California Top 33 Epic Engagement Photography Locations
So today we’re going to take a look at California’s top 33 epic engagement photography locations. Well, the engagement session season is here, and you might wonder where to take your photos when California has so many to offer. Igotchu! Over the years I was fortunate enough to travel to some of the most amazing places and capture beautiful love stories.
Here’s the list of 33 epic locations that bring you to California’s spectacular beauty. From the mountain range, endless desert, sunny beach, and winter wonderland, I hope these inspire you to travel more!
California Top 33 Epic Engagement Photography Locations.
Have fun planning your adventure!
The locations are listed from North to South for easy following. California Top 33 Epic Engagement Photography Locations.
1) Point Reyes: The epic coastline.
Point Reyes is 1.5 hours north from San Francisco (about 10 hours drive if you’re in San Diego). But for those who can make the trip, it’s SO worth the effort. This gem has a variety of stunning landscapes from cypress tree tunnels, a pristine shoreline stretches as far as your eyes can see. Once you get down to the beach, it looks like the White Cliffs of Dover in the UK! What I liked about it: Sunset here is to die for, so soft and makes everything looks dreamy. You might wanna check the fog and wind before going, we got lucky for this clear sunset. The spot isn’t crowded at all so that’s a major plus for me. California Top 33 Epic Engagement Photography Locations.
Tips: The drive there is absolutely beautiful when you’re in the countryside, take your time and enjoy the ride!
2) Yosemite National Park: The best of the West.
I still remember the first time visiting the Yosemite Valley – eyes wide open, mouth dropped, just completely blown away by its grandeur! Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains (my fave!), it’s famous for rumbling waterfalls, giant granite cliffs, a heaven for those who love the outdoors and photography. The park is open 365 days a year so you can visit to your heart’s desire. The famous road to Glacier Point is closed for the winter to early spring so you might wanna check the road conditions before going. I personally love the winter here because it’s just absolutely magical and not crowded at all. For a snowy Yosemite, check out this blog post!
Tips: There are bears in Yosemite so follow safety rules so everyone’s happy. Yosemite has the dreamiest light early in the morning and late afternoon so plan your sightseeing accordingly (also less crowded then).
3) Mammoth Lakes: Gorgeous lakes and then some.
If you love mountains and lakes, this should be on top of your list! Located in the Eastern Sierra, Mammoth is loaded with outdoor activities (skiing, biking, kayaking, fly fishing, etc) and amazing views all around. Adventure is available year-round in Mammoth Lakes. I love visiting here for fall colors and early spring for snow-covered mountains. In addition, the drive here is one of a kind with miles and miles of mountain tops once you get to highway 395. California Top 33 Epic Engagement Photography Locations.
Tips: Mammoth Lakes area has lots of hot springs – there’s no better feeling than relaxing after a long day exploring the mountains.
4) June Lake Loop: 16 miles of beauty.
Also located in the Eastern Sierra, north of Mammoth Lakes, June Lake loop circles around a series of alpine lakes. It’s also packed with outdoor activities and gorgeous lake views with dramatic mountain backdrops. The drive here in the fall is just speechless! We had to make a stop every 5-10 minutes for photos. At the end of the loop, we even turned around to experience the loop from a different perspective because it’s just so beautiful!
Tips: Do the loop both ways!
5) Ansel Adams wilderness: The mountains are calling.
This spectacular wilderness covers some of the most breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever seen! From jagged granite peaks, turquoise glacier lakes, to endless views of the mountain range, every turn offers a fresh perspective of your surroundings.
Tips: with a bit of stamina, you can get to lots of beautiful spots in the wilderness! Also, make it a backpacking trip because there is just so much to see!
6) Big Sur: The iconic coast.
Only 130 miles south of San Francisco, Big Sur is considered one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline, not only in the U.S. but in the world! It’s famous for jagged cliffs with crashing waves beneath and peaceful mountains on the background. Dreamy, roaring, peaceful…Big Sur has it all! The drive here is also amazing whether you’re coming from the north or south. The turns here keep you excited and make way more stops than you should! More of this session here.
Tips: A sunset drive along the coast here would make your heart full. Also drive from north to south for vista points.
7) Mount Tamalpais: Endless horizons.
Only 1.5 hours north of San Francisco, the gorgeous drive to mount Tam will take you through miles of redwoods, steep hills, and endless views of the Pacific Coast. Sunsets here are absolutely dreamy and make everything look so amazing.
