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The Best Sunrises In Utah

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Utah is a state full of natural beauty. If you’re a fan of sunrises, like me, then this list of the best sunrises in Utah is absolutely perfect for you. From well known locals like Arches National Park, to some more unusual spots, you’ll be able to find a sunrise on your trip. In fact, you could even make a whole road trip from this list! So read on, pick your favorites, or just follow the road trip at the end to see them all!

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Devil’s Garden at Arches National Park

Arches National Park is largely known for its namesake arches. Surprising, huh? In particular Delicate Arch gets a ton of attention, which is fully warranted but also troublesome. The sheer traffic it gets makes it extremely difficult to get a picture any time of day, let alone at sunset or sunrise. For my purposes, when I did a summer day at Arches National Park I opted for a quieter spot to see sunrise.

Golden light shining onto Landscape Arch

Devil’s Garden is a beautiful place to catch the sunrise in Utah. The main trail is an easy hike that will take you past two arches and stops at the longest arch in the park. Landscape Arch is your ultimate destination for sunrise because it catches the early morning light perfectly. Golden hour mixed with the brilliant orange stone is a sight to see. However, you’ll definitely want to stop along the trail as well. It looks out over the vast plateau that comprises most of Arches and is perfect for watching the sun rise over the horizon. If you’ve got the time, a wonderful time-lapse can be shot in the Devil’s Garden.

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Dead Horse Point State Park

This is truly the best sunrise in Utah. Dead Horse Point State Park is, honestly, a gem of a park that is bypassed for its larger national cousin just down the road. While most people will be flocking to Canyonlands National Park and Mesa Arch, you can grab a quiet moment here. Camping is available nearby, making it a breeze to catch this gorgeous sunrise.

There are so many fantastic places to catch the morning light

Before coming to Dead Horse I had heard it called the “mini-Grand Canyon”. Frankly, that description is almost perfect. The canyon is carved by the same mighty Colorado River and stretches for miles. The light will rise behind the best views of the canyon, meaning you’ll have a little extra time for photography. Use this opportunity to grab a couple different angles. I promise, you really don’t want to miss the sunrise here.

Bryce Point at Bryce Canyon National Park

From James Ian at Travel Collecting

Bryce Point is one of the best places to see the sunrise in Bryce Canyon National Park.  The park is centered around the Bruce Amphitheater – a bowl-shaped canyon filled with the hoodoos (sandstone spires) that the national park is famous for.  As the first rays of sun light up the mass of hoodoos, the glow a fantastical golden orange.  It is one of the most incredible sights you will ever see.  You can reach Bryce Canyon by car or on foot.  It is the end point of the rim trail, an easy, paved path that follows along the top of the rim, and is one of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park

The amazing hoodoos from Bryce Point at Sunrise

After the sunrise, continue along the rim trail to other scenic outlooks including Inspiration Point and Sunrise Point (both also have amazing views of Bryce Amphitheater that are especially lovely on the early morning light.) Afterwards, have breakfast at the lodge, then head down into the canyon – the Queens Garden-Navajo loop trail is highly recommended.  Walking among the hoodoos and seeing them towering above you gives you a whole new appreciation for them.

The most common way to access Bruce Canyon National Park is by car from Las Vegas.  It is common to combine visiting the park with the nearby Zion National Park.  Bryce Point can be visited all year round.  It gets very snowy in winter, but is especially pretty when the hoodoos are covered in snow.

Lake Powell

From Megan Johnson at Red Around the World

Lake Powell is an underrated Utah road trip stop.  At least the north end near Bullfrog Marina is.  The best way to experience Lake Powell is going to either be by houseboat (you can rent them at Bullfrog Marina) or by powerboat and camping.  There is no bad time to visit Lake Powell, but there are some things to take into consideration.  Spring is usually pretty windy and the water is too cold to swim.  Summer is super hot but good for swimming but is the busiest.  July and August can be stormy thanks to Monsoon season.  Fall weather is perfect, the water is still warm enough to swim, and it’s less crowded.  Winter is the least busy but it will be a lot cooler and too cold to swim.  

