Utah is filled with some of the most scenic landscapes in the country. But you don’t need to travel to the national parks to find some wow-worthy spots for taking pictures. Salt Lake City has plenty of destinations that are sure to impress those on your Instagram feed. Here are six of our favorite spots in close proximity to the city that provide excellent opportunities for great photography.
1. Bonneville Shoreline Trail
A quick jaunt from downtown puts you on this incredibly scenic hiking trail with views of the skyline, lake, and mountains. The full route is more than 100 miles, covers a variety of terrain, and offers endless photo-ops. The short section just east of the city is simple to access and perfect for cityscape and landscape photos. Access the trail from any one of many trailheads, including Dry Creek Trailhead at the Jewish Community Center, Red Butte Garden on Red Butte Creek Road, Emigration Canyon at Hogle Zoo, and Arcadia Trailhead on Devonshire Drive.
2. Temple Square
As one of the most-visited attractions in the entire United States, Salt Lake’s historic center is of course worthy of more than a few photo posts. The magnificent architecture and gardens make it easy to take good pictures here. The Salt Lake Temple is one of the most iconic church buildings in the world. Inspired by medieval Gothic cathedrals, its arched windows and pointed towers are reminiscent of any age-old European city, though it was erected right here in the American West, over the course of 40 years in the 1800s.
In this 10-acre complex at the heart of downtown, there are plenty of other photo spots you won’t want to miss. The 26th floor of the ChurchOffice Building includes a public observation deck with fantastic views of the temple and outstretched city. The Conference Center supports one of the most unique gardens, which is found on the rooftop. The Tabernacle, home to the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, also houses a beautiful 11,623-pipe organ that begs to be photographed.
3. Great Salt Lake
Any spot along the lake’s shoreline is picture worthy, especially at sunset. Westward views from the city are famous for prismatic sky and iridescent water as the sun sinks behind the distant mountains. Many spots along the shore are picturesque, but a few specific locations deserve mention.
The Great Saltair is a former luxury resort and current music venue off I-80 that stands as a prominent outpost on an otherwise featureless landscape. It’s the most recent iteration of several, and ruins from past buildings are still evident as wooden pilings extend out into the lake in some places.
Antelope Island is a preserved state park just outside the city, where wildlife like pronghorn antelope and bison still thrive. Rocky outcrops dot the shoreline and textured hills form the skyline. Flowers bloom brilliantly in summer and the desert tinges orange in fall. Explore any of the numerous hiking trails to find many different viewpoints and search for animals.
4. Capitol Hill
Utah’s State Capitol dramatically overlooks downtown from atop a low hill. Visit the grounds during open hours to photograph the building inside and out. The building itself is a beautiful subject for photos, but if you can capture the backdrop along with it you’ll have a truly stunning image—skyscrapers and urban streets juxtaposed with snow-capped mountains in the winter. The secret to gaining this panoramic view is to head for the hills just north of the capitol. Be respectful of private property, but look for the perfect vantage point from Capitol Boulevard, 11th Avenue, or any of the other streets in this area.
5. The City Library
The public library’s main branch, located downtown, is a surprisingly photogenic and lively building. At the front, a huge curved atrium fills with sunlight, illuminating spiral staircases, balconies, and of course rows upon rows of books. Businesses on the first floor add to the variety with art stores, gift shops, and cafes. Don’t miss out on the rooftop terrace, which provides peaceful seating and a 360-degree view of the city and Salt Lake Valley.
6. Big Cottonwood Canyon
Many people drive Highway 190 through Big Cottonwood Canyon on their way to ski resorts, but this scenic gorge is worth a trip any time of the year. Anywhere along the road is spectacular for fall colors, when aspen trees turn gold. Big Cottonwood Creek babbles among verdant foliage and dappled sunlight, with many hiking trails that follow alongside it. Donut Falls is a pretty waterfall that drops through an inexplicable hole in the rock. Shadows and moving water make this a tricky photography endeavor, and the 3.5-mile round trip means you have to work a bit to get the perfect shot.
Now that you have a taste of what Salt Lake has to offer your photo appetite, check out the rest of Utah in our 7 Most Amazing Views in Utah blog post. Make sure you have plenty of room on your camera for all the pictures you’ll be taking because you won’t be able to stop. Enjoy!
Written by Jesse Weber for RootsRated in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.