From the Golden Gate Bridge to Joshua Tree National Park, here are our favorite engagement photo locations.
For many people, the goal of proposing is to capture a once-in-a-lifetime moment. What better place to capture such an event than California? From romantic sunsets behind the Golden Gate Bridge to exploring the untouched beauty of Big Sur on the Pacific Coast Highway, we’ve compiled a list of places where you can create and capture lasting memories in Northern California.
Most of these proposed locations are free to the public, so please be respectful. If you have any questions before or after your proposal, please contact the organization responsible for maintaining this landmark.
P.S. If you want to find out about the best engagement photo locations in Southern California, click here.
San Francisco Bay Area and the Pacific Ocean make for amazing engagement photos.
Close your eyes and imagine walking with someone you love under golden sunbeams spilling through the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The best spot for a proposal on the bridge is on the east sidewalk between South Vista Point and South Spinnaker Pole near Mile Rock Beach. Remember to stop at one of the park visitors centers beforehand to get a parking permit, which will enable your car to be parked in an area that is close to where you want to take your photos.
Beach engagement photos/marriage proposal spots in Northern California and near San Francisco.
Of all the amazing sites in Northern California, nothing is more iconic than our gorgeous redwood forests. Big Sur on Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast has many spots where you can get beachside pictures with your soon-to-be fiancée. A personal favorite is McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There are several pull-outs on Hwy 1 where you can park and walk down a short trail to an overlook of this 80-foot waterfall crashing onto a rocky shoreline.
Small secluded beaches make for the most gorgeous California engagement photos.
If you’re looking for a place with a little more privacy, there are some offshoot trails that will lead you to small secluded beaches surrounded by coastal forests. You have some options here depending on if you want to go left or right.
Going left will take you to a lush hidden beach surrounded by redwoods. For your convenience, there is even a sign along the trailhead indicating ‘hidden beach.’ There is another option on the other side of Hwy 1 that takes you to an isolated rocky bloc with views of waves crashing against the coastline.
Be sure to stop at the nearest visitor center for your state park before beginning your hike down any of these trails.
They’ll be able to provide some useful information about parking areas and times when certain trails are closed due to high tides, among other things. If you’re traveling during the winter months, it may be difficult accessing some of these spots because some roads will be closed depending on weather conditions. Make sure you check first before you head out!
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Park needs no introduction. The sheer beauty of this National Park will amaze you. Yosemite also boasts some of the most iconic waterfalls in California. Bridal Veil Falls is one of the many must-see waterfalls that your friends and family will love seeing. The hike to get up close with these falls is fairly short, but be prepared to get wet because you’re going to get soaked!
There’s a small lookout about halfway up where you can stop and rest before continuing on towards the falls. The waterfall itself is approximately 255 feet high making it relatively easy for anyone in good physical condition to reach.
Any lover of natural beauty knows that there is no better place than a forest full of redwood trees. If you venture north toward Eureka you can visit the Avenue of the Giants. This scenic route meanders through Humboldt Redwoods State Park towards Weott where it parallels Highway 101 for about 32 miles (51 km).
The park has some amazing trails, but if you’re looking for that perfect spot to pop the question then don’t look further than Founders Grove. You’ll find this grove of evergreen trees just off of Hiway 101 on Founder’s Memorial Parkway at Bull Creek Flats. A short hike will lead you to a picnic area with some tables and benches, which would be an excellent place to take your engagement photos.
If there are more adventurous person out there who enjoys hiking more than picnicking, then head over to Dyerville Loop Trail. This trailhead can be accessed through the Avenue of the Giants and brings you to a clearing almost as if it was made especially for your engagement photos.
If you’re looking for a place with amazing scenery, then Lake Tahoe is not only beautiful but also full of fun activities that anyone will enjoy. Northstar California ski resort is probably one of the best-suited mountain destinations due to its access by car and proximity to Reno and San Francisco. If skiing isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do at this destination such as stroll around their quaint village or take an exhilarating ride on the summit gondola where you’ll have views across most of the lakes including Fallen Leaf Lake.
When you get hungry, head over to the Red Hut Café for some tasty American cuisine.
The café is open daily from 9 am until 11 pm and offers a variety of comfort foods including sandwiches, soups, salads, and various starters. Lake Tahoe is also home to several luxury hotels where your guests can book a room or two if they want something more comfortable than camping out in their sleeping bags at one of the many campgrounds around the lake.
If you’re looking for activities that are suitable for young children before your main event begins then check out Camp Richardson’s Summer Adventure Program! Their program includes canoeing, cabin building challenges, archery lessons among other things that children will love!
The winding drive along Highway 1 is known as one of the most scenic drives in the world. If you’re really ambitious, then head south from San Francisco and make your way down to Big Sur. This part of California has a slower pace to it where time doesn’t seem to matter.
Pfeiffer Beach Campground
If you’re feeling really adventurous, then set up camp at Pfeiffer Beach Campground where they also have 110 sites for RVs and tents should you need more space than just two people. You would be sharing this site with other campers so if you’re looking for somewhere quiet then this might not be the right place.
