Adventure Proposal & Engagement Photography

The Pacific Northwest has become one of the biggest wilderness adventure hotspots on the planet. With its varied landscapes―beaches, mountains, old-growth forests, and deserts―there’s no shortage of terrain to explore. 

Whether at a place that holds significance to your story or a place you find captivating in its natural beauty, proposals or engagement photo sessions are great reasons to get outside and onto the trail to capture your love in the wild! 

No matter where you decide to head in the PNW, you’re sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. Here are some tips to get you started exploring the different biomes of the region!

Head to the PNW Coast

There’s nothing like a PNW beach. When you ‘think beach’ you may imagine hot sun and crowds of people lining the shore to soak up its rays, but not here. 

Instead, there are craggy cliffs lined with wind-whipped shore pines and cool marine air. Not to mention the expanse of smooth sandy beaches with tufts of dune grass. 

Every beach along the coast has something special to offer and is a gem in its own right. Finding the one that speaks to you will become one of the perks, rather than a task in finding a location for your engagement shoot.

When heading out, you’ll want to consider a few things to pack. The weather at the Oregon Coast is often much cooler than in the city and changes dramatically from day into evening. Layers are key, and rain is always a possibility, so be prepared with a rainproof jacket, don’t bother with an umbrella. 

When visiting the beach, consider the tide. Check the tide tables before you go, especially if you plan on exploring low-tide areas. Don’t forget to keep your eye on the ocean.

  • Meyer’s Beach // Gold Coast, Oregon

    • Distance from Portland: 300 miles
    • Best Time of the Year to Visit: July-October 
    • Entrance Fee: no

South on 101, just a few miles north of California, the Gold Coast sits where the Rogue river meets the Pacific. There is no better place to take wedding photos than Kissing Rock, a legendary roadside rock formation beside a picturesque beach framed by boulders and perennial grass.

Enter Meyer’s Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Used in commercials produced by major automobile manufacturers, photographed a million times, and easy to get to. Added bonus, if you are a windsurfer, you will not be disappointed. 

Meyers Beach features ‘stacks’ that come out onto the beach, one of them with a tunnel through it. At extreme low tides you can walk out and through the tunnel. 

  • Tunnel Beach // Tillamook, Oregon

    • Distance from Portland: 82 miles
    • Best Time of the Year to Visit: July-October
    • Entrance Fee: no

Tucked between Netarts and Cape Meares on the Oregon Coast, this is just one of many hidden spots to explore on a peninsula packed with adventure. The only way to get to this somewhat secluded beach is through yet another half-concrete portal/half rocky tunnel. 

Once you’ve made the short trek through, you’ll come upon a pebbly beach punctuated with impressive rock formations and stunning ocean views.  

This is the perfect location to capture more than just an oceanscape. Because of its single access point, it’s also a less populated beach making it the perfect spot to feel comfortable shooting creative and intimate engagement photos

With seaweed-covered rocks, tidepools, and basalt columns jutting from the cliffs above, the terrain is varied and will give your images the perfect level of romance and drama. 

  • Ruby Beach // Jefferson County, Washington

    • Distance from Portland: 219 miles
    • Best Time of the Year to Visit: July-October
    • Entrance Fee: National Parks Pass Required

Ruby Beach is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. While it’s the most popular beach in the park, there are miles of beach to explore so there are plenty of spots to steal away and capture the magic of its allure. 

Special to Ruby beach is its reddish sand which comprises a type of garnet and its impressive sea stacks, or large rock islands.

Naturally sculpted driftwood litters the pebble-strewn beach, and plenty of tide pools can be found during low tide. The sea stacks make an imposing frame for high-drama photos. 

Most notable of which is Abbey Island, which is accessible on exceptionally low tide days. It’s crusted in marine life and sometimes even home to sea otters and other creatures. If ever there were an epic beach photo location, this is definitely one. 

Head to the PNW Mountains

Is there anything like the reflection of snowy mountains on the glassy surface of a pristine alpine lake? Maybe breathing the crisp, clean air while you hike a scenic trail to a majestic viewpoint overlooking the forested valley? 

Leave the city behind and re-center in the mountains, together. From hiking to backpacking, day trips to camping excursions, alpine adventures provide a range of possibilities for every level of skill. Why not include your favorite outdoor activity together as part of your engagement celebration? 

When planning your adventure, early mornings and late afternoons have the best light, so keep this in mind when considering your itinerary. 

Alpenglow is the official term for that fiery glow in the mountains at sunset, and it makes for an incredible backdrop. Let that fire lend your photos some warmth and showcase the passion between you and your partner.

It’s important to be aware of the weather conditions when planning your shoot no matter the level of adventure and to be prepared. Hiking boots, emergency snacks, and water are all advisable, at a minimum.

  • Northern Cascades National Park // Washington State

    • Distance from Portland: 281 miles
    • Best Time of the Year to Visit: Mid-June to Mid-September 
    • Entrance Fee: National Parks Pass Required

Known as the ‘The American Alps’ this vast park has no shortage of diverse yet equally picturesque features. Ranging from beginner to expert level hikes, if an alpine aesthetic is what calls to you, it’s possible to include glacier-capped mountain peaks in your shoot no matter your skill. From lakes to temperate rainforests and all the way to the top of a mountain, the Cascades are an unending source of beauty.

This park has historically been one of the least visited National Parks, and it’s hard to imagine why, so if you’re looking to beat the crowds and have an epic adventure, this is the place. With every kind of outdoor activity at your disposal, the North Cascades is truly special.

  • Mt Hood Wilderness // Oregon State

    • Distance from Portland: 70 miles
    • Best Time of the Year to Visit: All Year Long 
    • Entrance Fee: No

On clear days, Mt. Hood can be seen from Portland and all the way from Bend, a gorgeous reminder that we have so much nature to enjoy within less than two hours of Portland. 

With lakes, waterfalls, skiing, snowboarding, and hiking trails, choosing to do your engagement photos on Mt. Hood is a great way to include the adventurous spirit of your partnership.  

Whether taking a whole day to drive up 35 through Hood River for stops on the famous fruit loop before winding your way up to Cooper’s Spur, hiking a well-worn trail, heading to one of the many beautiful lakes, or driving up 26 for an unforgettable day at Timberline Lodge, The Mount Hood National Forest is teaming with things to do.

  • Mt Rainier National Park // Washington State

    • Distance from Portland: 103 miles
    • Best Time of the Year to Visit: July-August
    • Entrance Fee: National Parks Pass Required

Heading north to Washington, the highest mountain in the Cascades, Mount Rainier, can also be seen on a clear day throughout the region. It is an icon of the PNW, being an active volcano whose glacial runoff is imperative to the surrounding area. 

Though there is a lot to see on Mount Rainier, its subalpine wildflower displays in the summer have been described as one of the world’s best. 

Proposals and engagements alike shine amongst the myriad species that grow here, especially with the snowy mountain peak present in the background. There are many wildflower hikes on the mountain but some are even better than others, and they vary in length and difficulty. 

Head to the PNW Desert

The desserts of the PNW are strikingly beautiful places, tucked between the mossy greens and waterways the region is known for.

Consider the season when heading to the desert. Spring and fall offer the best hiking, and time to visit generally, with milder temperatures. Summer can mean extremely hot temperatures, not necessarily ideal for photo taking. 

Winter is great for hiking with minimal crowds if you don’t mind potentially below freezing temperatures. Either way, pack accordingly!

Regardless of the time of year, you’ll want to keep your eye out for wildlife, but especially in the warm months. Rattlesnakes make their home in some PNW high desert locations and are often slithering out of their holes in late April. 

  • Smith Rock State Park // Terrebonne, OR

  1. Distance from Portland: 142 miles
  2. Best Time of the Year: September-March
  3. Entrance Fee: $5 Day Use Pass

Located in Central Oregon’s high desert, this location isn’t for the faint of heart. A favorite among rock climbers, this trail pulls no punches. The view makes it all worth it, though. The infamous rock formations tower above and trees spiral from the ground, their twisted trunks reaffirming their ability to thrive here. 

At every turn, there is a new awe-inspiring view to take in. No matter the season, this is a destination for those looking to pair adventure with their photos. 

  • The Painted Hills Overlook Trail // John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

  1. Distance from Portland: 202 miles
  2. Total miles: .5 miles 
  3. Entrance Fee: No

Designated as one of the “7 Wonders of Oregon,” visiting The Painted Hills means witnessing layers of prehistoric history. The brilliantly hued gold, red, and black striations in the hills seem to shift in color depending on the time of day/season and make for the most incredible of backdrops. 

The Painted Hills Overlook Trail is short and accessible, making it the perfect spot to stop and enjoy the view and get a few photos before moving on to the next location. You’ll want to make sure you’ve planned your day well so you can enjoy the adventure as well as get shots in all of the locations, and allow for any outfit changes as well. 

The best time to photograph is in the evening, with the warm glow really setting off the colors of the Hills, like an amplified Golden Hour.   

  • Horsethief Butte // Columbia Hills State Park

  1. Distance from Portland: 95 miles
  2. Best Time of the Year: July-October
  3. Entrance Fee: No, but Discover Pass is required

Horsethief Butte stands east of Portland and just a hair north on the Washington side of the Columbia River. A favorite among rock climbers, there is much to explore on this impressive basalt rock formation. If you’re up for it, a small climb will allow you to reach the upper levels of the butte where you’ll be granted panoramic views of the river and surrounding areas.

In the spring and summer purple lupine covers the fields here, turning the surrounding hills purple, and in the summer desert parsley wafts through the hot summer air. This can be a windy spot, so bring your flowiest outfit, let your hair be windswept, and get taken by the desert magic. 

From the Mountains to the Coast & Everything In Between

No matter where you decide to go in the Pacific Northwest, you and your partner are bound to create lasting memories and capture timeless photos of this special milestone in your relationship. For those that feel most at home outdoors, the opportunities are endless. Choosing when and where to do your photoshoot will be the hardest part. 

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