There’s a difference between book smart and bar smart. You may not be book smart, but this series can make you seem educated and interesting from a barstool. So, belly up, mix yourself a glass of LMNT Recharge, and take notes as we look at the most Instagrammed wild places in each state. Powered by LMNT.
With more than a billion users, Instagram is the most popular photo-sharing platform in the world. On it, Clarendon is the most popular filter, hearts are the most popular emoji, and Halloween is the most popular day to post. As for the most popular places to snap pics, Disney Theme Parks, Times Square, the Louvre Museum, the Eiffel Tower, and the Las Vegas Strip lead the pack.
But it’s not all selfies with Mickey Mouse and panoramas of Sin City. The outdoors take up plenty of real estate on news feeds, especially destinations like national parks, state parks, city parks, and beaches. Using hashtag and location tag data available from Instagram, Busbud, and USA Today, I found the most Instagrammed outdoor places in each state.
If you like the outdoors but hate people, then this list is for you. If you want a cool picture of yourself striking a yoga pose in front of some aspirational out-of-doors place (just like everyone else), then this list is also for you.
Alabama – Lake Martin
Alaska – Denali National Park
Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park
Arkansas – Buffalo River National Park
California – Yosemite National Park
Colorado – Rocky Mountain National Park
Connecticut – Mattatuck State Forest
Delaware – Rehoboth Beach
Florida – South Beach
Georgia – Piedmont Park
Hawaii – Mauna Kea Volcano
Idaho – Bear Lake
Illinois – Millennium Park
Indiana – Turkey Run State Park
Iowa – The Bridges of Madison County
Kansas – Flint Hills Trail State Park
Kentucky – Kentucky Lake
Louisiana – Chicot State Park
Maine – Old Orchard Beach
Maryland – Assateague State Park
Massachusetts – Lynn Woods Reservation
Michigan – Silver Lake Sand Dunes State Park
Minnesota – Lake Minnetonka
Mississippi – Tishomingo State Park
Missouri – Lake of the Ozarks
Montana – Glacier National Park
Nebraska – Vala’s Pumpkin Patch
Nevada – Lake Tahoe State Park
New Hampshire – White Mountain National Forest
New Jersey – Island Beach State Park
New Mexico – White Sands National Monument
New York – Central Park
North Carolina – Lake Norman
North Dakota – Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Ohio – Hocking Hills State Park
Oklahoma – Beavers Bend State Park
Oregon – Cannon Beach
Pennsylvania – Ricketts Glen State Park
Rhode Island – Misquamicut State Beach
South Carolina – Myrtle Beach
South Dakota – Badlands National Park
Tennessee – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Texas – Padre Island National Seashore
Utah – Zion National Park
Vermont – Magic Mountain Ski Area
Virginia – Virginia Beach
Washington – Riverside State Park
West Virginia – Greenbrier River Trail
Wisconsin – Rock Island State Park
Wyoming – Yellowstone National Park
There are 15 state parks, 10 national parks, eight beaches, six lakes, three city parks, three national forests or monuments, and five miscellaneous locations.
It’s not surprising that state and national parks are the most Instagrammed outdoor places in the country. For the most Instagrammed places overall (not just limited to the outdoors), national parks and state parks are the top two categories in the nation, beating out locations like wineries, historic sites, landmarks, gardens, murals, and zoos.
By sheer numbers, state parks should be the obvious winners. As of 2014, there were 10,234 state parks in the U.S. Together, they account for 43,000 miles of trails, 217,000 campsites, and 8,000 cabins.
For context, there are only 62 national parks. California’s Yosemite is featured most on Instagram, followed by the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Rocky Mountain in Colorado, Yellowstone in Wyoming, and Sequoia in California. You might just think this is tied to how many people visit each place, but consider that Great Smoky in Tennessee is by far the most visited national park, but it doesn’t crack the top five for most Instagrammed. Sequoia isn’t even in the top 10 most visited parks, despite being the fifth most Instagrammed. Some parks just offer better photos than others, apparently.
The city parks are a nod to the country’s most urban places, while the beaches take the top spot for many coastal states. I considered omitting them from the list, but their overwhelming presence as some of the most Instagrammed places made me realize that beaches and city parks are the outdoors for some people.
Not a lot of these places actually appeal to sportsmen, but the list of lakes includes some pretty great fisheries. Lake Martin in Alabama, Lake Norman in North Carolina, Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota, and Kentucky Lake in Kentucky are regular stops on the bass fishing circuit and hold national recognition among anglers. But I’m guessing most of the Instagram content at those places is pontoon sunsets, lakeside cocktails, and beach bods.
Now, there are two states in particular that I feel I must call out. Nebraska and Iowa literally made me laugh out loud when I saw their results. Nebraska’s most Instagrammed outdoor place? A pumpkin patch. Iowa’s? Six rural bridges. I’m more intrigued by Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and the bridges of Madison County than anywhere else on this list. The next time I’m road tripping through corn country, I’ll be making a stop to see what all the hype is about.
I also need to pick on Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Oklahoma. Your top outdoor places were damn hard to find because all the data shows your favorite things to Instagram are stadiums, racetracks, amusement parks, airports, and universities. When you look at the top five most Instagrammed locations for those states, you’d swear there isn’t a tree or river within their borders.
The most common theme among these 50 locations? Nearly all of them are state- or federally-managed public lands. The diversity of this list shows there’s something for everyone in a country who values public places. While we’re stoked to see that, you probably won’t find the MeatEater crew hashtagging #OldOrchardBeach or #GreenbrierRiverTrail anytime soon—we generally like our public lands with less public.
Feature graphic by Hunter Spencer.