The United States has one of the world’s greatest system for protecting our natural resources. The national park system was started in 1872 when Yellowstone National Park was created. Since then 417 different national and historical resources have been added to our national park system. Each park is a wonder in itself. They are our national gems and are some of the most instagramable places in the world. I asked my fellow travel bloggers to share the most instagramable places in the United States National Parks (I shared a few of my favorite places as well).
Peak of Denali in Denali National Park
Chris and Heather at A Brit and A Southerner
Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is located in the heart of Denali National Park, Alaska. It’s no surprise that this is one of the most photographed peaks around the world, primarily because it is the tallest peak in North America. One of the most challenging aspects of capturing this image is that only 30% of visitors actually get the opportunity to see the peak because of the adverse weather that is frequently over Denali National Park.
If you are considering a visit to Alaska, a trip to Denali National Park to “hopefully” see the peak is one of those bucket list experiences that you cannot afford to miss. Pre-booked bus tours are the only way to actually head deep into Denali where you can enjoy awe-inspiring close-up views of Denali. A 12-hour round-trip in one of the iconic Denali green buses is a worthwhile experience when you return with an image like we captured. This image was captured during September which is towards the end of the season for bus tours but any time after late May is a great time to try and see the peak. Visitors driving from Anchorage will have the opportunity to see Denali from a distance, but it’s these up-close and personal shots that are worth the admission fee for the bus tours (not to mention the myriad of wildlife encounters you will have!)
Little Hunter’s Beach at Acadia National Park, Maine
Meg Frost at Frost + Sun
Enjoy a breezy Summer day at Little Hunter’s Beach at Acadia National Park. To get to this hidden spot, follow Park Loop Rd. Once you reach Otter’s Cove Outlook, the beach will be about 2 miles on your left. Little Hunter’s Beach sits lower than Park Loop Road. It’s not well marked and the entrance is hidden by trees. If you aren’t using a GPS, count the miles on your car’s odometer. Park Loop Rd. is one way, so if you miss it, it’ll be a long drive back around!
Mount ‘Alava in the National Park of American Samoa
Jennifer from Made all the Difference Travel Blog
The National Park of American Samoa is one of the most remote and least visited national park in the entire system. The park sits on the islands of American Samoa. These three islands are about halfway between Hawaii and New Zeeland. The park is spread across three islands. The largest island of Tutuila is the easiest to reach and explore. I flew into the islands main airport of Pago Pago. A rental car isn’t necessary to explore this island. The local bus system provides transportation all over the island. There are two options for hiking to the summit of Mount ‘Alava. There is the 5.6 mile adventure loop which features 59 ladders and 783 steps or the 7 miles Mount ‘Alava Trail. The Mount ‘Alava Trail is the old tram road and is a much easier hike. There is a third option of combining the two trails for a 12.6 mile trail.
McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail, Virginia
Kelsey at KelseySocial.com
McAfee Knob is recognized as one of the most photographed places on the entire Appalachian Trail. You’ll find this incredible lookout outside of Roanoke, Virginia about 3.5 hours from Washington, D.C. It’s visited by Appalachian Trail through-hikers, weekend backpackers, and day hikers year round, but it most popular in the spring and fall. The hike up to the viewpoint is about 4.5 miles that climbs 1,700 feet from the VA311 parking area. It may be tough, but the reward is worth it: a vista with panoramic views of the Catawba Valley, 3,400 feet below.
Big Sky Country in Glacier National Park
Noel at Travel and travel photography
Glacier National Park in Montana is one of those isolated parks that are so hard to drive up to but when you finally make it for a visit, you’re really glad that you made the effort to drive all the way up to the Northern region of the state. The iconic drive called the Road to the Sun is one of the most spectacular drives to experience in all of the national parks. Filled with amazing landscape, gorgeous lake and river views, you drive all the way to the summit and stop at so many amazing panoramic views that totally take your breath away. It’s during this wonderful road trip that you realize, this is why the national parks are saved for eternity and for everyone to enjoy and experience for the first time.
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Luke and Meagan at Two Restless Homebodies
Skyline Drive is one of the most memorable and photogenic spots in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s undoubtedly beautiful in all seasons, but it’s fall when this part of Shenandoah National Park really shines. From any of its plentiful, designated overlooks and photo stops, you can see various stretches of hills, mountains, and rolling forests, vibrant with fall colors (track the foliage forecast on the NPS website!). Things to bring? $25 for the park entry fee, a patient driver who’s willing to stop a LOT, a great camera, snacks, and a sense of wonder.
If you’re looking to cruise along this scenic roadway, the northernmost entrance is in Front Royal, VA, while the southernmost is near Waynesboro. There are plenty of stop-offs for snacks and facilities along the way, but bonus points if you bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the overlooks.
