Sunsets anywhere have the potential for breathtaking beauty: some of the most breathtaking beauty that our big blue ball of a planet delivers, in fact, yet it’s an everyday deal. For outdoorspeople, it’s hard to beat the dreamy color show of a top-grade sundown over a scenic vista as enjoyed from a wild (or at least semi-wild) vantage.
We thought we’d round up a few outdoor destinations that provide front-row seats for some of the best sunsets in the U.S. Of course, there are countless superlative sunset vantages in the country, and this list doesn’t by any means claim to feature the greatest—only a representative dozen that most definitely doesn’t disappoint. Read on for sunset-bagging inspirations!
(Oh, and something to remember: for the destinations below that require a hike in, don’t forget that headlamp for the twilight walk home!)
Ken Thomas / Public domain
Reached via a short, easy hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, the 1941-built fire tower atop Frying Pan Mountain ranks as the tallest lookout in western North Carolina, and it delivers sightlines of more than 60 miles encompassing such signature Southern Appalachian peaks as Cold Mountain, Black Balsam Knob, Looking Glass Mountain, Mount Pisgah, and Mount Mitchell. The sunsets are of the knock-it-out-of-the-park caliber.
The crater rim of 10,023-foot Haleakala, the shield volcano composing Maui’s east side and the centerpiece of Haleakala National Park, is a superb spot for sunset (and sunrise, for that matter—such a popular dawn tradition that reservations are now needed). Make sure to bring your layers, though: the high-elevation rim in the evening tends to feel quite a bit different than those sea-level beaches far below.
The great boreal wildlands of the Boundary Waters on the Minnesota-Ontario line treat canoe campers to smoldering sunsets that come reflected in loon-sculled lake waters and flare up towering, broad-spreading white pines: the primal North Woods at their best! From Kabetogama to Saganaga to Clearwater, you’ve got no shortage of lakes from which to soak up the show.
Some of the best sunsets in America—and the world, no question—await at the lip of the Grand Canyon. After all, how can you beat pristine Southwestern skies and an almost unbelievably huge redrock chasm? Classic sunset vantages on the South Rim of the canyon include (from east to west) Lippan, Yaki, and Hopi points.
Cape Sable forms a wonderfully remote southwestern tip to Florida, and one of Everglades National Park’s prime backcountry camping destinations (if you can stand the blazing heat and bugs). The beach campsites along its farflung western shores overlook a Gulf of Mexico viewshed that fires up a heck of a feature presentation come day’s end.
Yet another prime national-park sunset hotspot, Lake MacDonald—the biggest of Glacier National Park’s lakes—comes framed by a fortress of high peaks. These burn with sunset light and alpenglow: a Rocky Mountain spectacle that’ll burn right into your memories, too.
The 3,840-foot high point of the Taconic Range and one of Vermont’s more prominent peaks, Equinox Mountain (also called Mount Equinox) is a classic New England sunset perch. Its summit—reachable by car via Skyline Drive—affords awesome views of other Taconic highlands, the Green Mountains, the White Mountains, and the Adirondacks, the latter part of the western skyline that you’ll see crimson- and purple-streaked during the sundown goings-on.
Preserving lovely temperate rainforest and long roadless beachfront along the North Oregon Coast, Ecola State Park offers major ocean prospects from its Pacific headlands. The car-accessible picnic area at Ecola Point overlooking sea stacks and endless waves is a readymade case in point—and, depending on the season, you might catch a glimpse of a few gray-whale spouts in the sunset shimmer.
The sandstone knobs and hoodoos of the Garden of the Gods—one of a number of rugged wilderness areas within the Shawnee National Forest of southern Illinois—throw the misconceived notion of the Midwest as monotonous flatlands right out the window. They also look downright dreamy when they’re burnished in sunset.
Some 2,400 feet tall, the domelike Mount Constitution in Moran State Park crowns northwestern Washington’s San Juan Islands and delivers one of the most iconic Salish Sea panoramas out there, extending from the snow peaks of the North Cascades and Olympics to evergreen Pacific islets and the mountains of British Columbia. No question clouds often obscure the view, but when it’s clear (or mostly so), sunsets are absolutely fabulous from this wind-hammered eminence.
The out-of-this-world sedimentary spires and corrugated bluffs of the White River Badlands in reflected sunset make a gosh-darn Great Plains dreamworld. There’s really no bad place in Badlands National Park for sunsets, but the best seats in the house may well be at the Pinnacles Overlook.
Stupendously big granite rock walls also happen to do a great job catching sunset fire and holding it as mesmerizing alpenglow, which is one of the many scenic specialties of Yosemite Valley. From the valley floor, you’ll get blue-ribbon sunset looks at Half Dome, El Capitan, and other monolithic scarps; meanwhile, an unbeatable bird’s-eye view of the sundown drama—including glowing Half Dome—draws many to Glacier Point.
Whether a picnic dinner or a campsite one, nothing goes so well with a fiery sunset over a gorgeous landscape as a Mountain House feast!