Have you ever gotten this close to capturing the perfect photograph, only to miss it because you snapped it a moment too soon or late? That’s not a problem with landscape photography because the landscape doesn’t move or disappear – all you need is daylight to shoot it. Influencers, would-be-influencers, and photographers across the U.S. have plenty of choices to create stunning Instagram images, many of which are located at the country’s national parks.
The National Park Service (NPS) boasts 423 different areas that span more than 85 million acres in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. You’ll find plenty of brilliant views at these parks, ranging from snow-capped mountains and ancient rock formations to Instagram-ready canyons, deserts, forests, flora, and shorelines.
Keep reading to learn about the best national parks for photographing landscapes. Before heading out, be sure to check the NPS website at www.nps.gov for information on opening dates and hours, entrance requirements, contact information, and COVID-19 restrictions (if applicable).
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Sure, this is an obvious choice for Instagram, but who doesn’t want a picture of the iconic Grand Canyon in their digital travel file or framed on the wall? If you plan to go, take your camera to the South Rim’s Yavapai Point for excellent panoramic views. Another good spot is Mather Point, where you’ll find the Vishnu Temple rock formation. Excellent landscape shots can also be found on Desert View Drive.
- Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
One of the main draws here is the blue waters of the lake itself. You’ll want to make your way to the Rim Road for multiple views of the crater, which was formed by a volcano nearly 8,000 years ago. Wizard Island on the western part of the park gives you a chance to capture the clouds reflecting off the water. You’ll also find great shots of the surrounding Cascade Mountain Range.
- Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde is home to some 5,000 archeological sites, including well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. You can see and photograph many of the sites on park trails or from some of the overlooks. However, for a closer shot of the dwellings, you’ll need to take a ranger-guided tour. One of the biggest dwellings, Cliff Palace, can be photographed from the park’s driving loop.
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
If posting majestic mountains is your jam, then put Grand Teton on your bucket list. You’ll find numerous steep and dramatic snow-capped peaks that can be photographed from a distant meadow for a panoramic view, or closer up from one of the hiking trails. When the weather permits, you can use the Snake River or one of the park’s lakes to capture the mountains reflecting off the water.
- Redwood National and State Parks, California
Some of the world’s tallest trees grow in Redwood, which is why so many nature and landscape photographers make a pilgrimage here. Both professional photographers and influencers suggest waiting for the morning fog to clear and let the light filter through, letting you backlight the trees for memorable images of the forest.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina
You’ll find plenty of colors to photograph at this park, thanks to the bright foliage during the fall and rainbow of flowers in spring. One of the better vantage points is Clingman’s Dome, the park’s highest point and tallest mountain along the Appalachian Trail. If you go to the concrete observation deck you’ll get a 180-degree panoramic view for a wide landscape shot.
- Arches National Park, Utah
Shutterbugs love this park because of the more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches waiting to be captured. Just be prepared to work for the best views. You’ll need to take a short hike to the famous Delicate Arch in the east. Another good spot for posts is Devils Garden to the north, where you’ll find the Landscape Arch.
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
You’ll obviously want to photograph the famous Old Faithful geyser here, but that’s not the only place to tote your camera. Another good choice is the clear blue Grand Prismatic Spring, which is the largest hot spring in the U.S. You can walk up to it or, for a higher view, photograph it from a platform about a mile to the south.
- Acadia National Park, Maine
This is the place to photograph the thundering Atlantic coastline with its rocky headlands. Some favorite Instagram worthy spots include Cadilac Mountain, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Otter Cliffs, Thunder Hole, and Hunter’s Beach as you make your way down the two mile Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road.
- Glacier National Park, Montana
This popular destination is known for mountain and lake photography. Glacier covers more than one million acres and contains more than 130 lakes. A good vantage point for landscape images is Hidden Lake Overlook, which you can reach with a pretty easy one-mile hike.