Photographing Kanarra Falls | Kanarraville | Utah

Photographing Kanarra Falls, Kanarraville, Utah by Nikhil Shahi ( Website | Blog | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | see his previous guest posts):

Every few months, I would come across a photo of this gorgeous waterfall in Southern Utah, nestled in a slot canyon with towering cliffs, bathed in striking reflected light. I had vowed to visit Kanarra Falls near Cedar City, Utah someday, and over the last two years, I finally got the chance to visit the falls not just once, but on four separate occasions.

Kanarra Falls, once obscure and only known to the locals, has gained tremendous popularity in the last few years, thanks to social media. In May 2018, to combat potential damage to the ecosystem and control crowds, the town of Kanarraville instituted a $12 per person fee to hike the falls. 150 tickets are issued each day with the popular Summer months sold out weeks in advance. The 3.8 mile round trip hike (to the Upper Fall) is considered moderately strenuous and can take between 2 to 5 hours to complete.

The trail is open from dawn to dusk. After parking at the Kanarra Creek Trailhead, you will hike up the old access road and past the water tanks. The gravel trail eventually veers to the left and after walking a few hundred feet, the trail continues along the creek, zig zagging across the stream multiple times. Around 1.5 miles into the hike, you will reach the entrance to the slot canyon and from hereon, you will just have to wade through the creek water. It is advisable to wear neoprene socks for this hike as the creek water is really cold and absolutely freezing in the Winter months (should you be brave enough to venture there during that time). A few hundred feet after entering the slot canyon, you will reach Lower Kanarra Fall.

Time your visit correctly and you will be rewarded with the sunlight reflecting off the canyon walls, giving rise to some incredible photographic opportunities. In my experience, it is best to start this hike at sunrise and then head straight to the Upper Fall. The Upper Fall, which is around 0.3 miles further from the Lower Fall, gets optimal reflected light a couple of hours before the Lower Fall does so. To get to the Upper Fall, you will have to climb an aluminum ladder at the Lower Fall – there used to be an aesthetic log with rungs in the past, but it has now been replaced with an industrial aluminum ladder.

I normally head straight to the Upper Fall and after spending an hour or so photographing the fall, I head down to the Lower Fall. By the time I arrive at the Lower Fall, the canyon walls behind the Lower Fall are getting lit up with reflected light. This schedule allows me to photograph both the Upper and Lower Fall in the morning.

The Kanarra Falls hike has become a staple whenever I am in Southern Utah. The short distance to the falls, beautiful reflected light surrounding the waterfall and close proximity to Zion make this a no-brainer. If you are ever in the area or visiting Zion National Park, do try and check this hike out. There are plentiful photographic opportunities in all seasons with different light and ambience during each.

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