Trees on Red Rock Cliff

Trees on Red Rock Cliff
A vertical forest of trees ascends the face of red rock cliffs, Zion National Park.

Trees on Red Rock Cliff. © Copyright 2021 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A vertical forest of trees ascends the face of red rock cliffs, Zion National Park.

There are scenes like this one in may locations in the Southwest — and anywhere there are steep rock cliffs, for that matter. (I photograph similar subjects in the Sierra Nevada.) I found this little “forest” working its way up a crack system high on the walls of Zion Canyon. Here and in similar places, I’m always amazed by the minimal requirements for supporting such big trees. They often are growing in little more than cracks in the rock, and to some extent the trees seem to almost create their own meager soil as their leaves and needles fall and degrade.

Not only are the trees remarkable for growing in such a difficult situation, but they provide a fascinating color contrast with the red sandstone walls in the Southwest. In canyons like this one, I usually prefer to photograph them during main daylight hours, while the trees themselves are in shadow but partially illuminated by light reflected from other canyon walls.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books, Amazon, and directly from G Dan Mitchell.

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Trees on Red Rock Cliff