Living in the Seattle area is honestly one of the best things ever as a photographer. I’m legitimately surrounded by incredible locations everywhere I look. From mountains to forests to lakes to waterfalls & more, the Seattle area is one of the BEST locations in the country for engagement photos. Which is why in this blog post, I’m going to give you the top 10 best locations for Seattle engagement photos. Hopefully, to help you narrow down your decision to only your absolute favorites.
Navigate to where you wanna go through the table of contents below, or scroll through every location from beginning to end!
Table of Contents
First, let’s go through some basic info on permits & passes that you’ll need to know no matter what location you choose.
Permits/Passes for Your Seattle Engagement Photos
Engagement sessions are slightly different from elopements & wedding ceremonies. In that, you typically don’t need to get a permit in order to shoot somewhere. Elopements & weddings usually require some sort of Special Use Permit (especially in state & national parks) due to larger group sizes and the reservation of specific dates/time slots. Thankfully, if you’re just taking engagement photos, you shouldn’t need to worry about that!
The only passes or fees you’ll need to think about are entrance passes & parking passes, which many state and national parks require. Most times, you can get an entrance/parking pass right when you enter the park. You can also do it beforehand online if you’d rather.
To park your car at any Washington State Park, you’ll need a Discover Pass, which you can purchase here. This costs $10 for one day (you can get it online or at the park entrance), or you can get an annual pass for $30 instead.
To enter Olympic National Park, you’ll also need a single vehicle pass for $30, which you can buy in-person at the park entrance, or an annual pass for $55, which you can buy online.
Lucky for us, there’s no entrance fee for either North Cascades National Park. No need to worry about paying for a pass to get in!
Locations in Seattle
Where is Discovery Park?
Discovery Park is the largest city park in Seattle, encompassing over 500 acres! It’s a 15-minute drive west of Pike Place Market on the coast across from Ballard. Making it one of the easiest spots to access from downtown Seattle while still giving you beautiful views outside of the city.
Discovery Park sits on Magnolia Bluff with incredible views of the Puget Sound. As well as the Cascade & Olympic Mountain ranges. There’s plenty of area to explore, including beautiful open meadows of tall grass, forest groves, sea cliffs, sand dunes, & more!
Best Time of Year to Visit Discovery Park
The park is open year-round, but if you want the best chance of getting a sunny day for your engagement shoot (and a gorgeous golden hour in the meadows, just like Taylor & Sean got below). Your best bet will be the peak summer months from June to August. If you’re okay with it being a little chillier, especially in the evenings. Discovery Park looks absolutely gorgeous in the fall, with its trees changing colors along the coastline!
Where is the downtown/Pioneer Square area?
It’s pretty self-explanatory - the downtown area of Seattle is, well, downtown! 😉 You can’t get any more classic Seattle than the downtown area near Pike Place Market. Full of busy streets to stroll through with restaurants giving off delicious smells, and little shops you’re definitely going to want to go into.
Pioneer Square is an area of downtown just a 5-minute drive down from Pike Place Market. Is the most quaint little neighborhood that’s super fun to explore. It’s got a lot of history and super pretty architecture that makes for an amazing background in photos. Plus easy access to plenty of shops, restaurants, and other popular hotspots in the downtown area!
If you’re not really into going out in nature for your engagement photos and would rather capture a more urban feel, the downtown & Pioneer Square areas will be perfect for you. With tons of brick walls, alleys, parking garage roofs, interesting patterns & textures, colorful backdrops, and the hustle & bustle of the city around you, downtown Seattle makes for a really fun engagement session. Especially with all the people that end up watching us during our shoot, ha!
It’s also super easy to go from downtown to somewhere like Discovery Park. If you do want the best of both the nature & urban worlds for your shoot.
Best Time of Year to Visit Downtown Seattle
Spring & summer are when most of the tourists come to visit downtown Seattle. If you don’t mind that + you want to try for a sunny day, May through August-ish will be the way to go! If we’re staying only in the city for your shoot, obviously we won’t be as focused on the changing colors of fall, though the city does have some trees lining the streets here & there that change shades come the autumn months.
Locations just outside of Seattle
Where is Gold Creek Pond?
Gold Creek Pond is a favorite of mine. It’s just an hour from Seattle and provides some seriously beautiful views, without having to hike a bunch. It’s a 1-mile, ADA-accessible paved loop hike around a pond at Snoqualmie Pass. sit’s an easy trail for people of all ages & ability levels to follow, and dogs are allowed too!
Walking the loop around Gold Creek Pond will give you so many beautiful views, as it’s nestled in the mountains and filled with lots of classic PNW greenery. The pond is crystal clear and super blue, and on sunny days you’ll get a gorgeous reflection of the mountains in the water!
