Top Ten Engagement Locations near Denver
One of the great things about Colorado is that there is no shortage of beautiful places to explore! There are tons of great spots for your engagement photo session, all within 2 hours of Denver. Here are my top ten of the best engagement locations near Denver from the closest to furthest away.
Downtown Denver: RiNo, Union Station, or a studio!
Right here in the heart of the city can be perfect. Giving you something a little more urban, a completely different feel than the mountains. RiNo or River North is an area full of street art, murals, and old refurbished warehouses. This part of town offers a colorful and modern vibe to your photos. Union Station in the heart of downtown Denver offers modern, industrial vibes and all of the architecture you can dream of. Make sure you coordinate with your photographer on outfit choices for these locations since both offer bold colors. Best of all, you don’t have to leave central Denver!
You can also opt for a studio engagement session. With tons of different photography studios in Denver, this is a great option for the minimalist couple that wants a different feel than the outdoors. The studio shots pictured above are at Realm.
30-45 minutes from Denver
Lost Gulch Overlook
Located in Boulder, CO, this overlook boasts jaw-dropping views that are incredibly easy to access, in about a 45-minute drive from Denver. Located up Flagstaff road, the overlook is part of the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. The Boulder OSMP requires that your photographer hold a permit to photograph there commercially, so make sure that they have one! During COVID, they have also required that the photographer schedule a certain time to use the overlook to keep overcrowding to a minimum. This spot can get crowded during the weekends. I always recommend shooting here at sunrise! Sunrise gives this spot a beautiful pink glow, and you usually have it all to yourself. Lost Gulch is gorgeous in all seasons but can get covered by snow and ice in the winter. If you are planning a winter session, make sure to bring proper footwear and possibly spikes.
At the base of Flagstaff Mountain is Chautauqua Park, a 30-minute drive from Denver. Chautauqua Park in Boulder is also run by the city’s OSMP service and requires a permit. The park faces the Flatirons, a particularly dramatic set of the Rockies jutting almost straight up from the ground. This park is very easily accessible in all seasons but is heavily trafficked on the weekends and the summer. I recommend photographing here either during the week or super early in the morning on the weekends! I love to do a little walk up the trail, so be prepared for a short hike. The trail itself is pretty worn down, so you don’t need hiking boots.
1.5 hours from Denver
Near Ward, CO, Brainard lake is located in the heart of the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, an hour and a half drive from Denver. The road to Brainard Lake is open from July – October each year, depending on the snow totals. You can hike into the lake during the winter, but this adds about a 2.5-mile hike into the area. Brainard can get a little crowded during the summer as it is also a popular spot for camping, fishing, and hiking. You do not need a permit for small shoots, but definitely check with the forest service (Boulder Ranger District / Indian Peak Wilderness) to ensure everything you plan to do is okay with them! There are great trails around Brainard Lake that lead to other lakes in the area; if you’re up for a hike, lake Isabelle can give you a more private spot.
The Paint Mines
Located near Calhan, CO, the Paint Mines are a natural phenomenon that created clay deposits and erosion. Colorful hoodoos and spires mark the area and create bold colors in the landscape. This gives the Paint Mines a very desert vibe, reminiscent of Bryce Canyon in Utah. Only about an hour and a half drive from Denver, this landscape is different from everything around it. I love the modern white vibes it can create, as well as the pink spires and hidden caves. As long as you don’t bring in large props, no permits are needed to photograph in the area. Be mindful of the delicate formations and do not climb them!
2 hours from Denver
One of Colorado’s most famous spots, Rocky Mountain National Park, is located outside Estes Park, just about two hours from Denver. There are various great spots within the park, but only some are accessible in certain seasons. Trail Ridge Road, the main road through the park, closes for most of the winter and early spring due to snow, so be sure to double-check where and when you plan to go! The pictures seen here are from Dream Lake, a short 2.5-mile hike. RMNP also requires a $50 permit fee for photography in the park, which you must get! Rocky Mountain National Park can get extremely crowded, especially during elk migration season, so make sure to discuss the best times and locations with your photographer.
Overlooking Lake Dillion, this spot is absolutely stunning and quintessential Colorado. The Sapphire Point Overlook is right between Keystone and Breckenridge and about a 1.5-2 hour drive from Denver. It hosts a gorgeous view of the valley and only a short walk to stunning views. It is great in all seasons but can get pretty snowy in the winter. If you decide to shoot in winter, make sure to have good footwear and a warm jacket to take on and off. Occasionally the weather can obscure the view from this spot. I recommend double-checking the weather before your shoot and possibly rescheduling if the view is your main goal.
Lastly, this spot is usually very crowded, especially on the weekends. Weekdays work the best for shoots, or of course, at sunrise when most people aren’t up. You will be waiting for space during the weekends or the summer at sunset. There is no permit needed for engagement shoots here, but you do need a permit if you are planning to host an event like a wedding.
Guanella Pass is usually open Memorial Day through Thanksgiving and is about a two-hour drive from Denver. At the top of a mountain pass right outside Georgetown, Colorado, this spot host views of the epic 14,000ft Bierstadt Mountain, as well as the I-70 corridor heading east. The drive up the mountain pass usually takes about 20-30 minutes. Make sure you’re prepared for windy mountain roads. However, this spot is usually not too crowded and beautiful at the top of the summit. Both sunrise and sunset here are gorgeous, boasting pink mountains and colorful Colorado brush. It usually is a little colder and windier up at the mountain peak, so be sure to have some layers or warmth with you, even if it is a warm day at the base! Lastly, stay on the trail when shooting as not to disturb the plants.
At 11,991ft high, Loveland Pass is a stunning mountain pass that cuts right through Clear Creek and Summit counties, a two-hour drive from Denver. Therefore, the highest of this pass means that things can get windy and intense with different weather. There is a saying in Colorado, “if you don’t like the weather, wait twenty minutes,” this is most true on the top of the mountains. Weather can move in and out here quickly, so be prepared and definitely bring extra layers. I have never been on the top of this pass without experiencing some wind. This pass will occasionally close with snowstorms in the wintertime, meaning the whole road to the mountain is inaccessible due to safety concerns. For most of the year, Loveland Pass is that it is easy to access. Lastly, it doesn’t require a permit to photograph!
Piney River Ranch
Piney River Ranch is located behind Vail, Colorado, off a dirt road called Piney River Road. This road also follows into Muddy Pass, which offers great views as well; make sure you’re ready to get your car dirty! I also recommend having a little bit of clearance on your car to avoid some of the road’s rougher patches. There is a permit required with the Ranch located at Piney if you take photos by the lake. If you walk a little further on the trail, it opens to National Forest land and does not require a permit. The road to this spot is only open June-October. It is a little longer drive from Denver, ending up being about a two and half hour trip one way.
There are tons of stunning engagement locations near Denver; these are just some of my favorites! If you’re looking for an adventurous spot without anyone else around, there are tons of hiking trails and spots that your photographer will know about. With a small journey to get there, you open up even more options in the state. Please be sure to check out Leave No Trace principles before venturing into any wilderness areas, help keep our lands pristine and full of life.
If you need help planning your engagement session get in touch, and let’s create some magic!