Looking at Chautauqua in Boulder for your Engagement Photos?
Well good news! I’m getting ready to fill this post with everything you need to know about this gorgeous foothill trailhead in Boulder. Chautautqua is the name of a hiking area at the base of the Flatirons, a rock formation that gives Boulder it’s distinct skyline. If you live in Boulder, or have visited the area and stared up at the sheer slabs of rock jutting into the sky, you know just how iconic the view is! The trails off Chautauqua are also used as climbing access for the flatirons themselves. Yep, you can get all the way to the top of them!
Is Chautauqua busy during the summer?
As you can imagine, Chautauqua is one of the busiest trailheads in Boulder, and is flooded with tourists and locals alike during the spring, summer, and fall. Some brave souls even head out in their yak tracks and snowshoes to climb the steep rocky trails in the winter. It’s just as popular for photo sessions and elopements as it is for hiking. There’s not a day I visit during the summer when I don’t see a couple, a wedding party, or a high school senior getting their photos done.
While it’s busy, it can be worth dealing with the parking and the crowds to get the Flatirons as the background for your engagement session. And fortunately, some of the best views with the peaks in the background are off the lower trails, which are a lot less trafficked than the main trail up the middle of the hill. Since I don’t love photographing hikers out of the background of photos, I often head off down the lower trails to start with.
Do you need a permit to photograph at Chauatauqua?
If you’re planning on doing a photo session at Chautauqua, it is a good idea to use a local photographer, as you do need a commercial use permit through Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. To get it, your photographer needs liability insurance, and to pay a fee. Even with the permit, you are not allowed to bring objects other than your own two feet and a camera to use during the photos. No arches, chairs, tripods, portable changing rooms, or lightstands can be used since they damage the area around the trail. You’re also not allowed to go off trail, but don’t worry! There are plenty of sneaky areas you can use where trails overlap or branch off where you can make it look like you’re standing in a flowing field of grass. Someone who knows the area and photographs there a lot will know how to work the angles (like yours truly, haha).
When is the best time for photos at Chautauqua?
There’s no wrong time to visit Chautauqua and take photos there. It’s stunning in the winter, spring, summer, and fall. It’s magical the day after a snowstorm when the snow is just sticking to the trees and the tops of the Flatirons! I personally love it in early spring when all the grass starts to turn green. In May and June, there are often some wildflowers as well. Pea flowers, and lupines are some of the most common flowers there. In the fall, the grass is usually browner than in the photos below, but at sunset it hardly matters since everything turns a magical shade of gold!
I personally love golden hour at Chautauqua. You have to get there earlier than google’s projected sunset time as the sun goes down behind the foothills pretty quick. I usually start sessions there around 2 hours before true sunset.
It’s pretty magical at sunrise as well! You’ll want to plan to arrive at least half an hour before the sun comes up, as once it does, the sun gets harsh fast. But, if you’re lucky you’ll get some gorgeous light on the clouds, and be able to see the flatirons turn pink with the dawn before daylight really hits.
Photos from an engagement session at Chautauqua
I’ve dropped some of my favorite photos from my last engagement session in Boulder here for you to look at for inspiration! They were taken at golden hour in the spring time.
If you liked these photos and are planning an engagement session in Boulder, I’d love to chat! Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions about the area and planning sessions here.