Nothing conveys the grandeur of America’s beauty like a magnificent vista stretching as far as the eye can see. Some panoramic vantage points are created by Mother Nature, while others — such as skyscrapers — have been engineered by humans specifically for postcard-perfect views. Here are 15 of our favorite panoramic views in the United States.
Kerry Park, Seattle, Washington
If you’ve seen a photo of the Seattle skyline, odds are that it was taken from this park. Located in the Queen Anne neighborhood of the Emerald City, Kerry Park provides sweeping views of the skyline, including the Space Needle. On a clear day, you can also admire Mount Rainier and Elliott Bay! Named after lumberman Albert Kerry — who donated significant funds toward the property’s purchase — the petite park is located at 211 West Highland Drive, and is open every day from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Find street parking in the neighborhood, and swing by nearby Molly Moon’s for a scoop of ice cream to enjoy with the view.
Point State Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Covering 36 acres, Pittsburgh's Point State Park provides a panoramic view of the city skyline. Located at the tip of the city’s “Golden Triangle,” the park overlooks the confluence where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River join to form the Ohio River. A massive fountain sprays water 150 feet into the air. The area was a strategic battlefield in the struggles between French and British colonists and Native Americans, and history buffs will want to visit the remains of Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne. Located at 601 Commonwealth Place, Point State Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Parking is available, but getting there by water taxi is more fun. (Don’t miss a ride on the Duquesne Incline.)
Mount Evans Scenic Byway, Colorado
The highest paved road in North America, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway is not for the faint of heart. But road warriors who brave the 49-mile trek with plenty of switchbacks will be rewarded with some of the state’s most beautiful scenery and seemingly endless views of the Rocky Mountains. Before summiting the peak of 14,130-foot-tall Mount Evans, visitors can glimpse rare tundra plants and bighorn sheep and mountain goats grazing on the steep terrain. Grab a bite at the Echo Lake Lodge before (or after) making the ascent. Timed entry reservations are also available.
Grand Canyon Skywalk, Arizona
Talk about getting close to the edge: There’s “I’m not afraid of heights,” and then there’s strolling onto a glass walkway jutting out 4,770 feet above the Grand Canyon. The Skywalk is owned by the Native Americans of the Hualapai Nation, and is open to visitors year-round. Those brave enough to walk on the glass path will be rewarded with spectacular views of the canyon — and bragging rights. For a less-crowded but equally stunning view, head to the historic Watchtower at Desert View.
At 13,803 feet tall, this dormant volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is the highest point in the Pacific Basin and is estimated to be 1 million years old. Sacred to native Hawaiians, Maunakea (“White Mountain”) is home to Lake Waiau, the only alpine lake in the state, which is capped by snow during parts of the year. An important location for astronomers, the volcano is home to more than a dozen massive telescopes. Visitors can reach the summit with an approved tour company, but views are also sweeping at the Visitors Information Center, located at 9,200 feet.
D.L. Bliss State Park, California
Just two miles north of Emerald Bay State Park (which is also no slouch in the views department), D.L. Bliss State Park offers some of the most stunning vistas of Lake Tahoe. Hike to the lighthouse at Rubicon Point — constructed in 1919, it once held the world title for the highest-elevation lighthouse on a navigable body of water. On the shore, fish for trout and salmon and take a refreshing dip at Calawee Cove Beach.
The Skydeck, Chicago, Illinois
There are some things Chicagoans absolutely will not do. Putting ketchup on a hot dog is one, and referring to the city’s tallest building as anything other than “Sears Tower” is another. Whatever you call it, the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the now-named Willis Tower is the most obvious place for a bird’s-eye view of four states. A ground-level stroll along the lakefront by the Adler Planetarium, however, is also scenic — and free!
Denali Viewpoint South, Alaska
Unless there’s poor visibility due to precipitation, fog, or clouds, there’s no missing the massive mountain of Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley). At 20,310 feet above sea level, the mountain is the highest peak in North America and the third-highest peak on the planet. Denali National Park covers 6 million acres of wilderness. Pull off about 40 miles from the mountain at A134.8 of Parks Highway for what may be the best view of its majesty, along with viewing scopes, interpretive boards, and a camping area.
Cadillac Mountain, Maine
Towering 1,529 feet over the granite state of Maine, Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park is the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard. Accessible by car, the peak is the first place to view the sunrise in the United States. Delightful at any time of day, it’s nonetheless worth an early wake-up call to see the first rays of dawn illuminate the country.
Riverboat Cruise, St. Louis, Missouri
A cruise is hands-down the best way to see St. Louis’ famed Gateway Arch and experience the city’s riverine roots. Hop on either the “Tom Sawyer” or the “Becky Thatcher” paddlewheel steamboats for an unparalleled view of St. Louis from the water. Afterward, take the vertigo-inducing tram up to the Arch’s top for an insider’s perspective on America’s historic “Gateway to the West.”
Pinnacles Overlook, South Dakota
There are many amazing views in South Dakota, but Pinnacles Overlook in Badlands National Park may be among the best. It offers scenic and sweeping views of the rocky outcroppings dotting the Sage Creek Wilderness Area. The overlook is at the highest elevation in the immediate area, and a popular pull-off when touring the Badlands Loop Road. Be sure to keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, especially the cute lambs born in late spring!
White Domes Road, Nevada
Towering sandstone formations, ancient petroglyphs, and vast desert skies are the hallmarks of Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park. Even if you aren’t hiking, plan ahead when visiting this 46,000-acre geologic wonderland — plenty of drinking water and a full tank of gas are absolute musts. White Domes Road is the most picturesque stretch when driving. For a great photo of the road and the surrounding landscape, pull off at Silica Dome Overlook (past the visitors center on the right), and climb up for a panoramic view of the Valley of Fire.
Devils Tower, Wyoming
Jutting 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, Devils Tower’s igneous rock columns stretch 867 feet from base to summit, making the tower the largest example of columnar joining on the planet. Home to peregrine falcons and sacred to the Northern Plains tribes, Devils Tower was decreed America’s first national monument in 1906. Movie fans will recognize it as the site of the climactic extraterrestrial scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). It’s particularly otherworldly at night, standing tall against a black sky illuminated by the Milky Way.
Seven Mile Bridge, Florida
One of the most interesting road trips in the country is along the Overseas Highway (U.S. Route 1), running a little over 100 miles from the southern edge of the Everglades to Key West. In between are 44 islands, 42 bridges, and more fun than can be measured in miles. The entire trip is worth taking (slowly), but one of the best photo opportunities can be found near the city of Marathon on Seven Mile Bridge, a box girder bridge that was once considered one of the longest bridges in the U.S. Stop at the nearby Sunset Grille and Raw Bar for conch chowder, key lime pie, and National Geographic-worthy photos right from the parking lot.
Signal Point, Tennessee
A popular hiking destination, Signal Point was a crucial command post during the Civil War. Part of the Chickamunga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the point is easily accessible by automobile and offers misty vistas of the Tennessee River Gorge and downtown Chattanooga. Descend the tricky wooden staircase to the overlook if you want to be right on the edge of the mountain, and continue down about a mile to check out the majestic Julia Falls.