Best Time of Year to Visit Gold Creek Pond
The wildflowers come out in the late spring and fade toward the end of summer, so the months of May through July are going to be your best bet if you want to experience the wildflowers around the pond. This will also give you the best chance of a sunny day and an epic sunset behind the mountains, reflecting in the pond!
Since Gold Creek Pond does sit on Snoqualmie Pass, in the mountains, you’ll need to be careful of snow & winter conditions when late fall comes around. The fall colors are incredible at this location, but sometimes snow can come earlier than expected - so be prepared for unexpected weather if you go later in the fall season or in early spring, when snow could still hit!
Where is Rattlesnake Lake?
Rattlesnake Lake is another easily accessible location with amazing views, just 40 minutes from Seattle in North Bend. The trail around the lake is just 1.4 miles long and is flat terrain all the way, so it’s a great trail for anybody no matter your skill level - plus it’s dog-friendly!
One of the coolest parts of Rattlesnake Lake is that when the water is low enough, you’ll be able to see a bunch of tree stumps exposed above the water. This makes for a really unique sight to see, and allows you to stand on top of them to get some rad photos!
Besides the tree stumps, the lake on its own is a really gorgeous piece of scenery, with forest-covered hills & mountains in the background that reflect in the water if the lighting hits right. It’s a super peaceful area to visit, without too many visitors except for on the sunniest summer days, and there are lots of little forest areas to venture into off of the lake.
Best Time of Year to Visit Rattlesnake Lake
Rattlesnake Lake is open year-round, but the best time to visit just like any other spot in Seattle is the summer, if you want a sunny day. The thing about Rattlesnake Lake, though, is that it looks just as awesome on a cloudy day as it does in the sun - the clouds bring such a cool, moody PNW vibe to the water & the hills behind it.
Locations within 2 hours of Seattle
Where is Mount Rainier?
If you’re familiar with Washington State at all, then you’re probably familiar with Mount Rainier National Park. The park is about 2 hours south of Seattle, depending on the area of the park you’re visiting, and offers some of the most incredible views in the whole state.
Mount Rainier is one of those places you’ll NEVER get tired of. There’s such a variety of beautiful scenery across the park, from the wildflower meadows of the Paradise side of the mountain to the wide-open tundra landscapes on the Sunrise side. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails, endless paths to explore, gorgeous waterfalls nestled in the trees, and epic mountain views galore. You truly can’t go wrong visiting any part of Mount Rainier National Park & exploring the Gifford Pinchot National Forest!
Best Time of Year to Visit Mount Rainier
Since this park is nestled in the mountains of Washington, it gets snowy pretty fast when fall rolls around, and into the spring months. It’s different every year, but snow typically starts to arrive at higher elevations within the park in September, and can remain at those higher spots even into mid July. It’s best to plan for locations at lower elevations in the park if you’re having your engagement session in the early spring or late fall, just in case snow comes earlier than planned or stays longer than you expected!
If you want to be surrounded by Mount Rainier’s famous wildflower meadows during your session, then you’ll want to visit the park in the spring & early summer months. July & August are the sunniest months when you’ll get the warmest temperatures and longest days to explore!
Where is Deception Pass?
Deception Pass is a state park located about 1.5 hours north of Seattle, just south of Anacortes and on the coast near the San Juan Islands. It’s actually the most visited state park in Washington, encompassing over 3,500 acres!
Deception Pass is such an awesome spot for engagement photos if you’re looking for epic ocean views within 2 hours of Seattle: it’s got rugged cliffs, incredible sunsets, and tons of greenery + old-growth forest to explore. Plus, it’s got a super high bridge that looks pretty cool in photos!
Best Time of Year to Visit Deception Pass
The park is open year-round, but since it sits on the coast, it gets pretty chilly even in the late spring & early fall months, especially in the evenings. The warmest month of the year is typically August, and that’s also when you’ll have the best chance of a sunny day. It also gets pretty windy in the fall & winter, so be prepared for a cool ocean breeze!
Where is Leavenworth?
Leavenworth is one of the most unique towns you’ll ever visit, just over 2 hours east of Seattle and 30 minutes northwest of Wenatchee. It’s a small Bavarian-style town that makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of an alpine village in the mountains of Europe - you barely even know you’re in Washington! There are countless little shops to visit, the architecture is truly one-of-a-kind, and you literally feel like you’re in a fairytale world. Plus, being a Bavarian-style town, there’s tons of delicious food & lots of breweries!
Leavenworth not only offers so many fun things to do in-town, but is also in one of the most beautiful areas in the state. It’s surrounded by mountains and forested valleys, with hundreds and hundreds of miles for recreational activities like hiking, biking, and even horseback riding, plus opportunities for water activities like paddleboarding, river tubing, & white water rafting.
