Zion National Park is beautiful year round. We visited in late January and early February in 2013 for the very first time. My family was heading to northern Utah from California for my nephew’s baptism. We broke up the trip and stayed in a hotel in Saint George, Utah. As I had never seen Zion National Park before, I left super early with my second oldest son, Jordan, to catch the morning sunrise before continuing our journey.
Watching the sun rise in Zion National Park
We arrived near the entrance to Zion National Park just as pink clouds dotted the sky.
Thankfully, most of the snow had melted. Zion National Park struck us with its beauty as soon as we entered the park.
I think that what I loved most about visiting Zion National Park in the wintertime was the stark contrast of the white branches on the trees against the deep red sandstone cliffs.
In addition to the contrast of the trees to the cliffs, Zion National Park had red roads to match the surrounding rocks which I also loved. My son and I headed straight into the park and stopped along the way to take photographs.
I loved seeing the morning sun illuminate the tops of the cliff formations.
Coming to Zion National Park in the wintertime had its perks
Unlike my later trip into the Narrows, which was full of hikers, long shuttle lines, and congestion, coming to Zion National Park early in the morning in the wintertime meant that my son and I pretty much had the park to ourselves. Private vehicles were permitted to enter directly into the park during the off season from November 30 through March 14 on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
This allowed us to easily drive around, park, and climb into the Virgin River to take some slow water shots uninterrupted.
Photographing soft water shots in the Virgin River in Zion National Park
While the son rose around us, the sheer sandstone cliffs provided a lovely soft, diffused light with which to take our photographs.
There were no harsh shadows to fight against.
Hiking in Zion National Park
After I finished photographing the bridge over the Virgin River at Zion National Park, Jordan and I headed up the hiking path to the Lower Emerald Pool Trail.
A still calmness filled the air as we hiked.
Everywhere I turned, an orange-red hue surrounded me.
Even the hiking trails were red!
Winter conditions graced Zion National Park when we visited
The closer we got to the Emerald Pool, the more ice and snow we found.
Thankfully we bundled up for the occasion.
Our trip ended too quickly in Zion National Park
As my son and I started heading back, the sun had crested over the cliff walls.
Once again, I stopped to photograph what I saw.
The white branches on the trees glistened like icicles in the dancing sunlight.
On our way back down the path, we passed the above rock formation. I couldn’t help but wonder how it formed and how it got there.
When we reached the end of our hike, the winter scene at Zion National Park reminded me of the magic of Christmas morning minus all the snow.
We drove to the turn around at the end of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and listened as the sun melted off giant chunks of ice from the cliff wall. The crashing sound reverberated in the canyon as it hit the earth below. Thankfully we stood at a distance. Mesmerized by the beauty and solitude, I knew I needed to return to be with the rest of my family. I also knew that I would be back as soon as I could.
Sunset at Zion National Park
After my nephew’s baptism and time with family in northern Utah, our family headed back down towards Saint George. This time we stayed with extended family in Hurricane, UT, much closer to Zion National Park.
As my time in Zion National Park was too short previously, I encouraged my family to take a small detour on our way home. We first drove through Kolob Canyon (I’ll post those photographs in a different post) and then headed into the entrance to Zion National Park.
This time we wanted to see the other side of the long tunnel. As we drove across the bridge over the Virgin River towards the tunnel, my heart skipped a beat and I begged Dave to stop the car. What I saw took my breath away.
There in the distance stood the rock formation called, “The Watchman,” fully illuminated by the setting sun.
Using my Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L Lens, I grabbed my tripod and clicked away. Magnificent shadows graced the distant landscape as the sun slowly set.
Thankfully my kids patiently entertained themselves while I got my photographs.
I soon headed back into the Virgin River for more soft water photographs
I decided to let my kids stretch their legs and so we hiked back down into the Virgin River, just past the bridge.
When we got down there, I set up my tripod to take some more slow water shots.
I found the coolest rock formation that had been hollowed out slowly by the flowing river.
After taking some water photographs, I hiked back up to our car.
We gathered the kids, watched the sun set a little bit lower and then loaded up for our trip through the tunnel.
The other part of Zion National Park proved to be equally beautiful, though the landscape was quite different. As the sun was almost gone, we hiked part of the Canyon Overlook Trail and then called it a night.
After seeing this magnificent display of nature, it is no wonder that it is a National Park. I hope you can visit one day. Thanks for reading and sharing my adventures with me!
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