Grand Teton in Grand Tetons National Park
Eran from The Laughing Traveller
In terms of annual visitors, size and PR, Grand Teton National Park is the “small brother” of Yellowstone. It is located just to the south of it and very close to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Immediately upon landing in probably the most beautiful airport I’ve been to, you notice the majestic beauty of the Tetons. A mountain range having snow covered peaks. Later, once you get into the park you can also hike along amazing lakes like Jenny lake. Besides that you can find in the park scenic drives and various kinds of wildlife.
The best time to visit it right at the beginning of the tourist season, around end of May. This way you avoid the crowds coming between June and August.
The best way to get there would be to land in Jackson Hole airport and get a car. The national park is less than 10 minutes away!
Brandywine Falls at Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio
Jordan at Life with Jordan
Cuyahoga National Park is all about relaxing and going back in time when life was slower paced, and the surroundings show that with the displays of rural living. Picture hiking or taking a scenic trail ride along historic small villages, farmland, forests, and waterfalls. Outdoor activities include canoeing, kayaking, birdwatching, fishing, golfing, biking, horse riding, and more (there is even a ski resort and winter sports center)! My activity of choice was hiking and I chose to do so along the Brandywine Falls trail, which is extremely picturesque and features a gorgeous waterfall backdrop (there are about 100 waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley). There are different ways to hike this trail based on your level of endurance and as an expectant mother, I chose the moderate route. It doesn’t matter if you’re athletic adventurer or an expectant mother, there is something for everyone at Cuyahoga National Park. Next time, I’m going to bring my family along for a camping trip and you should too!
Miner’s Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Brianna at Archives of Adventure
While Michigan itself is a very Instagram-friendly destination, if you really want to crank up those photos, visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula. This 15-mile stretch of colorful sandstone cliffs is a huge draw to the Northern tips of Michigan. The waters of Lake Superior along the Pictured Rocks are a bright enough turquoise to make you think you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in the Caribbean.
In this photo, taken on a sunny July afternoon, we see the iconic Miner’s Castle- a formation of sandstone that once resembled the turrets of a castle, but has since weathered away due to erosion. To get to Miner’s Castle, visitors will want to leave from the town of Munising, MI and take Miner’s Castle Road to the end parking lot. From here, it is a short 2-minute walk to the viewing platform.
Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, Utah
Paige at For the Love of Wanderlust
Delicate Arch is one of the most (if not the most) iconic formations in Utah. Delicate Arch is located in the aptly named Arches National Park near Moab. To get to it you have to hike 3 miles round trip uphill to the base of Delicate Arch. It can be quite hot in the summertime and there’s no shade, so be sure to take plenty of water for the hike. The best time to see Delicate Arch is sunrise and sunset because that golden sunlight illuminates the rock in a pretty magical way. This arch, though delicate-looking, is actually quite large and awe-inspiring. There’s an upper and a lower viewpoint that you can see it from. However, if you’re able I recommend making the trek to the top. Also, check out the petroglyphs at the beginning of the trail to get a glimpse of native culture as well.
South Guardian Angel at Zion National Park, Utah
Mike at Live, Travel, Teach
Zion National Park is one of the best places in the US to snap that perfect Instagram photo. You can do it from the top of Angel’s Landing like everyone else or find a more unique view to show this beautiful park off to the world and all your followers. I prefer to find those off the beaten path views and the West Rim Trail is an excellent place for just that. Not only will your hike be void of other tourists but hiking along the ridgeline will give you splendid views of the whole park. My favorite Instagrammable spot on the trail was this magnificent view of South Guardian Angel! Just before or after the spring are the best times to visit Zion National Park so start planning today.
Vernal Fall at Yosemite National Park
Kristen from Travels & Treats Blog
Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular of the US National Park system. Within the park, you can find countless Instagram-worthy photo spots, including Vernal Fall. This 317-foot waterfall is one of the most visited waterfalls in Yosemite National Park and is fairly easy to get to.
The towering waterfall is reached by hiking the Mist Trail. The Mist Trail is about two and a half miles round trip with an elevation gain of a little over 1,000 feet. Because the hike isn’t difficult, the trail can get congested during peak season. If you’re able to dodge the crowds, the late spring or early summer is a great time to complete this hike. The view from the top of the waterfall would be worth hiking double the distance.
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Victoria from Follow me Away
Kenai Fjords National Park is located on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. It is most easily accessed from Seward where you can take boat tours or float plane tours of the Fjords or hike to nearby glaciers from on land! Seeing glaciers up close, either from land or by boat is a highlight of the park! But act quickly, all glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park are receding, some by 300 feet per year, so there is never a better time to see them than now! The park is also full of diverse wildlife such as whales, sea otters, sea lions, porpoise, killer whales and more!
Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Sudipto from Salt and Sandals
Any visit to the Yellowstone National Park is not complete without visiting the Old Faithful Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin. The Old Faithful is so named because it erupts more frequently than any other geyser. The average is about 91 minutes and the water teachers heights of 150 meters. It is one of the most picturesque geysers and you can also see some bison grazing around in the woods. The best time to visit is from September to November when temperatures are mellow and crowds sparse.
