View Full Version : Help Plan Zion/Bryce Trip

26-Jul-2016, 18:33
I'm planning a trip to Zion and Bryce the 2nd week of September. I'm flying in and out of Las Vegas. So far, I've allotted 3 nights for Zion and 2 for Bryce.

First, are there any other locations I should add to the trip (GC North Rim, Antelope Canyon, etc.)? I like to spend more time in a single location and less time driving around from place to place.

Second, for Zion, I'm planning one day for Observation Point, another for the Narrows, and the 3rd is open for suggestions. For Observation Point, I'm planning on taking a shuttle to the East Mesa Trail, so I have a flat walk to OP. Then I can walk down the canyon and pick up the regular shuttle. Is it wise to bring all my camera gear on the Narrows hike, since you'll be in the water for parts of it?

I'm still researching Bryce, but am thinking two day hikes and shooting the sunrise and sunset from the famous viewpoints. Maybe throw in some stargazing or night photography.

Lastly, does anyone have any special tips for photographing the rock, desert and stars? I want that warm red glow on the rocks, nothing flat, pale and lifeless.

I have yellow, orange, red and green filters for B&W. I also have a 2 stop soft GND, 3 stop hard GND, a 6 stop ND, and a polarizing filter.

David Karp
26-Jul-2016, 18:38
Green filter will darken the red rocks.

26-Jul-2016, 21:14
The Narrows is not to be missed. You will generally be better off with two hiking poles rather than one, for stability when fording the river - which you will do a lot. A dry bag is the best for gear protection, but I don't find that to be a workable setup. So I just put my gear in large ziplock bags in my pack - and hope I can get out of the water quickly before things get flooded should I fall (have not yet...). Be prepared to spend a lot of time packing and unpacking your gear (assuming here you are planning on shooting LF). For many shots you will want to set up in the river, and so you need to ferry things back and forth to the nearest spot on dry - or semi dry - land. In September you will need to take the shuttle, which makes it slightly tougher logistically. I normally visit Zion in late October or early November, at which point the water is cold enough to warrant renting some dry pants and neoprene socks from one of the local outfitters - but I think that may not be necessary in early September (?)

The East section has lots of places to explore.

Also in Zion, the Subway is spectacular, but the hike is a fairly tough, 9 mile (+/-) round trip. But well worth it if you are up for it. You'll need to allocate an entire day. The Kolob Canyon section (up I-15 a little ways) is nice - the Taylor Creek hike can be done in half a day.

As far as other locations to add to your trip - yeah, there are many of them. But with only a week and 2-3 days in each of Zion and Bryce, you probably don't have time this trip. Toroweap on the North Rim is well worth a trip sometime in the future. You'll need a high-clearance vehicle (4WD a plus) and camp for a night or two, but it is an unforgettable location. You could combine Toroweap, Coyote Buttes (assuming you get a permit) and Page/Antelope Canyon in another 1-week trip.

Hope this helps. Enjoy the trip!


27-Jul-2016, 10:10
Thanks for the suggestions. Should I get a warming filter (either an 81B or a Tiffen 812)?

Drew Wiley
27-Jul-2016, 11:28
Sept is still prime flashflood season, so be extremely cautious about entering slot canyons. Zion posts weather forecasts relative to its own Narrows. Remember,
rainfall can be a long ways away and shoot down those canyons at high speed. Otherwise, lower altitudes will still be hot in Sept. There are numerous mini-canyons in the upper elevations of Zion, plus some wonderful sights in the separate Kolob Canyons section, also a bit higher. Bryce and Cedar Breaks are high to begin with, so cooler. Hwy 12 drops down into the Escalante canyon just before Bryce; you might consider it as an alternative to a second day of Bryce, which is really more about a few overlooks anyway. Ruby's Inn is the conventional place to stay, unless you camp in Bryce itself or have Lodge reservations. If you're just considering black and white film, don't overthink it. You really don't have that much time to fuss around. I'd keep it simple and just take a medium green filter to darken red sandstone, and a med orange or light red to darken it. Both will darken skies. Remember that high altitude renders quite a bit of contrast to the shadows, so take a film with quite a bit of latitude. TMY400 is excellent if you carefully meter the shadows. Color photography can be tricky, so I won't comment much on that unless you also specify you're preferred color film. But for color I always take along an 81A for overcast skies, an 81C for deep blue shadows under open skies, and a light pink sky/UV filter for distant scenes or minor correction; but the correct flavor of the latter depends on the specific color film.
I you like chromes, avoid Velvia unless you're expert with it; subjects in that part of the world tend to be just too contrasty for it. If you prefer color neg film,
I recommend Ektar, but appropriately color-balanced with the aforementioned filters if needed. Don't expect glowing orange color in Bryce unless its either dawn
or late in the day, when it can really light up. For example, there is famous overlooks appropriately named Sunset Point. Overall, I think the Zion area has far more photographic opportunities than Bryce, though Bryce is fascinating to see if you've never been there before. Don't hike around anywhere without lot of water.

