With its majestic mountains, stunning coastlines, world-famous national parks and more, America is a beautiful country from coast to coast. With so much to see, it can be hard to narrow down your American bucket list. But if you're a photographer or are simply seeking breathtaking views, great places to start are the most photogenic vacation spots in every state.
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, these destinations are undeniably picturesque and deserve a place on your agenda. Whether they're amazing beaches, lakes, waterfalls or parks, each of these 51 spots offers an awe-inspiring experience and a top-notch photo op.
Alabama's largest lake, Lake Guntersville is one of the best destinations in the country for kayaking, fishing and other water fun. There are more than 900 miles of shoreline and several parks and recreation facilities. The surrounding Appalachian foothills make the scenery absolutely stunning.
Though Kenai Fjords is the smallest of Alaska's sprawling national parks, it's jam-packed with spectacular glaciers and icebergs as well as wildlife-spotting opportunities. Spring is the time to visit if you want to see black bears or witness gray whales migrating back to Alaska. A cruise around the fjords will make you feel like you've been transported to Europe.
Part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Horseshoe Bend is an iconic landmark of Arizona. You can enjoy the sights from the water, but for a stunning bird's-eye view, hike 1.5 miles round-trip to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook.
Also known as Hawksbill Crag, Whitaker Point is an example of how Arkansas got its nickname "the Natural State." A scenic 3-mile round-trip hike crosses over streams and past waterfalls to get to the crag, which is a dramatic rock formation that juts out from the bluffs over the river below.
One of the most stunning coastlines in the world, Big Sur is a rocky stretch of California’s Central Coast between the cities of Carmel and San Simeon that can be a relaxing weekend retreat or bucket list road trip. Besides the lush, dramatic coastline, enjoy serene beaches and hidden waterfalls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, marvel at redwood trees at Limekiln State Park and stop for an amazing photo opportunity near Bixby Bridge.
Steve Whiston - Fallen Log Photography via Getty Images
One of the most iconic and most photographed places in Colorado is worth seeing in person. Maroon Bells are two peaks in the Elk Mountains located outside the popular ski town of Aspen. On a hike through the surrounding White River National Forest, you'll see wildflower fields, aspen trees and more breathtaking scenery.
VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm via Getty Images
Many Americans might not know that our country is home to multiple enchanting castles, including the namesake castle of Gillette Castle State Park. The building was once a fantastical private residence but now is open for tours seasonally. Outside of the castle, there are also hiking trails, rock formations and more to photograph and explore.
Melissa Fague/Getty Images
One of the top spots in Delaware for photography is Cape Henlopen State Park. Explore 6 miles of shoreline, wildflower-lined walking trails and sand dunes before climbing a World War II-era observation tower for a panoramic view of the area.
Posnov via Getty Images
One of the best places to vacation in Florida that isn’t the beach or Disney World, Dry Tortugas National Park is an often-overlooked gem. Don't let its name fool you — even though it's a park, this area is predominantly water and is accessible only by boat or seaplane. Made up of seven small islands including the historic Fort Jefferson, the park's blue waters and coral reefs are some of the most incredible in the country.
When you picture the dripping Spanish moss and Southern flair of Savannah, you're likely imagining the postcard-perfect Wormsloe Historic Site. The avenue of live oaks leads visitors to the ruins of Wormsloe, the 18th-century estate of Noble Jones and the oldest standing structure in the city.
M Swiet Productions via Getty Images
One of the best reasons to go to Hawaii is the beaches, and Lanikai is one of the best. The Mokulua Islands just offshore make Lanikai Beach a fantastical backdrop for the perfect portrait of Hawaii's natural beauty. Enjoy miles of bright blue water and white sand or hit the ocean via kayak or outrigger.
Located in north central Idaho, the Palouse agricultural region also extends into southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. A serene and pastoral landscape, it is characterized by gentle rolling hills covered with wheat fields.
The best hikes in Illinois are in Starved Rock State Park. Along its 13 miles of hiking trails, you'll pass waterfalls, canyons, incredible wildlife and tons of wildflowers and plants. Affordable guided hikes are also offered year-round.
For a photogenic, fun summer weekend trip to take this summer, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is the top spot in the Hoosier State. From the southern tip of Lake Michigan, you’ll get an incredible view of the Chicago skyline from the peaceful shores. This picturesque setting also includes miles of beaches, sand dunes, woodland forests and more.
Phil Roeder via Getty Images
Much like the acclaimed High Line park in New York City, Iowa's High Trestle Trail is an elevated park converted from discontinued railroad lines. The trail runs for 25 miles through five towns and four counties and attracts cyclists, adventurers and more. The trail's most photogenic highlight is the High Trestle Trail Bridge. This 13-story-high marvel has won awards for its artistic design. At night, the swirling steel cribbings are illuminated with blue lights.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve protects the remaining 11,000 acres of an ecosystem that once covered over 170 million acres of North America. The namesake grasses reach their maximum heights in late September or October every year, so it makes an ideal fall weekend trip, but any time of year is nice to hike the rustic trails to see wildflower fields, bison herds and more.
