Top Hudson Valley Locations For Engagement Photos
I love finding new and interesting spots in my backyard. There are so many great spots in the area so it really depends on what style you’re looking for and how far you’re willing to travel. In no particular order, these are some stunning (mostly free) locations in the Hudson Valley that would be perfect for your next photo shoot!
Minnewaska State Park - Kerhonkson
So not only does Minnewaska have amazing cliffs overlooking a lake, Awosting Falls and it’s brook are not far from the entrance to the park. It is a little bit of a trek down the falls from the lower parking lot, so I would suggest bringing a pair of comfortable shoes to wear for this. It is a fairly smooth descent, but hills can put some strain on the feet if you’re wearing heels. You can walk in the brook and wade in the waters, although I believe swimming there is prohibited.
After the falls, you can then drive to the upper parking lot and walk around the lake, taking in it’s amazing views. Be careful on the cliffs as there are no guide-rails. There is also a lovely walkway bridge and a boat launch site for some different/less Instagrammed backdrops. It is $10 per car to enter.
Kaaterskill Waterfall - Hunter Falls
I would also suggest bringing a pair of comfortable shoes to Kaaterskill. You can either park at the top of the falls or near the bottom (but you will have to walk on the road to get the entrance this way). There are no garbage cans or bathrooms here, so be prepared for that. The steps leading to the top are pretty clean and sturdy, but there are a lot and it can get slippery in the mud. You can wade into the waters here, too, and go behind the falls, but again, there are no guide-rails and people have slipped and died here before. It can definitely get crowded on hot summer days, and when it is, I suggest parking at the top as the lower lot will become impossible to leave from. Also, go after a good rain, as the falls can become a small spout if it’s been dry out.
Long Dock Park - Beacon
I love working at Long Dock. There are trails along the Hudson and lots of greenery along the way making for plenty of gorgeous photo spots. If you follow the path by the train tracks, you’ll end up at Dennings Point, which has a graffiti-filled abandoned building and wooden trails and more views of the river. Beware of poison ivy! I’ve gotten covered there before. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can rent kayaks from Mountain Tops Outfitters near the entrance to the park and go explore the Hudson River.
Constitution Marsh - Garrison
So Constitution Marsh and Indian Brooks Falls are right next to each other, so you can definitely do both in one day. However, I would recommend getting there early in the morning, on a weekday or in the off-season, as there are only 8 parking spaces for the area and they will tow.
The marsh involves a bit more hiking on rocky terrain than the previous locations, so 100%, don’t do it in heels. It’s fine once you get to the boardwalk, but the hike plus the hill from the parking lot can be painful in the wrong shoes. Might want to bring some binoculars, too, as the marsh is part of the Audubon Center and Sanctuary and eagles have been spotted in the area.
Indian Brook Falls - Garrison
So I cannot stress this enough, but there are signs up everywhere saying “DO NOT ENTER THE WATER: PROTECTED HABITAT.” Please follow them. #DontBeADick ruining the beautiful location not just for the environment and but for everyone else, as well, as I’m sure it can be blocked off to the public. Rangers are around and you will get told to leave if they spot you in the water.
For this session, we removed our shoes and had fun balancing on top of the rocks, playing a sort of floor is lava with the waters below.
Instead of cooling off in the falls, take a short drive to Cold Spring and enjoy some ice cream from Moo Moo’s right on the Hudson River.
Poet’s Walk - Red Hook
Poet’s Walk has two miles of trails that go through meadows and fields and woods leading down to the Hudson River and back. There are gazebos, foot bridges, an amazing pavilion in the field that looks like it’s made of trees from the woods. Poet’s Walk is a perfect spot for fall photos and has great light during sunset. If there has been recent rainfall, it can get rather muddy off and on the paths. Also due to the wooden areas and the increase of ticks, I would recommend lots of bug spray.
Rhinebeck is nearby and I would recommend getting a bite at Bread Alone Bakery. I love their sustainable mission. No straws, solar panels, composting food waste, and using leftover bread to make beer! Think of it like a better, classier Panera.
Sunflower Valley Farm - New Hampton
Lots of sunflowers here, obviously! Sunflower Valley Farm is photographer and dog friendly but, they do have a $30 fee to use the fields on the weekdays. The plus side of this though, is that you can use the fields outside of the public hours so you won’t have random people in the background. They also have a sunflower maze and a petting zoo. Flowers can be picked for $1 each.
Check out Orchard Hill Cider Mill right down the road for some cider tastings after your session.
Locust Grove - Poughkeepsie
Gardens, and trails and vistas, oh my! Locust Grove/the Samuel B. Morse Estate has it all. It will make you feel like Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. The gardens are overflowing with flowers and have beautiful arbors and plenty of benches throughout. Near the pet cemetery is the entrance to the 2.5 miles of trails in the woods. More Hudson River views, benches, foot bridges and a small creek waterfall down this way. Locust Grove also does weddings and events and requires a photography permit, even though it is hard to spot on their website.
