General Photography

A Look at My 20 Top Travel Photos of 2021

The clock is beginning to run out on the year 2021 and that means it is about time for my annual post on my Top Travel Photos of the year. To be completely honest, when the year started, my hope was that this post would be filled with wonderful pictures from my autumn trip to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. However, the COVID-19 curse put a dent in my travel plans once again and left me scrambling to change my travel plans this autumn. As frustrating as it was to have to push back my trip, I was extremely blessed to be able to go on several incredible adventures this past year. From those adventures, I was able to capture several great photographs that I am very happy with. The purpose of this annual post is to share these photographs with you in the hopes that it inspires you to plan your next big adventure.

Top Travel Photos

However, before I introduce you to my favorite pictures from my travel adventures this year, let me remind you that you can still go back and review my favorite photographs from previous years in case you missed them. This is a yearly exercise that I have been doing for several years and I have linked to the previous editions of my yearly Top Travel Photos showcase for you to review below.

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Elephant Seal Vista in California

Top Travel Photos

The travel year began for me with a trip to Southern California to visit my brother and his family. I love getting to see them, but I also love my visits because there are so many incredible things to see and do in Southern California. One of my favorite stops, when I am down there, is the Elephant Seal vista North of Santa Barbara. Seeing these huge and incredible creatures up close is remarkable.

Bull Elephant Seal

Top Travel Photos

This year when I visited, I was lucky enough to visit around mating season, so there were a lot of huge bull elephant seals on the beach. You really have no idea just how massive these seals are until you see them in person. This guy was doing his best to protect a prime piece of beach that he had staked his claim to.

Pinnacles National Park

Top Travel Photos

One of my favorite stops on my California trip this year was to a national park that I have been trying to find time to visit for years. Pinnacles National Park is one of the newer parks in the United States, and it is also one of the smallest. However, what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in beauty. I think this shot of the jagged rock formations in the high hills of the park perfectly showcases the beauty of this incredible park. If you would like to learn more about the park, I have linked to a visitor guide I created for you to review below.

Condor Landing at Pinnacles National Park

Top Travel Photos

Without a doubt, some of the top travel photos that I took this past year were of the incredible California Condors at Pinnacles National Park. If you haven’t had an opportunity to see these incredible birds in person, you are really missing out. If you think the size and beauty of bald eagles are impressive, wait until you see these kings of the sky.

Condor in Flight at Pinnacles National Park

Top Travel Photos

If I had to narrow down the favorite of my top travel photos from this year, it would be very difficult to not choose this shot of a California Condor in mid-flight at Pinnacles National Park. Seeing this picture brings back such fond memories of seeing these amazing birds in person and just sitting mesmerized as I watched them soar above the park.

Beautiful Santa Barbara, California

Top Travel Photos

Ever since I first visited my brother and his family in Santa Barbara, California, I have been in love with the city. If you love outdoor adventure, the city of Santa Barbara couldn’t be a more perfect destination for you. With close proximity to some incredible surfing spots and the Sierra Nevada range only a short way away, there is always something to do outside. Not to mention, it is the gateway to the Channel Islands, which is one of the most incredible and underrated national parks in the United States. There is some of the best whale watching in the world off of the islands. I took the picture below from high up on the bluffs behind Santa Barbara. In the distance, you can actually see the Channel Islands off the coast. So beautiful!

Beautiful Sunset in Ventura, California

Top Travel Photos

One thing that you can always count on when visiting California is experiencing some of the most vibrant and brilliant sunsets imaginable. This was certainly the case when we visited Ventura, California. The sunset off the beach was so incredible that I was able to capture a number of amazing photographs. This sunset photo is definitely one of my top travel photos of this past year. You can see the surfers trying to get in as many waves as they can before the sun sets behind the horizon.

California Sunset Dreaming

Top Travel Photos

This is another photograph that I took of the same sunset that I am equally as proud of. You can see the young family at the bottom of the screen out on the beach enjoying the incredible view. If I had the time, I would try and spend every evening chasing sunsets as it often produces some of the top travel photos and most memorable shots. If you would like to learn how to predict when there will be an amazing sunrise or sunset to photograph, I have included a guide that you can review below.

Exploring the Porcupine Mountains

Top Travel Photos

As the calendar year turned to Summer in the Midwest United States, it was time for me to head to the Great Lakes to embark on what has become a yearly tradition for me. Each summer, I try and seek out some of the best kayaking destinations to explore. This year, one of the destinations that I chose to explore was the beautiful Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These rolling hills (I wouldn’t actually call them mountains) are absolutely beautiful and have some really fantastic hiking trails for visitors to explore. I love this shot that I was able to get that shows the mountains with Lake Superior in the distance.

Beautiful Bond Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Top Travel Photos

One of the best parts about the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is all of the incredible waterfalls in the area. One of my favorites to visit when I am in the area is the beautiful Bond Falls, which is located just outside of the park. I was able to capture this beautiful photograph of the falls with the reflection in the water on my visit this past summer. Such a beautiful place.

Breathtaking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Top Travel Photos

Without a doubt, the hallmark of my summer kayaking trip was a visit to the infamous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. If you love to kayak, then Pictured Rocks is an absolute must-visit destination. It is home to some of the best big freshwater kayaking in North America. It is also where I took some of my top travel photos of the year. The huge rock cliffs that highlight this spectacular coastline are amazing to explore from the water. You can also hike along the top of the cliffs to get a bird’s eye view of this dramatic coastline. I absolutely love this shot that I got when I hiked the Mosquito Beach and Chapel Beach loop this summer.