Kirk Creek Ranch
Though Big Sur is well known for its natural beauty, there are still many other activities that would please anyone who’s celebrating their engagement in California. Horseback riding or jet skiing at Kirk Creek Ranch could be ideal to get your fiancé excited about your proposal idea. If you want to keep it simple and sweet, then take a drive up Highway 1 until you find something spectacular like Pfeiffer Beach where the water will sparkle so brightly that it almost looks like diamonds are emerging from below the surface of the ocean!
Redwood National Park
If you’re really into camping out under the stars near some amazing Californians, then Redwood National Park is the place for you. The park is known to be tranquil and full of life so you’re sure to see some amazing wildlife once your tent flap opens in the morning.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
If canyon trails are more up your alley, then head over to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park where they have 13 miles of trails that can take you deep into these redwood forests. If neither of those suits your fancy, then try Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park where they also have an excellent visitor center that has interactive displays about the ecosystems found within Northern California! Once night falls, why not watch the stars come out with a telescope courtesy of their astronomy program?
While camping at these parks might sound like a proposal idea due to all its rustic charms, there are still luxury hotels within the area where you could get more of a stay-cation feeling if that’s what you desire. Some of these hotels include the Redwood Lodge, Big Basin Tent Cabins, and Fern Canyon Inn to name just a few.
Sonoma and Napa Wine Country
The town of Yountville is located in Napa Valley within California, which has several wineries to offer that are open for visitors to explore while they sip some award-winning wine! One of the best places to visit while here would be Domaine Chandon where they have an excellent restaurant known as Bistro Jeanty which serves some great French bistro cuisine using local ingredients.
For something more low-key, head over to the Carneros Inn if you’re looking for more than just wine tasting. The inn is perfect for weddings or anniversaries so it would be an ideal place to propose on Valentine’s Day since it has some truly romantic vibes surrounding the area!
No matter what you choose, don’t forget to make your reservations ahead of time since these places can get pretty busy during peak hours (especially during weekends).
You have so many options for the best places to propose in California & take engagement photos.
That said, there are still many other engagement proposal ideas and proposal spot options in Northern California and the California coast that tickle everyone’s fancy. You could go rock climbing at Castle Rock State Park before popping the question, take a drive through coastal roads along Highway 1 while not forgetting your camera and stopping at random spots where you see something spectacular like Pebble Beach or Big Sur, explore the numerous caverns found within Sequoia National Park or drive up to Lake Tahoe and take a walk along one of its scenic shores.
The opportunities are endless in Northern California! Just remember that you’ll need a permit for most places, especially if it’s a state park or country area where they might have strict rules about camping overnight before going on your engagement adventure.
Regardless of what you choose, don’t forget to plan ahead since you will want to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Have fun and enjoy celebrating your engagement with someone who means the world to you! Below are some tips for taking the very best engagement photos.
Let there be light.
Natural light is a photographer’s friend, and you can see they absolutely know how to work with available light. Knowing when the sun is setting can get you amazing wedding portraits you will cherish for a lifetime.
Sunrise vs. sunset photos.
This sunrise and sunset calculator from Time And Date gives couples a complete calendar of when the sun will rise and fall here in Cloverdale, California. This calculator is an absolute must for any couple getting married. Locations can be changed to calculate sunset times anywhere in the world.
Knowing what time the sun will set will allow you to carve out plenty of time after your wedding ceremony for some magical portraits before rejoining your guests for a night of dinner and dancing.
Slow down and take your time.
Word to the wise, don’t rush! You will never look back on your wedding day and say you wished you had spent more time at your cocktail reception. However, you may look back and wish you had allotted more time with your wedding photographer capturing amazing moments together.
Mountain House Estate is picture-perfect for engagement photos and your wedding photos.
This portion of our Mountain House Estate property with its wide-open lawn, rolling hills in the background, windmill, and antique truck with wine barrels are a perfect location to roam, cuddle and drift away into your own little world.
We hope you enjoy these photos at Mountain House Estate, one of the best places to take engagement photos in Northern California.
There are a plethora of romantic settings spread across Northern California that would make for perfect places to propose. This range from wineries in Napa Valley, hiking trails in Redwood National and State Parks, the coastal roads along Highway 1, Yountville in the Wine Country, to camping in Fern Canyon Inn!
The only challenge you might run into is finding a place to stay overnight if it’s a state park or country area, but you can always make reservations ahead of time before attempting your engagement proposal idea. No matter what you choose, don’t forget to plan ahead since you will want to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Have fun and enjoy celebrating your engagement with someone who means the world to you!
Don’t forget that you’ll need a permit for most places, especially if it’s a state park or country area where they might have strict rules about camping overnight before going on your engagement adventure.
Elizabeth Nelson has been a wedding venue marketing specialist at Mountain House Estate for over four years. She writes on wedding topics and supports the Mountain House Estate team in creating gorgeous, one-of-a-kind weddings. Her goal is for wedding couples in the Bay Area, Northern California, and beyond to plan a beautiful, Pinterest-worthy wedding without the stress or worry of traditional weddings.
Contact us to learn more about our pricing and packages and to schedule a tour.
You’ll receive a copy of our in-house magazine, Estate Elegance, on your personal tour.