The Pacific Northwest, which includes the states of Washington, Oregon, and sections of Idaho and Montana, is home to some of the most stunning natural scenery in the country.
In addition to stunning glaciers, towering mountains, secret alpine lakes, dormant volcanoes, pacific shoreline, and even wild grizzly bears, it is home to five national parks.
Arrive early and stay late is my best general suggestion for national park photography, and it applies to all of the parks I’ve visited. Sunrise and sunset are two of the finest times for photographers to create breathtaking photographs, and you will escape the throngs of people that go to these locations throughout the day.
It’s also worth remembering that some of the most renowned places require special permissions, which must be reserved months in advance; and that drones are absolutely forbidden inside the limits of every national park unless you have an approved special use permit.
Please continue reading our ultimate Pacific Northwest national parks photography guide to learn about which parks are the greatest to visit for photographers, where the best picture places are located in each park, and much more.
Best National Parks for Photography in the Pacific Northwest: Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, located in northeastern Montana, is a massive wilderness region of 1,583 square miles that abuts the country’s border with Canada on the west. It’s not typically discussed in the same breath as the world’s most famous national parks, but it should be! For me, this is the finest national park for photography, and I’m not just talking about the Pacific Northwest, but the entire country.
However, seeing Lake McDonald and taking a drive down The Road To The Sun are only a couple of the most popular activities to do in the park. But that is merely the tip of the iceberg! Those that take the effort to go into the wilderness will be rewarded with some absolutely spectacular sights that the majority of the population will never get to see.
Aside from that, if you are a wildlife enthusiast, Glacier National Park is one of the top national parks for photographers in the country. Here, moose, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears live in harmony with one another in this wildlife refuge. Head out with your telescopic lens at twilight or morning for the best chance of seeing any of these beautiful creatures. Please remember to always show respect to the animals and maintain a safe distance from them, though.
For those interested in photographing glaciers, make your visit as soon as possible! Unfortunately, as a result of global warming, glaciers are declining in size year after year and may eventually disappear entirely.
A selection of some of the most popular locations for Glacier National Park photography is provided below:
- The Going-to-the-Sun Road
- Lake McDonald
- Grinnell Glacier
- Iceberg Lake
- Logan Pass
- Two Medicine Lake
- Hidden Lake Overlook
- Swiftcurrent Lake
Best National Parks for Photography in the Pacific Northwest: North Cascades National Park
A hidden treasure off the usual road, North Cascades National Park is one that many people have never heard of before. In the North Cascade mountain range, only a little more than two hours north of Seattle is a lonely alpine beauty known as Mount Rainier National Park. There are around 300 glaciers in the area, as well as magnificent craggy peaks, gushing waterfalls, and other natural wonders.
Summer is the most popular time to come, and it is the best time to do it unless you are familiar with alpine surroundings and are prepared to be completely self-sufficient. It is not open until late May that all park visitor and information centers reopen after being closed for the season in late September or early October.
Photographic Tip: Don’t forget to bring your trekking equipment! It is recommended that you spend a few nights in the wilderness and explore the trails on foot if you want to depart North Cascades with the greatest photographs possible.
Some of the most popular locations for North Cascades National Park photography may be found in the following list:
- Sourdough Mountain Lookout
- Cascade Pass
- Heather Meadows
- Table Mountain
- Lookout Mountain
- Skyline Divide
- Washington Pass Overlook
- Park Butte
Best National Parks for Photography in the Pacific Northwest: Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is one of the most unusual National Parks in the United States for photographers, and it is located in Oregon. As a result of the fact that it is entirely comprised of rain and snowfall, the water in Crater Lake is unusually pure and has a lovely blue tint that shows out in photographs. Crater Lake was formed within a gigantic old volcano that last erupted around 7,700 years ago.
Wizard Island is without a doubt the undisputed highlight of Crater Lake National Park! The cinder cone volcano in the midst of the lake is actually another little cinder cone volcano that pops up and appears spectacular in photographs. There’s also the little Phantom Ship Island, which is rough and rocky and a lot of fun to film because it’s so small.
The Rim Drive is the finest way to see the entire lake and get all of the different angles. It takes around three hours to complete the drive. It features a total of 23 perspectives to stop at, each with a unique perspective.
Photographic Tip: Don’t forget to bring a lens for astrophotography! The summit of the crater is 6,173 feet above sea level, and there is virtually no light pollution, making it an excellent location to photograph the stars on a clear night.
Some of the most popular locations for Crater Lake National Park photography may be found in the following list:
- Drive the Rim Drive loop
- Watchman Peak Overlook
- Discovery Point
- Watchman Peak Trail
- Sun Notch Viewpoint
- Cleetwood Cove Trail