Drew Wiley
27-Jul-2016, 12:07
.... and I was gently hinting to forget grads and polarizers. Too little time combined with too much fuss to get those fad gadgets right. The less complication,
the better.

Bruce Watson
27-Jul-2016, 15:00
I'm planning a trip to Zion and Bryce the 2nd week of September. I'm flying in and out of Las Vegas. So far, I've allotted 3 nights for Zion and 2 for Bryce.

You're going to kick yourself for so little time. Last time I was in that area I spend an entire week in Zion and had to be dragged out kicking and screaming. Just sayin'.

My suggestion is that you pick one and really get to know it. You could spend years on the Colorado Plateau though. And it's all stunningly beautiful. Enjoy!

27-Jul-2016, 21:51
You're going to kick yourself for so little time. Last time I was in that area I spend an entire week in Zion and had to be dragged out kicking and screaming. Just sayin'.

My suggestion is that you pick one and really get to know it. You could spend years on the Colorado Plateau though. And it's all stunningly beautiful. Enjoy!

Unfortunately, I am somewhat late in booking reservations, so 3 nights is the most I could get in Zion. I have been checking daily though, and I was able to get one night at the Grand Canyon North Rim lodge. Is this worth all the driving it will take to get there (LV->GCNR->Bryce->Zion->LV)?

I now have one extra night that I can either spend in Page or Bryce. I favor staying longer in fewer places, so I'm leaning towards an extra day in Bryce. I could also use this day to go hiking around the Grand Escalante Staircase.

This makes the trip: 1 night GCNR, 3 nights Bryce, 3 nights Zion. What do people think? Should I bother with 1 night in GCNR?

27-Jul-2016, 22:25
You shouldn't need much time for Bryce. It is basically one road along the ridge. Does not require much scouting. Drive all the way south to the last/first overlook. Everything will be on the east side of the road. There is a nice meadow south of the entrance and the turnoff to Sunrise/Sunset Point(s). There is a few trails that lead down into the canyon. I did not take them as it was cold and they were icy. Summer should be crawling with people. So maybe shoot the sunrise of the points then in mid day go down into the canyon. Come back up and shoot the sunset. A full day but you will have covered most of it. I hit it in winter, and got chased out by 20" of snow. Stayed at the Bryce Canyon Resort just before the turnoff from Hwy 12. Inexpensive in the winter. Not much in the way of fine dining there either. What is here is expensive. Goes with the territory.

Kodachrome Basin State Park is about 30 minutes east/south of Bryce . Midday is not the time to go there. Sunrise or Sunset. It is not an all day adventure unless you are using LF and wait on the your shot. Just take a right on to Hwy 12 at Bryce and go to Cannonville then turn right. It is a few miles down the road. Consult your maps.

Between Bryce and Zion is a little place called Duck Creek in the Dixi Nat'l Forest.. It is on UT Hwy 14 off US Hwy 89. It is around 9000 ft and is mostly creeks and meadows. I have only seen it in the snow and can only imagine what is actually there. I would like to go back.

I wanted to keep going on Hwy 12 to Escalante-Staircase but the snow chased me away. I imagine your time is already consumed. I would put off Page, north rim, and antelope canyon for a separate trip. Monument valley is less than a half day drive from Page.

Have a great time.

Leszek Vogt
28-Jul-2016, 20:26
Bryce should be just right, but it will be quite toasty at Zion. I was in Zion first week of Nov ('14) and it was a perfect weather. I'd do GCNR. Escalante requires more time and often 4WD for less accessible spots (wonderful place, tho).

Good luck with your trip.


Drew Wiley
29-Jul-2016, 08:48
Nov is my favorite time of year in the main Zion canyon. Fall color, no crowds, comfortable, and flashfloods mostly over by then. But at the same time, it can be downright cold up on the rim. There have been times I've hiked from the bottom in a T-shirt and had to put on winter gear at the top because it was snowing. Likewise, I've backpacked into the upper canyons in Nov from the Kolob entrance, when it is hot during the day, but then the temperature down in those canyon would literally drop down around zero at night. You could collapse from heat exhaustion when the sun is beating down on you, or easily die of hypothermia at night without a very serious sleeping bag. No wonder that the remains of the Anasazi so routinely showed the effects of terrible arthritis.

29-Jul-2016, 12:44
Check out the YouTube videos by Ben Horne. He has travelled extensively through Zion and the Colorado Plateau with an 8x10 camera. Very nice videos showing various areas you will probably be going through.