The 10 Most Instagram-worthy Hikes in the Pacific Northwest

Hiking Wednesday, August 20, 2014 Written by

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There is certainly a lot of Pacific Northwest pride on Instagram. Mountain vistas, cool blue lakes, gorgeous bridges—these are the photos that make you proud to live here and inspire you to seek new adventures.

But where do you find these epic landscapes? From the thousands of hikes in our backyard we’ve highlighted 10 worthy to be your most “liked” photo of the summer.


1. Blanca Lake

I thought I knew most hikes within a two-hour drive from Seattle, but when I saw a photo of Blanca Lake on Instagram, I knew I had missed something. I changed my weekend plans and immediately set out to capture this gorgeous lake. Accessed by a forest road near Skykomish, this 7.5-mile trail is one you have to see for yourself. Don’t forget your swimsuit for a refreshing swim in the lake!

2. Snow Lake

This is one of the most popular trails in Washington State, and it’s probably because of the views. Alpine lake, bold granite peaks…this vista is ready for its Instagram close-up. Its location (near Snoqualmie pass) and moderate difficulty (low elevation gain, 6.5 miles) are also big draws, so head out on a weekday or in early fall to beat the crowds.

3. Mailbox Peak

This hike is not for the faint of heart. Don’t be deceived by the shorter length of 5.5 miles. You’ll climb up and up and up, gaining almost 1,000 feet per mile—but the views at the top are well worth the effort. And yes, there really is a mailbox at the top!

4. Reflection Lake

You can’t have a list of photo-worthy hikes without including mighty Mount Rainier. There are many hikes in the area to capture this beast of a mountain, but we think Reflection Lake is truly breathtaking. Access the trail near Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park.

5. Rialto Beach

If you can make it out to the Washington coast, hit up Rialto Beach around sunset for gorgeous shots of the seastacks. Hike along the beach or even set up camp for the night.


6. Smith Rock State Park

One of the ‘Seven Wonders of Oregon,’ Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon offers jagged rock cliffs, rivers, canyons and other photo ops like you’ve never imagined. Head off on one of the many trails that meander through the park and be prepared to get photo happy.

7. Painted Hills

Head out on the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway in northeast Oregon to catch a view of the Painted Hills, part of the John Day Fossil Beds. Try a few of these short trails to explore the area and take in the historic beauty. Time your visit in late afternoon to capture the most vibrant colors of the hills.

8. Crater Lake National Park

It’s pretty impossible to take a bad photo of Crater Lake, in southeast Oregon. At over 2,000 feet deep, the lake is a rich blue and crystal clear. Hikers will find more than 100 miles of hiking trails in the park, but try Watchman Peak for especially panoramic, photo-worthy views.

9. Mount Jefferson Wilderness

Towering mountain + underlying lake = Instagram gem. This means you should plan a trip to Mount Jefferson and Park Lake. Explore the area on a day hike along Whitewater Trailhead, just outside of Bend.

10. Mount Hood

There are so many trails to explore to capture Oregon’s highest point—Mount Hood. A few to try are the Trillium Lake Loop Trail for an easy day hike or the Timberline Trail for a longer backpacking adventure. You can also try one of these other options recommended by Travel Oregon.


Photo Tips

If you’re like most hikers and use your phone as your camera, here are a few tips to make sure you get the best shots.

1. Watch the sun: If possible, shoot your photos with your back to the sun. This gives you crisp photos full of color.

2. Try new angles: Think creatively about your shot. Get down towards the ground and shoot low, or try a viewpoint other than the popular vista.

3. Rule of thirds: Keep in mind the handy rule of thirds for photos easy on the eye.

4. Edit: Fix brightness, saturation, sharpness and more by playing around with photo-editing apps. Instagram has added a suite of new editing tools in addition to their filters. You can also try popular apps like Camera+, VSCOcam and Snapseed. Whitagram is also helpful for uploading your panorama or horizontal shots that you don’t want to crop into a square.