Couples always ask me “where should we do our engagement photos?” And after living and working in Boulder for almost a decade now, I have built up a pretty legit spreadsheet of all my favorite Boulder engagement session locations.
Every time I go hiking, I make notes and take photos of pretty spots along the trails that would be great to use for shoots in the future. My Google Maps of the area is one big mess of yellow stars from all the locations I’ve saved. Here are some of my favorite spots – I guarantee there’s something for everyone on here!
(Photographers who are looking for Boulder engagement session location inspiration – you’re welcome! Now get out there and explore some trails on your own 😉 Nothing beats hiking a trail yourself to see the best spots, learn when the light is good, and when the trail is too busy for photos. The official Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks website is a great resource for trail information. And don’t forget that you need the Boulder OSMP commercial photography permit for most of the locations on this list.)
Table of Contents
- Easy access Boulder engagement locations
- Lesser know Boulder engagement session locations
- Boulder engagement session locations that require hiking
Easy access Boulder engagement locations
These are the quick and easy access options that are close to town. You’ll get great views with very little hiking involved, which of course also means that these locations are very popular. I try to avoid these trails on the weekend afternoons when they are the busiest.
It wouldn’t be a complete list of the best Boulder engagement session locations without including Chautauqua Park. The view of the Flatirons from the trailhead is by far the most iconic in Boulder, and also the one I get asked about most often. As the most popular trail in Boulder, there are a few downsides to doing your engagement photos here. There will often be other people in the background of your photos, and you’ll almost never have any privacy. Parking can be a serious pain, especially on weekends and in summer. I prefer shooting engagement sessions at Chautauqua at sunrise on weekdays when possible. The alpenglow makes the Flatirons look extra good, and there are fewer people around so posing for photos is way less awkward than on a busy Saturday afternoon.
As a former CU student I might be biased, but I think we have one of the prettiest campuses in the country right here in Boulder. There are so many beautiful places to do photos on campus, from Kittredge Pond and the stone arch bridge to Old Main and Macky Auditorium with their beautiful brick facades and old staircases.
Did you have your first date on Pearl Street? Or do you always go to the same coffee shop together? You can easily combine engagement photos on Pearl Street with one of the other more scenic locations close by, like Chautauqua and CU Boulder.
This is another busy Boulder engagement session location, but for good reason. You can get great views of the mountains in multiple directions, so it’s good both for sunrise and sunset. There are shaded areas in the trees, and open areas with sweeping views. You can get more privacy by hiking a bit further, but there are lots of pretty spots within a quick and easy walk from the parking lot.
South Mesa Trail
South Mesa is a super popular spot for Boulder photographers, but it’s not my favorite. The areas close to the trailhead are always crowded, and there are a lot of closures for regrowth so you can only shoot on the trail. But if you’re willing to add a 20 minute hike, the views from the Towhee trail are some of my favorite in Boulder!
Lost Gulch is another crazy busy Boulder engagement session location where you’ll never be completely alone, unless you’re willing to get up early for sunrise like in the photo above here. It can absolutely be worth working around the crowds for the best sunset in Boulder! (As long as you’re not super shy about PDA around other people.) Located on the “back side” of Flagstaff, you get sweeping views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and the light here at both sunrise and sunset is the stuff photographers dream of.
This is one of my favorite hidden gems in Boulder for shorter engagement sessions! (Shorter, because there’s not a ton of variety here.) You get great views of Boulder and the flatirons, and the light at sunset can be nicer than closer to the mountains. It’s also usually empty of other people, so Legion Park is a great choice if you’re feeling shy about loving on your partner in front of random hikers.
Lesser know Boulder engagement session locations
These Boulder engagement session locations are all still easily accessible, and don’t require a full hike, but there’s more walking involved for getting away from the parking and to the pretty stuff. And that’s a good thing!
Boulder Reservoir / Coot Lake
The north shore of Boulder Reservoir is by far one of my favorite places to shoot on a warm summer evening. It’s far enough from the mountains to get that pretty golden light, and the shore is perfect for kicking off your shoes and splashing around. Swimming is unfortunately not allowed here, but it’s still a beautiful spot for photos. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Coot Lake parking area to the res.
