The state of Washington has much to offer for landscape and nature photographers. Its three national parks, wilderness areas, state parks, and other parks provide plenty of amazing scenery that is perfect for photography. In Washington you’ll find beautiful beaches and coastlines, soaring mountain peaks, impressive waterfalls, colorful flowers, and picturesque river gorges.
The only down side is that some of the wilderness locations are rather remote and not easy to access. Regardless, there are still plenty of amazing things to see in Washington at any level of adventure. On this page we’ll mention some of the most noteworthy locations for photography in Washington. The interactive map below shows the location of each spot mentioned on this page.
This page will continue to be a work in progress, so please feel free to leave a comment with your own suggestions of great places to photograph.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is a gem of the National Parks Service that offers a great deal of diversity and many different opportunities for photographers. Located in northwestern Washington, it includes beautiful Pacific coast and beaches, mountains, meadows, and temperate rain forests. Below we’ll look at some of the specific areas of interest within Olympic National Park.
Hoh Rain Forest
The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the most popular sections of Olympic National Park among photographers. This lush forest lies on the Olympic Peninsula along the Hoh River. The Hall of Mosses Trail is a short (less than 1 mile) trail that is a great way to easily access the area. Other backcountry trails are available as well. The Hoh River Trail leads 17 miles to Glacier Meadows.
Quinault Rain Forest
Like the Hoh Rain Forest, the Quinault Rain Forest is another excellent location for photographers. It is located in the southwestern area of the park. The 31-mile Quinault Rain Forest Loop Drive is a great way to see the area, with opportunities to stop and hike.
Among the beaches within Olympic National Park are first, second, and third beach. Although they are adjacent to each other you cannot access one from other due to the rocky headlands. First beach is the easiest to access and often crowded. Second beach is still relatively easy to access, less crowded, and it features beautiful coastline that is ideal for photography.
Ruby Beach, along Highway 101, is another beautiful beach within Olympic National Park. Here you will find a number of sea stacks that are perfect for photographing.
North of first, second, and third beach is Rialto Beach. This rocky beach is another great location for photographing the coast.
Hurricane Ridge is a mountain area in the northern part of Olympic National Park. It is easy to access and offers stunning views from the Hurricane Ridge viewpoint. Several hiking trails are available along the road near the visitor’s center.
Lake Crescent is a beautiful glacial lake with stunning blue water. This area of Olympic National Park can be conveniently accessed by Highway 101.
Marymere Falls is located near Lake Crescent and is accessible with an easy one-mile hike.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is located about 100 miles southeast of Olympic National Park. Mount Rainier rises abruptly from the surrounding area, making it a beautiful and impressive sight. The park also features wildflower meadows and old growth forests. There are many different trails for exploring the park on foot.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park lies in northern Washington along the Canadian border. This park offers stunning, undisturbed nature that is perfect for photography. The challenge with photographing North Cascades is the remoteness of the area. State Route 20 is the best way to access the park by car. Backpacking is a popular activity here, and if you have the opportunity to explore the wilderness you are sure to come away with some stunning photos. Points of interest within the park include Picture Lake, Maple Pass, Heather Pass, Lake Ann, and Diablo Lake.
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area
The Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is managed by the National Parks Service as part of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. It is adjacent to the south unit of North Cascades National Park. Although this area offers amazing scenery, it requires some effort to photograph. There are no roads leading to it, and access is available by floatplane or a ferry from the south end of Lake Chelan.
Cape Flattery is the northwesternmost point in the contiguous United States. It is reachable by a short hike, part of it on a boardwalk. Not only is it of interest because of the location, but also because of the beautiful coastline that is ideal for photographs.
Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve
Ebey’s Landing is on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound of northwest Washington. The island is easily accessed from the mainland by State Route 20. At Ebey’s Landing you can take an auto tour or hike to view and photograph the nature.
Deception Pass, Skagit Bay
Deception Pass is a straight that separates Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island, and it is part of Deception Pass State Park. The park also includes 3 lakes. It is the most-visited state park in Washington, and with the beautiful scenery it is easy to see why.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness
In central Washington the Alpine Lakes Wilderness offers stunning beauty. There are nearly 50 trailheads and more than 600 miles of trails to access the area. There are more than 700 lakes and ponds in this mountainous wilderness, making it perfect for photography.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest covers well over 1 million acres in southern Washington, near Mount Rainier National Park. It is much more than just forest, including mountains, river valleys, waterfalls, and volcanoes. It is divided into several different sections. Some points of interest include Mount Adams, the Mount St. Helens Area, Johnston Ridge Observatory, and the Indian Heaven Wilderness. It also includes many picturesque lakes.
