Sunrise and Sunset in Zion

Clouds glowing pink, over red cliffs dusted with snow.
Sunset over Temples and Towers of the Virgin. This view is accessible from the Human History Museum patio.

NPS / Jesse Nelson

While the red cliffs surrounding Zion are impressive in every light, they are extraordinary in the warm hues of sunrise and sunset. This page is a guide for you to experience the park at these special times of day.


Viewing sunrise and sunset can be uniquely challenging—and rewarding—in Zion Canyon, as towering cliffs block much of the horizon. As such, you will likely be watching light and shadow illuminate the cliffs of Zion rather than watching the Sun crest the horizon.

Here are some easily accessible areas to view sunrise and sunset throughout Zion:
Sunset behind distant mountains, with a maze of canyons in the foreground.
Experiencing sunsets and sunsets in Zion Wilderness—such as this sunset along the West Rim Trail—can be a remote and beautiful experience.

NPS Photo


  • Human History Museum Patio (ADA accessible): Watch soft morning sunlight slowly creep onto the Temples and Towers. Come a few days after a Full Moon to watch the Moon set behind the cliffs as the Sun rises. Please do not walk on vegetation near the Human History Museum.

  • Canyon Overlook Trail: This is a moderate, 1 mi (1.6 km) round-trip trail on the East Side of Zion. At the end of the trail, you will have excellent views of sunlight beginning to enter Zion Canyon. Parking is extremely limited, so plan to come back another time if you cannot find a place to leave your car.

  • Lava Point Overlook: An expansive view overlooking the lower canyons of Zion, this overlook is located along the Kolob Terrace Road. Lava Point Overlook provides excellent views of the rising sun illuminating the plateaus and canyons that define Zion. Closes seasonally when snow falls. Check current conditions before you go.
Pink clouds and a crescent moon rest above red cliffs, with a river running through the foreground.
The Watchman just after sunset. Get this shot from a pedestrian bridge on the Pa'rus Trail. Don't stop in roads or on the Canyon Junction Bridge to photograph sunrise or sunset.

NPS / Serena Wurmser


  • Pa’rus Trail: A paved, 3.5 mile round-trip path next to the Virgin River. At sunset, the Pa’rus Trail provides phenomenal views of golden light illuminating the Watchman.

  • Timber Creek Overlook Parking Lot (ADA accessible): At the end of the Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive, this overlook provides excellent views of sunlight and shadow playing across the finger canyons of Kolob Canyons.

  • Lava Point Overlook: Not just for sunrise! Lava Point Overlook also provides excellent views of the setting sun illuminating the plateaus and canyons that define Zion. Closes seasonally when snow falls. Check current conditions before you go.

The backcountry of Zion has many beautiful and peaceful places to view sunrise and sunset. Read more about overnight backpacking permits in Zion.


Know Before You Go

Once you decide on a location to view sunrise and sunset, do not forget these actions:

  1. Pack a flashlight: If you are planning on doing any walk or hike to view the sunset, make sure to pack a headlamp or flashlight for use getting back to your destination.

  1. Check the shuttle schedule: If you are planning on enjoying sunset along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, please check the time of the last shuttle of the day.

  1. Stick to maintained tails: Although it is tempting to find different angles from which to view the sunrise and sunset, going off trail is harmful to the park’s vegetation and wildlife. Please stay on official park trails.


Warm sunlight illuminates orange cliffs, with a blue sky and a full moon.
Sunrise and moonset from the Temples and Towers viewpoint, on the patio of the Human History Museum.

NPS Photo

Planning Your Sunrise and Sunset Viewing

Sunset and sunrise times vary throughout the year, so make sure to search “Sun rise and set times in Springdale, UT” online before you arrive in Zion. These times will correspond with the moment that the top of the sun crests the horizon (sunrise) and the moment that the top of the sun dips below the horizon (sunset)... not the moment that the Sun rises/sets behind the cliffs of Zion Canyon. Plan accordingly.

If you are planning a hike on the Pa’rus Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail, or other trail of your choosing, make sure to allot time to hike before the sun rises or after it sets, and plan to begin/return after dark.

Generally, an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise offers the best lighting of the day.

A crescent moon and pink clouds rest above a cliff illuminated by red light.
Along the Pa’rus Trail, just after sunset.

NPS / Serena Wurmser

Stages of Twilight

In the 90 minutes after the Sun sets, the sky slowly bleeds from sunset to a starry night sky. Astronomers divide this time into three categories, each which takes about 30 minutes in Zion:

  • Civil twilight: This is the first 30 minutes after sunset. There is still enough fading light from the Sun to see your surroundings, and artificial light is not yet necessary. Only the brightest stars and planets (e.g. Jupiter, Venus) can be seen with the unaided eye.

  • Nautical twilight: Following civil twilight, the horizon is still visible against a deep blue sky. Simultaneously, many of the brightest stars are visible. This in-between when both the horizon and the stars are visible is ideal for navigating using the night sky, hence the name nautical twilight. In Zion, you will not yet be able to see the Milky Way, but a twilight sky studded with stars will be visible against the jagged cliffs of Zion Canyon.

  • Astronomical twilight: About an hour after the Sun sets, the night sky is almost entirely dark. To most eyes this is the moment when true night begins, but there is still a faint residual glow from the setting Sun along the western horizon. This is the period when fainter features of the night sky, including the Milky Way, appear.

Once the night sky reaches astronomical twilight, thousands of stars are visible from Zion. Take advantage of this incredible night sky by following the park’s stargazing suggestions!


Want to Learn More About the Night Sky in Zion?

A tree sits silhouetted by the night sky, with the Milky Way stretching across
Stargaze on Your Own

Read about Ranger tips for stargazing in Zion!

Visit other International Dark Sky Parks

See what night sky sites may be close to you!

A full moon above red cliffs
Learn about the Night Sky in the NPS

Explore the work that the NPS is doing to protect and preserve dark skies.

The Zion IDA sign, with blue cliffs, a deer in the foreground, and the purple IDA logo.
Lighting Projects in Zion

Read about what Zion is doing to protect our dark night skies.

Last updated: January 22, 2024

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Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


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