The most photogenic hikes can be hit or miss. Sure they’re gorgeous, but sometimes they’re just crowded.
So, when I stumbled upon a new study by Explore Worldwide that aimed to identify the most photographed hiking trails, my curiosity was picqued.
With the help of location data from over 1.7 million stock images, they pinpointed the hiking trails that frequently grace the lens of photographers. The results? A surprising blend of the anticipated and the unforeseen. Some seemingly photogenic spots appear to have been overlooked, and a few trails are more popular than you might think.
So, let’s delve into the list and explore more enticing destinations for your next hiking photoshoot adventure!
10. The Lycian Way, Turkey—A Photographic Odyssey
Photo Count: 5,945
Length: 335 miles
Base Camp: Fethiye, Turkey
Best Time to Hike: April-June, September-November
About 30,000 people visit this seaside hike along the Taurus Mountains on the Take Peninsula in the South of Turkey, so there’s bound to be quite a few photos of The Lycian Way out there. If you go, your camera will capture the intertwining beauty of azure seas, rugged cliffs, serene beaches, village marketels, and age-old ruins.
Archaeological gems include Olympos’s cityscape frozen in time, Patara’s ancient Lycian remnants, and Myra’s mysterious rock-cut tombs.
9. Laugavegur Trail, Iceland—A Photographer’s Dreamscape
Photo Count: 5,992
Length: 34 miles
Base Camp: Reykjavik, Iceland
Best Time to Hike: June-September
National Geographic called the Laugavegur trek one world’s best hiking trails, so it’s no surprise it has become a hiking photoshoot destination. Think of it as Iceland all-in-one.
Yout lens will be met by bubbling hot springs, steam vents, and landscapes that seem plucked from a sci-fi tale. And as you go further, the icy wonders of Iceland—the mighty Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers—stand ready for their close-up, even more magnificent when juxtaposed against mountains adorned in hues of orange, pink, and green.
Remember, no Icelandic expedition is solely about the hike. It’s about the rejuvenation that follows. Ensure your camera has a waterproof case, and indulge in the warm embrace of Landmannalaugar’s geothermal pools—a serene end to a day of capturing Iceland’s unmatched beauty.
8. The West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island, Canada—Culture and Nature
Photo Count: 8700
Length: 47 miles
Altitude: Up to 100 feet
Base Camp: Port Renfrew, Canada
Best time to Hike: June-September
Canada’s Pacific Rim National Park, where the West Coast Trail is located, is a stone’s throw from Vancouver and Washington State, but it feels a world away. While ferries run from Port Angeles and Vancouver, the adventurious might opt for a float plane or boat ride to reach this lesser-trodden paradise.
The trail attracts only 4,000 to 8,000 adventurers annually, a modest count compared to other destinations. Yet, its high photo count is testament to the trail’s sheer photogenic appeal: from ancient forests and pristine beaches cradled by rugged cliffs to the endless Pacific Ocean in the background.
Beyond the raw beauty, there’s a rich cultural narrative. The trail is woven into the history and culture of the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht First Nations communities, who remain to care for the trail and share their stories with travelers.
7. The Jordan Trail, Jordan—Ancient Wonders and Mystery
Photo Count: 9,343
Length: 400 miles
Start: Amman, Jordan
Best Time to Hike: March – May, September – November
This one is a surprise. One reason? The Jordan Trail Trail itself only opened in 2017, so it’s still not on everyone’s radar.
But, it’s also a 400-mile long path along the border with Israel in Jordan, through extreme Wadi Rum desert landscapes, right on the other side of the West Bank. So, if people are willing to brave this especially rugged wilderness, it must be special. If you do go, here are a few tips for travel to remoate places.
A trek here promises a walk through time with sites like the ancient city of Petra and the reflective salt flats of the Dead Sea.
6. Appalachian Trail, Eastern United States—Leaf it All Behind
Photo Count: 9,754
Length: 2,190 miles
Start: Springer Mountain, Georgia
Best Time to Hike: March – May, September – November
Difficulty: Beginner – Advanced
With three million visitors a year, it’s no surprise the Appalachian Trail, or AT, is on the list.
Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the AT’s accessibility has made it a favored subject for many cameras. It offers a diverse palette for photographers, from the undulating hills of Virginia and the thick forests of Pennsylvania to the ruggedness of New Hampshire’s peaks. And, interspersed within are reminders the past – remnants of old homesteads, battlefields from the Civil War, and historic towns that harken back to tales from our school days.
For the ambitious thru-hiker, the AT is a rite of passage. And if you’re an East Coast resident, this iconic trail, teeming with both natural and historic wonders, could be just a short drive away. It may not be the most photogenic hike on Earth, but it is close by.
5. Inca Trail, Peru—Wander into the Frame
Photo Count: 10,170
Length: 26 miles
Start: Cusco, Peru
Best Time to Hike: May – September
There’s nothing quite like peeking out at the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu at sunrise on the last day of a 4 day-long trek along this mountain-filled route as old as the ruins themselves. And while the Inca Trail isn’t the only way to hike into this wonder of the ancient world, it is one of the only ways to see the sun rise over it.
But it’s also the most popular trek in South America. 200 people start every day. 25,000 a year, and reservations are required well in advanced. I lived in Peru for a year and avoided this trail the entire time. Sure, you’ll pass through subtropical jungle, wander in the shadow of the Andes, and ascend into a cloud forest, and I did get a little jealous of the photos people took. But it’s loud.
As a Spanish speaker, I was able to figure out a different, one-day hike from a remote village, and I took plenty of great pictures. Another time, the other two times I took the train. I’m really not a fan of crowds.
That said, you’ll get plenty of good pictures if you sing up the less crowded alternates: The Salkantay Trek or the Lares Trek. But the Inca Trail is undeniably the most photogenic.
4. Camino de Santiago, Northern Spain—A Photo Pilgrimage
Photo Count: 10,738
Length: 500 miles
Start: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
Best Time to Hike: May-June, September-October
Difficulty: Moderate – Intermediate
The Camino de Santiago is not for every hiker. But, if you want to to join 350,000 other people in an ancient Catholic tradition that involves a lot of walking, then keep on reading. That’s right – this is more of a social hike, which makes sense as to why it’s been photographed so much.
Also called the Way of Saint Jamies, it’s an age-old pilgrimage where you journey to the shrine of the apostle St. James by foot through the art, architecture, and food of Northern Spain.
Along the way, there are historic landmarks you can’t miss and plenty of hiking photoshoot ideas. Medieval castles, Romanesque churches, Gothic cathedrals. and you will catch some million-dollar glimpses of the Pyrenees and the Galician countryside
But my favorite part of this region has nothing to do with taking pictures, or hiking, and everything to do with the breakfast—Tortilla de papas (Spanish Omelet) and café con leche.
3. The Westweg, Black Forest—Fairytale Photos
Photo Count: 13,105
Length: 177 miles
Start: Pforzheim, Germany
Best Time to Hike: April-June, September-October
Difficulty: Beginner – Advanced
The Black Forest is where famed Grimm’s fairytales, like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, were written. With stunning views of the Rhine Valley and the Vosges Mountains this trek enables you live out your wildest fairytale hiking photoshoot fantasies—with a little Rick Steves-esque level exploration, of course.
Catering to all kind of adventurers, the Westweg is a network of trails ranging from easy strolls to stretches that challenge even the pickiest of hikers (like me). But it’s not just the natural spectacle that enchants you. Passing through charming local towns you have the opportunity to fuel up on local palate-pleasers – the delectable Black Forest ham and the iconic Black Forest gâteau.
2. Everest Base Camp Trek, Himalayas—Capture the Adventure
Photo Count: 13,711
Length: 80 miles
Start: Lukla, Nepal
Best Time to Hike: March-May, September-November
Despite it’s far flung location, the 12-day hike to the base camp of Everest has become one of the most popular treks in the Himalayas. 40,000 people experience the Everest Base Camp Trek every year so it has become quite crowded (only about 800 go on to the top).