Steptoe Butte, Palouse
Steptoe Butte is a rock butte in the Palouse Hills of eastern Washington, and contained in Steptoe Butte State Park. It rises 1,000 feet from the land around it. Steptoe Butte can be the subject of photos, and it also provides a vantage point for photos of the surrounding area. A paved road winds around the butte leading to the summit.
Palouse Falls State Park
Palouse Falls State Park is about a 1.5 hour drive southwest from Steptoe Butte. The almost 200-foot waterfall is the main attraction of the park, but the 370+ foot canyon surrounding the Palouse River is beautiful on its own. This is a fairly small state park and not much hiking is needed to catch the amazing views.
Riverside State Park
Riverside State Park is located in eastern Washington, just a few miles northwest of Spokane along the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers. There are more than 50 miles of trails in the park to help you find great views.
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful area of both Washington and Oregon. We covered the area in detail in our summary of the best landscape photography locations in Oregon. While the Washington side of the Gorge does not feature all of the amazing waterfalls that the Oregon side has to offer, there is still plenty of beautiful scenery along the Columbia River in Washington.
Beacon Rock State Park
Beacon Rock State Park in the Columbia River Gorge includes river shoreline as well as forested uplands. Beacon Rock, an 800+ foot volcanic plug is one of the main features of the park, and something that will certainly interest photographers. A one-mile trail to the summit provides amazing panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge.
Snoqualmie Falls is a 270-foot waterfall on the Snoqualmie River about 30 miles east of Seattle. This popular destination is easy to access and very photogenic. A small park with an observation deck makes it easy to catch a view of the impressive falls. There is also a trail that leads to a view of the falls from the bottom.
Cape Disappointment State Park
Cape Disappointment State Park is located in southwestern Washington where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean. The park includes a beautiful beach, tidelands, marshes, lakes, and old-growth forest. It is also home to two lighthouses. This is a great place to photograph the Pacific coast and the Columbia River.
Fields Spring State Park
Fields Spring State Park is in the mountains of southeastern Washington. From here you’ll find stunning views that include views of the northern end of Hells Canyon, the Wallowa Mountains, and the Grand Ronde River.
Dosewallips State Park
Dosewallips State Park is located in northwestern Washington, near Olympic National Park. The park offers saltwater shoreline on Hood Canal and freshwater shoreline on the Dosewallips River.
Wallace Falls State Park
Wallace Falls State Park is located about 50 miles northeast of Seattle, on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. The park includes old-growth forest, three waterfalls (all over 200 feet), and four backcountry lakes, giving photographers plenty of options. Twelve miles of hiking trails make it possible to explore the park.
The Skagit Valley of northwestern Washington is home to a popular tulip festival. This is an awesome location for photographing fields of beautiful, colorful flowers.
Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located in southern Washington on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains at the base of Mount Adams. it includes marshy wetlands and grasslands and is home to many species of birds as well as elk, deer, coyote, and otter. A gravel road leads in to the refuge and from this road and other roads in the refuge you are likely to see much wildlife. The two-mile Willard Springs Trail can be hiked to get a different view.
Want to learn more about neighboring states and provinces? Please see:
- The Best Places to Photograph in Oregon
- The Best Places to Photograph in Idaho
- The Best Places to Photograph in British Columbia
License links: CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY 3.0, CC BY 2.0, CC BY-ND 2.0, CC0
I have one more to add to the list: the entire Palouse region. I live near the Olympics on the Kitsap Peninsula and have photographed all the places you mentioned in the Olympics, the Cascades, Mt. Rainier, Mt St Helen, etc., but there is nothing like the Palouse in the rest of Washington State.
I am building a database of all photography hotspots in the Pacific Northwest. Currently I have 300+ points in WA and OR. It can be accessed at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1PhOMjbUzjPfL_7-rDt4Du6mNUkR0L4js&usp=sharing. Note that it is updated very frequently (sometimes 1-2x/day). GPS locations are accurate to a few feet.
Hi, I think it’s important that you add disclaimers about safety, respecting restricted areas, and skill level and proper equipment for accessing these locations. My friend’s brother died trying to take a photo at Palouse Falls. There were 4 deaths in 3 years as of 2018. Please do not encourage people to go here to take photos and not warn them that they could lose their lives.
Isn’t that basic common sense. Everything needs a disclaimer, warning, or waiver nowadays, uh.
Rialto Beach looks really amazing, all photos so well-taken thanks for sharing!