Tips: if you want more green, just take a walk in the woods or visit here in the spring to see these hills transform.
8) Golden Gate Bridge: A classic beauty.
If you’re out-of-towners, this spot is a must! For the locals, subtly having the bridge on the background is also a good (or must) idea. I just love the feels of San Francisco and the excitement while driving on this bridge. Besides that, the landscapes nearby are also very interesting and definitely add more elements to your session.
Tips: Weather here changes rapidly so always check beforehand and be prepared. The wind here is wild but also add lots of movement to the shots.
9) Sequoia National Park: The enchantress forest.
Another gem in the Sierra Nevada! It’s known for its huge trees and home of the largest living sequoias in the world! A walk or drive among the giants here is like a trip back in time. Like other spots in the Sierra Nevada, Sequoia NP offers many outdoor activities (skiing, horseback riding, rock climbing, backpacking, etc).
Personally I love visiting the park during fall colors and late winter because the park is peaceful and like a wonderland!
Tips: Always check the forecast before coming because the weather here changes very quickly. Also, roll down your window when driving and take in all the essence of these giants.
10) Carmel By The Sea: The land of diversity.
Carmel is known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history. The town is known for being dog-friendly, with numerous hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments admitting guests with dogs. If you’re looking for a diverse landscape, Carmel is the place! With lots of environments packed in a small area, it’s also easy to get to places. From a sandy beach, wildflowers, woodsy forest, to rocky cliffs, Carmel has them all!
Tips: Would make a really nice weekend if you’re having a shoot here with nature and culture combination.
11) Trona Pinnacles: Welcome to the Moon.
These exotic landscapes consist of more than 500 tufa spires in the Mojave Desert. The drive here is somewhat bland but once you see these pinnacles on the horizon, energy instantly charged! I love how there are just so many angles for cool photos and how the light creates dramatic effects on the rocks. Feeling like we’re walking on the Moon without having to fly there.
Tips: If you like dirt bike riding or off-roading, this is the happy place for you! Even though it’s literally in the middle of nowhere, there’s also a public restroom once you start going into the area.
12) Red Rock Canyon: A walk on Mars.
Another hidden gem in the Mojave Desert featuring spectacular rock formations, scenic desert drive. For those who don’t want to drive across the states to see Bryce Canyon NP but still get similar canyon vibes, this spot is for you!
Tips: Visit the park in spring for carpets of wildflowers, the contrasts flower/desert is really interesting! Also, do the shoot early in the morning or later in the afternoon because there are no trees or shades whatsoever.
13) Highway 1 via Central Coast: West coast best coast.
I have to mention this region because Big Sur just isn’t enough for the beauty of this area! These coastlines lie between two big cities Los Angeles and San Francisco but the feels are so different here – serene yet spectacular! It consists of miles and miles of scenic drives and every pit stop makes a photogenic spot.
Tips: this area is beautiful year-round! Visit here in spring for flower blooms and avoid summer crowds.
14) Santa Barbara: Not only beaches.
Another gem along the Central Coast famous for its pretty college town with one side facing the ocean and the other hugging the dramatic mountain backdrop. This time we got to explore the mountains and all I can say is the Santa Ynez Mountains are truly stunning!
Tips: Santa Barbara has a rich history, make it a longer stay so you can experience both the beaches, scenic drives, and other local activities.
15) El Matador State Beach: The surreal beach.
This gorgeous location is only 6 miles north of Malibu. It’s famous for its rock formations and a great spot for sunset – a photographer’s paradise! The descent offers an overview of the beach so you can easily pick a spot that’s less crowded. More of this session here.
Tips: this beach can get really busy on weekends so a session here on a weekday is a good idea!
16) Joshua Tree National Park: Home of the unique tree.
With hundreds of thousands of acres of beauty, this part of the Mojave Desert is home to these unique Joshua trees. The park is huge and so are photogenic spots here. It’s gorgeous at both sunset and sunrise. Even in the busy days, you can easily find a spot for yourself because it’s just huge. I always find myself energized when driving through the park and enjoy the therapeutic feels in the air. California Top 33 Epic Engagement Photography Locations.
Tips: fall and spring are the best seasons to visit. You might get some snow if you’re lucky. Also, watch your steps, the small cacti looking harmless on the ground are no joke!
17) Palm Springs: Dreamy desert vibes.