Bear Mountain State Park - Bear Mountain
Bear Mountain State Park has a little bit of everything. There’s an ice-skating rink open in late fall through the winter, a lake, a swimming pool, a Merry-Go-Round, boat rentals, hiking, biking, fishing, and cross country skiing trails. They also do parties and weddings. It’s a good place to have a picnic and explore. It’s open year-round, and there is a $10 fee to park up near the Inn and to do some of the activities. If you choose to stay the night at the Inn or one of their lodges, they have their own restaurant and spa, giving it a resort feel.
West Point Military Academy - West Point
So West Point is a treasure trove of photo spots. Trophy Point is usually the go-to spot (as pictured above) for obvious reasons, plus there’s plenty of parking nearby. There’s also Lusk Reservoir and numerous gorgeous stone buildings that would be perfect for a backdrop. In the spring there are lots of cherry blossom trees blooming and in the winter, it could pass for Hogwarts. There’s no real hiking here, but you may need to schlep some depending on where you are going as parking isn’t available all over. If you plan on coming here, make sure you go through the main entrance and have your ID ready for the guards there.
Hit up the Newburgh Brewing Company when you’re done for some bar bites and cornhole.
Tibbetts Brook Park - Yonkers
So a little bit of bias here, too, as my dad and I used to walk around Tibbetts all the time in the fall when my grandmother was in Yonkers. We’d walk around the lake and feed and quack and the ducks and collect acorns to bring home for our local squirrels. So if I can share Tibbett’s with a family or couple, I will.
During the summer pool hours, it’s a bit difficult to come in to the park without a park pass or Westchester address on your license. Outside of those hours, the park is free. There’s one lake near the entrance that is usually home to a lot of geese and ducks and the occasional swan. The water then goes under a foot bridge to a waterfall and brook and feeds into another lake (with better lighting). It’s pretty common to walk around the lower lake in the fall and see an artist or two painting the landscape. You might spot some turtles and cranes there, too. There are sports fields, tennis and basketball courts, a swimming pool with a lazy river and slide, mini golf, and a playground at Tibbetts. All which would make for some really fun photos.
After the session above, I went over to Steve’s Crepes & Waffles for a homemade waffle cone stuffed with ice cream and toppings.
Vanderbilt Mansion & Gardens- Hyde Park
So if Locust Grove makes you feel like you’re in Gone with the Wind, Vanderbilt Mansion will make you feel like you’re in the Great Gatsby. It’s a former Rockefeller Estate and the gardens are magnificent. Summer is the best time to go with everything in full bloom, but they have a huge pink magnolia tree that blooms in the spring. You can take photos inside and underneath it. There is also a vista to see to the Hudson River, a waterfall, and lots of unique and funky trees.
You can only enter the mansion if you’re taking a tour and most of it is blocked off to stop people from touching things inside. Check with the estate to see if you need a permit to photograph there.
Bulls Bridge - Kent, CT
So maybe not technically in the Hudson Valley and maybe it’s technically in Connecticut, but Bull’s Bridge is a lesser-known spot for photos. There’s a single lane covered bridge over the Housatonic River, a waterfall or two, hiking trails, a footbridge and overlooks. You can get down the river, but watch out as the waters can be pretty fast. It’s nearly 7 miles roundtrip to hit all three overlooks, but the views of the river and mountains are worth it. It is a part of the Appalachian Trail.
There is a porta-potty in the parking lot, but it is carry-in, carry-out. If you come across any litter, be a champion and pick it up.
For some of the best local barbeque, go to Big W’s Roadside BBQ in Wingdale.
Empire State Plaza - Albany
If you’re looking for a Non-NYC cityscape for photos, check out Empire State Plaza in Albany. Lots of buildings, a reflecting pool, columns, and The Egg. There are usually at least a few people around that could walk in through your photos, but it’s not so busy that it’s impossible to work there. City Hall and the Education Center are also nice backdrops for photos. No permits are required for photography here and there’s plenty of metered street parking and garbage cans. Bathrooms are available if you venture into The Egg or the Convention Center.
For coffee and bagel sandwiches, stop by Uncommon Grounds. There might be a line when you go, but it moves fast!
Mohonk Mountain House - New Paltz
So it might be worth it to stay a night or two at Mohonk Mountain House if you want photos there. They have boat rentals, a swimming area, a gorgeous vista (as seen above), ice skating in the winter, gardens, a hedge maze, hiking trails, a spa, horseback riding, and probably much more. If you want to get the castle at the top of the mountain, though, it is quite a hike. I wouldn’t suggest bringing a lot of equipment or props and would suggest wearing really comfortable shoes. If it is hot out, maybe pack an extra shirt or try to change clothes at the top, if you get sweaty.
If you’re not staying at the resort, there is a per person fee to enter and use the grounds. All other activities are an additional fee. Also, arrive a little early, as the horses use part of the road in to the resort and you will get yelled at if you get too close or try to hurry them along.
Mohonk Mountain House does have it’s own restaurant, but if you want to venture into the town, check out Huckleberry for cocktails and grub.