Welcome to my blog post all about having your engagement photos at Saugatuck Dunes State Park! This is the complete guide if you’re a couple seeking a magical blend of natural beauty and stunning backdrops for your engagement session, look no further. Saugatuck Dunes State Park offers a picturesque setting with its expansive sand dunes, lush forests, and breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. In this blog, we’ll take you through everything you need to know, from the best photo spots to parking tips and even outfit changes. Get ready to immerse yourselves in the splendor of Saugatuck Dunes State Park and create memories that will last a lifetime. Let’s dive in!
For those that may be interested, we will be taking the Yellow Trail!
What Does This Location Offer for Photo Areas?
When approaching the area, it’s important to note that phone service around Lake Michigan can vary. Because you may lose service before you get to the parking lot, here is what you need to know; as you arrive, continue past the first fork in the road were you will see a sign that reads “Felt Mansion.” Stay to the right and drive for another half mile or so until you reach the next fork in the road. At this point, you’ll notice a small hut—make a left turn at the hut, as this is where our parking lot is located.
Feel free to park anywhere in the parking lot, keeping in mind that it may be crowded during peak seasons. If possible, try to park closer to the area I’ve circled on the map below to minimize the distance to the trail entrance.
Where to Park?
As you might already know, service by Lake Michigan can come as go as you get closer to the water. When you’re arriving, you will drive PAST your first fork in the rode and you will see a sign that says “Felt Mansion”. That is not where we’re going though, keep driving another half mile or so until you get to the next fork in the rode. There, you will see this little hut, turn left at the hut because that’s our parking lot!
Here, you may park anywhere in the parking lot as it might be crowded due to the season but if you can park closer the area I’ve circled below, you’ll be closer to the entrance of the trail.
Are Any Permits Needed?
While I haven’t personally encountered any park regulators or seen the hut occupied, there’s a possibility that a permit might be required. It’s worth noting that I already have a recreation passport on my vehicle tabs and when you renew, it’s a small fee of $13. If you choose this location, please consider this information.
Where to Change Your Outfits?
Changing outfits during your session poses an unique challenge. Since the best photo spots and lighting are located at least 0.75 miles into the trail, it’s impractical to return to the car for outfit changes. To accommodate this, I will be bringing my pop-up tent, affectionately nicknamed “Poppy” thanks to Instagram. You and your partner will be able to change one at a time inside the tent.
To ensure convenience, please organize your outfits in a manner that allows for comfortable carrying. Using a garment bag or a duffel bag with a built-in garment bag is a great travel option. This way, you can keep everything together, including your shoes. As a bonus, these bags can also be used for your wedding attire.
If any photographer is reading this and would like your own pop up tent, please click here or on the image below to see my favorites from Amazon!
There are outhouses you can use in the parking lot.
Please wear the outfit you would like for the woods immediately and please also have a think fancy for the beach! I prefer fancier rather than casual for the beach! For my couples, you will already have outfit inspiration and tips on my Engagement Style Guide!
Best Time of Year for Engagement Photoshoot?
When planning your engagement photoshoot at Saugatuck Dunes State Park, it’s essential to consider the timing and the seasonal changes. The beach’s popularity peaks during the summer months, with warmer weather and longer daylight hours. However, if you prefer a more private and intimate experience, consider visiting during the off seasons of spring or fall when the trail is less crowded. Please note that it genuinely will never feel crowded. Each season depends on what you like best, I personally prefer summer for all of its light and warmth. If you prefer fall, I would consider going a little bit later into fall because trees at the lakeshore
Best Time of Day for Photos?
Every photographer is different. My personal opinion is that Lake Michigan is perfect any time in the afternoon into the evening because the sun is moving over the lake to the West. This includes having enough light along the wooded trail. My personal photography style is light and bright, so I prefer more sun and like to go anytime between 2 – 5 pm but will start an engagement session as late as 6 pm. Again, this really depends on your photographer and what their photography style is because some would prefer to go later than 6 pm.
Here are my specific preferences based on the time of year:
- March – April – 1 – 3pm
- May – August 2 – 6pm
- September 2 – 5pm
- October 2 – 4pm
- November – December 1 – 3pm
Is This Location Dog Friendly?
Yes! Saugatuck Dunes State Park is very dog friendly! Please feel free to bring your fur babies on their leashes and don’t forget treats and/or toys as well as a water bottle and poop bags. We should also ensure we are taking car of your fur babies.
Where To Eat or Get a Drink/Treat After Your Engagement Session?
- The Mitten Brewing Company – Combining a microbrewery with a pizzeria, The Mitten Brewing Company offers a selection of craft beers and delicious pizzas.
- The Southerner – A popular restaurant offering Southern-inspired cuisine with dishes like fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and bourbon pecan pie.
- Bowdies Chophouse – Known for its prime cuts of steak, Bowdies Chophouse offers a fine dining experience with a cozy ambiance.
- Everyday People Cafe – A charming eatery serving seasonal American fare, including vegetarian and vegan options, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.
- Phil’s Bar & Grille – This casual restaurant offers a diverse menu featuring burgers, sandwiches, seafood, and a variety of craft beers.
Places to Get a Drink:
- The Saugatuck Brewing Company – Offering a range of house-brewed beers, including seasonal and specialty brews, this brewpub is a must-visit for beer enthusiasts.
- Guardian Brewing Company – A local favorite, Guardian Brewing Company is known for its handcrafted beers made with local ingredients and unique flavor profiles.
- The Butler – Located in an old Victorian home, The Butler is a trendy spot offering craft cocktails, an extensive wine list, and a cozy outdoor patio.
- Borrowed Time – A laid-back neighborhood bar with a wide selection of spirits and a warm atmosphere. They also serve craft beer and wine.
- Saugatuck Distilling Co. – Known for its handcrafted spirits, including whiskey, gin, and vodka, this distillery offers tastings and tours of their facilities.
Places for Dessert:
- Kilwins – A beloved confectionery known for its handmade chocolates, fudge, and ice cream. They also offer caramel apples and other sweet treats.
- Pumpernickel’s Eatery – In addition to their delicious breakfast and lunch options, Pumpernickel’s offers homemade pies and desserts that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Please note that restaurant popularity and availability may vary, so it’s always a good idea to check their operating hours and make reservations if necessary. Enjoy your culinary adventures in Saugatuck!
As I come to the end of my blog post here, I hope you’re feeling inspired and excited about the possibilities that Saugatuck Dunes State Park holds for your engagement photos. This natural gem offers a harmonious blend of woodsy charm and stunning vistas, making it the perfect backdrop for capturing your love story. From the moment you enter the park and embark on the picturesque trails to the changing of outfits amidst the beauty of nature, every detail has been thoughtfully covered. Saugatuck Dunes State Park invites you to create cherished memories against a backdrop of towering dunes and the tranquil beauty of Lake Michigan. Embrace the unique and breathtaking ambiance of this location, and let your engagement photoshoot unfold in this extraordinary setting.