this road also make it a great spot to capture light trail photos! Be careful taking pictures in the dark, especially if you’re parked on a blind curve.
Three Patriarchs Morning Photography
The Three Patriarchs area is a terrific location for morning photography. There are quite a few ways to photograph this area.
Walk along the service road toward the buildings and you’ll see a dirt path to the right. Walk along that trail for a short distance until you come to the bridge. This is a great spot to photograph the river, waterfalls, bridge and Three Patriarchs.
There’s also a path that goes along the river. You can find many opportunities to
photograph reflections of the Three Patriarchs in the river. As you can see, we enjoy taking Zion National Park winter photos!
And finally, the view from the short overlook hike on the opposite side of the road from the river provides a different vantage point as well. But this is a better spot for sunset at Zion National Park when there’s light on the tops of the patriarchs.
Click the graphic below to get a copy of the Zion National Park Photo Spots Checklist!
Plan Your Vacation To Zion National Park
- Zion National Park Itinerary
- Zion National Park Packing List
- Best Time to Visit Zion National Park
- Zion National Park Activities
- Zion National Park Tours
Where to Stay Near Zion National Park
You definitely want to stay in Springdale which borders the entrance to Zion.
- Places to Stay at Zion National Park
- Camping in Zion National Park
- RV Parks near Zion National Park
- Holiday Inn Express – our favorite place to stay with an outdoor pool and amenities you’d find in a high end hotel
- Zion Lodge – we haven’t had a chance to stay here yet, but you can’t go wrong staying right IN the park!
- Under Canvas Zion – if you want to experience a less crowded part of Zion, this is the place! It’s in the Kolob section of the park.
- Vacation Rentals in Springdale – you’ll want to stay in Springdale so you’re close to the park entrance and can walk to shopping and restaurants.