Our 8 favorite engagement photo locations!
Long before your wedding day comes your engagement session and one of the most frequent questions we receive from couples is: “What are your favorite spots for engagement photos?” It’s one of those things we probably take for granted knowing. Once you’ve been in any area for a certain amount of time you start to think ‘oh everybody knows’ where that is, but since the majority of of our clients (63% last year) were from out of town, we thought it would be helpful to put together a blog on some of our favorite spots for engagements near Asheville and the surrounding areas!
Even if a couple plans to get married elsewhere, it's fairly common they still decide to come to Asheville for their proposal or engagement session! Mountain views, beautiful rivers, waterfalls, a downtown area with character, outdoor fun, breweries, etc are just a few of the reasons many of our couples like to escape here for their photos! Throw in some good vibes and endless possibilities for great food, and it’s a no brainer to make a weekend out of it! So without further ado, let’s check out some spots for your engagement session! (each section will be followed by a few photos from that location)
We listed this one first because well, it’s our favorite! In the past few years we would say this is our most frequently visited location for engagement photography. It’s about 45-60 minutes outside of Asheville depending on where you are picking up the parkway, there is no admission fee, there is usually ample parking most times of the year, and it’s pretty easy to find. Factoring in the work vs reward ratio, it’s a nice moderately intense hike with plenty of scenic spots to shoot on the way up, but once you reach the top, this is where the magic happens. There are 360 degree mountain views, plenty of open space, and open fields to really pull in that landscape and environmental perspective. 4 things to keep in mind, it’s off the parkway so at certain times during the winter you can’t access it driving because of the closed roads, there is limited phone signal so plan accordingly, unless you live in heels, bring an extra pair of shoes for the hike, and it’s usually about 10-15 degrees cooler up here.
Craggy Gardens might be one of the most popular locations for locals and visitors alike to visit. It’s not uncommon to go up to Craggy at the crack of dawn on the weekend and have it already be full of people, nor is it uncommon for it to be crowded on a weekday evening for an early sunset. It’s that popular. It’s about 30-40 minutes outside of Asheville depending on where you pick up the parkway, the hike is fairly short, but in our opinion moderate intensity. Again, this is one of those locations that has cool options along the hike to shoot so it’s not like you have to hike non-stop. One of the things we love most about Craggy are the perspectives you get with the views when working with couples. Not only is the landscape amazing, but you also have 2 rock overlooks (lower and upper) that literally give you a cliffside seat to take it all in. We can’t stress enough to take your time and watch your footing when heading out to them, especially the lower overlook which has a narrow path along the mountain to navigate until you reach the outcropping cliff. A couple of things to keep in mind for Craggy, the weather can change here in an instant. We’ve had plenty of warm, bright blue sky days in Asheville and took the 40 minute drive up the parkway to find Craggy cold, wet, and windy! At 6,000+ ft elevation, it can be a little unpredictable in terms of cloud cover, weather, crowding, but when conditions are good here, they are GREAT!!!
Max Patch is huge bald near the NC/Tennessee state line! The views here are some of the best in the area(s) and the open fields, especially during golden hour are heavenly! It’s a popular spot as well but with all the space you have, it’s easy to escape the crowds and find yourself a spot for engagement photos. It’s a little over an hour outside of Asheville and it’s easily accessible from I-40. From there you take a rugged gravel road the rest of the way. You’ll find the GPS gets you there quick and you spend most of your time covering the slow miles up the gravel road. There are some other access roads through other parts of NC but for simplicity, I-40 is usually the most direct route. It’s not so steep that you need a 4WD to make it, but it is bumpy so if your vehicle is on it’s last leg, we wouldn’t recommend taking it here. One of the other great things about Max Patch is it’s open during the winter. Although the road could potentially be icy or snowy, it does give you an option for a winter engagement. The hike up isn’t very long, but compared to the last two locations, it’s a little steep. You can actually see the top of the bald from the start of the hike so it gives you a sense of being ‘right there’ but with the steep incline, just take your time and be prepared for some calf burn! Lastly, if you’re planning on doing your engagement here on a beautiful summer or fall day, be patient. The parking towards the top can be tight, so give yourself some extra time to get situated and try to arrive early. If you have a smaller vehicle option, we would recommend it as navigating through aisles of cars parked on the side with people hiking beside you, etc can be a challenge.
It’s more than just mountain views around here and Triple Falls is by our favorite non-mountain scenic location around, not just for engagements, but also to bike/hike ourselves and show friends and family who come to visit. Triple Falls offers a beautiful cascading waterfall view that’s as wide as it is captivating. The layout of the area that leads down to the falls usually has enough room to allow you to move around and capture different looks, sitting or standing, and have a background that is visually stunning. Depending on the weather and rainfall, this space can be quite limited if the falls are flowing over on to the rocks. Be respectful of these warning signs as 1) these falls are extremely slick (I know from eating it a couple times) and fast. If you get too close to the edge, you could definitely find yourself going off the next set of falls and it wouldn’t be pretty. 2) We’v also heard if you violate these, you can be fined. ‘Hooker Falls Parking’ is the easiest way we know to access Triple Falls on foot. The drive to Hooker Falls Parking is about 50 minutes outside of Asheville. Non-stop it would likely be about a mostly flat 10 minute hike w/one short steep pitch. But, much like some of the other locations mentioned, there are cool spots along the hiking route to stop and make the most of your engagement session! Due to it’s popularity, it can be crowded during summer and fall seasons so plan for that, and be patient.
We had to give downtown some love! To be honest most couples we work with like to spend their quality time with each other downtown trying the exquisite cuisine, amazing beer, and exploring local shops, but for the few times we have shot downtown, we absolutely LOVED it! The cool thing about shooting downtown anywhere is the unique architecture, angles, and possibilities to incorporate those into your session. Throw in a city like Asheville and you have even more character. Probably one of our favorite things are all of the unique murals around the city. Some are right on the sidewalk, some are hidden in alleyways you’ve probably never considered going down, but each one tells a story and can give even the most classic of portraits an edgy twist. One of the other cool options about shooting downtown is having the ability to utilize a trendy coffee shop or brewery and incorporate some of that into your photos, but as we’ve said previously, be respectful of the business, get their permission, and make sure you’re not disturbing other patrons. If you’re considering a downtown engagement session, our biggest tip would be to do an early morning sunrise session. The light will be good like golden hour, but the crowding and traffic won’t be nearly as crazy.
In an area full of beautiful places and unique space, none are quite as iconic as The Biltmore! Besides Black Balsam, this is the other location that is most popular among our couples for an engagement session and how could you blame them? Do you want mountain views? Check. Do you want vibrant colors from flower gardens and greenery? Check. Do you want something close to town? Check. Do you want distinctive architecture and other features? Check & check! The Biltmore checks so many boxes that it is a hard choice to beat. Not to mention there are plenty more spots and options we didn’t even talk about. If you’re planning on getting Biltmore engagement photos, we would recommend to go all in and make a weekend out of it. Book a room, enjoy a romantic dinner at the Bistro, go on a wine tour, and don’t be afraid to get out on foot or a bike (or Segway) and tour the entire property. A couple things to consider when deciding if you want to do your engagement photos there. Make sure you have a plan for time. Different times of the year, the access road to the house closes at certain times, The gardens close at certain times, etc. So access can be limited if you don’t time everything just right. Double check that there aren’t any special events, like concerts or weddings as you likely won’t be able to fully access all of the estate. Lastly, make sure to purchase a ticket or obtain an annual pass.
Few things in nature possess as much raw beauty and power as that of Looking Glass Falls. Sometimes on a crowded summer day, you may have to park hundreds of yards down the road in order to walk to the falls, and as you get closer and closer, the roar of the falls gets louder and louder and when you finally see it, it blows you away! That’s Looking Glass Falls. It may be the most majestic backdrop for photos in the WNC area (arguably). The drive is about 30-40 minutes outside of Asheville depending on where you’re coming from and for the most part, the parking spaces allow you to get very close to the falls. You have to take some stairs to get down to the falls but overall the walk is easy. Now the space once you get down there is limited so it’s definitely something to consider. We usually only recommend it as a location for early morning or winter months. We’ve been there in the summer when there is over 100 people and their kids swimming, splashing and having fun! It would be a terribly difficult situation to shoot in for anyone. Lastly, we’ve also heard that sometimes park rangers will run you out of there if you’re in the water, which I realize sounds counterintuitive to my last sentence. We’ve never actually seen it ourselves, and we’re not at all recommending breaking any forestry laws, but most of the time we’ve gone, there’s a good chance it will be absolutely full of families having fun in the water. Not sure what the latest verdict is, but definitely something to consider.
The Arboretum is by far one of the most scenic options for engagement photos in the area! During the spring, summer, and fall season the Arboretum is full of colors and life in bloom. The unique way in which it is laid out coupled with the different patterns, blooms, and architecture around the grounds make it a fun option for any engagement! It’s close to Asheville about 10-15 minutes outside of downtown (depending on traffic) and it’s mostly flat, so no hiking required. There is a small admission fee per vehicle and it’s always a good idea to check to see when the hours of operation are because they vary throughout the year. Also check to make sure there aren’t any special events. Other than that, there are times you will feel like you have the place all to yourself and don’t be afraid to explore some of the surrounding trails for those adventurous souls!
As you plan for your engagement, there will undoubtedly be so many things you’ll consider like what should we wear? When should we do them? Should I get my hair and make up professionally done? Hopefully this will help make the process of finding a location that much easier! We’d love to hear your feedback on what some of your favorite places are in the area? Make sure to leave them in the comment section and thanks as always for taking the time to follow along!
Joe and Jenny