Montana’s Glacier National Park is iconic “because of its breathtaking, glacier-carved peaks and flowing river valleys,” says photographer Emily Polar. The 10th most visited national park, Glacier welcomed three million visitors in 2018, many of them to its renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Montana’s Glacier National Park is iconic “because of its breathtaking, glacier-carved peaks and flowing river valleys,” says photographer Emily Polar. The 10th most visited national park, Glacier welcomed three million visitors in 2018, many of them to its renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Photograph by Emily Polar

Epic America: National Geographic photographers share their favorite places

How do you define an American icon? We asked 22 National Geographic photographers to pick their favorite spots.

Any traveler looking to experience the United States in full would have a lot of ground to cover. The country’s 3.8 million square miles are filled with more lonely highways, dense cities, small towns, and scenic parks than can be seen in a single trip—or several.

But just as there’s no singular American experience, there’s no definitive American tourist stop. From palm-fringed shores to snow-capped mountains, what’s iconic about the American landscape depends on where you’re standing.

So we put a question to 22 National Geographic photographers: When you think “iconic America,” what destination comes to mind? The images they shared, inspired by their personal experiences of traveling throughout the country, showcase the nation’s diverse geographies, cultures, and peoples. For some, pristine, wild places are a defining feature of the U.S. Others chose significant Indigenous sites to reflect on our nation’s complex history. Many chose to return to sites of memory—vibrant places that impacted them as young travelers, including one story of a family’s immigration. All images were made before the coronavirus pandemic.

Explore these 22 iconic destinations across the United States through the lenses of our National Geographic photographers.

Follow @natgeotravel for more beautiful images from our photographers.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on June 29, 2020, to clarify that all images were made before the coronavirus pandemic.
Maura Friedman is an associate photo editor for National Geographic Travel. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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