Red Rocks Trail
Want red rock formations without dealing with the crowds (and permits) at Red Rocks Amphitheater? Then this is the perfect engagement session spot for you! It’s a short but rocky hike, starting either from Settler’s Park on Canyon Blvd or Centennial Trailhead on Mapleton Ave.
Easily one of the coolest winter engagement photo locations in the Boulder area. The falls freeze over in winter, so you can walk out onto the ice (at your own risk!). Update July 2019: Boulder Falls is closed for reconstruction work this summer!
Perfect for when you want mountain views without the Boulder crowds! Located right on 93 near Eldorado Canyon, this is an easy hike with sweeping views. For more photo variety, we can even park one car at Doudy Draw before starting, and do the full loop. (No acrobatic skills needed, I promise 😉
One of my favorite Boulder trails where you can bring your dog(s) off-leash. This trail does have a lot of mountain bike traffic, but there are so many great spots to get photos away from the main trail so I’ve never had it be a problem. And the views and light are super pretty at sunset!
Gross Reservoir is half an hour drive up Flagstaff Mountain from downtown Boulder, but well worth the drive for the beautiful lake and mountains. (P.S. to photographers reading this: there’s a $50 permit from Denver Water to shoot here, separate from the Boulder OSMP permit.)
One of the very best Boulder engagement session locations for sunrise photos! The sun perfectly peaks through the mountains and lights up the whole valley, and there’s almost never anyone up there this early. It’s also really pretty at sunset – you really can’t go wrong with Betasso.
Bald Mountain Scenic Area is a short but beautiful hike with views looking both east towards Boulder and west towards IPW. It’s also one of the least busy trails on this list, so a great one for privacy!
Boulder engagement session locations that require hiking
If you want to go “full Boulder” for your engagement session, consider one of these beautiful hikes! They’re all within an hour drive from Boulder, and some start right here in town. And what better way to celebrate getting engaged than by hiking together in a place you love?
I’ve photographed more engagement sessions at Brainard Lake than anywhere else on this list, and for good reason. It’s easily accessible in summer when you can drive right up to it, but even in winter it’s a flat and easy 45 minute hike each way along the snow-covered road. And if you want winter wonderland photos without the hike, Red Rock Lake is only 10 minutes from the winter parking lot, with similar views to Brainard.
Want to go for a full hike for your engagement photos? It doesn’t get much more Boulder than hiking Sanitas! I love doing the Mt Sanitas trail for sunrise sessions (or Dakota Ridge, if you want less of a workout), and coming down Lions Lair when I shoot at sunset.
It wouldn’t be holidays in Boulder without the Flagstaff Star, and it’s the perfect place for cozy evening photos in winter. While it’s a short hike to get up here, it’s often icy and snowy, and requires microspikes (unless you’re okay with slipping and falling a lot). The lights turn on right at sunset, so you have a limited time to shoot here before it gets dark, but it’s the perfect add-on to an engagement session at Lost Gulch or further up Flagstaff.
This flat and easy 4.2 mile hike takes you to an old mining site, complete with bunkhouse and other abandoned buildings. If you’re a history buff, this is the perfect place for unique engagement photos! (Fun fact? U2, Billy Joel, and Elton John have all recorded music at a no longer active barn-turned-recording-studio called Caribou Ranch near the open space!)
Royal Arch is one of the most iconic hikes in Boulder. It’s deceptively easy on paper, as a 3-mile roundtrip. But add almost 1500ft of elevation gain and some steep and rocky sections, and you have a solid workout in front of you. This is one of the busier trails in Boulder, but it would be perfect for a weekday morning engagement session.
Green Mountain can be easy or hard, depending on which trailhead you start at. With great views of Boulder in one direction, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness in the other, it’s a great spot for photos. This is a fairly busy trail, but there are lots of spots to sneak away from people both on the summit and along the trail. And sunrise here is extra special!
Indian Peaks Wilderness
Want “real” mountains for your engagement photos? Let’s head up to Indian Peaks Wilderness for a hike! There are hundreds of miles of hikes in this area, and the longer of a trail you want to explore, the more mountains to choose from.
That’s it – my favorite Boulder engagement session locations! Are you feeling inspired to have your engagement photos done in one of these places? I would love for you to leave a comment and tell me which is your favorite!
And if you’re looking for a Boulder engagement photographer, I would love to chat with you. Get in touch and let’s create photos that show how much you love each other – and this beautiful town we live in!