Playwright William Somerset Maugham once wrote: “There are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort.” Indeed, a picnic is a delightful way to pass the time and enjoy nature. From shady gazebos to magnificent overlooks, here are some of the best places in the U.S. to have the perfect picnic.
New River Gorge Bridge (West Virginia)
Spanning a canyon at a height of 3,030 feet, the New River Gorge Bridge offers epic views of the picturesque Appalachian Mountains in southern West Virginia. To make the most of your visit, stop by the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, which has a network of boardwalks that lead to observation decks with views of the bridge and the river below. For lunch, picnic tables are available closer to the visitor center, which also offers scenic vistas for two miles into the horizon.
Bluff Park at Salt Creek Beach (Dana Point, California)
Offering stunning views of the Pacific Coast in Southern California, Salt Creek Beach is an idyllic locale to spend an afternoon. While the beach is a popular spot for surfers and boogie boarders, the park above the beach is perfect for a picnic, with a day-use area that includes tables and barbecues. The beach is easily accessible from there, with concessions open during the spring and summer.
Walden Pond (Concord, Massachusetts)
Walden Pond is a beautiful and contemplative picnic spot just outside Boston. To escape the city’s summer heat, swimmers can access the water via a sandy beach and enjoy lunch at nearby picnic tables. Using a scenic trail that encircles the kettle pond, visitors can walk in the very same steps as Henry David Thoreau, the famous American naturalist. The self-guided walk leads to a replica of Thoreau’s house and is especially lovely in autumn with the changing leaves.
Angel Peak Scenic Overlook (Bloomfield, New Mexico)
Located 15 miles south of Bloomfield, New Mexico, Angel Peak Scenic Overlook offers dramatic vistas of the American Southwest. Featuring views of nearby Angel Peak, which rises 7,000 feet above sea level, the overlook is situated over the region’s rugged badlands, which contain fossil remnants and petrified wood. And with three covered picnic areas and a campground, this scenic spot is great for enjoying the view during lunch or choosing to spend a few days beneath the rim.
Two Lights State Park (Cape Elizabeth, Maine)
A short drive from the city of Portland, Two Lights State Park is one of the region’s best-kept secrets. Away from the crowds of Fort Williams (home of the famous Portland Headlight), Two Lights provides secluded picnic tables nestled against the rocky Maine coastline. Connected by winding trails lined with fragrant beach rose bushes and outfitted with personal charcoal barbecues, this private oasis is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic by the sea.
Mount Bonnell (Austin, Texas)
For a romantic (and cheap) date in Austin, there’s no better place than Mount Bonnell. One of the highest points in the city at 781 feet tall, Mount Bonnell provides sweeping views of downtown and the Colorado River. Free parking is available in a lot on Mount Bonnell Road, which offers two trailheads — one that leads to a gravel trail and the other to a steep stairway. Both routes take visitors to the scenic summit, complete with picnic tables. Keep in mind that the journey requires climbing 200 feet in elevation, so good hiking shoes are necessary.
Columbia River Gorge (Mount Hood, Oregon)
Officially designated as a national scenic area, Columbia River Gorge provides no shortage of spectacular vistas — or things to do. Not only does the park offer impressive views of the river and canyon, but it also has trails that meander past waterfalls, through wildflower-filled meadows, and up mountains. If you’re overwhelmed by all the options, a good place to start is hiking to the base of Multnomah Falls, which is home to a visitor center, concessions, and picnic tables.
Picnic Rock Natural Area (Bellvue, Colorado)
Just 10 miles west of Fort Collins, Picnic Rock is a magical spot along the Poudre River. It’s also one of the only free locations to enjoy the river — boaters, kayakers, and anglers use the spot as a starting point for adventures. With a large parking lot and plenty of picnic tables located along the river, the area never feels overcrowded. Visitors who wade in the river should keep their eyes peeled for pyrite — also known as “fool’s gold” — a natural mineral that can be found hidden in the river rocks.
Lime Kiln Point State Park (San Juan Island, Washington)
Situated on a rocky bluff on San Juan Island, Lime Kiln Point State Park is a hidden gem for whale watchers. This small state park is considered one of the best places in the world to watch migrating whales, such as humpbacks, orcas, minke whales, and gray whales.
The whales are known to pass through the area between the months of May and September, depending on the timing of the salmon run. With trails meandering through the 41-acre park and picnic tables available for day use, Lime Kiln is accessible via the Washington State Ferry System.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Munising, Michigan)
As the crowning jewel of the Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks might as well be called “Picture-Perfect Rocks.” These sandstone cliffs rise 200 feet above Lake Superior, forming a magnificent coastline with plenty of scenic viewpoints. Accessible via a paved walkway, Miner’s Castle is one such vista, offering a panorama of the dramatic cliffs towering above the water. If you prefer to stay at sea level, a well-maintained boardwalk leads to Sand Point, a scenic beach perfect for watching the sunset.
