Top Outdoor Engagement Session Locations In Arizona

May 7, 2019

“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change!” 

Outfits (check), Love Story (check), Location …. ? 

If you are looking for some of the top outdoor engagement session locations to take photos in the Phoenix and surrounding area’s, then you my friend, are in the right spot! Below, you will find, what we believe to be some of the best locations for your engagement session. Each location offers its own unique vibe that would compliment just about any love story. So without further ado… here is the list:

LOCATION #1: Salt River

A part of Sedona found a little closer to home. I love that you can find a mix of greenery, red rock, and water! The most epic thing about this location, is the ability to give you a different look whether you shoot sunrise or sunset. If choosing sunrise make sure you beat the crowd if it’s tubing season. You don’t want to catch one of those marshmallows gone rouge in your shots!

Highlights: Red Rock, Flowing Water, Greenery in the masses, and wild horses if you are lucky enough to spot one. This location comes with free buzzing bees as well… avoid the  perfume if you can! 

Hours Open: We have been there as early as 6:00am and as late as 8:00pm just depends on the sunrise and sunset time. No gates at this location.

Admission: FREE

SUNRISE AT SALT RIVER 

SUNSET AT SALT RIVER

 LOCATION #2: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Plan your session here accordingly as you are bound by set business hours. We all know the “golden hour” but don’t let that alter your opinion of this amazing location. There are plenty of shaded areas as well as tips I’m going to share with you… Best time for arrival 3:00pm to pay for admission (no photo pass required) then go straight to the green room. They have some of the most amazing little cacti gardens… it’s fully shaded in there as well! Then go backwards… we followed the loop trail and after being here a couple times discovered… GO BACKWARDS. That is honestly where all the best photo spots are and if you want time to play with the bridge, and the rock.. you will want to be over there when the light is perfect. They allow pets also … we’ve had the furry pups bless us with their photogenicness (yep totally just made up a word) on a session and it was fun!

Hidden Gems: Red Rock Backdrop, Flowing Water, Arching Trees, Dirt paths with wild flowers, Cactus Green House, Multiple Bridges, and Massively Tall Trees.

Hours Open: October-April 8:00a-5:00p and May-September 6:00a-3:00p last admission is allowed an hour prior to closing… they like to lock their gates at closing time. Check out more details here at their website: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Admission: $15 per person Kids $5 FREE for members

LOCATION #3: Lost Dutchman State Park

One of our favorite locations to date. This beautiful area boasts the surreal desert with soaring saguaros, a red rock mountain that when hit with the perfect sunset turns a deep red orange, and fields of straw grass.

Hidden Gems: Huge Red Rock backdrop (superstition mountain), Tall Saguaros, Easy to hike trails, and scenery dreams are made of.

Hours: 6:00pm – 10:00pm. Learn more at their website here: Lost Dutchman State Park

Admission: $7 per vehicle to park – PHOTO PASS REQUIRED | $50/hour

– NOTE: with the pass we have had it done two ways, one where the gate has you check back out when you leave and then charge based on the amount of time spent in the park. The second we have had the admission agent just charge us for the time we thought we would be spending in the park. Plan accordingly as the first way will add up quick!

LOCATION #4: Goldfield Ghost Town

You heard that right … GHOST TOWN! This unique little location is located on the East Side of the valley right across from Lost Dutchman State Park. Now we can’t go on record saying we shot here prior to opening on a very early Saturday morning, but hey we didn’t want random people in our photos …. NOPE only Ghosts were allowed to photo bomb this session. If you want superstition mountain back drop, with less of the cacti scenery then this is the location for you. Not to mention all of the really cute historic buildings that give you unique western backdrops.

Hidden Gems: Wooden pallet walls, The Church, Railroad tracks with superstition mountain backdrop, alllllll of the buildings.

Hours: We may or may not have gone before they opened. If you are going there I would recommend checking in on the specific details. We shot this session in May and the temperature and light were perfect during the morning.

Learn more about the town and its attractions here: Goldfield Ghost Town

ADMISSION: Free

LOCATION #5: Downtown Roosevelt Row 

Urban with the flare of art… don’t write off this location. Beautiful painted art murals, downtown streets, and the upscale old-fashioned buildings will leave the architect heart fluttering.

Hidden Gems: Painted wall murals, paved roads, and city backdrop.

Hours Open: Whenever you want. We chose morning for this one so there was less foot traffic, and cooler air temps.

Admission: FREE

LOCATION #6: Cave Creek 

Towering Saguaro fields, easy hike, and a stream that will transport you away from Arizona. This is a pull off the road and hike out into the fields, kind of shoot. We recommend arriving a little bit earlier then normal, as the saguaro fields are down in the valley and the sun can disappear way before official sunset time.  

Hidden Gems: Saguaro fields, Water, Greenery in the masses and winding dirt paths. Go in the spring time to catch blooming wild flowers and cacti!

