These Are the Most Instagram-Worthy Waters in the U.S.

From crystal-clear lakes to breathtaking waterfalls, these destinations are a photographer’s dream and an adventurer’s paradise. The views you find at each spot might or might not make you "IG-famous," but they will absolutely make your jaw drop.

By: Joe Sills
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Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

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Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake at sunrise will burn itself into your mind for life. The stillness of the water, the loose volcanic rock under your feet, and the death-defying plummet from the crater’s rim to the water below melt into an unforgettable experience. Created more than 7,000 years ago when the cap of Cascade Mountains peak exploded, Crater Lake is host to its own national park, and some of the cleanest and most photogenic water in the country.

Pro tip: Bring a wide-angle lens for this one—the lake is larger than it looks on your phone.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Lake Tahoe’s Sand Harbor Beach is famous for its clear, boulder-strewn waters. Look up Tahoe, and you’ll see an endless array of hipsters, models, pets, and hipsters and models with pets all sharing the North Shore’s most popular IG destination. But there’s more to Tahoe than Sand Harbor.

The Lake’s South Shore has its own share of stellar locations at Baldwin Beach and Kiva Beach, and D.L. Bliss State Park on Tahoe’s western shore is equally stunning. Bring a wide-angle lens and a tripod for photos, then hop on a SUP for a bird’s-eye view of the lake’s famously gin-clear water.

Havasupai Falls, Arizona

Havasu Falls is one of the most beautiful, and most difficult to access, IG-worthy waters on our list. A visit requires a permit from the Havasupai Tribe, obtained online or via phone (928-448-2121) in a mad scramble at the beginning on February 1. Prices here are steep—$140 per night per person for a campsite in 2018, topping $200 per person during peak season. The reward for opening up your wallet? An indescribable blue-green waterscape including not only Havasu Falls, but its sister falls of Mooney and Beaver Falls as well.

These waters cut an aquamarine path through the red canyons of Arizona before winding their way into the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon. Pro tip: This trip is not for the weary. The trailhead for Havasu Falls is 260 miles northwest of Phoenix, and could require a 10-mile hike to your campground, not to mention a few death-defying hikes along steep, slick trails.

Bahia Honda State Park, Florida

Midway down the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda State Park is a blip on the map that doubles as a home for some of the best beaches in the country. Due to its relatively remote location and small size, Bahia Honda’s three cabins and 48 campsites fill up quickly.

Travelers hoping to spend the night on the key will need to plan up to a year in advance, but will see their patience rewarded by an ideal home for kayaking and starlit nights. Kayak rentals at Bahia Honda are currently closed, so you’ll need to bring your own boat, but the paddle and the views are well worth it. Partner the stop with a trip to Key West for a flawless Florida getaway.

Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona

The shores of Lake Powell are a scene carved straight out of Hollywood. The best way to describe the 162,000-acre reservoir on the Colorado and San Juan rivers? A flooded Grand Canyon.

Indeed, Lake Powell sits just upstream of the Grand Canyon. Created by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1956, Powell is one of the most popular destinations in the country for house boating. It’s also one of the most controversial lakes in America, having created easy access to Navajo sacred sites and covering millions of years of geologic and human history under its waters. Still, the place is a beautiful site to photograph, and you’ll want to bring a tripod to blend its stellar sunsets with the amber canyon walls in every direction.

Jacob’s Well, Texas

Fifty minutes outside of Austin, Texas, Jacob’s Well Natural Area was a local secret until Instagram made its tiny spring world famous. The well itself is more than 120 feet deep, but often less than 20 feet wide. Its fame stems from a perfectly situated diving platform and an even more convenient vantage point of that dive for photographers.

Swimmers beware: People have perished at Jacob’s Well, though the deaths usually occur when SCUBA divers attempt to descend deep into its mysterious void. In 2000, a diver was recovered in the well after being lost in 1979. An unofficial tally keeps the number of deaths in the icy waters of the well at "eight or nine."

Pro tip: A UV filter will help your camera cut through the glare of the Texas sun at Jacob’s Well.

Lake Ontario, New York

Perched on the outskirts of Buffalo, Lake Ontario’s cobalt waters can take on a glasslike ebb in the summer. These make an outstanding playground for northeastern photographers visiting nearby the tourist hub of Niagara Falls. And, the region hides another secret for photographers willing to explore the mouth of the Niagara River at Fort Niagara. There, the waters of Lake Ontario splash against an 18th-century, French fortification surrounded by Caribbean shades of H20.

New York’s Old Fort Niagara Historic Site offers admission to the ramparts for just $12. Inside, you’ll find a unique IG-worthy view that has yet to be widely popularized by social media.

Big Sur, California

A 2017 mudslide destroyed sections of California’s Highway 1 through Big Sur, leaving the road closed to thru traffic for over a year. This July, that changed thanks to $54 million in emergency repairs by Caltrans. But this road is no commuter route.

Highway 1 snakes through some of the most breathtaking coastline in America between San Luis Obispo and Half Moon Bay—two cities perched smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles and San Francisco. That proximity to major hubs can make Big Sur a crowded drive during the summer, but early birds who rise at dawn can still get the jump on tourists from the big cities by camping in one of the many state parks or private campgrounds along the Big Sur coast.

Dawn and sunset are not to be missed here, as either can create a mystic blend between light, surf, mountains and fog. Pro tip: Bixby Creek Bridge is the most popular IG destination in Big Sur. Try Nacimiento Road, Rocky Creek Bridge or Nepenthe Restaurant as an alternative.

Palouse Falls, Washington

Mention Washington state to travelers, and images of snow-capped peaks and evergreen forests come to mind. Palouse Falls offers neither of those views.

Instead, voyagers who venture to the remote valley in eastern Washington will be treated to an otherworldly waterfall plunging 200 feet into the river below. Surrounded by soaring ravens and a never-ending view, a winding hiking trail takes visitors along a canyon ridge and down towards the falls below. Primitive campsites make an affordable overnight possible for just $12.

The best views of Palouse Falls are easily accessible from an overlook near the parking lot; but be sure to turn your lens around 180 degrees towards the snaking canyon that’s fed by the falls.

Jenny Lake, Wyoming

Jenny Lake is an entry point to one of the best day hikes in the country, and it doubles as a fantastic set for photographers. Perched on the eastern face of the Grand Tetons, the deep, glacial lake is perfectly positioned for glowing, morning portraits over its crystalline waters.

Early morning hikers can make a two-mile journey around Jenny Lake towards Cascade Canyon Trail and soak up an array of lake shots along the way. Waterfalls, wildlife and a panoramic view of the lake await those who trek just over a mile up Cascade Canyon Trail to Inspiration Point. And, a late morning ferry, running every 15 minutes, can save your feet the two-mile trek back to the trailhead after 10 a.m.