Thunderstorm in Zion NP, Utah, USA by Larry Young

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Picture Story

I was hiking in Zion National Park on the West Rim Trail on a beautiful day in October. I had made it to the top of the West Rim on Horse Pasture Plateau, overlooking the curving sandstone of the Zion West Wilderness known as the Phantom Valley. Storm clouds began to gather, followed shortly by a violent thunderstorm with multiple lighting strikes and heavy rain, from which I took shelter. After the storm passed, I returned to the overlook, where I took this picture. The clouds are glowing, the heaviest thunderstorm rains are still falling in the distance on the sandstone of the Zion West Wilderness while a myriad of waterfalls are seen running down the cliffs. I happened to be in the right place at the right time to take this picture.

Speed was of the essence and conditions were rapidly changing. The waterfalls were already diminishing as the storm passed. I took five pictures, and this was the best of the set.

The West Rim Trail is an out and back trail of 17 difficult miles with an elevation change of 3,400 feet. It can be done in a 9 to 12-hour day but is more commonly done as an overnight trip (National Park permit is required for overnight camping in the wilderness area). This trail also provides marvelous sunrise and sunset photography opportunities. The trail is also used as the first part of the climb to Angel’s Landing and this ascent can also be included with hiking the West Rim Trail.

This trail is best hiked in the Fall. Zion in the Summer has daytime temperatures over 100 degrees and strenuous hiking is not recommended. The Spring is also good, after the snows melt off the trail in May.

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