13 Highly photogenic and Instagrammable adventures in the U.S.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Whether you’re looking for a quick adventure or a longer trek, a hidden gem, or a popular stopping point, we’ve identified places around the U.S. to soak in natural beauty while snapping pictures that will make anyone say, “WOW!” (Plus, you might feel the pride and joy you felt after hiking to the summit in the photo just by looking at the image later!)

1. Clouds Rest
 – Yosemite National Park, California

Photo: Ranier R

A longer adventure that can be split into more than one day, the hike to Clouds Rest is the epitome of picture perfect with panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley. Aim to reach the summit for sunrise for a photo opportunity like none other. Think massive granite slabs extending 5,000 feet below into the valley and views of the iconic Half Dome. This adventure is great for outdoor enthusiasts who like a challenge, earning those rare and awe-inspiring shots.

2. Water Canyon Arch – Hildale, Utah

Photo: Derek Mathewson

This unique canyon arch formation is also known as the “Eye of the Heavens.” When you are there, it feels like you’re on top of the world! Be extremely careful if you decide to walk across the arch. While at the top, take a moment to look northeast towards the skyline, where you can find the white domes. This spot isn’t heavily visited, making that “on top of the world” experience feel more memorable. There are some more challenging sections of this hike, including steep inclines, and it requires keen navigation skills, so come prepared with a map, compass, snacks, water, and layers of clothing to stay comfy!

3. Yellow Mountain Fire Tower – Cullowhee, North Carolina

Photo: Caleb Adcock

Known as “heaven on earth,” the view of the mountains surrounding the Yellow Fire Tower is the ultimate photo-worthy treat. From this rustic fire tower in North Carolina, you can spot phenomenal views of the Northern Georgia mountains and the flat lands of South Carolina. 

Accessing the fire tower is quick and easy if you leave your car at the small parking area where you’ll see a sign for “Yellow Mountain Trail.” Visit during sunrise or sunset for an added level of awe. Remember to carry out what you carry in. Can’t get enough? Check out more fantastic East, West, and Midwest fire towers.

4. Harney Peak – Keystone, South Dakota

rocky mountain peaks cover the foreground and background. The sky is blue and a person is standing nearly out of visible range to the right. The sky is bright blue.
Photo: Spud Groshong

Hike to the highest point in South Dakota to this stone lookout with magnificent views of the Black Hills and Wind Caves. On your way, you’ll pass through the Cathedral Spires. Take your time exploring an observation tower atop Harney Peak. This is a popular area, so start early to avoid crowds. Dress for rain and wind in the summer, as the weather can turn quickly at this elevation.

5. Havasu Falls – Supai, Arizona

Photo: Jason Hatfield

Havasu Falls is in a remote area right outside of the Grand Canyon National Park. Though the waterfall is isolated, it’s in a very popular area and requires reservations. This red desert oasis with unreal blue waters and several spectacular waterfalls is on the Havasupai Reservation and should be treated with awareness and respect. Visit the website to get permits and learn about Native American guides who can lead you through this memorable area. The weather is a huge factor for safety and closures here, so always contact the park or your guide before going to avoid flooding and closures.

6. Cracker Lake – Browning, Montana

Photo: Jess Fischer

Few things are more picture-perfect than a jaw-droppingly turquoise glacial lake. En route to Cracker Lake, you’ll pass wooded forests, mining ruins, and distant waterfalls. There are several creek crossings, and visitors may see wildlife (there have been moose sightings!). The beach at the end of the trail is an ideal place to sit and soak in all the sights, which you’ll likely have all to yourself! 


7. Alpine Lakes Loop – Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Photo: Mayson

Head to Great Basin National Park to delight in the sights of two stunning alpine lakes– Stella and Teresa Lakes. In addition to these reflective waters, you’ll see a backdrop that features Wheeler Peak. This hike is rather accessible, but the season and weather greatly affect the conditions (think: snow, wind, and snow melt).

The high elevation and lower temps can mean snow-covered trails and frozen lakes in the colder months. But, in the warmer months, there is no shortage of vibrant colors. The lake's surface is known to have a glassy appearance, reflecting Wheeler Peak and the surrounding trees in a mesmerizing way. There are often beautiful wildflowers by the creek's banks, which can make for great adventure photos.