To respect the people and the land, make sure you know why you want to go on this journey. And it shouldn’t be just to snap some cool photos. Along the trail, you will encounter Tibetan monasteries and Sherpa villages, known for their warm hospitality and rich cultural heritage. The time you spend with your guides is more than about finding the way, it’s about making a connection with people who live completely different lives than you.
1. GR20 Trail, Corsica—Unbridled Beauty
Location: Corsica, France
Photo Count: 45,187
Length: 112 miles, 11-12 days
Start: Calenzana or Conca
Best Time to Hike: June or September
The GR20 is worthy of making the top of the list! Is it the most photogenic hike in the world? That’s subjective, but if you love crystal clear mountain lakes, sweeping martime views and jagged mountaintops sprinkled with snow, like me (and the other 10,000 to 20,000 yearly visitors), you could easily say it is.
It is an iconic 15-day hiking trail that spans 112 miles through the rugged terrain at the center of the Mediterrenean island of Corsica with mountain views for days.
Despite the length, you may not need to pack a tent—there are also plenty of mountain refuges and villages along the route for you to call home. Which reminds me—Don’t forget to try the local food, it’s an interesting mix of French and Italian. The Civet de Sanglier, a hearty stew made from local wild boar, is a favorite.
The trail can be crowded, especially in the July and August, so think shoulder sessions and make those reservations.
What other hiking photoshoot locations are missing from the list?
Data doesn’t tell you the whole story. There are plenty of photogenic hikes, so here are a few places that didn’t make the list. I hope they help you conjure up some more hiking photoshoot ideas.
- Italy’s Dolomites
- Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
- Tour du Mont Blanc
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
- Milford Track, New Zealand
- Kalalau Trail, Hawaii, USA
- Zion Narrows, Utah, USA
- Overland Track, Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain
- Haute Route, along the France and Switzerland border
Essential Gear for hiking photoshoots
Make a checklist and see how hike-friendly your photo gear is.
- Camera – A lightweight yet robust camera is essential. Many professional photographers prefer DSLRs or mirrorless cameras due to their excellent image quality and adaptability.
- Lenses – A wide-angle lens is great for landscape shots, while a telephoto lens can help capture distant objects or wildlife. Some photographers also carry a macro lens for detailed close-ups of flora or small critters.
- Tripod – A lightweight, compact, and sturdy tripod is essential for long exposure shots, particularly in low light conditions.
- Extra batteries and memory cards – The outdoors can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to carry spares.
- Camera bag – A weatherproof bag will protect your equipment from the elements.
- Cleaning Kit – Dust and moisture can play havoc with lens quality.
- Lens Filters – Polarizing filters can help to deepen the intensity of blue skies and reduce or eliminate reflections.
Tips for photoshoots on hikes
If you’re new to taking pictures in nature, here are a few tips to capturing the beautiy of a hike, and the subject of your photo.
- Rule of Thirds – This is a basic rule of composition. Imagine your scene divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines. Try to align the subject of your image along these lines or at their intersections.
- Work the Weather – Don’t be put off by overcast skies. They can create a dramatic atmosphere, especially for black and white photos.
- The Magic Hour – The best times for a hiking photoshoot are usually early morning or late afternoon, often referred to as the ‘golden hour’. The sun at these times provides a beautiful, soft, diffused light.
- Look for Patterns and Textures – The beauty in nature photography often lies in the details. The pattern of tree bark, the texture of leaves, the symmetry in flowers – these can all make stunning photographs.
- Be Patient – Wildlife rarely operates on your schedule, and the perfect light for that landscape shot might only last a few moments. Patience is indeed a virtue in outdoor photography.
- You’re still hiking – So come prepared!
Remember, the best camera is the one you have with you. So, whether it’s a professional-grade DSLR or a smartphone camera, the most important thing is to get out there and start taking photos.
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