10 Best National Parks for Sunrises and Sunsets (2023)

Some people will go to great lengths to witness the beauty of sunrise and sunset. It’s not just about watching the sun appear and disappear over the horizon, it's also about the surrounding landscape and cloud formations. A handful of the most dramatic dawn and dusk destinations are inside U.S. national parks.

Some sun-viewing spots are well known and filled with photographers each morning and evening. Others are remote and difficult to access, so you'll have to share the panoramas with only a few intrepid hikers.

Here are 10 of the best places to watch the sunrise or sunset in U.S. national parks.


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Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

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Voyageurs National Park in International Falls, Minnesota, offers visitors many great spots to watch the sun set or rise. With more than two dozen lakes, the park, which is popular with paddlers, has a number of great waterfront vantage points. In 2016, one of the lakes, Lake Kabetogama, was named the best national park location to view the sunrise or sunset.

The great views at Voyageurs don’t end after dark. Because of its latitude, this is a great place to catch a glimpse of the northern lights (aurora borealis), and summer visitors may also have an opportunity to see the Perseids meteor shower.


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Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

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The craggy rock formations, otherworldly landscapes, and a strong network of roads and trails make Badlands National Park one of the best places for sun-seekers. The destination has a number of popular viewing spots. In addition to the beloved sunrise and sunset views, visitors and photographers can take in the magic blue hour or twilight to capture the unique landscapes in soft, even light.

Those who like an elevated vantage point can head to the Pinnacles Overlook, ideal for sunsets. The easy Door and Window Trails lead to popular sunrise viewing locations as does the longer, more-challenging Castle Trail. The Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway is another sunrise or sunset option. The 39-mile road passes through the park and has numerous areas to stop and enjoy the view at dawn and dusk.


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Haleakala National Park (Hawaii)

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Haleakala National Park is the home of Haleakala, a 10,023-foot crater on the island of Maui. Its summit—which can be reached by car—is a popular sunrise viewing location. Though the drive can take up to two hours, it's easier than many of the world’s other summit sunrise spots, which require an all-night climb. Because the Haleakala viewpoint is popular, the National Park Service allows visitors to make reservations up to 60 days in advance. Sunrise is between 5:38 a.m. and 6:58 a.m., depending on the time of year, but it’s best to arrive early to get a good spot.

Once you have seen the sun, you can remain on the upper slopes of Haleakala to explore the unique volcanic landscapes, which are quite different from the tropical ecosystems that dominate Hawaii’s lower elevations.


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Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

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With some of America’s most iconic panoramas, it’s no surprise that scenic overlooks along the canyon rim of Grand Canyon National Park draw crowds in the predawn hours and again at sundown. One of the most popular sunrise viewing areas is the park's easily accessible Mather Point. Yaki Point offers similar panoramas and, because it doesn’t allow private vehicles, it is usually much less crowded than Mather.

Several prime viewing areas, including Yaki Point, are served by a park shuttle bus service. In addition to Yaki and Mather, there are more than a dozen Grand Canyon overlooks that are recommended for sunrise and sunset viewing.


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Acadia National Park (Maine)

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Acadia National Park—a 47,000-acre park off the coast of Maine—is filled with incredible spots to enjoy the rise and set of the sun. One of the park's islands, Mount Desert Island, is home to more than 20 mountains, including Cadillac Mountain. Not only is the 1,530-foot summit of Cadillac Mountain a great place to see the sunrise, it's the first place to see it in the United States between October and March. During the summertime, viewers on nearby Mars Hill see the sun a few moments earlier. Some visitors arrive on the Cadillac summit early to see the whole event, from the first change in light to the full sunrise.

The scenery—with the Atlantic in the background and the islands of Frenchman Bay in the foreground—draws photographers, but the predawn crowd swells with "first sunrise" viewers. Luckily, there are a huge number of hiking trails on the island, so the attraction of Acadia National Park does not diminish after sunrise.


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Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

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Canyonlands National Park is known for its remarkable rock formations set in a backdrop of mountains. One of the park's best known formations is Mesa Arch. The arch draws photography enthusiasts each morning because of the unique view of the sunrise through the half-circle of sandstone. The dawn is undeniably impressive here with the underside of the arch turning a glowing red color as the first rays hit it.

Because it requires only a short hike, the arch can get quite crowded, especially during peak season in the spring and summer. Though the crowds are thinner, the sun’s appearance is no less stunning during fall and winter. Canyonlands has a number of trails of all difficulty levels that lead to points and overlooks or that wind down among the rock formations.


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Glacier National Park (Montana)

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Glacier National Park is the destination of choice for people who enjoy stunning lake sunrise and sunsets. The park has more than 700 glacial lakes, 131 of which are named. Saint Mary Lake has an ideal setting with pines, peaks, and clear water that reflects the dawn and dusk colors perfectly.

The National Park Service recommends that visitors enjoy sunrise in the eastern portion of the park, where Saint Mary Lake is located, and head to the western section of Glacier, where the largest lake, Lake McDonald, provides excellent sunset views. The night sky, including the northern lights and the Milky Way, are often visible from the lakeshores as well.


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Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

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Virginia's Shenandoah National Park runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains and one road, Skyline Drive, traverses the entire length of the park. With nearly 70 scenic overlooks, Skyline Drive has an abundance of view options. Some look eastward over the hilly landscape known as the Piedmont region while the west-facing sunset lookouts offer panoramas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It takes about three hours to drive the length of the 105-mile road because the speed limit is only 35 miles per hour. The drive is pleasant at any time of year, but people often go in spring and summer for the wildflowers and autumn for the fall foliage.


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Everglades National Park (Florida)

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The Everglades is known for its wild, watery landscapes. The park—which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance—includes 1.5 million acres of wetland. A short loop in the park known as the Pa-hay-okee Trail offers a different kind of setting. Like many other “trails” in the Everglades, this one consists of a boardwalk that protects hikers from the sometimes soggy ground. The Pa-hay-okee Trail passes mangroves, cypress trees, and sawgrass prairie.

The flat ground and lack of tall plants make this an ideal place to see the South Florida sunrise. The accessible, elevated overlook—which is halfway along the loop—provides a great view and a good angle for sunrise photography.


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Sequoia National Park (California)

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Sequoia National Park is located in eastern California in the southern Sierra Nevadas. The park is jointly managed with neighboring Kings Canyon National Park, and the two comprise 808,000 acres of designated wilderness. For an incredible view, the Moro Rock granite formation in Sequoia National Park is hard to beat. Because of its prominence, it's a great place to see the sun rise and set over the surrounding forests, the San Joaquin Valley, and the peaks of the Great Western Divide. The trail to reach the lookout point is somewhat challenging—it includes a steep staircase carved into the side of the rock.

Shuttle service makes it relatively easy to reach the base of Moro Rock, and Sequoia has plenty of other overlooks. Many are granite dome formations like Moro, including a pair of granite domes called Beetle Rock and Sunset Rock that are easier to reach.


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