8. Falling Spring Falls – Hot Springs, Virginia

Photo: Sarah Giek

Set in the Alleghany Highlands, Falling Spring Falls stands at an impressive 80 feet. Just about 9 miles north of I-64, stop at the waterfall overlook to admire the view and snap a few pics. Since the viewing spot is right off to the side of the road, it's a high-reward, low-energy experience. 

Plan a picnic with friends using one of the overlook picnic tables, and stay to catch an incredible sunset. According to signage at the overlook, Thomas Jefferson once visited the falls, which he nods to in one of his manuscripts, “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

9. Summerland Trail - Washington

The view looking out from inside a blue and white tent at a grassy slope with evergreen trees and far off snow-covered mountain peaks.
Photo: Warren Behymer

In Ashford, Washington, hikers can see Mount Rainier and Little Tohomoa Peak when camping off the Summerland Trail. This 8.62-mile out-and-back has 2,359 feet of elevation change and is well-maintained. An Outbound user recommended a day hike to picnic with incredible views or camp here as long as you have an overnight camping permit. Bear-proof food canisters are not necessary as the campsites provide bear hangs.

10. Mount McGinnis - Alaska

A tent rests on top a mountain with snow-covered peaks as far as the camera shows. It is night time and the sky is navy blue with stars. There is a faint green aurora above the mountain tops.
Photo: Adam Ramer

If you're heading to Juneau, visit this front-range summit that you can walk up! At 11 miles and 4,185 feet of elevation change, it's not an easy hike, but it's one of five peaks in Juneau that don't require technical skills or equipment to summit. 

The final two miles of the out-and-back hike have 2700 feet of elevation gain and are marginally maintained. Follow the trail markers, and you should make it to the top. Fill up on water at the large creek to the left of the trail near the top, as this is the closest place to find running water. 

The summit offers 360-degree views of Mendenhall Glacier, the ocean, and Mount Stroller White. Stay the night if the weather is decent and you're prepared - the stars here are out of this world.

11. Apostle Island National Seashore - Wisconsin

In Bayfield, Wisconsin, you can paddle among caves that rise out of Lake Superior. Many people launch from Meyer Beach, where it's easy to spot your destination a mile away - the cliffs above the caves. Pilot a kayak deep into a crevasse, then reverse your strokes and paddle backward to get out! 

Consider using a guide service to provide boats, paddles, life jackets, and a person to bring you to the caves and tour their tall, rocky splendor. Plus, these experts will know where to get the best shots! 

Paddling on Lake Michigan requires cold weather knowledge and gear, like wet suits and spray skirts, to remain comfortable and safe (even in summer!). Constantly watch the weather to make sure water and wind conditions are favorable. High swells make accessing the caves incredibly dangerous.

12. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - Michigan

A person in blue pants and a red jacket is standing on a rocky outcropping that juts out into a lake. Evergreen trees line the shore behind the person and the water is clear with hints of teal. It is windy and there are whitecaps. Whispy clouds dot the sky.
Photo: Sonja Saxe

The clear waters around Shingleton, Michigan, have a nearly tropical teal tint. People come here to paddle, hike, and backpack along the shoreline of Lake Superior. Many visitors make a two-day trip out of the Chapel Basin to Beaver Creek Loop. a 20.52-mile hike with nearly 2244 feet of elevation gain that encompasses some of the more iconic parts of the area. The route includes Chapel Beach, Spray Falls (a 70-foot waterfall), the Beaver Creek Backcountry camp, and several other beaches and falls. Add Grand Portal Point to your must-see list here. This sandstone arch is reminiscent of those found out West and was carved by wind and waves!

13. Alabama Hills - California

Looking through a rock arch at rocky mountains and clouds in the distance.
Photo: Mike O'Hara

Spot amazing views of Mount Whitney (and surrounding Sierra Nevada peaks) from Alabama Hills in Inyo County. This area is known for the unique Mobius Arch, plus the 100+ desert campsites and free camping for up to 14 days! Bring camera equipment (or your phone) to grab incredible night shots here - it's so remote there is little-to-no light pollution. 

Did you know The Outbound App is useful for more than just finding new adventures and offline navigation? For the instagram and photo savvy, you can also gain some inspiration from our feed of user-uploaded pictures that will make you itch for your next adventure and photo opportunity.

Cover photo: Cracker Lake by Dustin Wong

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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