Kayaking Fun at Pictured National Lakeshore

Top Travel Photos

While there might be some wonderful hiking trails at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the claim to fame for this coastline is the spectacular giant coastal cliffs. One of the most popular ways to see and experience these cliffs is to get out on the water in a kayak and explore the coastline. That is exactly what I did this summer, and the experience is one that I will not soon forget. This photograph of our group kayaking thru the large archway on the coastline is one of my top travel photos of the year for sure. For more information on how to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and get out on the water and kayak this amazing coastline, please see my Definitive Pictured Rocks Travel Guide linked below.

Pictured Rocks Kayaking Adventure

Top Travel Photos

While the kayaking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was cool enough, having the opportunity to do so around sunset just added to this magical experience. As I have mentioned many times on my blog, photographing around sunset or early morning around sunrise are my favorite times of day to take pictures. This shot that I got on the back end of my Pictured Rocks Kayaking adventure is one of my favorites because the soft light of the evening gives the picture a warm glow. What an amazing moment to capture!

Exploring Leprechaun Canyon

Top Travel Photos

My last big trip of the year was to Southern Utah and without a doubt, this trip ended up delivering some of my top travel photos of the year. Southern Utah is such a magical place, which is why I keep getting drawn back there to explore and photograph. On this trip, I was determined to discover some of the lesser-known spots in Southern Utah and explore them so that I could share them with you. One of these places was the beautiful Leprechaun Canyon Slot. I have explored several breathtaking slot canyons in my travel adventures, and Leprechaun Canyon ranks right up there with some of the most beautiful. However, the best part about Leprechaun Canyon is that it is not nearly as busy or crowded as some of the other slot canyons in Southern Utah. As you can see in this photograph of me, we have the canyon all to ourselves.

Exploring the Amazing Goblin Valley State Park

Top Travel Photos

While Southern Utah’s five national parks may get most of the attention, the area is also home to some truly spectacular state parks for visitors to enjoy as well. Without a doubt, one of the most incredible state parks to visit in Southern Utah is the beautiful Goblin Valley State Park. Much like the nearby Bryce Canyon National Park, the Goblin Valley State Park is known for its incredible canyons filled with amazing rock formations. I love this photograph that I took in Goblin Valley because it showcases both the area’s vastness and beauty.

The Beauty of Goblin Valley State Park

Top Travel Photos

Like most places in Southern Utah, the beauty of Goblin Valley State Park is only enhanced as the sun starts to set. I absolutely love the glow in this photograph that I took of the breathtaking rock formations in the valley that make Goblin Valley State Park such a treasured destination. It almost feels like you are walking on the planet Mars when the sun starts to set and the red rock formations in the valley start to glow with the setting sun. It’s a stunning time to see the park!

A Monument Valley Sunset at Forrest Gump Point

Top Travel Photos

Not only is this photograph of Monument Valley one of my top travel photos of 2021, but it is also one of my favorite photographs that I have ever taken in Southern Utah. If this landscape looks familiar, it is probably because it has been showcased in a large number of movies throughout the years. Most famously, this exact spot was showcased in the 1990’s classic “Forrest Gump”, starring Tom Hanks. If you don’t recall the scene, this is where Forrest Gump abruptly stops his cross-country run and decides to go home. It is a beautiful viewpoint of a breathtaking landscape. I love the glowing sunset sky in this shot I was able to capture at Forrest Gump Point this past autumn.

The Beautiful Alstrom Point in Glen Canyon

Top Travel Photos

This photograph that I took of the incredible Alstrom Point in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Southern Utah could have made my list of the top travel photos of 2021 for me simply because it is a destination that I have tried to reach at least a handful of times in the past and failed. I simply never had enough time and the correct vehicle to reach this viewpoint before. This past autumn I was bound and determined to get there, so I set aside a large portion of an afternoon and made sure I had a high clearance 4×4 vehicle with me. Needless to say, getting there still wasn’t easy and involved white knuckle driving on an unimproved road at night, but I was able to finally capture some long-desired photographs of Alstrom Point like this beauty here.

Posing for a Picture at Alstrom Point

Top Travel Photos

This sunset photograph that I was able to take of myself at the incredible Alstrom Point in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is one of my favorite self-portraits of all time. I am absolutely obsessed with the breathtaking viewpoints in Southern Utah and Alstrom Point is one of the most beautiful and difficult to reach. The fact I was able to make it there this year and get this photograph makes me so very happy!

An Amazing Sunrise at Reflection Canyon

Top Travel Photos

For years, the favorite photograph that I have ever taken was one that I took early on in my adventure travels of the incredible Morraine Lake near Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. While I still absolutely cherish that photograph, I may have a new all-time favorite picture. Never before in my adventure travels have I had to work so hard to get a photograph. To get this beautiful sunrise shot of Reflection Canyon in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Southern Utah I had to drive 2.5-hours a mere 50-miles down an unimproved road, hike roughly 18-miles on an unmarked trail thru slot canyons and deep washes, and camp out overnight in 28-degree Fahrenheit temperatures to be ready to capture this photograph. After seeing how it turned out, it was so worth it!

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