From stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to hidden waterfalls to woodland paths, Shenandoah is one of the most beautiful places for your engagement session on the East Coast.
You don’t even have to hike if you don't want to!
Skyline Drive runs the entire length of Shenandoah National Park and features 75 overlooks. Some are small pull-offs with room for a few cars. Others have trailheads leading to “leg stretcher” hikes (short jaunts of less than a quarter mile.) While others feature meadows that can be used for ceremonies, picnics or lying on the grass together.
Basically, no matter your ability or inclination, there is beauty to be experienced with the one you love.
Let me show you.
Skyline Drive runs the entire length of Shenandoah National Park. Every 1.4 miles or so there's a pull-off with an overlook. Some of these overlooks are really narrow and tiny. You can climb on top of the retaining wall, but there isn't much space to move around. Others allow you to access the Appalachian Trail or "leg stretcher" hikes. While still others have meadows next to them or rocky outcroppings.
Not every overlook works well for photography.
But others are perfect! Here are five of my favorites.
If you're on Skyline Drive for sunrise there are three main overlooks people use: Tunnel Parking Overlook, Buck Hollow and Hazel Mountain. I typically skip these. They are beautiful spots and are well worth visiting but there are ALWAYS visitors there. Instead, I prefer Pinnacles. Pinnacles is north facing overlook, but the views are stunning and it's less crowded than other three. When the light hits, it's absolutely beautiful and perfect first stop for your engagement photos.
Jewell Hollow is one of my favorite overlooks on Skyline Drive. It's probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest overlook, which means it's easy to grab a little spot to yourself -- even if there are other visitors. If you're only going to pick one overlook this would probably be it because you have epic west-facing mountain views, meadows and woods to work with.
Thorofare Mountain is an east facing overlook so it's perfect for sunrise. Once you park at the parking area you can hop over the wall down to this jutting up rock with mountain views in the background. Or you can explore the meadows and mountain laurel. It's one of the bigger overlooks and the majority of visitors don't hop the wall so usually get this spot to yourself.
Crescent Rock features a leg-stretcher or a walk to a long narrow rock. This view is north-facing and it’s possible to avoid other people there by moving up or down the rock. It’s rarely crowded (mostly because you have to know the trail is there to venture that way) and is perfect for either sunrise or sunset. You can also take a small path down below the wall to this rock pictured below, which puts you almost in the mountains. It's definitely one of the prettiest spots on Skyline Drive!
Baldface mountain is a west-facing overlook featuring a large flat rock. I really like it for elopement ceremonies, but it's also a beautiful spot to watch the sunset or begin a Skyline Drive tour.
Average investment is $750
Shenandoah National Park engagement sessions start at two hours and can go as long as you want! Two hours is a good fit for most people.
No! If hiking isn’t your thing then we can do a hop-on hop-off tour of Skyline Drive overlooks instead.
Absolutely! I send out a pre-session questionnaire, which includes questions like “how much of a hike are you hoping for?” (“None.” is an option.) Based on your responses to that questionnaire I’ll make 2-3 location suggestions for your adventure session.
My Shenandoah National Park sessions are two hours or longer. One hour engagement sessions are available for locations within an hour of Roanoke, Virginia.
Definitely! Outfit suggestions are included in the adventure session guide, but I’m also happy to give feedback if you want to text or email me options!
I do shoot maternity, but am not currently taking family sessions
She went above and beyond with our engagement photos. We not only received so many photos back from her, but we were able to have an experience to last a lifetime. With being a photographer myself, Kara made it extremely easy to be on the other side of the camera- where I don't typically feel comfortable. We loved every single photo from our engagement session.
Kara is from the area and knows it like the back of her hand. She knew the exact spot we were getting married, where the sun will be at what time, what we needed to bring and keep in mind…I suggest getting as much time with her as you can. Between the detailed shots, family, individual shots... there is just so much to capture…If we could do it again we would do it just the same.
We’ll always be able to look back and remember how we felt in those moments, something that is truly invaluable.
Kara made my wedding day happen! Everything from finding the location, helping me find a florist, and pick out an airbnb. If it wasn't for her the day wouldn't have happened so easily. Through the entire process Kara hung in there every time I changed my mind (67 times to be exact, including my wedding date!) and handled all of it so kindly. She builds a quick relationship with you and brings out the most real emotion in the pictures.
Kara shot our wedding and put together the most beautiful wedding videos that we will cherish forever! Her adventurous personality shined through all of her creative ideas. Kara was a joy to work with and I’ll never forget our wedding day splashing in the creek thanks to her!
Shenandoah boasts an incredibly versatile environment. Besides views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are scenic rocky summits, meadows, waterfalls, wooded paths, swimming holes and unique geological formations.
When you choose an engagement session in Shenandoah National Park, you are choosing an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. It’s about being present with the person you love in a place of incredible beauty.
Shenandoah is easily accessible from Washington DC, Charlottesville or Richmond. There are tons of cute Airbnbs near the entrances and incredible food options if you want to make a weekend out of it!
Spring is bridge season in the mountains and is the best time for engagement photos if you are hoping for beauty without the summer and fall crowds. The “green up” starts later in the mountains so while the valley may have blooms in March, Shenandoah doesn’t fully get green until late April or early May. Temperatures can still be quite cool at this time of year and there are fewer people than you will see in the summer months. Ideal time for a spring elopement? Early May when the blooms are out, but school hasn’t let out for the summer (so families haven’t started traveling yet).
Summer in Shenandoah brings beautiful wildflowers and stunning vistas, but also crowds and humidity. So definitely consider weekdays or sunrise for your engagement session. Temperatures can be quite a bit cooler than in the lowlands, so if you’re looking for some relief in the middle of August, you’ll find it in the mountains! If you aren't a morning person or can't do weekdays, definitely plan extra time to get into the park – lines at the entrance stations can be long!
Fall is by far the most popular time in Shenandoah. October can get a little crazy with people coming to see the leaves change colors! All that aside, fall is my favorite time in Shenandoah. Fall foliage is absolutely stunning and the summer temperatures have cooled off. Want fall weather without the crowds? Consider September – school has started back so visitors drop off from summer crowds and the leaves haven’t started turning from green to orange, yellow and red.
Winter in Shenandoah can be stunning, but are a little trickier to plan. That’s because Skyline Drive closes at the hint of snow and ice and can stay closed for a long time (colder temperatures in the mountains cause things to stay closed longer). However, you can hike into the park even if Skyline Drive is closed. I know, I’ve done it with couples, and even with small children and dogs. And it was a memorable adventure – I’ve got great photos to prove that! So if winter appeals to you – for sure, you won’t have to worry about any crowds – let’s do it!