Sunrise is a great time for catching reflections off of Lake Powell

No hiking is required but you can if you’re beached at a good spot where you can hike up a little higher.  There are a million places to beach a boat and they change with the lake level, so just keep an eye out while you’re boating around.  This is an unbeatable place to watch the sunrise in Utah because it’s such a unique landscape.  You have the towering canyon walls that will be glowing gold in the sun with the glassy water reflecting them below. 

After you watch the sunrise, get out and explore the surrounding canyons!  Some of the best things to see in the Bullfrog (North Lake Powell) area are the Defiance House Ruins in Forgotten Canyon, Smith Fork, Annie’s Crack, Good Hope Bay, Halls Creek Bay, Lost Eden, Iceberg Canyon, Cathedral in the Desert, and even Rainbow Bridge (though this is pretty far south.)

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park

From Nicole LaBarge at American SW Obsessed

If you are planning to visit Canyonlands National Park in Utah there is one thing you cannot miss – watching the sunrise at Mesa Arch.

Mesa Arch is located in the Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. Visiting Mesa Arch at sunrise is an amazing experience if you are a morning person but well worth it even with the early wake up!

Mesa Arch is a popular destination and one of the best sunrises in Utah
Mesa Arch is a popular sunrise destination!

If you are staying in Moab, you will need to leave at least 90 minutes before sunrise as it is a 60 minute drive to the National Park and then a 10 minute walk to the arch. If you are planning to photograph the sunrise you will need to arrive even earlier and set up your tripod to save your spot. Photographing sunrise at Mesa Arch is very popular.

Remember to bring your flashlight as you will be arriving before sunrise and it will be dark and the path is rocky and uneven so make sure to bring a flashlight. The hike is really easy and its quick to get to Mesa Arch. Just make sure you watch out for uneven footing on the trail.

During sunrise, you will see the sun hitting the arch and the entire arch turns from yellow to orange to looking on fire. Its beautiful!

Monument Valley

From Noel Morata at Travel Photo Discovery

One of the most spectacular sunrise to witness in Utah is in the spectacular landscape and park of Monument Valley. You can view sunrise over the mountains and desert from the camp grounds and visitors center which overlooks an expansive valley view of the park and major monuments in view. It is a spectacular scene with the sun creeping up behind some of the massive mountains and lighting up the valley floor of Monument Valley and then lighting up many of the monuments on the floor.

Monument Valley is definitely one of the best sunrises in Utah
First light at Monument Valley

It really is stunning to witness first light on the valley and then seeing things slowly open up with more views of the park. Staying at the hotel or campsite right in the park allows you extra time to set up and find a perfect spot for viewing, although it’s not hard to find any spot to show you some of the wonderful views you’ll see unfold before you.

Once the sun comes out, you can explore the area early before the park actually opens up for tourists to visit the area and enjoy some free time to explore on your own. For more inspiration to planning a trip to the park, check out my post on visiting Monument Valley here for more inspiration and images to visiting the park

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The Watchman and Virgin River at Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of the most popular in the country and for good reason. Its environs are all spectacular and that includes during sunrise. I think that the hike along the Virgin River provides the perfect opportuntity to enjoy the beauty of Zion at Sunrise.

The trail begins just inside the park. While you’ll be getting there early to see the sunrise, be prepared to potentially be in line to get into the park. Zion is immensely popular, so if you’re looking for solitude, it could be hard to find. That being said, the beauty of sunrise along this hike can make up for it.

Zion National Park features an amazing place on the best sunrises in Utah
Cool blues at sunrise over The Watchman and the Virgin River

Following along the Virgin River, you’ll come across plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the sunrise. The most popular photo spot is the bridge over the Virgin River on the Pa’rus Trail. This easy paved trail gives the quickest and easiest view of sunrise. Alternatively, take on the Watchman Trail to hike into the low hills below The Watchman to see the sunrise.