Hours Open: No restrictions that we are aware of.  

Admission: FREE 

LOCATION #7: Desert Botanical Gardens 

Are you a lover of cactus? Then this my friend is the location for you, with vast fields of cacti you really can’t take a bad shot. This location is popular, and there will be peeping eyes watching as you frolic around, laughing and holding hands. I mean who wouldn’t be nosy at two peeps holding big cameras, and snapping away at your cuteness! We recommend going on a weekday, less foot traffic, and photo bombers. 

Hidden Gems: Cactuses everywhere, beautiful architecture, and flowers you won’t normally see in the desert. 

Hours Open:  7am – 8pm but can very based on season. View more information here: Desert Botanical Garden Info

Admission: Ticket price $29.95 per person NO Photo Pass is required at this time.

LOCATION #8: Picacho Peak  

While it may not be in the heart of Phoenix, this “surrounding” area is well worth the drive … Picacho Peak! A mountain with a history of its own, it is a, one-of-a-kind backdrop when it comes to photos. We recommend having your session in the morning. The mountain blocks the rising sun perfectly and allow for some epic sunrise photos. Also, if you plan for the spring, you have the opportunity to capture the wild flower blooms! This recently became one of our newest favorite engagement session locations. If you are feeling adventurous bring water and hiking shoes and hike to the top …. you won’t be disappointed.

Hidden Gems: Huge Saguaros, wild flowers in the spring, wide scenery, mountains, some green, cute mini bridges… all of it.. it’s just breath taking. 

Hours Open: 5:00a-10:00p sunrise to sunset. Check their website for additional details: Picacho Peak Information

Admission: $7 per vehicle, NO Photo Pass Required at this time. You are able to pay if the entrance office is closed just make sure to bring cash!

LOCATION #9: Tempe River Run  

The heart of Tempe boasts a river equipped with paddle boats, and a concrete path that runs along side of the river which is perfect for those looking for a fun mini urban backdrop. Walk the bridge, or just the path… check out the concert hall, and run along the green grass. A little bit of everything exists in this compact area that also makes for a great date night after your session! Bring your furry friend along to add some fun and excitement to your photos.

Hidden Gems: Man made river with an urban feel, art museum, and a beautiful bridge. 

Hours Open: Public property, arrive at the desired shoot time for your choice of light. 

Admission: FREE 

LOCATION #10: Sedona  

The red rock, the healing vortex, the ability to literally feel a mood, all in one location. If you are wanting to literally just slap a period at the end of your engagement session.. ex ( ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS.) then this is the place for you. I’m talking epic, breathtaking, an experience like no other. Sedona Arizona deserves a blog just on what you can do there, how you take your photos there, and what to stuff your face with after. No KIDDING, but for now let’s just talk photo location possibilities. 

Hidden Gems: ROCK…. RED freaking ROCK everywhere. 360 view of amazing, tranquil, and romantic scenery.

Hours Open: Most trails are open sunrise to dusk. Check prior to arriving, and plan accordingly. Some hikes take time… so you will want to give yourself the time to get ready when you get to that area you want to shoot in.  Check back often if this is the location you’re stalking, as we will add to it, as we shoot there. 

Admission: FREE-$5+ parking pass. No PHOTO PASS required at this time. 

West Fork Trail – Oak Creek

TIPS: This trail gets busy FAST.. and the parking is limited. Check here for hours – ALL THE TRAIL INFO. I highly recommend meeting at a central location and then driving to the trail together. There is very little cell reception if none at all, so you would hate it if you got stuck in line to park. 

TRICKS: This trail is heavily shaded once you get down to the water line, and walk the trail path. It’s a good 4 mile hike to get to the main structure, but there are plenty of amazing photographic areas along the way, if you are not the hiking type. Bring something easy to change out of, leggings or bike shorts, and a tank top is perfect. There are no bathrooms once on the trail, but there is one in the parking lot… mother nature here you go!   

CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAIL

TIPS: This 1.2 mile hike is a short but MIGHTY one! Don’t let the descriptive words fool you on the site, if you are going to want to take pictures up on this beauty of a rock, you will need to plan! Check here for all current trail info – ALL THE TRAIL INFO, . I highly recommend planning on hiking 1-2 hours prior to even shooting. If it’s a weekend it’s crowded, and due to its straight up incline, there are moments you will want to stop, drink some water, and make sure you’re not sweating your face off or destroying your hair! BRING DRY SHAMPOO… no seriously just do it! You will need to plan on hiking down 45 MINUTES prior to sunset, as you won’t be able to see once that baby goes down… unless you bring a head lamp. This rock is best at sunset, trust me! 

TRICKS: This trail is not shaded, you will want to use the rock to block the sun, get creative. Bring items you can easily put in a backpack and hike up with. Getting dressed once at the top is super easy to do, but beware once that dress is on… the PEEPING TOMS come out! “OMG are they getting married?” “SAY what… I want to do photos here in an epic dress!” “WHAT did she literally hike up here in a dress in heels?” I have heard it all lmao. No really, someone thought the bride hiked in that expensive sequenced gown… ummm we’ll just let them think that.  