Forsyth Park (Savannah, Georgia)
A 30-acre park located in the city of Savannah, Forsyth Park has something for everyone. Located on the park’s northern edge, Forsyth’s focal point is an elaborate Parisian-style fountain that is often the site of photo shoots, proposals, and — you guessed it — picnics. The park also features shady walkways beneath looming southern oaks, two playgrounds, and a large grassy area perfect for a blanket, a book, and a bottle of something bubbly.
Magic Island Lagoon (Honolulu, Hawaii)
A subset of Ala Moana Beach Park, Magic Island Lagoon is one of Honolulu’s most idyllic picnic spots. The human-made peninsula has plenty of open greenspace for recreation, in addition to a lovely lagoon sheltered by seawalls. Beloved by those who want to avoid the larger waves of Oahu’s South Shore, the lagoon’s calm waters are ideal for young families. When it’s time to get out of the hot sun, picnic tables are situated beneath the trees for a relaxing lunch in the shade.
Highland Botanical Park (Rochester, New York)
A 150-acre park in Rochester, Highland Botanical Park is technically classified as an arboretum. Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York, Highland Botanical Park contains an extensive collection of Japanese maples, 35 varieties of flowering magnolia trees, 700 varieties of rhododendrons, and over 1,200 lilac bushes. As a result, the park is the site of the Lilac Festival, an annual event that takes place in May when the fragrant flower is in peak bloom, and a quintessential spot for a picnic in the spring.
Missouri Headwaters State Park (Three Forks, Montana)
Montana might be named for its mountain ranges, but it’s also home to some pretty impressive waterways. The historic Missouri Headwaters State Park, where Lewis and Clark camped in 1805, is proof. Located in the aptly named city of Three Forks, the park is where three rivers (the Jefferson, the Madison, and the Gallatin) converge to form the great Missouri River. The headwaters have plenty of amenities for anglers and picnickers, including picnic shelters, campfire pits, and campsites.
Dead Horse Point (Moab, Utah)
Away from the crowds at Arches and Canyonlands national parks is the unassuming Dead Horse State Park. Relatively unknown outside of Utah, Dead Horse provides incredible views of the region’s dramatic canyon, along with miles of some of the best biking trails in Moab. The very top of the park road is home to Dead Horse Point, which provides an arresting view of a U-shaped bend in the Colorado River. In addition to a cliffside overlook, Dead Horse Point is home to sheltered picnic tables with views of the high desert.
Maymont Park (Richmond, Virginia)
Home to gardens, historic mansions, and a nature center, 100-acre Maymont Park is the ultimate spot to spend a Saturday afternoon in Richmond. This means it's also a delightful place for a picnic, with plenty of open space on the grassy lawn to spread out a blanket. To snag the park’s best picnic spots, head straight to one of Maymont’s idyllic gazebos. With bench seating, shade from the sun, and bucolic scenery, these gazebos are a worthy setting for your favorite packed lunch.
Crescent Moon Picnic Site (Sedona, Arizona)
Situated alongside Oak Creek at Red Rock Crossing, Crescent Moon Picnic Site is one of Sedona’s most picturesque places. Located in Coconino National Forest, Crescent Moon is a popular spot to swim, wade, fish, or just take in the scenery of Sedona’s famous red rocks. Providing a phenomenal view of the famous landmark known as Cathedral Rock, Crescent Moon also has plenty of amenities, including water fountains, picnic tables, and a day-use shelter, making it a sought-after spot for groups.
Hancock Scenic Overlook (Kancamangus Highway, New Hampshire)
New Hampshire’s Kancamangus Highway is often touted as one of the prettiest drives in the U.S., and rightfully so. The mountain pass explodes with color in autumn, making it a popular destination among leaf peepers in early to mid-October. To make the most of the trip, however, stopping at Hancock Scenic Overlook is a must. Offering stellar views of the White Mountains, the overlook also features a sheltered picnic table and the kind of serenity that can only be found at higher altitudes.
Starved Rock State Park (Utica, Illinois)
A mere 90-minute drive from Chicago, Starved Rock State Park nonetheless feels a world away. Found along the banks of the Illinois River, the state’s first recreational park is home to seasonal waterfalls that flow off the sandstone cliffs in late spring. There are also 13 miles of trails that meander through the park’s 18 different canyons. With a designated sheltered picnic area near the boat launch, Starved Rock is a great launch point for boats heading out on the river.
Creamery Covered Bridge (Brattleboro, Vermont)
For a chance to picnic inside a covered bridge, Creamery Covered Bridge is the perfect roadside stop while driving through Vermont. Built in 1879, Creamery Covered Bridge is Brattleboro’s only surviving bridge from the 19th century. Although it is no longer operational for vehicles, it does make for a scenic spot next to the babbling Whetstone Brook. With a single picnic table surrounded by wildflowers in summer, there’s no better place to eat a sandwich near Route 9.