Sunset and Stargazing in Zion

sunset light on Bridge Mountain
Many Zion visitors like to stay for sunset, to catch some final photos of Zion’s cliffs glowing vivid neon orange in the late day sun. Then, as the last light fades from the sky, a steady stream of cars files out of the park, as visitors head home or on to their next destination. But for those few who stay later, or spend the night in one of Zion’s campgrounds, an entirely different and memorable Zion experience awaits: the dark night sky, filled with thousands of stars, above the jagged silhouette of cliffs.
 
stars and the Milky Way above The Watchman
Zion is a great place to re-connect with the night sky, or maybe even get your first view of the Milky Way. Zion protects this dark sky resource for future generations by not lighting up the night. But this means that after sunset, the park is dark! Be prepared!

Staying for sunset in the park? Interested in stargazing in Zion? Have a safe and enjoyable experience by following the tips below:

  • Don’t stop or stand in the roadway. Oncoming cars can’t see you in the fading light (and they are looking at the scenery too!) Use pullouts and parking lots.
  • Have a light. If you plan on walking away from your vehicle, every member of your group should have a personal light (headlamp or flashlight; don’t rely on your phone!) If you didn’t bring one with you, lights are available for purchase in many local stores and the park bookstore.
 
headlamp with red filter, and planisphere
  • Avoid shining lights in other peoples’ eyes—after one glimpse at a bright light it can take another 20 minutes for your eyes to re-adapt to the dark. Red lights are best for night vision—that’s why they are used by astronomers.
  • Bring a star chart or a planisphere to help you find the constellations, and maybe even a planet or two!
 
Sunset light on the Watchman, from the Pa'rus Trail
Sunset light on The Watchman, with the Virgin River in the foreground, is one of the most popular photos in the park. But be safe! Don't stand in the road or on the bridge for this shot--just take a short walk down the Pa'rus trail for a better (and safer!) view.

NPS photo/Cadence Chinle Cook

Good locations for sunset and stargazing:

--Head to the Museum patio for great sunset views of Bridge Mountain and the East Temple, with a wider view of the sky for observing the stars. Parking and restrooms available. This is also a great place for sunrise—just head around to the back patio for a view of the Temples and Towers in the morning light.

--Pa’rus Trail: A great way to enjoy the sunset is to take a stroll along the Pa’rus Trail. Stay safe by avoiding the busy road, and check out the views from this easy, paved path. The Pa’rus Trail is also a good option for a night walk—just make sure you have a reliable headlamp or flashlight! Other trails are not recommended for night hikes due to severe drop-offs, steep cliffs, and potential encounters with wildlife (think rattlesnakes & mountain lions…)

If you are camping in the park, great views of sunset, as well as the night sky, can be found at South and Watchman Campgrounds.


Remember, due to the topography of Zion Canyon, you won’t actually see the sun set from within the main canyon. Instead, you will see the warm colors of sunset on Zion’s already colorful cliffs --which many would say is even more stunning!
 
sunset light on the cliffs of Kolob
And on the west side of the park, the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint provides a different view-- At the end of the Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive, the majestic red cliffs of Kolob shine even brighter at sunset. This is also a good place for viewing the stars--look eastward toward the cliffs for the darkest skies.


More about dark skies and light pollution
See what Zion is doing to preserve starry skies, and how you can help
Return to Things To Do page

Last updated: July 27, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.
State Route 9

Springdale, UT 84767

Phone:

(435) 772-3256
Staffed daily from 9 am - 12 pm. Recorded information is available 24 hours a day. If you are unable to reach someone by phone, please email us at zion_park_information@nps.gov.

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