Megan Simpson Photography

Advice For Great Family Photos in Estes Park

June 2, 2022

Estes Park is a beautiful place for family photos. The scenery is stunning, and there are plenty of incredible locations for family photos. Having grown up and made my home here, I have a particular affection for Estes and the surrounding area.

And as a photographer, I’ve gotten to utilize what is right outside my back door to create some pretty awesome photos for families! 

If you are thinking about having family photos done while in Estes Park, here are some tips and some insider advice to help make your experience go as smoothly as possible.

A family of five enjoys fall in Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park is Beautiful!

One of the best things about family photos in Estes Park is that the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. There are mountains, rivers, forests, and meadows – all within a very short drive from each other.

Situated just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park has no shortage of scenic locations for family photos. Some of my personal favorites include wildflower meadows, riverside forests, and aspen groves in the fall.

Estes is actually a pretty small city of about 6500 locals, but we live big! If you’re coming to visit, you can expect it will be busy in the summer months when people flock to see RMP (that’s what the locals call Rocky Mountain Park).

Book Accommodations Early if you are Vacationing

An extended family takes photos at Lumpy Ridge in Estes Park

If you’re planning to come to  Estes Park for a vacation and want to have family photos here, I would highly recommend booking your accommodations as early as possible. That way, you can get first dibs on the best spots!

There are hotels in the area but expect that you will need to book them anywhere from a year to 18 months in advance. If you can’t find hotels in town, nearby towns within a day trip include  Lyons, Fort Collins, and Boulder.

There are a ton of great Airbnbs in Estes Park, but they do fill up quickly – especially in the summer. Check out my blog on some locations to consider!

Permits Required in Estes Park for Family Photos

None needed! The term “Park” is really just in our name; we’re a city and not a park. I know; it gets confusing with RMP in our backyard.

If you decide that you want to have your photos taken IN Rocky Mountain National Park, that’s a different story altogether because there are timed permits needed for photography there.  I’m happy to give you advice on the best places and times and give you the entire scoop on RMP photos; just get in touch and tell me what your plans are.

Dog-Friendly Locations for Family Photos In Estes Park

We’re a pretty dog-friendly town, and I’ve got a few great spots in mind for your pup to tag along for family photos.

There are some great trails near downtown that are perfect for a family photo session with your four-legged friend. Some spots are a little further afield, but the important thing for me to assess is if your family is willing and able to hike a bit and the conditions of the trails.

No one wants tired and cranky kids and a muddy dog in their photos. So, get in touch and let me know the ages of your kids, and we can talk about spots that are perfect for the look you are going for.

Elk Rutting Season is a Thing

This is a family blog, but it bears mentioning because it’s definitely a thing here. 

The elk rut is the time of year when male elk compete for mating rights with females. This happens every fall, usually starting in mid-September and going through early October, which coincides with some of our peak fall colors. 

The males will bugle to attract mates and will do things like wallowing in mud and thrashing their antlers around to impress the ladies…sometimes right in the middle of the road. All of this happens to spread their scent as wide as possible to let potential mates know they’re around. Charming, I know.

During this time, there are restrictions everywhere to help protect the elk. Roads may be closed; the park may have closures…you get the idea. All we can do is respect mother nature and make sure we have a plan B in our pockets.

Layers Layers Layers; The Crazy Colorado Weather

A family shares a hike in Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’ve never been here, our weather can be pretty unpredictable. It could be sunny and 75 one day in the summer, and then a random and unexpected thunderstorm can roll in, and the temps drop 20 degrees.

Mornings are the most predictable time of the day, weather-wise. I always advise people to think in layers; bring a cardigan that matches to throw over it if it gets breezy. Scarves are great for a little warmth without ruining the look of your outfit.  Cute hats for kids to keep their ears from turning red.

When you choose your outfits, make sure everything you bring is something you’d be okay with having in your photos!

Fall Colors are Unpredictable

A family takes photos in Estes Park in the fall during the rain.

If I could harness one superpower as a photographer, it would be to know exactly when peak leaf season would be in the fall. However, tons of variables go into how the leaves look every year, including how wet or dry it has been and the outside temperature on the day of your session.

The ideal situation is a light breeze, sunny skies, and no rain in the forecast. All of these factors help bring out the vibrant colors in the leaves. Typically, the peak is around the 3rd week of September through the first week of October, but don’t hold me to that!

The good news is that even without fall colors, Estes Park has some gorgeous natural scenery in the fall.  The aspens are usually a good bet to be showy and turn a beautiful golden color, even if the other trees haven’t turned. So even if the leaves aren’t at their peak, we can still get some stunning photos.

Check out this blog for advice for all the seasons in Estes Park for family photos!

Traveling to Estes Park? Let’s Do Family Photos!

Whether you’re coming to Estes Park for a family vacation or just to get away from the hustle and bustle for a weekend, I would love to help you capture some beautiful memories.Get in touch and tell me about your plans, and we’ll start planning your perfect session!







I book a limited number of couples and families every year... and you deserve to be one of 'em right?!

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