Temple of the Sun and Moon at Capitol Reef National Park

One of the more remote entries on this list, it is also one of the best sunrises in Utah. The Temple of the Sun and Moon are free to visit and technically located in Capitol Reef National Park. You’ll find access to them via Caineville which is on Utah 24 between Fruita and Hanksville. Be aware that access comes on a dirt road, so be aware of the weather conditions before your visit.

Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time before sunrise. The drive down the dirt road will take over an hour, especially in the morning dark. However, you’ll be handsomely rewarded upon arrival. The Temple of the Sun is absolutely staggering in size. Watching the sun’s early morning rays light it up is an amazing and nearly spiritual experience.

Of the best sunrises in Utah, the Temple of the Sun and Moon is can't miss
Bright blue skies stand in stark contrast to the Temple of the Sun and Moon

When looking to take it all in, don’t head all of the way up to them. The height of the Temple of the Sun means you’ll need some distance for good photographs. Being lesser known and out of the way, you’ll almost certainly have this sunrise all to yourself.

Mount Timpanogos

Located just to the south of Salt Lake City (and north of Provo), lies the magnificent Mount Timpanogos. The most difficult hike on this list of best sunrises in Utah, but well worth the effort. The Timpooneke Trail could be considered one of the best hikes in Utah, so its perfect for the outdoor enthusiast.

Seeing the sunrise at Mount Timpanogos requires an extremely early start. However, take note that the intention isn’t to hike to the summit for sunrise. There will be plenty of opportunities to stop for a break and photograph the dawn light on the mountain. There isn’t a better adventure sunrise on this entire list.

Mount Timpanogos is a stunning example on the best sunrises in Utah list.
Mount Timpanogos with snows still on the mountain

Once you’ve seen the early morning light, take advantage of it to reach the summit. While it’ll be daylight already, you’ll have given yourself plenty of time to enjoy the summit. If you’ve got a shuttle setup, then take the Alpine Grove trail down the otherside of the mountain. Otherwise, back track the trail and check out what you might have missed in the dark.

Oquirrh Lake in Salt Lake City

Oquirrh Lake is perhaps the most unusual sunrise on this list. It’s not located in one of Utah’s national parks or amazing natural places, but instead in Salt Lake City. This small lake sits in the southern portion of Salt Lake City and is surrounded by homes. Oquirrh Lake is the easiest to reach of the best sunrises in Utah.

Oquirrh Lake is one of the best sunrises in Utah
Brilliant colors in the sky over Oquirrh Lake

Set yourself up on the southwest side of the lake near the boat ramp. This will give you the best views across the lake and the island in the middle of it. Alternatively, setup on the island itself with just a stretch of water between you and the rest of the city. You’ll have the Wasatch Range in the background as the sun rises behind them.

Epic Road Trip to See The Best Sunrises in Utah

Now that you know where all the best sunrises in Utah are, its time to plan a road trip! Fortunately, these are all pretty easy to reach even if you might have to off-road or hike a bit. I’ve designed this trip to run in a loop around the state, starting in Salt Lake City. If you’re coming from Vegas or Colorado, it’s easy enough to join the loop and head around the state as well.

A quick map of the loop you’re gonna take

Starting in Salt Lake City, you’ll be able to do Oquirrh Lake on Day One. Head towards Provo that afternoon to prepare for Mount Timpanogos. Once you’ve rested from that long hike, jump onto I-15 and head south. As you go, pop on my desert road trip playlist for some good tunes. Zion National Park is your next stop. Be sure to plan this for a weekday and get there very early to beat any crowds. Once you’re in this part of the state, consider visiting some of the best lakes in southern Utah for paddleboarding, like Quail Creek or Sand Hollow State Parks.

