A State by State Guide to the 50 Best Sunsets
Photo: Natural Selection Craig Tuttle /Design Pics/Corbis
It happens every day, almost anywhere you are.
The sun that provides you with light and warmth all day sinks beyond view, introducing you to night once again. Some days end with little fanfare. Others part with a dazzling flash of color so brilliant it seems the strokes of a master artist have painted the sky.
Travelers have a well-documented fascination with the setting sun. Our social media channels stand as testament to that. Obviously, you can watch a beautiful sunset almost anywhere. But there are places where the land and sky seem to almost have an agreement to put on a spectacle every evening. Yahoo Travel went in search of those places around the country.
Here are a few tips for both sunset watchers and sunset photographers.
Get high in the air…but not too far. Try to stay at roughly the same altitude as the far horizon where the sun will set.
Have a clear field of view, but include something in the dark foreground in your photos for interest.
Find water. Reflections expand and enhance the colors of the sky.
Turn around. We often are so focused on watching the western sky that we miss the show reflected off mountains, valleys, and buildings behind us.
Here’s our list of the best spots in the U.S. to catch a stunning sunset.
Sunset over Clay Bridge by Ditto Landing. (Photo: Trent Redinger/Flickr)
Marinas provide near perfect settings for sunsets. Contrast the colors of the sky with a sailboat for a share-worthy photo. Ditto Landing on the Tennessee River in Huntsville is no exception to the rule.
When a lodging business uses the word “sunset” in their name, you can almost guarantee that they’ve got a hot viewing spot. And how perfect is it that you don’t have to go in search of the sunset? Just pull up a chair on the docks at Sunset View Resort in Big Lake and prepare for the evening show.
Sedona may as well be dubbed “Sunset Capital of the Country.” There’s really not a bad spot to see a Sedona sunset, but Airport Mesa is prime. The goal here is to hike the short trail, then watch the colors play out across the opposite mesas, so don’t forget to watch both eastern and western horizons.
Water and a bridge? There is no better combination for a sunset. The Arkansas-Memphis Bridge in West Memphis reflects the setting sun perfectly.
Ride off into the Cali Sunset. (Photo: Sunset Ranch)
Ride off into the setting sun Hollywood style at Sunset Ranch. You’ll even get a glimpse of the famed Hollywood sign on the bluffs as you ride.
Related: #Daydream: Sunset in La Jolla, California
As in other mountain states, the best evening color often bounces off of colorful rock formations that face west. Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction is the spot on the west side of state to find amazing bluffs tailor-made for a colorful sunset.
Sunset Meadows Vineyard near Goshen is a colorful spot to sip some golden-hued wine while basking in the sun’s final glow.
Dewey Beach is a tiny town just south of Rehoboth with the one ingredient that many East Coast beaches lack—a westward view. Pack a picnic and enjoy the show.
There’s a sunset viewing party every night at Mallory Square. (Photo: faungg’s photos/Flickr)
Mallory Square on Key West not only has great sunsets, they celebrate them every day with food, entertainment, and as much quirkiness as you would expect on the western-most key.
Palm trees, creeks, and a lighthouse come together on Tybee Island near Savannah to form some perfect vantage points for sunset watching. You may need to stay several nights just to see the sunset from different angles.
Let’s face it, there simply is not a bad spot on any of the Hawaiian Islands to catch a sunset. Even if the colors are less than perfect, you’re in paradise right? Waikiki Beach is a great place to start your island sunset quest. Be sure to take in the reflected glow on Diamond Head over your left shoulder as well as the westward view across the waves.
A dinner cruise from Independence Point on Lake Couer d'Alene could be the perfect ending to a perfect day in Idaho.
The Chicago skyline at sunset is truly a thing of beauty. (Photo: iStock)
The Chicago skyline seen from Lake Michigan at sunset is bucket-list worthy. See it on a Wendella Lake Tour.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is prime sunset territory on the shores of Lake Michigan. Spend the day wildlife watching among the dunes, then settle in for an evening show across the surf.
Backbone State Park offers intriguing possibilities for sky watchers in Iowa. Hike the Backbone, or set up camp on the shores of one of several small lakes to capture the magic of evening light.
All it really takes in Kansas to see a beautiful sunset is being there. It’s the kind of place where people pull off the highway on a regular basis to watch the day’s end. If you pick one spot to visit just for the sunsets, try Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge where the hills, flora, and fauna come together for near perfection.
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area offers vantage points from the eastern shores of two lakes. It doesn’t get much easier than this to take home sunset memories.
A swamp sunset seen through the cypress trees. (Photo: jc.winkler/Flickr)
There are not very many places in the country where you can be part of a swampy sunset gliding between moss-draped cypress trees as the water turns orange beneath your boat. Airboat Swamp Tours by Albert will help you cross this one off your list.
Acadia National Park has no shortage of scenic spots, all with the potential for good sunset viewing. Blue Hill Overlook may be the best of the best, just don’t expect to enjoy it alone. This is a popular spot.
Mt. Vernon is hosting a sunset tour and wine tasting next month. Take in a little history, a little wine, and a sunset the way George Washington might have enjoyed it.
Chandler Hovey Park in Marblehead has everything you need for magic hour: water, sailboats, a lighthouse, and a strand of rocky westward-facing shore.