Located in the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs is known for its stylish hotels, modern architecture, golf courses, and spas. Not only those, but the surrounded areas are also captivating with giant turbine fields and dramatic mountain backdrops. Shooting here closer to sunset or sunrise makes making everything look like a dreamland!
Tips: If you’re feeling more adventurous, take the Aerial Tramway up to Mount San Jacinto and go for a mountain hike.
18) Crystal Cove State Park: Tranquil coastline.
Located off busy Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove has its charm to keep its delight tranquility. The park is Orange County’s biggest natural seashore and provides a variety of landscapes like wooded canyons, sandy beaches, tide pools. Everything is within walking distance so you won’t have to get in and out of the car for the next spot. Choose this spot if you are closer to the area and want to experience quiet moments for your engagement photos.
Tips: Go on a weekday if you’d like to have the place for yourself! There’s no parking on the street, the day-use parking lot’s about $12
19) Anza Borrego Desert: The land of Wonder.
I don’t really know how to explain this special place, there are just so much to do and explore! The drive here is beautiful and feels like Mars when you’re driving through the canyons and on top of them! Gotta visit the place if you haven’t done it already! The best part: Spring = super bloom!
Tips: being close to Julian means apple pies on the way back!
Anza Borrego during the Super Bloom
Note: With the right perspectives, everyone’s happy and none of the flowers are harmed during photo sessions!
20) Victoria Beach: A Laguna’s secret.
California Top 33 Epic Engagement Photography Locations.
This quiet and somewhat hidden spot features a white sand beach, beautiful mansions and an iconic castle-inspired tower built against the cliffs. Located off the Pacific Coast Highway with delightful drive through Laguna Beach, this is the spot that you’d enjoy!
Tips: parking near this area is scarce so arrive early to grab one. Also the tower is inaccessible during high tide, so check before visiting.
21) Walker Canyon: Where the poppies bloom.
These orange covered hills are within the most spectacular spots to see poppy blooms. The views here are just breathtaking with or without the bloom!
Tips: stay on trails and watch out for rattlesnakes. It’s crazy busy during the bloom (even early morning on a weekday) so arrive early to grab a parking spot. The best time to visit is probably morning time because the flowers will cover up after a while.
22) Glamis Sand Dunes: The dazzling dunes.
If you’re feeling adventurous and don’t want to fly all the way to Morocco or Namibia, check it out! Located just 3 hours east of San Diego, this exotic landscape will transform your state of mind. Layers upon layers of dunes will make you don’t want to leave. This is the place to run wild and play free! Also amazing at both sunset and sunrise!
Tips: bring some booze for this one. Some props would also be a great idea!
23) Mount Laguna: San Diego’s hidden gem.
This area (nope, it’s not near Laguna Beach) offers various types of landscapes from vast deserts to greeneries, fall colors, and even snow in wintertime. The best part: it’s only 1 hour East from San Diego and you’ll be in a very different environment. Mount Laguna is welcoming year-round and is awesome at both sunset and sunrise!
Tips: It might be cold and windy so check the weather before coming.
24) Julian: A sweet escape from the city.
Charming Julian is one hour east of downtown San Diego. Nestled between Volcan Mountain and the Cuyamaca Range, Julian has an interesting combination of oak and pine forests. It’s famous for some of the best apple pies in SoCal. Besides delicious pies, Julian is also popular for its 4 season weather, thanks to its high elevation. For those who love winter adventures but won’t have enough time traveling to Lake Tahoe or Big Bear, this spot is for you! Come visit, explore the town, do a hike, have apple pies then head back in the same day!
Tips: Julian is beautiful year-round but the harvesting season is mid-August through October. When there’s snow, visit during weekdays or come early on the weekend because it’s always a long line of cars waiting to see snow here!
25) Moonlight State Beach: Not only moonlight!
This sweet spot in Encinitas is also close to other beautiful beaches in town. It has so much to offer from cliffs views, sandy beach, pretty little town, a nice creek, and of course a lot of light! That kind of sunlight that makes you dance with joy! The best part: Everything is so close to each other. Plus there’s an ice-cream shop that would make a good start and/or a happy ending for the shoot!
Tips: walk further south to enjoy your privacy more because the beach can get busy. Also, try that Handel’s Ice Cream while you’re there, everything they have is gooood (and huge)!
26) Lake Cuyamaca: Where time stands still.
For those who love lakes, you’ll be much in love with this one! Located in the eastern mountains of San Diego County, it’s surrounded by a large wilderness area. It has a refreshing effect that makes couples relax and really enjoy the surroundings! The best part: you can come to this lake any time of year and it’s only less than an hour drive from San Diego, plus there are lots of camping spots around.