Zion starts the main stretch of the best sunrises in Utah. After Zion, you’ll be cutting across the southern part of the state. Bryce Canyon is next on the list with it’s unique hoodoos. Follow that up with a drive through Grand Escalante National Monument and then through Capitol Reef National Park. That will take you to the imposing Temple of the Sun and Moon. Once you’ve had your off road excursion, you’ll be on your way to Lake Powell. The southern most stop is on the Utah-Arizona border at Monument Valley.

Once the loop turns north again, you’re heading for the hub of the best sunrises in Utah. Moab is a quick 30 minute drive to the next three destinations, so find a place to stay for a few days. It’s from here you’ll be seeing Mesa Arch, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Devil’s Garden. Once you’ve wrapped up, its back on the highway towards Salt Lake City or wherever your final destination is.

Helpful Photography Tips For the Best Sunrises in Utah

For those who are planning to visit all of the best sunrises in Utah, you’ll probably bring a camera along. Or at least, I hope you’ll have one with you. While it is possible to get some nice photos on your phone, nothing will rival what you can capture with a traditional camera. I’m an avid user of Canon myself. If you need a good camera before hitting the road to see Utah’s best sunrises, consider this awesome deal from Walmart on a Canon EOS Rebel T7!

Once you have a good camera at your disposal, you’ll want to do a couple of basic things to get great photos. First, make sure that you are aware of the exposure triangle. You’ll need to understand what aperture to set the camera (the f number), the shutter speed, and ISO (sensor sensitivity). Practice with these before you head out. I typically photograph in Aperture priority mode (Av on your camera), to get the depth of field I want or to allow the most light in during darker scenes. I also keep ISO to a minimum to reduce noise.

Second, make sure that you’re aware of not only what time the sun will be up but how quickly it will rise. Downloading an app like Golden Hour will tell you exactly the best time for photos. I like to arrive right as nautical twilight begins, to give me plenty of time to setup. It’ll also give you a chance to photograph the best sunrises in Utah from start to finish!

The third tip is a two-parter. The first part happens while you’re on site. Make sure that you are shooting your images in RAW. This gives you the most info to work with during the second part of this tip. You can shoot in RAW+JPEG as well, which gives photos you can post quickly without editing. Once you’ve got your raw photos, run them through a photo editor like Luminar Neo. You can take advantage of Neo’s powerful AI as you first get started, then dive into its deeper tools once you are comfortable!

What to do After You’ve Seen the Best Sunrises in Utah

Once you’ve gotten your fill of the best sunrises in Utah, don’t think you’re done with the state. Since you’re gonna be starting near Salt Lake City, check out some of the best ski resorts in Park City, Utah! There are plenty of parks you can still visit including Capitol Reef National Park or Goblin Valley State Park. Alternatively, there are any number of vast landscapes across the southwest to visit. The Rocky Mountains make a great destination and change of pace. In fact, you can head from Moab to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and catch another mind-blowing sunrise there! Whatever you choose to do, the sky is really the limit, so make sure you have fun while you’re doing it!

Thanks for taking the time to read and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

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12 Responses

  1. I really love discovering so much about a place I’d never even really considered visiting before. Being from the UK, Utah is not really a known holiday destination, but after seeing your stunning photos, I’d love to visit.

  2. These are incredible Zack! Golden hour really suits the orange and warm colours of those rocks. I LOVE Nicola’s photo of Mesa Arch, with the views off in the distance below.

    Do you know why there is so little vegetation at Lake Powell? It looks like there is plenty of sun and water…it looks so strange to have bare rocks with no soil/plants there!

    1. Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir that filled in much of Glen Canyon. The entire area is a rocky and unfriendly desert, so despite plenty of water there just isn’t much vegetation.

  3. I’m just so impressed that people got up at sunrise to see all these beautiful places! They are all so beautiful and yet so different. Would love to see them all.

  4. These shots are all so gorgeous! I would definitely struggle with getting up so early, although it looks like it’s worth the effort! I’ve never heard of Mount Timpanogos, but it looks so incredible especially with the layers of snow on it. I’d also really want to visit Temple of the Sun!

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