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Follow In Erin Hanson's Footsteps: Explore Zion National Park Like an Artist

Where should artists go to paint in Zion?

Friday, September 15, 2023

Zion National Park is an inspiring locale for artists to explore. The spectacular red rock landscape boasts plateaus, washes, rivers, and ancient artifacts. With over 5,000 feet in elevation change from the tops of the plateaus to the bottom of the river washes, there is an incredible diversity of ecosystems to paint. Some of the tallest sandstone monoliths are located in Zion.

This national park is home to various reptiles, mammals, and birds -- including the endangered California Condor. The hiking trails and paths are designed for people of all skill levels and abilities, and you can easily find which routes will fit your abilities.

Erin Hanson has visited Zion National Park many times in various seasons. She loves painting the red-stone plateaus, flashing cottonwood leaves, and beautiful waterways during every time of the year.

Here are paintings that depict three of the four seasons...


Summer Zion by Erin Hanson, 2013

This piece (above) depicts the brilliant flora found around the park during the summer. Filled with dusky greens, auburn hues, and coppery yellow, the painting shows Zion National Park lit by late afternoon sun.


Erin has visited Zion National Park in both early and late autumn. During this season, the park vibrates with brilliant color. Hanson particularly enjoys finding incredible landscapes during the golden hour, the first hour before sunset, and the last hour after sunrise. The light is lovely in the crisp autumn air, and one can see gradations of color not evident during any other time of day.

Autumn Blues by Erin Hanson, 2014

Autumn afternoons in Zion National Park (above) bring rich blue and violet shadows to life, their cool colors bright against the distant red rock cliffs. This painting conveys the mood of Zion in the fading autumn light, the lush brushwork both evocative and mesmerizing.

Autumn Tapestries by Erin Hanson, 2015

Tapestries of color and contrasting light come to life in this oil painting of Zion National Park in southern Utah (above). The red rock cliffs blend and dance with the changing colors of the rainbow-hued cottonwood trees. Thickly applied brush strokes capture the eye in an ever-changing mosaic of texture.


Zion Filigree by Erin Hanson, 2017

Visiting Zion in January is like exploring a fairyland of color. The white snow against the dark red earth is a beautiful sight. Bare of leaves, cottonwood trees create criss-crossing shapes across the bright winter sky. This oil painting was created with loose, impressionistic brush strokes that make a mosaic of color and texture on the canvas.

If you are interested in Erin Hanson's work, this article will allow you to virtually follow in her footsteps through Zion National Park. You are welcome to use it as a resource during your own visits to Zion, along with the many fantastic trail maps and other resources provided by the National Park Service.

Follow In Erin Hanson's Footsteps: 
Explore Zion National Park Like an Artist 

We begin our journey in Kolob Canyon, found at the portion of the park closest to Cedar City. Erin Hanson has painted Kolob Canyon many times, and you can see why as you explore the landscape in the paintings below.

Zion Summer by Erin Hanson, 2010

This painting depicts the beautiful summer colors found at Kolob Canyon. This less-visited side of Zion National Park is filled with vibrant colors and rich beauty.

Kolob Majesty by Erin Hanson, 2015

Here is Hanson's description of this piece and her experience in Kolob Canyon:

"Kolob Canyon is a lesser-known entrance to Zion National Park, but it is home to some of Utah's most stunning red rock cliffs. I love the dark green foliage that grows here in the high elevations, with the occasional pop of color from a stray maple or cottonwood tree. This painting holds in place that transient moment when the canyon is lit up with a brilliant orange sunrise. The simple composition focuses on the beautiful range of colors that must be seen in person to be believed." -- Erin Hanson

Canyon Rays by Erin Hanson, 2015

This painting above shows us fading rays of light gleaming through the red rock canyon cliffs of Kolob Canyon, part of Zion National Park. The rich yellow rays create a bold purple shadow in contrast.

One can imagine Erin Hanson hiking throughout the canyon and following trails to the neighboring high plateaus.

Here, you will find landscapes like this one:

Sunfall on the Plateau by Erin Hanson, 2015

Hanson describes her journey to this plateau: "During a 5-day backpack through Zion, we were faced with a solid day of rain while hiking the high plateaus. Finally, at sunset, the clouds parted, and we saw incredible, color-drenched vistas all around us. This painting captures the last light seen through the windswept pines on the plateau." 

Zion Greens by Erin Hanson, 2017

Bright cottonwood greens stand boldly against the rich contrast of Zion's red rock cliffs. The high plateaus near Kolob Canyon inspired this painting.

Hiking east of Kolob Canyon, reaching the rich red Hop Valley and the Hop Valley Wash may take about a day. This area provides expansive views of the red rock canyons, local foliage, and (if you are lucky) a peak at local fauna.

Hop Valley by Erin Hanson, 2013

Here is what Hanson says about backpacking around Hop Valley in Zion National Park: "Backpacking gives you a very intimate feel for a landscape, watching it slowly change around you. Each step you take seems small and insignificant, but in a day, you can cover ten or more miles, and it is incredible how much variation in the landscape you will see over such a span."