Best Time of Year to Visit Leavenworth
Leavenworth is unique in that it’s incredible to visit year-round, because each season provides a totally different experience. In the late spring, summer, & early fall, you’ll be able to do tons of outdoor activities and enjoy the sun & warmth. But in the winter, you’ll feel like you’re in a winter wonderland, and you can go skiing, snowboarding, sleigh riding, and even ice climbing. No matter what season you visit Leavenworth, there will be plenty of fun things to do & experience!
Locations over 2 hours from Seattle
Where are the North Cascades?
North Cascades National Park is another beautiful National Park in Washington, less than three hours from Seattle. It sits along the North Cascades Scenic Byway, which is seriously one of the most beautiful highways to drive along in all of the PNW - you can literally just pull over on the side of the highway or at a rest stop, and you’ll get the most EPIC mountain views.
One of my favorite parts of the North Cascades area is Mt. Baker, which is a little over 2.5 hours from Seattle. There are so many gorgeous areas to explore at Mt. Baker, from Heather Meadows (a lower point of the mountain) to Artist Point (the highest viewpoint you can drive to), where you’ll get unreal views of the mountains & valleys below you. Another popular spot to visit is Diablo Lake, which is a truly unreal, vibrant blue lake surrounded by hills, with plenty of hiking trails available.
Best Time of Year to Visit the North Cascades
You’ll want to stick to late spring, summer, & early fall for your engagement session in the North Cascades, depending on the exact location you’re planning to visit. Most lower-elevation locations are open even when it snows, but higher-elevation viewpoints become closed off, so just do your research ahead of time and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that the popular Artist Point scenic viewpoint does require a 1.8-mile hike up the road in the winter, as the last stretch up the road is closed down once snow starts to fall. If you’re okay with that hike, then go for it & plan for a magical, snowy winter engagement session!
Where is Olympic National Park?
Finally, the third national park in Washington: Olympic National Park! And in my opinion, the most diverse. The park is a 2-4 hour drive from Seattle, depending on the part of the park you’re visiting, as it encompasses over 70 miles of beautiful coastline.
I said it’s probably the most diverse park in the state for a reason: Olympic National Park has a crazy amount of landscapes & ecosystems to offer, from waterfalls to lakes to beaches to mountains to rainforests & more. You can experience an incredibly unique, lush rainforest canopy on one side of the park, head over to the moody coastline, then travel across to the other side for an epic mountain viewpoint.
Some of the most popular spots in Olympic National Park include:
Best Time of Year to Visit Olympic National Park
The best time of year to visit the park depends on the area you’re visiting. If you’re visiting somewhere like the Hoh Rain Forest that gets a ton of precipitation, you’ll want to visit during the summer if you’d rather stay dry. Lower elevations such as Lake Crescent don’t get as much snow as higher spots like Hurricane Ridge, which actually closes off once winter comes, so research what the weather might look like at the time of your session. Make sure you also keep an eye on road & trail conditions through this website!
Where is the Olympic Peninsula?
Last but definitely not least, the Olympic Peninsula is an incredible area along the coast (obviously) of Washington. It’s technically a part of Olympic National Park but I felt like it deserved its own section, being that it’s one of the most unique beach areas you’ll ever see. The most popular beaches on the peninsula are a little over 3 hours from Seattle, and just under 2 hours from Port Angeles. You can make use of the ferry system in Washington to get from Seattle to the peninsula!
The beaches on the Olympic Peninsula aren’t like the beaches in California. They’re moody and full of driftwood, unique sea stacks, cliffs, and forests. Ruby Beach & Rialto Beach are a couple of the most popular spots along the peninsula, and both provide gorgeous coastlines with epic sunsets if you get lucky with a sunny day!
Best Time of Year to Visit the Olympic Peninsula
Being right on the ocean, the peninsula never gets super warm. Its warmest month is August with average temperatures around 60 °F. The coast doesn’t actually get nearly as much rain as other parts of Washington do during the fall & winter months, but it does get windy!
Hiring Your Seattle Engagement Photographer
Hey, I’m Jordan, a wedding photographer based out of Seattle - and I’d be stoked to photograph your Seattle engagement photos! You can find details about what I offer here, keep in mind that places like Olympic NP, North Cascades NP, and Mount Rainier NP will require an additional cost for your engagement session due to the extended driving time.
If you’re struggling to choose your outfits for your engagement session, no worries. Check out My Top 10 Tips for Killer Engagement Photo Outfits here!
And once you’re ready to connect, you can say hello here - can’t wait to chat!
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