With its incredible diversity and picture-perfect vistas, California is an Instagrammer’s paradise. While global travel is paused, we invite you to travel vicariously to the Golden State by reading about some of California’s most photo-worthy locations, and checking out the incredible shots linked below. Keep dreaming with us, and keep these Instagram-worthy destinations in mind for when you can plan your next getaway to the Golden State.
Siskiyou County, located in California’s expansive Shasta Cascade region, is a photographer’s dream. One of Siskiyou’s most Instagrammable locations is McCloud Falls, which includes three tiers – Lower, Middle and Upper. During the summer and fall seasons, visitors can basically drive right up to the trio of waterfalls, making this have-to-hashtag location accessible to just about everyone. For more adventurous Instagram enthusiasts, two particularly rewarding options are the steep hike up to the picturesque Heart Lake or a trek into the depths of Pluto’s Cave to capture the stunning “shaft” lighting.
California’s North Coast region is known for its soaring redwood trees, untouched beaches and epic natural scenery. While wandering through Humboldt County’s Redwood National & State Parks, nature-lovers won’t be able to resist the misty waterfalls of Fern Canyon, the herds of majestic Roosevelt elk, and the towering redwoods found along the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway. Nearby Mendocino County is equally rich in natural beauty, offering up the graceful Panhorst Bridge at Russian Gulch, the Painted Cliffs at Stornetta Public Lands, the famous Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree, and more.
Located in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range, California’s Gold Country is home to tucked-away towns, fast-paced rivers and the state’s capital city – Sacramento. While spots like Lake Clementine Dam have long been a photographer’s delight, it is Sacramento itself that has become an Instagram sensation over the past few years, with the debut of an annual mural festival. Wide Open Walls has brought the city’s buildings and alleys to life with 100 vibrant and photo-worthy murals, including the incredible 15-story Johnny Cash Mural by the famous Shepard Fairey.
San Francisco Bay Area
Encompassing the urban beauty of San Francisco, the rolling vineyards of Wine Country and everything in between, California’s Bay Area is full of Instagram-worthy shots. The Presidio offers eight scenic overlooks of San Francisco including an incredible vantage point of the Golden Gate at Baker Beach and views of the city skyline from Crissy Field Overlook. Meanwhile in Napa Valley, Instagrammers will find idyllic shots while walking through the picture-perfect gardens at Newton Vineyard, soaring above the vineyards via hot air balloon or wandering through the medieval architecture of the Castello di Amorosa. Farther down the coast, Capitola’s Venetian Court beach houses in Santa Cruz County provide an Instagram-worthy pop of color.
When the mountains are calling, California’s High Sierra will delight the photographer and adventurer alike. For an awe-inspiring vista point, take a leisurely ride 2,000 feet above the shoreline aboard the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Aerial Tram, watch from Emerald Bay as the first light illuminates Fannette Island, visit the iconic Tunnel View for a panoramic shot of Yosemite Valley or hike to Hot Creek Geologic Site in Mammoth Lakes to watch hot springs rich in dissolved minerals emerge into turquoise pools. If you’re looking to capture an unforgettable reflection, check out Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe, the mystical tufa formations at Mono Lake or the swaying aspens throughout June Lake Loop in Mono County.
Yuba and Sutter Counties, located in the Central Valley, are rich in Instagrammable photo opportunities. Here, flowering orchards and sparkling lakes make for the perfect backdrop to your next post. This hidden gem of a region is also home to Sequoia National Park, easily accessible via shuttle from nearby Visalia. One of the top 10 most Instagrammed national parks, Sequoia offers up some incredible vista points from Moro Rock and Little Baldy, along with towering Sequoia groves and the iconic General Sherman Tree – the largest living thing on the planet.
While famous for the spectacular Highway 1, California’s Central Coast is full of photo-worthy destinations. Instagrammable moments abound in the northern part of the region, including the “purple carpet” of ice plant that takes over Pacific Grove’s Ocean View Boulevard each year and zebras grazing on the land of Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Options are equally plentiful in the southern part of the region, with the elaborately themed rooms at Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, oceanfront resorts like Rosewood Miramar Beach in Santa Barbara and dozens of beach spots along Ventura County Coast.
Ranging from sand dunes to canyons and salt flats to wildflowers, Death Valley’s dramatic landscape supplies endless options for postable content. The vibrant colors of Artist’s Palette, salt flats of Badwater Basin and incredible vantage point of Dante’s View all make for incredible photos. After a day exploring nature’s wonders, return to The Oasis at Death Valley for a different kind of beauty. Here, private casitas, lush palm groves and a gorgeous pool provide the perfect backdrop for your next Instagram post.
Temecula Valley, Southern California’s Wine Country, is known for its picturesque scenery. Photos taken from the hilltop gazebo at Rose Haven Heritage Garden, the top of the stairs at Oak Mountain Winery and the wooden bridge on Main Street in Old Town Temecula all provide a beautiful Instagram aesthetic. Just a short two hour drive away, Big Bear Lake is equally photogenic with the lake offering crystal clear reflections of alpine sunsets.
Los Angeles County
Home to iconic beaches, celebrity hotspots and Instagram-worthy hotels, it comes as no surprise that Los Angeles County is an Instagrammer’s paradise. Catalina Island’s lush green mountains offer up gorgeous vistas to capture a photo of the harbor, Terranea Resort’s 102 acres provide breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, and the famous Santa Monica Pier is the most Instagrammed destination in all of Los Angeles.
Orange County is known for its trendy coastal cities, flawless beaches and of course Disneyland – the most Instagrammed tourist attraction in the world. While “the happiest place on earth” provides a magical backdrop for a vacation selfie, Anaheim is full of other insta-worthy spots including the bustling Anaheim Packing District. If you’re looking to capture more fun-in-the-sun content, Newport Beach has you covered with options ranging from the chic boutiques and waterside dining of Lido Marina Village to the exotic plants at Sherman Library and Gardens.
San Diego County
With scenic sun-drenched beaches, colorful neighborhoods, one-of-a-kind settings and a rich Hispanic heritage, San Diego is an Instagrammer’s dream. Some of the most popular spots for photos include Balboa Park’s iconic California Tower, the 60 bold and colorful murals under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in Chicano Park, and the legendary Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island.