Kentucky might be famous for its food and drink, but it also has plenty of natural beauty to offer photographers. Daniel Boone National Forest is home to Natural Arch, a naturally carved sandstone formation that is 50 feet high and 90 feet across, as well as multiple other amazing natural arches.
You might not consider swamps photogenic, but these beautiful habitats are home to a bounty of amazing flora and fauna. The largest river swamp in the country, the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana is often referred to as "America's wetland." It is even larger than the Everglades in Florida with almost 1 million acres to explore.
Walter Bibikow via Getty Images
An island destination you don't need a passport for, Assateague Island off the coast of Maryland doesn't have any human inhabitants. Instead, wild horses roam the beaches on this island. The "wild" horses are actually feral animals that are descendants of former domestic animals. Photographers and animal enthusiasts alike flock here to see these animals in the wild.
Ronald Wilson Photography via Getty Images
Millions of East Coasters flock to Cape Cod for vacation every year to enjoy the 40 miles of shoreline, six beaches, walking trails and more. The park has five working lighthouses and many more that are open to tour. You can also climb to the top and take photos of the surrounding landscape.
You can get up close and personal with Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore's namesake feature, its colorful sandstone cliffs, by sea kayak. Hikes in the area are also exciting, with rock formations, wildflowers, waterfalls and more to discover. In the winter, the beautiful, frozen lakeshore is a great setting for cross-country skiing and ice climbing.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness spans more than 1 million acres, taking up the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. It has more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes through its thousands of lakes and streams. Its serene, remote landscape will make you feel as if you've left civilization far behind.
iStock.com/J. Michael Jones
The Natchez Trace Parkway is one of the most romantic places in the country. This road spans 444 miles from Mississippi to Tennessee, winding through exceptional scenery. You can stop along the way to hike, bike, camp or go horseback riding and learn about 10,000 years of Native American history that formed this travel route.
The Lake of the Ozarks is Missouri's most popular lake destination thanks to its more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, including some underrated beaches. During the fall, the area is covered with treetops turning bright, intense colors. During the winter, landmarks like Ha Ha Tonka castle look like something from a storybook.
Spanning more than 1 million acres, Glacier National Park is an outdoor wonderland with many sights to explore, including the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road and Swiftcurrent Lake, which is known for its majestic pink sunsets and for being one of the best places in the country to watch the sunrise.
Real Window Creative/Shutterstock
Chimney Rock is perhaps the most famous and recognizable landmark in Nebraska. This eye-catching natural geologic formation dramatically towers 480 feet over the landscape below. The impressive spire is composed of layers of volcanic ash and clay dating back millions of years.
It may no longer be a vacation destination that only West Coasters know about, but Lake Tahoe's natural beauty is as photogenic as ever. The largest alpine lake in North America, this deep lake's striking, clear blue waters have earned it the nickname the "Jewel of the Sierras." The surrounding mountain panoramas, rocks and boulders make for amazing backdrops for photos as well as vacations packed with outdoor adventure.
You can get a jaw-dropping view of five states and even Canada from New Hampshire's Mount Washington. After exploring quaint nearby mountain towns like Conway, climb to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern U.S. at more than 6,000 feet tall, for a spectacular view. The ascent is steep and the weather can change as you climb, but the view is worth it.
Doug Schneider Photography via Getty Images
New Jersey's Palisades Interstate Park is a National Historic Landmark comprised of 2,500 acres of shorefront along the Hudson River. The Palisades’ most iconic features are its steep cliffs, which can be seen from hiking trails, scenic parkways and overlooks or by boat.
Formerly a national monument, White Sands National Park is like a dreamy, white-sand beach except that it stretches 275 square miles through the desert. The dunes' hue comes from the mineral gypsum, and the park is the world's largest gypsum dune field. Visitors can go camping, biking and hiking as well as sand sledding down the hills.
The Adirondacks area of northeastern New York state includes its namesake mountain range as well as the surrounding Adirondack Park, millions of acres of protected land that is free to enter and doesn't close at night. The largest protected area in the contiguous United States, the Adirondack Mountains are an outdoor paradise with more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails and more than 3,000 lakes and ponds. You might need to bring extra memory cards for all the stunning photos you can take.
© Daveallenphoto - Dreamstime.com
The almost 500-mile Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is one of the best drives with the most diverse scenery in the United States. The area bursts with vibrant wildflowers in the spring and summer and is covered with fiery foliage in the fall. Even when roads are closed to vehicles due to bad winter weather, the frozen landscape sometimes stays open to hikers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the perfect place for animal lovers to practice their nature photography. The 70,400 acres of badlands are home to prairie dog towns, wild horses, elk, whitetail deer and bison. Marvel at nature as you take a scenic drive or hike along 12 trails through the park.
