After escaping Mariposa’s snowmageddon, and spending a few days in Death Valley, Claudia and I decided to head for Zion. I’d never photographed Zion with snow, and snow was in the forecast. Well maybe. We drove there on a Monday, and it looked like some higher elevations could get a dusting of snow Monday night, followed by a more substantial storm, with colder temps, on Tuesday night. The question was whether it would be cold enough to snow on the floor of Zion Canyon. That seemed iffy, but odds were decent enough to make it worth trying.
We arrived just before sunset on Monday, with enough time to drive up into Zion Canyon before dark. While we’ve been to this park many times, it had been a long time since we’d visited the main Zion Canyon, because most of the year it’s only accessible by shuttle bus, which isn’t very conducive to photography. But during the winter (outside of holidays) you can drive in. And it was great to be back. It’s such a spectacular place.
The next morning we didn’t find any snow in Zion Canyon, so we drove up through the tunnel to higher elevations, where we found a dusting of fresh snow etching the red rocks, and some beautiful, red-stained icicles.
The following morning (Wednesday) there wasn’t any snow in Springdale, or even at the lower end of Zion Canyon, but we found a few inches of fresh snow in the upper canyon. And then we saw that the road was closed past Zion Lodge. Ugh! I learned from a maintenance worker that they were keeping the road closed while they plowed it and cleared the parking areas, and might reopen it later that day. (They didn’t.) I mean sheesh, it was only a few inches of slushy snow!
So I walked up the road, eventually going about two miles to a point past Weeping Rock. Occasionally I had to dodge the snowplow that was clearing the road, but otherwise had the area to myself. And I had a great time photographing snow-covered trees and snow-plastered red cliffs.
By that afternoon most of the snow had melted out of the trees in the canyon, so we went back up through the tunnel. The next morning the sun came out, creating some beautiful reflections in the Virgin River. And then we opted to head for warmer territory, and drove toward Valley of Fire. But it was so much fun visiting Zion Canyon again, and seeing it in the snow for the first time. Zion Canyon only gets about 16 inches of precipitation a year, and not much of that falls as snow, so we felt lucky to be there in such wintry conditions.
— Michael Frye
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.