 DEVILS BRIDGE TRAIL HEAD 

TIPS: This isn’t really a hike, but more of an epic look out… that I think gets overlooked most times. Think of a 360 red rock view, with rock ground, paths of red dirt, and greenery shrubs that add texture to your images. Perfect location for a family involved engagement session, less walking for large groups. Parking is FREE, but check before your trip to see if details have changed. There is a bathroom there as well, so if your couple doesn’t want to change in plain sight this is an option. 

TRICKS: This trail is not shaded, you will want to shoot at your desired “golden hour”. I recommended right at the golden hour, as the sun is shaded by the tall rock, and you will see more detail on the surrounding rocks around the valley. Bring a blanket and hold it up for your bride to change behind, then she doesn’t have to walk back to the bathroom. Weekdays are less busy, as this trail head is a stop for the Pink Jeep Tour. 

 DEVILS BRIDGE TRAIL

TIPS: This hike is one of SEDONA’S BEST HIKES… personally. This moderate hike is one of the most surreal epic locations anyone in a life time needs to see. It’s a very popular heavily populated 4+ mile hike. Straight walking until the last little bit and then it’s a straight up incline. So bring your clothes in a backpack, and wear comfy attire until you get to the top. Check out all the info here  to stay up to date on trail details – DEVILS BRIDGE TRAIL INFO. On your way out, or in a local favorite path is the Chuckwagon trail, you will see a sign for it, but it’s a tiny path that gives you some epic foliage in your photos, to mix it up with the rock view. 

TRICKS: Due to the popularity of INSTAGRAM and getting “the shot” this trail has grown in popularity over the years. We have found the loop hole… and you might not like this if you aren’t a morning person. Ready for it… SUNRISE hike, like I’m talking it’s dark out when you start to hike, and then when you get to the bridge you can see the sunrise over the rocks. TALK ABOUT EPIC PICTURES! You will most likely not see a soul for about a good hour after sunrise. You will be done, and changed by the time on-lookers make their way to the bridge. Then go eat breakfast at the COFFEE POT… their 101 omelets don’t disappoint.

LOCATION #11: Monument Valley   

Okay … UTAH or ARIZONA, I will beg to differ Monument Valley is on the boarder, and you technically cross into Utah then loop back around into Winslow Arizona. Better yet, there is nothing to do here but check out this beautiful landscape, and create a date weekend out of the trip. Monument Valley is becoming vastly more popular… Thank You Forest Gump and Instagram – so you will be welcomed with a populated crowd where ever you go. Visitor Center, The View Hotel, and the drive loop will all have PEOPLE so come ready to wait, and be patient. The shots are worth it I promise. 

Hidden Gems: Monuments to photograph with, or of, or just around… World famous and worth it!

Hours Open: The Park is open:

May to September: 6:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
October to April: 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

but check here prior to your trip for updates – MONUMENT VALLEY. 

Admission: $20 per car (max 4 people $10 additional per person over 4) parking pass. No PHOTO PASS required at this time. 

Lodging: There is one hotel on site – THE VIEW, as well as luxury cabins, and campgrounds. The View, has a restaurant too, but note after 8p they only serve hotel guests, and you have to show your room key to be served.    

TIPS: You can either drive the loop, and stop at some of the more iconic lookouts The Mittens, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Totem Pole, Yei Bi Chai, Ear of the Wind. Or you can hike some trails – note you have to have a Navajo guide for all the trails expect one, so plan accordingly. You can even horseback, through the valley.. stop at John Ford’s Point to find out more information on getting your cowgirl/boy on!  

TRICKS: You will want to plan your trip prior to going, don’t wing this one.. sunrise, and sunset are both as equally epic, so make it an engagement weekend, and take advantage of both – one advantage to sunrise is only guests staying at The View will be on the 14 mile road with you – roll out that red carpet and get you some epic shots! If you want to capture the famous “Forest Gump” road shot, you will be fighting a ton of other Instagram happy on-lookers who too are jumping, and diving out of the path of car’s to get the “shot”. IT’S TOTALLY WORTH IT! Because I’m a planner, a researcher and downright need to know all the things, I have found the exact location for you. FOREST GUMP ROAD SHOT LOCATION.  We drove to the Forest Gump location first, then made our way into Monument Valley. We didn’t want to have to fight sunset, and our couple wanted the iconic dual rock shot at sunset. 

 MEET DANA AND JOE

WE ARE A HUSBAND AND WIFE photography team, that captures life, love and adventure full time. Calling Phoenix Arizona home, these we stay busy capturing love stories, while venturing out to epic locations, doing whatever it takes to get “the shot”, and always saying YES to adventure.  

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