Tips: It’ll snow in the winter and being close to Julian = apple pies afterward!
27) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve: San Diego’s natural beauty.
Torrey Pine State Beach is one of the most visited beaches in San Diego. This area has remained its natural beauty before San Diego was developed and is home to the native Torrey Pine tree. The trails here take you up to wide-open views of the Pacific Ocean, then down to the beautiful sandy beach where you can dance and play with the water! Located near the heart of San Diego so it’s easy to visit. Springtime here is amazing with wildflower blooms but any day is also beautiful!!
View more of this session here.
Tips: The beach is pretty busy so keep walking further south if you’d like to enjoy your intimacy more
Parking on the street can be crowded so arrive early or park in the lot ($15-25), the lot opens sunrise to sunset.
28) La Jolla Cove: Fjord vibes in San Diego.
This small, scenic corner of La Jolla is surrounded by cliffs and caves featuring stunning views every turn. It’s also a famous spot for snorkelers, swimmers and scuba divers. The views here look very different on a cloudy day and really feel a bit like the Faroe Islands somehow. On a sunny day, lights make an interesting contrast on the rock formation too!
Tips: You can actually access to one of the caves via Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave!
29) Cabrillo National Monument: Rich in history, abundant in views.
The Point Loma Lighthouse in the park is an iconic discovery of early settlers on the West Coast. Located at the southern tip of Point Loma peninsula, it has abundant views of the whole San Diego area. The eastern side offers stunning views of the harbor and the city. Whale Overlook is on the southern side also has a good view of Mexico. Facing west are tide pools and rich ocean ecosystems. There’s essence California while we’re shooting here!
Tips: The visitor center is a good start. If you’d like to visit the pools at low tides, the best time is during the daytime mid-December to mid-February.
30) Ocotillo Wells: Off-road paradise.
This area consists of a vast landscape (over 80,000 acres) for off road adventure with unique rock formations. It’s these two’s favorite place in the world and for the first visit, I can see why. I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of this place, felt like we’re hanging out on the Moon! There is just so much to go and explore here!
Tips: There are no fees are for camping or day use so bring your off-road toys, ride forever and camp anywhere!
31) Sunset Cliffs: The cliffs that live up to its name.
It offers epic natural cliffs views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and coastlines. It’s one of my favorite places to watch sunset in San Diego. This place has some kind of magic that makes me feel new and refreshing every time I’m there! And the best part: It is a big area and isn’t hard to find amazing spots to shoot.
Tips: The park can get really busy during weekend (especially in summer) as it attracts both locals and visitors from all over. Follow trails that take you further south or come during weekdays. Don’t come too close to the edge though.
32) Ho Chi Minh Trail: Adventure starts here.
This hike is short (1.3 miles round trip) but pretty challenging uphill (245 feet elevation gain), but the rewards can make you totally forget all the sweats! Best part: this all-in-one hike has a variety of landscapes from coastline – beach – cliff – greenery – and a bit of Mars. This place isn’t too crowded, come here on a weekday and you’ll pretty much have the place for yourself!
Tips: the trailhead is pretty hidden but plenty of parking on the street. Bring good hiking shoes if you’d like to get down to the beach.
2019 Updates: The trail down to the beach was washed out due to heavy rain this past season but there are still marks. So, be very careful if you’d like to go down. However, you can still hike up the top of the cliffs.
33) Black’s Beach: Naked beauty.
This secluded section of La Jolla is known as a popular nude beach in San Diego and a great surf spot for locals. The stairs down to the beach are short but challenging. Once you get down or closer to the beach, it opens up more space and better views of the Pacific Coast and La Jolla rocky cliffs. Because it isn’t the easiest beach to get to, you can enjoy some intimacy down there.
Tips: Black’s Beach is actually has hard, black sand, these would make interesting contrasts and feel great walking on. It’s a nude beach so if you two would like some steamy photos in nature go for it! 🙂
There you have it! The list of California 33 epic engagement photography locations is still expanding as there are just so many places I’d love to visit in the future!
Wanna plan an adventure session at these locations? Shoot me message!
The spot you have in mind isn’t in here? Yes send me a message too! I’m always up to explore new places!
If you’re feeling nervous about the session, not sure what to do, here are 9 tips to rock it!
Have fun planning your adventure!