The best thing about outdoor photography is its versatility: whether you live in the middle of Manhattan or in rural Montana, there’s always an opportunity for a great shot. All you need is a little creativity and a great camera. That said, some locations are more fun to photograph than others, and we’ve rounded up 9 truly exceptional hidden gems in the United States that are worth the trip. Stunning doesn’t even begin to cover it.
John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon
These hills are famous for being painted in ombre hues of pink and coral, which are truly spectacular at sunset. There are plenty of hiking trails and places to set up your landscape photo, so have at it.
Platte Cove, NY
The 700,000 acre Catskills preserve is home to endless hiking trails and panoramic views, making it the perfect stomping ground for an outdoor photographer to explore. But the real treat is heading to Platte Clove, an infamously difficult climb with major payoff when it comes to its expansive view. Go in the fall for optimal gorgeousness.
Saint Mary’s Glacier, CO
St. Mary’s is a beautiful glacier in Idaho Springs, and it’s worth the rocky hike for a photo op. There also happens to be a crystal clear lake, which on a sunny day makes for wonderful reflections.
The Palouse, WA
The Palouse is a stunning, 4,000 square mile area of rolling hills from Washington to Idaho that are a photographer’s dream. Steptoe Butte is prime real-estate for taking landscape photos of the Blue Mountain region, so be there or be square.
White Sands, NM
White Sands basically consists of mountain upon mountain of bright white gypsum (aka sand) set in the New Mexico desert. Since the sand is always moving, the landscape is varied and unique upon every visit. Plus, you can definitely sand-sled while you’re at it.
Año Nuevo State Park, CA
Año Nuevo is famous for its lounging elephant seals, but it’s also a beautiful beach to photograph –– even when not filled with sun bathing animals. If you’re in Northern California, it’s a must-visit.
The Island in the Sky, UT
The Island in the Sky mesa is 1,000 feet high, and is at its optimal viewing on a misty day, when the tops of the sandstone cliffs look like they’re floating in clouds. Every overlook offers a different perspective of the Canyonlands, so the photo ops are varied and unique depending on your vantage point.
Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania
This is hands-down the place to be if photographing waterfalls is your thing. Plus, if you have water protection on hand, you can get some great shots while rafting or hiking. Pro tip: Don’t forget to check out these awesome waterfall photography tips on Digital Photography School. As an added bonus, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House is a short drive away.
Heron Pond, Illinois
Heron Pond is a protected wetland that’s just as beautiful as it is boggy. A floating boardwalk makes it easy to photography from a variety of vantage points. Beautiful and romantic!