From the shores of Michigan, watch the sun set over Lake Superior. (Photo: James Randklev/Corbis)
Ontanogan County is known not just for copper that comes from the ground, but for amazing copper-colored skies across Lake Superior. Almost any spot along Lakeshore Drive is a producer.
The aerial lift bridge provides a unique set piece for your Duluth sunset in Canal Park.
Almost any spot on the eastern side of the mighty Mississippi comes with a sunset guarantee. We particularly like the view at Natchez, from the bluff overlooking the river.
Related: 11 Sunset Spots So Killer, They’ll Make Anyone’s Pics Look Good
On the west side of the Mississippi capturing a great river sunset requires a little creativity. The Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge in Cape Girardeau provides a stunning reflection of the fading western light against deep blue twilight.
In “Big Sky Country,” we’re pretty sure there’s no such thing as a “bad place to watch the sun set.” (Photo: Getty Images)
Spectacular sunsets that seem to encompass the whole world may very well be how the nickname “Big Sky Country” came to be. We especially like Gallatin Forks Fishing Access Point where two forks of the river converge for a near-perfect sunset spot.
Unusual rock formations rank up there with water for adding to a perfect sunset scenario. Toadstool Geologic Park has those in abundance.
The Valley of Fire all afire at sunset. (Photo: Getty Images)
Valley of Fire State Park lives up to a name that sparks images of brilliant sunset colors. Don’t forget your camera here. Even bad photographers can capture colorful shots.
Lake Winnipesaukee is ideal for sunsets; a Mount Washington Cruise makes it better.
High Point State Park lets you capture the sun as it sets across the rolling hills of the northwestern corner of the state and into Pennsylvania. Fifty miles of trails provide access to those stunning views.
The skies over the Land of Enchantment put on a show year-round, but in October the show takes on some colorful manmade additions during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The position of the fiesta grounds has a colorful backdrop of the Sandia Mountains to the east reflecting the evening sky, followed by twilight lighting of the balloons most nights of the fiesta.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is a perfect spot for watching the sun set behind the skyline of Manhattan. (Photo: Antonino Bartuccio/SOPA RF/SOPA/Corbis)
Brooklyn Bridge Park is a clear choice for sunsets that feature the iconic bridge.
West Coast piers that stretch toward the setting sun have nothing on the beauty of Bogue Inlet Pier. The pier points almost due south, so a vantage point on the east side allows you to capture the sunset through the sturdy wooden sea legs of this beautiful pier on Emerald Isle.
Crow Flies High State Recreation Area has incredible sunset views of the Four Bears Bridge across the Missouri River and the hills beyond.
The best sunset views of the Lorain Lighthouse are by boat, but in winter, a vantage point on shore runs a close second.
Rock outcroppings, ponds, and wide open spaces are what make Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge ideal for sunset watching.
The rock formations at Cannon Beach make a striking silhouette against the sunset. (Photo: Natural Selection Craig Tuttle /Design Pics/Corbis)
If you have never experienced a sunset on the Oregon shore, you are in for a treat at Cannon Beach where towering rocks jut straight up from the sand along the shore.
Sunset at Independence Hall is a moving experience. The trick of getting a good picture is to get the flag in the shot with a colorful sky in the background.
Napatree Point Conservation Area provides the all-important west facing shoreline on the East Coast. Put the dunes in the foreground and you’ve got a postcard shot.
Whether you catch the setting sun from the pier itself or below it, Mt. Pleasant Pier is a modern recreation center in Charleston with sleek lines to act as your foreground.
You simply cannot visit the Badlands National Park without staying for sunset. There ought to be a law. The park service even has a brochure loaded with tips for photographers.
The incredible view of the sunset from Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. (Photo: Jeremy Woodhouse/Masterfile/Corbis)
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From here, the mountains roll across the horizon below you, until it becomes hard to separate land and sky. Paint that with the colors of a setting sun and it becomes breathtaking. There’s also a really cool observation tower at the dome.
In a state as vast as Texas, sunsets encompassing wide open spaces or some aspect of ranch life are easy to enjoy around almost every turn. And there is no shortage of interesting landmarks, either natural or manmade, where sunsets are splendid. But sunsets across the Rio Grande in Santa Elena Canyon at Big Bend National Park top the list.
You are going to have to hike a bit for the best sunsets at Arches National Park, but the results are worth every step.
Sunset Rock in the Stowe Land Trust is aptly named. A short hike allows you to enjoy the sunset spectacle across the Green Mountains.
Huntington Park in Newport News has beautiful views across the James River looking to the west, including the enormous lift span of the James River Bridge.
A Rialto Beach sunset becomes even more magical when combined with a layer of Pacific Northwest fog. (Photo: Cindy Kassab/Corbis)
Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park is the perfect spot to enjoy sunsets along the wild and rugged Pacific coast.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers come together. Overlooks provide idyllic spots from which to watch the setting sun.
Pick almost any spot along the shore in Egg Harbor for a stunning sunset view across Green Bay.
Sunset over Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo: iStock)
Among all the astonishing things you can see in Yellowstone National Park, it’s easy to forget to enjoy a simple sunset. Hayden Valley is there to remind you that the beauty of the setting sun knows no boundaries. It’s there to enjoy whether you are inside one of the country’s most amazing national parks or just driving a country road.
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