Zion National Park is a true treasure of the American West as one of the most geologically interesting landscapes in the world – thus making it a dream trip for photographers. Zion was the first National Park in Utah and offers excellent hiking, camping, backpacking, climbing and of course photography making it a popular summer vacation destination for both families and adventures – which is one of the reasons I like to travel there during the off-season – hehe. Spring and Fall are best for photography trips to Zion.
The geology of Zion Canyon is perplexing, beautiful, ancient and spectacular. There are about 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic aged sedimentation in this part of North America – an uplifted region known as the Colorado Plateau. The section that is most interesting in Zion and Kolob canyons area includes nine known exposed formations, all visible within Zion National Park. The Grand Staircase is a perfect example of this in that the formations exposed in the Zion and Kolob area were deposited in several different environments over the millennia that range from the warm shallow seas of the Kaibab and Moenkopi formations, streams and lakes of the Chinle, Moenave, and Kayenta formations to the large deserts of the Navajo and Temple Cap formations and dry, near-shore environments of the Carmel Formation.
Subsequent uplift of the Colorado Plateau slowly raised these formations much higher than where they were originally deposited. The faster moving streams took advantage of uplift created joints in the rocks to remove all Cenozoic aged formations and cut gorges in the plateaus. The Zion Narrows is a prime example of this geologic sculpting.
The Zion Narrows – otherwise known as the North Fork of the Virgin River is probably one of the most legendary canyons to hike in all of Zion National Park and Southern Utah and it ranks as one of the most spectacular canyons in the world. The Zion Narrows starts just upstream from the Temple of Sinawava (the end of the road up the main canyon). As the walls of the main canyon close around you forming one of the most majestic and dramatic sections of the canyon with beautiful dark corners as you trek up the Virgin River. The landscape photography opportunities here are limitless! The tall, dark canyons are full of beautiful flowing water and minimal sunlight reaching the canyon floor and many would argue that this is the slot canyon by which all others should be measured.
The Zion Narrows run for 16 miles at the narrowest part of Zion canyon and feature very deep gorges that can be over 2000 feet high while only 20 feet wide.
The narrows are incredible. Enjoy your hike, photography, the flowing water in the emerald pools, and the numerous unique weeping wall formations and natural springs that abound in the canyons. You might shoot through an entire memory card with just a day of walking up the Virgin River Narrows!
Russ Nordstrand is a professional landscape and wildlife photographer specializing in photography as fine artwork. His Fine Art Prints are hanging in homes, offices and private collections across the U.S and Canada and in many other countries throughout the world. Russ leads on average about 20 Photography Tours & Workshops each year to incredible destinations such as Yellowstone, Alaska, Glacier, Yosemite, Utah, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains and more. He also frequently writes articles on this blog on various photographic techniques, the art of composition, environmental concerns, photography and travel news as well as documenting recent adventures. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Russ has lived in the greater Rocky Mountain West since 1999 and currently resides in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona.