I'm a storyteller who believes life is made up of the little moments and that the best photographs look for the in-between
Blackrock Summit is one of those hikes in Shenandoah National Park that is super popular because it’s short, easy and the payoff is amazing. When you get there, you scramble on top of this huge natural rock pile and have something like 270-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s really popular with locals and tourists alike in the afternoons, but it has been quiet every time I’ve been there in the mornings — often, you get the spot to yourself. Which is why it’s an awesome choice for a sunrise engagement session.
I’ve shot up there a couple times and, for sure, you need the right shoes (Marisa, although her shoes were super cute, did struggle a bit). I mean, you want to have good shoe grip and good balance. The rock pile is rocky and uneven, and it can even be a little bit slippery in the morning dew. There are also very few places at this location that have flat, wide rocks to stand on. Often you’re balancing yourself on two surfaces. So while being gorgeous, it’s definitely a spot you want to make sure you’re prepared for!
Since half the battle is good shoes, I’m going to link to a couple options to help you plan.
You want to aim for something with good soles — that is THE most important thing. Something that has grip and is not slick. Most ballet flats or men’s dress shoes are not good choices…and definitely no heels! Even a little heel can be dangerous on the rocky uneven spots.
If you want to wear a heel for your engagement photos, that’s totally fine, but we need to plan for it and make sure your location fits that shoe. So it might mean shooting your engagement session in an urban setting like downtown Charlottesville or Richmond or Staunton, or simply doing an overlook tour and hitting my favorite pull-offs along Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway, rather than taking on a summit hike.
Look, my two biggest goals for you are that you BOTH get stunning images AND have a great experience that becomes part of your memories. And being comfortable and safe is a huge part of that.
Additionally, it’s a fair bet your feet will get wet or dirty during your session, so choose a shoe you don’t mind participating in the adventure with you!
So what kind of shoes fit this bill?
In general, anything marketed as an outdoor shoe is great — hiking boots, Chacos, Keens, Tevas, etc. Many of these companies make sandals, booties and stylish boots, if hiking shoes aren’t your thing or you’re looking for something more cute.
If you want a sandal, make sure it has a back. Open-backed shoes or flip flops are tough because your foot just slides around more when it isn’t “contained.” And sliding feet are not what you want on top of slick rocks =).
If you want a ballet flat, pick something with a rubber sole like these Tory Burch flats. The newer Toms also have rubber soles (the originals are rather slick, so make sure you double check in the description before you order!)
Cute sneakers are also a great bet — Keds makes a ton of great options — and they have also recently gotten into boots and booties. Some of the new designs are SUPER cute. Then of course you have the classic Nike, Adidas, etc.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, but nothing in your closet seems like it would work, consider buying used! There are SO MANY online retailers that sell gently used or even open box items like Mercai and Poshmark or even Facebook Marketplace. It’s at the very least well worth a quick search — you might find something crazy good for half the price and much better for the environment all at the same time =).