Golden Gate Bridge at Gold Gate National Recreation Area, California
Jonathan at Everybody Hates a Tourist
Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco is one of the most easily accessed & most photographed parts of the National Parks System. Stretching along both the north and south sides of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area consists of several locations that are at the top of any San Francisco visitor’s must-do list any time of year. The famed Golden Gate Bridge is at the heart of the area. Other highlights include Alcatraz, the Presidio, Fort Point, Crissy Field, Muir Woods, Lands End, and the Marin Headlands. It’s rare that such a great expanse of parkland is so close to a major city, making the Golden Gate National Recreation Area truly a special place.
White Pocket at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Val & Nick from Wandering Wheatleys
White Pocket is a little known area of white and orange sandstone formations in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument area near Kanab, Utah. The rutted and bumpy road takes 2.5 hours to tackle with a 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle but it feels like you’ve traveled to another planet once you arrive! We went in March of 2017 so we had great weather and only ran into 3 or 4 other people the entire time we were there. It’s a compact area so it’s easy to explore the dramatic scenery in a few hours.
Cohab Canyon Trail at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Bram at Travel. Experience. Live.
Starting just across the road from the iconic wooden barn in Fruita, the Cohab Canyon Trail is a real beauty. Less popular than other trails in Capitol Reef National Park, this 3.4-mile out-and-back hike takes you up to a desert plateau, past a number of fun-to-explore slot canyons, and to a couple of amazing viewpoints overlooking the historic Mormon village of Fruita.
I consider this to be one of the best day hikes in Capitol Reef National Park, a quiet and enjoyable hike featuring everything this sensational park has to offer. From canyons and overlooks to huge red boulders and white sandstone formations, you’ll see it all on the Cohab Canyon Trail.
This picture was taken in late March, which is arguably the best time of year to visit any of the national parks in Utah.
Desert View at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Tara from Back Road Ramblers
Desert View is located near the eastern entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, which is far less crowded than Grand Canyon Village, but just as incredible. The Desert View Watchtower, created by Mary Colter in 1932, is a beautiful structure to explore and photograph — the tower has been featured on Instagram thousands of times. If you meander along the rim, you will notice that there are almost always plein air painters hoping to capture the tower, canyon, and river in the ever-changing light. No matter what time of year or day you visit, you’ll find an instagrammable moment at Desert View. This photo was taken on a sunny afternoon in April.
The Crater at Crater Lake National Park
Jonathan from The Royal Tour
Crater Lake is beautiful any time of year, but visit in the early spring (when only the south entrance is open) and you’ll be treated to an incredible world of white and blue. You just might have to climb up a snowbank to get the picture!
Artists Palette at Death Valley National Park
Sherianne from Out of Office Blog
Death Valley is located in the heart of the Mojave Desert. The Park is a 2-hour drive from Las Vegas. It is easily accessible from Los Angeles or Las Vegas and a great road trip between the cities. There are also organized tours from Las Vegas available. Visit in the winter, temperatures reach 120° F in the summer months. This featured image is Artist’s Palette; it is a must explore while in the park. The chalk-like ground is loose and the colors are incredible. There is a parking area with restroom and several trails to explore. Be sure to bring water and have fun scrambling up the hills!
Ruby Beach at Olympic National Park
Dante from Timed Traveler
Ruby Beach is famous for its natural, large rock formations scattered along the coastline. An early morning in summer is the perfect time to go to capture the routine Washington state morning fog. Ruby is extremely accessible via “Ruby Beach parking lot” and a short walking trail through some trees and bushes opens up directly to the beach. When traveling to Olympic National Park, Ruby Beach is not that close to other attractions but is definitely worth the detour.
Sunrise in Haleakala National Park
Carrick from Along for the Trip
This photo was taken at sunrise in Haleakala National Park, and if you’re visiting Maui, you won’t want to miss it. You’ll need to get up early (think 2:30 am) to make the ~2-hour drive to the summit, but once you see the sun peek above the clouds and cinder cones, you’ll forget about what time you had to roll out of bed.
Due to its popularity, you’ll need to reserve a pass prior to your visit, so don’t forget or you won’t be able to enter. Also, be sure to pack some warn layers, because at over 10,000 ft. it’s chilly – even in Hawaii. It’s truly one of the most breathtaking vistas we’ve ever witnessed in any of America’s National Parks.
Cataloochee Valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Ashley from A Southern Gypsy
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national in the United States and for good reason since it encompasses some of the best mountain scenery, wildlife viewing, hiking and that beautiful smoky look where it gets its namesake. One of my favorite areas of the park is Cataloochee Valley, located on the North Carolina side of the park, and where you can find the best elk viewing and gorgeous landscapes. I recommend going in the fall for the foliage and going in the early morning hours (sunrise) to see elks. To get there, it’s best to follow these directions directly from the NPS as you have to go on a winding, gravel back road.
What is your favorite of these most instagramable places in the United States National Parks?