© Kenneth Keifer - Dreamstime.com
Ohio's Hocking Hills State Park becomes a winter wonderland once temperatures dip below freezing, making it the perfect place to take a winter weekend trip and snap some amazing pictures. Hocking Hills State Park's gorges, rock formations and caves drip with icicles. In the warmer months, you can see amazing waterfalls, caves, cliffs and more.
© Pimmimemom - Dreamstime.com
Views of the golden valleys of Oklahoma don’t get much better than from the majestic Talimena National Scenic Byway. There are 54 miles of stunning panoramas as this two-lane highway winds through the Ouachita National Forest from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas. If you love the views on this drive, it might be time to start planning the ultimate road trip down Route 66.
One of the most visited tourist attractions in the country, Multnomah Falls draws in millions of visitors each year with its breathtaking natural beauty. Located just a 30-minute drive outside of Portland, this 611-foot-tall waterfall doesn't dry up during the summer, meaning you'll get a great photo no matter when you visit.
Andrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock
A trip to the Pocono Mountains is one of the best spring vacations you can take in America, but the area is beautiful any time of year. Natural wonders such as Bushkill Falls, known as “the Niagara of Pennsylvania,” make for stunning photographs. There are also miles of hiking trails, walkways, bridges and more to explore.
© Jerry Coli - Dreamstime.com
For more than 100 years, Roger Williams Park has been a top outdoor playground in Rhode Island. The entire 435-acre park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes more than 100 acres of ponds, a zoo and a botanical center.
© James Poston - Dreamstime.com
One of many reasons to visit Charleston, Rainbow Row is one of the most famous and colorful streets in America. The unique architectural style of these 13 waterfront buildings make this street a gorgeous place for a drive, tour, stroll or photoshoot.
© Christophe Avril - Dreamstime.com
One of the most underrated national parks in America, Badlands National Park has an otherworldly, mesmerizing landscape. The 244,000-acre park is a living representation of America's rugged, untouched past. The geologic formations and hundreds of species of wild animals living in the park all make for amazing photo opportunities.
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Tennessee, making it the perfect place to capture images of the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains. Climb atop the observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome for unobstructed 360-degree views of up to 100 miles away on clear days.
Everything's bigger in the over-the-top state of Texas, including its most beautiful vacation spot, which is actually an entire geographic area. Texas' Hill Country spans central and south Texas and includes lovely small towns that look like they're stuck in time and well as unspoiled natural beauty. Texans from across the state flock here during the spring to see beautiful wildflowers bloom along the Bluebonnet Trail.
Arches National Park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the famous and photogenic Delicate Arch. These amazing formations draw visitors from around the world, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in America.
Located outside the pretty small town of Westmore, Lake Willoughby sits within Willoughby State Forest and the cliffs of both Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah rise dramatically in the distance. When you're not snapping keepsake photos, you can enjoy plenty of recreational activities, including hiking, boating, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting and fishing.
The more than 500 miles of hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park offer numerous opportunities to take amazing photos, from close-ups of plants to wide shots of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you’re looking to see changing leaves, it's one of the best parks in the country to enjoy vibrant fall colors. The park’s Skyline Drive is a great place to start. This two-lane road runs the length of the entire park and has 75 overlooks with stunning views.
A visit to the Skagit Valley is absolutely stunning in the spring. This farmland area is full of charming small towns, famous for their local wineries, fruits like pears and a variety of apples, and for their flowers. In the spring, the region celebrates the season with the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, as well as La Conner Daffodil Festival, both of which feature rows and rows of beautiful blooms.
Washington, D.C., is a safe, exciting city full of amazing museums, monuments and more. While many of its tourist destinations are worth visiting, make sure to stroll around the Tidal Basin to snag an amazing picture of the beautiful Jefferson Memorial. This sight is particularly gorgeous in the spring when your view of the memorial will be laced with pretty cherry blossoms.
An impressive man-made marvel, New River Gorge Bridge stands 876 feet tall, making this iconic landmark the longest single-span steel arch bridge in the United States and the third-highest bridge in the country. The gorge area itself is part of a protected national river area spanning over 70,000 acres of land. Explore the West Virginia scenery by hiking on numerous trails, whitewater rafting, fishing and more.
The Apostle Islands are an underrated adventure destination in North America that are stunning in every season. Go in the winter to see amazing ice caves. The lake surface is usually a frozen white expanse and fantastical ice columns form inside the caves. In the warmer months, you can take in the shoreline while kayaking or on a sunset cruise for a romantic outdoor adventure.
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country for good reason. It's home to some of the most stunning natural sights in America, including Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring — the largest hot spring in the country and third-largest in the world. The water looks like a rainbow due to heat-loving bacteria living inside, making this one of the most surreal-looking spots in the world. For other amazing natural features, check out the most beautiful places in America's state and national parks.
More From The Active Times: