Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fall Colors in Zion National Park

In October of last fall I made a week long trip to Zion National Park in Utah.  Zion, is a fantastic park I have visited several times and really like the hikes and photography opportunities.  I had planned the trip to be a good week for fall color (or so I hoped).  It was going to be the week of the full moon so I did not have a lot of hope for night images with only the last two nights of the trip having much of a chance where I would have just an hour or two between dark and the moonrise. I also hoped to really have a good day in the Narrows.  I even had a plan to do one night up at Bryce at the start of the trip to see what I might get there before spending the rest of the week in Zion. 

So with those ideas in mind I was off to the park.

My flight was supposed to leave DFW at 9am but because of unexpected delays and problems we did not leave Dallas until almost 4pm.  By the time we got to Las Vegas, got my rental car, and I was driving out of Viva Las Vegas the sun was setting.  OK, things are not going as planned.  No way I am making it to Bryce.  So I scratched that off my list and headed for St. George, UT.  I probably could have made Zion but I did not have a reservation and I was afraid of not finding any open tent sites.

The next morning, I was up early but there were no images to tempt me so I made a stop for a weeks worth of groceries and some last minute items and then made the short drive up to Springdale.  It was still early in the day and it was overcast.  I stopped in at Oscar's there in Springdale for breakfast.  Oscar's is my favorite place to eat in town and they do a pretty good Tex-Mex style menu.  That is really saying something too as outside of Texas and New Mexico it is tough to find good Mexican or Tex-Mex food.  After a good filling meal it was off to the park to check out the fall colors and wait until I could get into my tent site.

I decided to go look at the east side of the park.  This way I could be in my own vehicle and not have to take the shuttle.  It was the last day of the shuttle system for the season and I knew I would be able to drive my own vehicle into the canyon the next morning.  I like the shuttle but knew I could run on my schedule and was looking forward to getting an early start on a few mornings.  Little did I know then that Mon and Tues would be so full in the valley they would turn the shuttle back on.  That actually turned out to be a good thing as Tuesday in the Valley was a gridlock mess as every parking spot was taken and cars were stretched out along the road in a vain quest for a spot.

But on Sunday it was time to check the park out.

Go up through the tunnel and the road then goes up through slick rock country.  The road follows Clear Creek up toward Checkerboard Mesa.  There are several turnouts along the road and each offers an easy walk into the creek bed and the chance to explore the rocks and area there.  This is a great way to see fall color and experience Zion as you are rarely more than 100 yards from the road.  Note, if it looks like rain or is raining, this is a place to avoid as it will flash flood.  The slick rock will funnel all the rain and it can be very deadly very quickly.  So be smart about canyons and avoid them with any chance of rain.


The overcast sky began to break up and I got some times with some good backlight on the trees, which had some great color in them.  

After a few hours of exploring the area I was able to go back and get my campsite and then go off to look for sunset images.  I had a few I hoped to get and hoped to see some possibilities for a few more.

Over the course of the week I was able to spend a couple of days in the canyon and a couple of days on the east side of the park.  I caught some great fall color and managed to even get a few nice images.

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