t’s now officially summer. The weather is warm and the opportunity is hot for travel and photographing some of the best places this country has to offer. There are countless destinations to visit and photograph, but some destinations stand out over others, as premiere hubs for adventure.
Here are the top ten USA photography destinations for summer 2019, all of which offer some of the best locations for photography.
Lake Tahoe, California
The Lake Tahoe region is magical in the winter, with several world-class ski resorts based right in the area. However, summer is when it truly shines, and the crown jewel comes out to play. Lake Tahoe is one of the most breathtaking lakes in the world, and thousands flock to its shores to enjoy the crystal clear waters and pristine beaches.
One may think they’ve been transported to the South Pacific, the waters are that clear. But this lake is situated in the Sierra Nevadas, and its alpine environment and surrounding mountains is a beautiful contrast to photograph. Photographers have the opportunity to capture tropical-looking waters and majestic mountains, all in one location. It’s a combination that is hard to pass up.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth is situated in the heart of the Sierra Nevadas, and has amazing access to some of the biggest and best mountains in the region. An hour south offers the beautiful outdoor playground of the Alabama Hills, which has access to the Mount Whitney portal for hiking and climbing on the tallest mountain in the continental United States.
Even closer to the town, you will find natural hot springs and creeks, and several alpine lakes, in the Mammoth Lakes region. Travel only a few minutes north, and you have the chance to explore the saline Mono Lake, which is bizarre and beautiful, with abnormal salt formations and columns that rise out of the water and offer unique opportunity for any landscape photographer. Mammoth Lakes is wonderful, and should be experienced, as a prime summer destination.
Oh, Portland. We love your quirkiness, but we especially love what you offer photographers as well. Portland is a beautiful city in its own right, and offers a lot to the prospective urban and street photographer. But outside the city, there are other endless opportunities. Just an hour down I-84 East, you enter the Columbia River Gorge, home to some of the most grand waterfalls on the planet and temperate rainforest ecosystem just screaming to be photographed — just use these 5 tips when you’re capturing the area. Another hour east, and you have access to the Mount Hood National Forest and Hood River, which is home to Mount Hood, Trillium Lake, and more Douglas firs than you could ever count.
Not feeling the mountains? An hour west, and you hit the beautiful Oregon Coast and the legendary Highway 101, Cannon Beach, and Ecola State Park. No matter how you slice it, Portland is a destination that shines in the summer, and perfect for any photographer. Plus, if you visit in the summer, you are less likely to spend the entire trip stuck in the Pacific Northwest rain. That’s always a nice added bonus.
Seattle is often noted to be Portland’s rival on most everything, from culture to sports. However, Seattle also rivals Portland on photo opportunities and summer perfection. Only an hour or two east lies the magical Mount Rainier National Park, and the central Cascades, home to the coveted Enchantments. Both locations offer endless alpine opportunities for photographers.
A few hours west, on the incredible Olympic Peninsula, lies one of the most diverse national parks in the country — Olympic National Park — which offers access to the rugged pacific northwest coastline, vast temperate rainforest, and coastal mountains. And if that still isn’t enough, you can take a drive up north to the North Cascades, which offer some of the most jaw-dropping hikes in the United States.
Stanley, Idaho has recently come onto the scene more, due to its beauty and down-to-earth personality as a mountain town. It is the home base for anyone exploring the Sawtooth Range, which is rugged, wild, and the summer spot to get away. Home to jagged, beautiful peaks and some of the most secluded alpine lakes in the country, you can have the unique luxury of visiting a stunning destination that is perfect for photography, yet not feel overwhelmed by tons of tourists.
In addition to the incredible Sawtooth mountains, Stanley offers some of the most picturesque hot springs in the country. You can find hot springs that are tucked away on a mountain side, or in a secluded mountain shed that overlooks the Sawtooth Range. These hot springs offer a moment of relaxation and an opportunity for photographs. Stanley is truly a must visit place for summer, and a top outdoor town in America.
Sometimes nicknamed, the “Gateway to Glacier National Park,” Kalispell is a town that offers so much in the summer. Many regard Glacier National Park to be one of, if not the most charming national park in the country, and in the summer, the park is completely open, including full access to the “Going-to-the-Sun Road,” which winds through the glacier-carved mountains, and connects the beautiful Lake McDonald to St. Mary’s Lake in the east.
However, Kalispell isn’t just a one-destination-town. Just south of the city lies Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake east of the Mississippi. It boasts incredibly clear waters that many say rival Lake Tahoe. So whether you prefer the shoot the lake or the mountains, Kalispell offers it all in the summer.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
A gateway to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole is an absolute legendary, summery destination. The Tetons are some of the most iconic mountains in the world, and the park is home to some of the most grand alpine lakes you will photograph.
However, the wildlife is why this area truly shines. You will not find a more diverse and vibrant place to view and photograph wildlife in America. Bison, bears, moose, pronghorns, elk, and deer, are easily spotted, especially in the morning, when the parks are quiet and not flooded with tourists. Jackson Hole, to put it simply, is a mecca for any outdoor or wildlife photographer, and truly comes alive in the summer.
Situated in the southwest corner of Colorado, and in the beautiful San Juan Range of the Rocky Mountains, Telluride is one of the best places the Rockies has to offer, and unlike other ski resort towns to the north, doesn’t suffer from overcrowding in the summer.
The town of Telluride is gorgeous in its own right, and offers unrivaled mountain festivals and activities. However, the surrounding San Juans are what make this town a summer photography destination.
Several accessible 14,000-foot mountains dot the landscape, offering a challenge to any adventure seeker. The San Juans are jagged and dramatic, and are also home to some of the most colorful alpine lakes in the United States, that see less traffic than other lakes on this list. If you want to experience a truly legendary western destination, Telluride is your place.
Moab is incredible year round, but completely thrives during the summer. Thousands flock to the vast land that surrounds Moab, ridden with canyons, mesas, and buttes, perfect for off-roading, mountain-biking, and of course, hiking and trekking.
The area is home to some of the biggest national parks in Utah, Arches and Canyonlands National Park, and is the perfect hub for photographers needing a place to stay or camp, while shooting in the surrounding area. Of all the incredible destinations in Utah, Moab offers the most for any adventure-seeking creative.
North Shore, Kauai
The Hawaii Islands are a bucket list summer destination for many people. However, the North Shore and island of Kauai offers the most when it comes to photography opportunities. Home to beautiful, laid back towns, like Princeville and Hanalei Bay, the North Shore offers a getaway and home base for those seeking adventure. Just a stone’s throw away from Ne Pali Coast and State Park, as well Koke’e State Park, you have the ability to explore one of the world’s greatest coastlines, from above on the sharp ridgelines of the Ne Pali sea cliffs, or below, on the world famous Kalalau Trail, that runs parallel to the coastline, and offers a more personal, ocean experience.
However, the destinations don’t stop there. Kauai is home to Waimea Canyon, nicknamed, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It is a multi-colored and massive. If you circumnavigate the Kauai, you will find incredible beaches and thundering waterfalls, thousands of feet high. This island truly has it all.
So whether you’re looking for a more luxurious stay in Princeville or laid back, pure-Hawaii experience at Hanalei Bay, the North Shore offers a retreat from the ordinary, and a gateway to some of the most memorable tropical destinations you will ever photograph.