Crystal Cottonwoods by Erin Hanson, 2015

This painting (above) captures the early morning light filtering through the autumn cottonwood trees. The red rock cliffs surround the valley, a beautiful contrast to the golden leaves.

Hop Valley II by Erin Hanson, 2017

In this piece above, the flat wash of the canyon floor was bounded by short, steep cliffs on either side, creating dramatic shadows behind the autumn cottonwoods.

Hop Valley Wash by Erin Hanson, 2020

Hanson describes the experience of finding this landscape here: "About a day's hike east of Kolob Canyon, you end up in Hop Valley wash. The trans-Zion trail leads you through soft, orange sand for many miles. The rivulets of water running through the wash reflect the surrounding cliffs and cottonwoods."

Once you have plumbed the beauty of Hop Valley, it is time to travel to the Virgin River and Angel's Landing. Filled with sweeping views, this portion of Zion National Park is filled with natural inspiration.

Angels Landing by Erin Hanson, 2015

This painting (above) was inspired by a rainy day hiking up Angels Landing at Zion National Park. The clouds would part occasionally and leak sunlight into the canyon, making the red rock cliffs, already deep and saturated from the rain, even more vibrant.

Zion Vista by Erin Hanson, 2017

The bridge over the Virgin River, in Zion National Park, is a popular spot to catch the beautiful red cliffs and winding river. This painting (above) captures all the drama and magnificence of this incredible vista. Hanson used a brush to thickly apply oil paint, the impressionistic colors melding together to capture the fleeting light of dawn.

Head from Angels Landing to Zion Lodge. This tree-filled area is beautiful, filled with color and striking foliage in the fall.

At the Lodge by Erin Hanson, 2015

Hanson describes this painting here: "A rainy afternoon at the Lodge, deep in the canyons of Zion National Park, let me see the autumn-hued cottonwoods in a whole new light, their colors drenched and saturated in the low light. The brush strokes in this painting are loose and impressionistic, creating a mosaic of color and texture across the canvas."

Beneath the Cottonwoods by Erin Hanson, 2017

This piece (above) shows us the spectacular views one can experience from the valley floor near the Zion Lodge. An autumn hike after the rain inspired this painting, the cottonwood trees dark with rainwater, their leaves vibrant and multi-hued.

Zion Cottonwoods by Erin Hanson, 2020

This particular piece (above) is a favorite among Hanson collectors. She describes it here: "Hiking a wet and rainy trail from Angel's Landing to the Lodge at Zion National Park, I found these beautiful cottonwood trees growing low to the ground, their branches skirting the top of the hillside. The colors were rich and saturated from the rain, captured on canvas with thick, impressionistic brush strokes."

There is an eastern entrance to Zion National Park that you can access through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. If you choose to enter this way or hike to the East Rim after your visit to The Lodge, you will find spectacular landscapes, including the Emerald Pools and the Court of the Patriarchs.

These stunning vistas are sure to inspire any artist.

Emerald Pools by Erin Hanson, 2018

The Emerald Pools hike inspired this painting (above). The trail leads up from the canyon floor steeply into the canyon cliffs. These emerald pools are discovered high up in the cliffs before you cross over the peak and start descending into the white sandstone slick rock of East Zion. This painting captures the magic of discovery in the National Parks.

Zion Valley by Erin Hanson, 2017

With a few expressive brush strokes, the drama of Zion's Patriarchs is captured in vivid color on this petite canvas (above). The dawn light glows pink over the red rock cliffs of Zion National Park.

Zion in Gold by Erin Hanson, 2018

This painting captures the dawn rising over the Court of the Patriarchs with thick paint and loose, impressionistic brush strokes. This is a unique painting done over 24kt gold leaf so that you can see the glimmer of gold peeking through behind the brush strokes.

You can access Zion National Park from the Western Entrance or hike there. Here are some of the incredible vistas you will view from the west end of the park:

Leaving Zion by Erin Hanson, 2010

Leaving Zion from the park's west end, the landscape seen here is bathed in late afternoon colors (above).

Pine Shadows by Erin Hanson, 2013

Another Zion-inspired painting capturing the fantastic colors and vistas from the West Rim Trail. The oil paint is applied in thick, impressionistic strokes, creating a mosaic of color and texture (above).

River to Zion by Erin Hanson, 2017

Impressionistic brush strokes capture the beautiful color and motion of Zion National Park. The Colorado River west of the park entrance inspired this painting (above)

Erin Hanson has made several visits to Zion National Park and painted its many-hued splendor for over a decade. Continue to explore Zion with her by enjoying all of her Zion National Park paintings here. 


Erin Hanson ArtistERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a young artist, she worked at a mural studio creating 40-foot-tall paintings on canvas, while selling art commissions on the side. After getting a degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to paint one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history. Erin Hanson's style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is now taught in art schools worldwide. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism.

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