June 2, 2020
In 2019, Rocky Mountain National Park saw a record number of visitors. More than 4.6 million people made the trek last year, an increase of nearly 2% from 2018.
Are you planning to celebrate your engagement in this amazing area? A quick look around, and it’s easy to see why many couples choose Estes. From wildflower fields and overlooks to crystal-clear lakes and woodlands, the park is filled with incredible views.
Located at the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is an especially gorgeous location (but maybe I’m partial because I grew up in this area!). Today, I’m sharing my expert tips on how to turn this spot into the perfect backdrop for your engagement session, including the top Estes Park engagement photo spots. Read on to discover how to prepare for your session.
The same extreme weather patterns that give Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) its brilliant sunsets and snow-capped mountain peaks can make it slightly challenging to pick the perfect clothes for your session.
Temperature fluctuations are common in mountain weather, and this area is no different. Daytime and nighttime temperatures can vary greatly. This means you might begin the day shivering and end it sweating.
That said, it’s smart to pack plenty of layers. You might not need those mittens and thermal socks, but you’ll be glad you brought them if you do. At the same time, throw in a pair of hiking boots. No one wants to walk across rocky terrain in heels all day! We can switch shoes once we get to our final spot.
Want to show off that show-stopping dress you’ve been saving just for this day? Put it on with a pair of tights and a sweater, and pack an extra-heavy coat just in case! With longer dresses, you can’t see tights or long underwear underneath anyways and it makes for a much more comfortable experience.
Especially if you’re planning a mid-day photo shoot, it’s always best to over-prepare. It’s not uncommon for Estes Park to see snowfall in July! Plus, even if the precipitation doesn’t turn into fluffy snowflakes, there’s always a chance of rain in the park. Don’t worry I always bring a fancy clear umbrella that photographs well!
As we travel around Estes Park looking for the perfect spots, there will likely be downtime in between poses. This includes the time it takes me to set up at each location.
To stay warm during this time, it helps to have a few go-to items on hand. Some of my favorites include thermoses of coffee or hot cocoa, heavy blankets, and instant hand warmers! They even sell feet and body versions of the hand warmers now. Look for items that are easy to transport and don’t take up much real estate in your bag, but pack a powerful punch against the cold.
One of the smartest ways to prepare for your engagement photo session in Estes Park, and RMNP in general, is to understand the local rules and regulations that help govern the area.
For instance, many couples wish to include their four-legged furbaby in their photos, but unfortunately, the park prohibits pets on all of the trails, tundras, and meadows. The only place we’ll be allowed to snap pictures of your puppy would be along established roads, parking areas, campgrounds, or picnic areas. If you are dying to include your pup in your entire session, I have a handful of beautiful spots outside of the park.
Other regulations to keep in mind include:
These are only a few of the guidelines you’ll need to keep in mind as you plan your visit. The National Park Service (NPS) has provided a more detailed list. If you have any questions about whether an idea is allowed, feel free to run it by me as well!
To make sure we get the perfect shot styled just the way you want, it helps to brainstorm how you plan to use the pictures from your engagement photo shoot.
Do you want a variety of different poses and backgrounds you can collect into a personal album or guestbook for your reception? Or, do you want a select few that coordinate for a wall gallery or save-the-date card? There’s no right or wrong answer, but your personal preference can help guide the process!
I’m always ready and willing to suggest a gorgeous spot for a photo op, but if you have a particular type of scenery in mind, it pays to do a little research beforehand.
For inspiration, think about the kind of background that best describes your relationship, and go from there.
Do you both love skiing, hiking, and everything the mountains have to offer? If so, focus on the hills, ridges, bluffs located within the park. If you’re more into water views, there are plenty of lakes, rivers, and streams to visit. Below, you can learn more about some of my favorite locations near Estes Park!
The Lily Lake Loop in the RMNP is one of the most scenic paths around. Just over three-fourths of a mile long, it’s filled to the brim with views of the lake and adjacent wetlands.
There are also plenty of places to take in the surrounding mountains, including Estes Cone, Mt. Meeker, and Longs Peak. For an all-in-one shot of the water and peaks, you can climb about 100 feet on the Lily Ridge Trail junction!
The town of Allenspark is located about 25 minutes from Estes Park, with scenery that is more untouched than Estes Park.
Surrounded by both the Roosevelt National Forest and the RMNP, Allenspark is situated along the spectacular Peak to Peak Scenic Highway. Looking for a backdrop like no other? Pose in front of the inspirational Chapel on the Rock! Designed by a local Denver architect in 1936, it seems to grow effortlessly from the rock formation beneath it.
The adventurous can also explore Ouzel Falls or Calypso Cascades for stunning waterfall views!
The historic Stanley Hotel is an experience all on its own. Not only does it feature several different indoor and outdoor wedding venues, but it’s also situated on a gorgeously manicured property with plenty of great places to take engagement photos.
The hotel’s all-new Pavillion is heralded as northern Colorado’s newest and most extravagant wedding and event complex. Featuring a 250-seat auditorium and more than 8,000 square feet of reception space, the real showstopper is the massive glass door that reveals magnificent outdoor views.
The Centennial Open Space at Knoll-Willows is a 20-acre park located behind the Estes Park Town Hall and Estes Valley Public Library. From this surprising vantage point, you can discover awesome views of Estes Park, Lake Estes, Longs Peak, and even the Front Range Mountains of RMNP!
Purchased in 2002 by the town of Estes Park, this open area was originally named the Knoll-Willows Open Space. There is a one-mile dirt trail on the property, along with two impressive structures: Birch Cabin and the Birch Ruins.
The Birch Ruins are located on a 75-foot rock outcropping and reveal remnants of the massive stone structure of a bungalow built around 1904 for Albert Birch, one-time city editor of the Denver Post. The bungalow burnt down in 1908, and what remains of the unique site has been preserved over the years. Birch Cabin was built the next year just below the ruins and stayed in the Birch family until the 1980s.
Now, visitors can explore both sites and reveal at the formations. They’re also excellent sites for romantic photos with a time-honored, rustic flare.
Of course, no list of photo ops in Estes Park would be complete without a mention of RMNP itself! Everywhere you look, there are plenty of picture-worthy spots to explore. From Sprague Lake at sunrise to Moraine Park at golden hour, there isn’t a bad time to visit.
One of the best parts about this park is that there are vistas and views from both the flatlands and the higher elevations. If you’re not up for climbing tall heights, we can still capture that perfect shot together! There are plenty of technicolor meadows, glassy waters, and Ponderosa pines to make any image come to life. If you venture to the right spot, herds of elk or other wildlife might even make a surprise cameo!
All around the RMNP area, there are various locations to capture beautiful engagement photos. As one of the top Estes Park wedding photographers, I’m well-versed in the very best spots to capture those perfect moments.
Take a look at these Estes Park engagement photo spots, and feel free to research any other areas you’d like to explore. Above all else, come ready for an adventure! This is one of many exciting journies you’ll take together, and I’d love to be by your side.
Contact me to learn more and let’s get started!
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