America’s national parks are filled with jaw-dropping views, but some are more scenic than others, offering magnificent, screensaver-worthy backdrops.
If you’re after amazing vistas, but only have time to hit the highlights and head straight for that perfect shot, read on for the most scenic overlooks in national parks across the U.S.
1. Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, California
When it comes to scenic overlooks in California, it’s tough to top the view just outside the Wawona Tunnel on State Route 41 in Yosemite National Park. Conveniently, there’s a parking lot here, so visitors can pull over to snap a few shots of the beautiful vista — no hiking required. From this scenic overlook, you can see some of the most iconic features of Yosemite National Park, including El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. Tip: Go in early spring to see the falls at peak flow.
2. Stony Hill Overlook, Denali National Park, Alaska
Alaska is a land of otherworldly beauty, but the views from Stony Hill Overlook nearly defy comprehension. While the alpine tundra spread before you is humbling, and the chance to spot wildlife is exciting, the view of snow-capped Mount Denali — the tallest peak in North America — is the highlight of this spot. You can’t drive through Denali National Park in your own car (except for the first 15 miles of Denali Park Road), but during the summer, transit and tour buses are available, and some routes include a stop for photos at Stony Hill Overlook.
3. Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
The colors and textures of Bryce Canyon National Park are on striking display at Bryce Point, and there’s no better time to visit than at the dawn of a new day. Rise before the sun and feel free to wax poetic as you take in the fiery beauty — the canyon’s own namesake, Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce, is known to have commented, “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.” Bryce Point is a stop on the route of the park’s free shuttle, but it doesn’t run before sunrise, so arrange your own transportation if you plan to catch this breathtaking daily display.
4. North or South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Gallery: Why you should see the least-visited US national parks (StarsInsider)
When visiting the Grand Canyon, picking the perfect vantage point can be tricky. The merits of both the North and South Rim are hotly debated by travelers, but choosing which to visit should depend on your expectations in terms of crowds, convenience, and amenities. The South Rim is more commercialized and easier to access, so it’s where most visitors go. However, some argue that the lack of crowds is one of the appeals of the North Rim. It’s more isolated and requires a bit of a trek to get there, but you won’t be dealing with the same hordes of tourists. Luckily, there are no bad views in the Grand Canyon, so you can’t go wrong.
5. Snake River Overlook, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Complete with mountain, river, and forest views, a visit to Snake River Overlook is akin to stepping inside a postcard. Go during the summer for lots of color and clear vistas, or in the fall for lovely golden hues as the leaves change. It’s easy to reach Snake River Overlook from Highway 89/191, plus there’s ample parking — a major perk for the non-hikers among us.
6. Range View Overlook, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
The views along Skyline Drive make it hard to keep your eyes on the road, so you’ll be more than ready to pull over once you reach the Range View Overlook at mile marker 17.1, located five miles north of Mathews Arm Campground. You’ll see several different peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains as you look south from this 2,810-foot scenic lookout, and they all seem to roll on forever into the distance.
7. Sinnott Memorial Overlook, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
It’s admittedly hard to find a bad view on the Rim Drive surrounding Crater Lake in Oregon, but the vistas from Sinnott Memorial Overlook are among the best. Built into the cliffside 900 feet above Crater Lake, this sheltered viewpoint is also located near the Rim Village Visitor Center, Crater Lake Lodge, and the cafe and gift shop. Leave plenty of time to gaze at the mind-bending blues of the deepest, purest lake in America.
8. Canyon Overlook, Zion National Park, Utah
A short hike on the Canyon Overlook Trail will lead you to some of the most incredible views in Zion National Park. The scenic hike to this surreal lookout is only about a mile round-trip; to get there, you’ll pass through the famous Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on Route 9, then find the trailhead starting just east of the tunnel. At the overlook, views into the canyon are sure to impress.
9. Morton Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
You can see both North Carolina and Tennessee from the Morton Overlook, located along U.S. 441/Newfound Gap Road, but arguably the biggest delight of visiting this spot is getting a taste for why the range is dubbed the Great Smoky Mountains. The area seems to be shrouded in smoky beauty as it extends into the horizon. Tip: Finish your day here for one of the most stunning sunsets, and stop by the Newfound Gap lookout just a mile down the road for even more jaw-dropping views.
10. Many Parks Curve Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The Many Parks Curve Overlook, located at a hairpin turn on Trail Ridge Road, offers a panoramic vista of the Mummy Range as well as many of Colorado’s most popular parks, including Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park, and parts of Estes Park. Here, the journey really is the destination, since views are plentiful along Trail Ridge Road, the highest highway in the U.S.
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