The 11 Most Kickass Spots for Sunsets in America
Search #sunset on Instagram, and you'll quickly learn one thing: everybody loves ‘em. Or, at least taking pictures of them. But not all sunsets are created equal. Like, the one out your bathroom window? Not so hot. Unless you've got a killer view in the first place.
With that in mind, here are 11 absolutely dynamite spots in the US to take a killer sunset snap. Go there, wait for magic hour, and you'll look like a photographic savant.
The Florida Keys
They don't call it the Sunshine State for nothing. And you know what comes with sunshines? Sunsets. The Keys are where you really want to be, where locals and tourists alike celebrate the sunset nightly. It's like some weird Floridian Aztec society. Mallory Square becomes a hot spot each night as crowds gather to watch the sun go down. Get there early to ensure you get a spot with an unobstructed view of both the sunset and the street performers that come to entertain the masses. Thankfully, there are no human sacrifices.
Laguna Beach, CA
Drive an hour outside of LA to experience the place that brought LC, Kristin, and all those mindless spinoffs into your life. Oh, and killer sunsets, too. Horizon lines that seem to go on forever shift through a color palette of yellow, pink, and lavender quicker than LC found a new best friend. If you're there in May or September, the 7mi stretch of sand hosts a “Sunset Serenade” concert series every Friday, from 5:30pm until... sunset. Otherwise, head to Main Beach for the best sunset snaps.
Ensign Peak, UT
An easy, one-hour hike gets you to the top of Salt Lake City’s Ensign Peak, where you’re not only rewarded with expansive views over Salt Lake Valley, but vibrant sunsets if you time your hike to coincide with the sun making its nightly dip. This is all predicated on you being in shape and able to hike for an hour, mind you, so perhaps consult a doctor first. Or at least give yourself a head start.
Mount Haleakala, HI
If you're 10,000ft up in Hawaii, you're already doing a helluva lot of things right. And to prove that to the world, Maui’s Mount Haleakala, Hawaii’s highest peak, will be your canvas. Haleakala actually means "house of the sun" in Hawaiian. You can't get any more obvious than this. Even better, you can drive up the summit, so you don't have to break a sweat on your way to seeing the clouds turn crimson -- unless your A/C is broken, anyway.
Santa Monica Pier, CA
Rifle through Instagram sunsets and you're likely to see plenty from this spot. Watching the sun go down over an iconic backdrop is plenty touristy and cliché, but let’s face it: the postcard-perfect scene just makes IG stalkers feel lonely and dream of the West Coast. You might as well cash in while you're there.
Pretty much anywhere in Alaska
You don't have to tune into Game of Thrones to capture an image of a land of fire and ice. Just go as far north as you can while still being inside the US of A. All that white-and-blue snow and ice plays off the setting sun for a helluva contrast. Check out Mount McKinley in Denali National Park for particularly spellbinding swaths of pale pinks and purples. And all this without having to sleep with your sibling or throw anybody through a moon door!
Dauphin Island, AL
If you're looking to trade in the maniacs screaming "ROLL TIDE" at 20-year-olds in football pads for an actual rolling tide, Dauphin Island's your spot in the state of Alabama. Just off the Gulf Coast, the island serves as the state's sunset capital, and a less-frequented location than many of the others on this list. No guarantees it's devoid of Tide fans, however.
Grand Canyon, AZ
Listen, if you see a list of cool places in the US to take photos, and the Grand Canyon ISN'T on that list, just close the tab and walk away from the list. Sunsets at the Grand Canyon have been described as “life changing," and while that's an overstatement, they'll certainly give you pause. The Grand Canyon is one of those places that makes even the most hard-to-impress cynic have a mini existential moment. The sunset's just visual gravy. Hopi Point is a good, albeit crowded spot to get your snaps off, or try taking a shuttle to Yaki or Yavapai points, which are generally less congested.
Panama City Beach, FL
Alright, so Panama City is basically synonymous with Spring Break. But if you're there at any other point in the year -- or if you're over the age of 25, for that mattter -- there's more to do than just drink. Maybe. Catch awesome views full of crazy cloudscapes from the Pier at Pier Park, take a sunset cruise, or get a totally new perspective by flying directly into the sunset via a panhandle helicopter ride. Just beware any bros potentially photobombing your Instagram masterpiece.
Orcas Island, WA
The islands of Northwestern Washington probably don't get enough love across the nation, but the largest of the San Juan Islands is worth a visit for sunsets alone. You'll have your option of props, too, whether you're just chilling on a beach, kayaking, or on a whale-watching expedition. It IS called Orcas Island, after all. Mount Constitution, the highest peak in the San Juan Islands, offers the highest vantage point in the area. And with Washington's new marijuana laws, it's totally legal to get that high.
The famous red sandstone formations of Sedona make the sky look like it's on fire at night. Expect a near-fluorescent dusk, with the most popular spot for sunset viewing in Airport Mesa, which gets you panoramic long distance views. Cathedral Rock and Doe Mountain are more iconic Sedona locations, though, so it's really up to you what sort of aesthetic you're aiming for -- it's hard to go wrong when it looks like the sky's on fire. Ya know, except during a blitzkrieg.