When choosing a photo location, consider what time of year you want photos, what your family likes to do together and how far are you willing to drive.

First, consider what time of year you want photos. Are you hoping to catch the blossoms in Spring? Do you want to soak up the warm summer evening? Perhaps you want to stand in the stunning fall trees and golden grasses. The time of year is an important decision to make. The time of year is also going to determine the type of clothing you are going to wear, so keep that in mind. Maybe you love the layers, sweater, cozy clothing. Or maybe you want shorts, summer dresses, etc. Just something to consider.

Another question to think about is what does your family like to do together? Do you want to go out to a field with few distraction and possibly a new adventure? Maybe your family loves to work and play in your backyard. This would be an excellent place to capture your family doing what you love the most. Or maybe you just remodeled your kitchen and your family loves to bake. Let's bake some cookies and do an indoor kitchen session!

Some of us are stressed for time and others of us just don't enjoy being in the car. Taking into consideration how far the location is from your home is important too. Most of the locations I have showcased below are not more than 10-20 minutes away from the center of Ellensburg. Frenchman Coulee is a bit farther, but most of these are maybe 10 minute away.

Top 9 favorite photo locations near Ellensburg, WA

So, these top 7 favorite locations are not in any particular order. These are just a few amazing locations I have found and taken my families to the last couple years. Ellensburg is so beautiful and has many beautiful locations. Below I have described the park a bit and what to expect to see when you get pictures there. Obviously, there is going to be much, much more to see.

Helen McCabe State Park

One of the main things that jump out to me when I come to this park is this nice open field. This field creates beautiful photos with a family and young kids running through the grasses... I love it! There is also a great trail around the pond. We don't usually make it around the pond, but I do like to go down the path a bit. It really depends on how adventurous you or your group is. There are trees, grasses, a pond and trail. So many possibilities here. Here is an article about Helen McCabe State Park if you would like to further research this great park.

You will need a Discovery Pass to Park at this state park.

tween girl in Helen McCabe State Park field
senior girl wearing a hat and sun coming through the tree at helen mccabe state park near ellenburg, wa

Howard's Way Trailhead

This place might be my favorite place to come. Not only for photos, but just to go on walks with my hubby and kids. It has big trees and it is along the river. Sometimes the river is low enough it opens up a huge area of just river rock. In early spring and (I am told), in the fall, the water goes down. During late spring and summer the river is high, so no rocks, but still stunning. Because we spend lots of time on the trail and in the trees, I do recommend come a little earlier than normal to make sure we get some good light within the trees. I do have a couple spots outside of the trees too, that we step out.

The trails are perfect and not crowded. As you walk along, there are areas that open up a bit and make a perfect photo set up. There are a couple bridges here as well. Definitely lots of options here. Here is a link to Howard's Way Trail with a details article about the trail.

boy with his walking stick in the woods
howards way trail trees with three sisters sitting together

Olmstead State Park

This is the cutest little farm area. It is located in the Kittitas Valley and really has a sweet charm to it. In the summer is when it is most lush with a full garden and flowers everywhere. They have a great barn, open grass fields and trails all over. Really a fun place to take your family. Lots of little pockets to photograph in.

toddler boy hanging on fence and standing in front of a garden full of squash
mother holding her toddler boy and kissing him on the cheek at Olmstead State Park
Family walking town a trail on the Olmstead Historical State park.

Cle Elum Lake

I have been to Cle Elum Lake in many different seasons. From left to right, September, February, and June. I don't know which it my favorite. I do know that Cle Elum Lake is stunning and a beautiful location for your photos. It is about a 45 minute drive from Ellensburg, WA. I have more information about Cle Elum Lake as a photo location HERE.

pregnant mother standing in front of a cluster of trees at cle elum lake
pregnant mother kissing here husband in front of cle elum lake on a winter day
family walking together on the beach at cle elum lake

Frenchman Coulee

We drove out here in February, which was very golden and beautiful. The rock structures provide an amazing backdrop. (not shown here.) My kids loved climbing, running and exploring all around. I have heard that you do have to watch out for rattle snakes during the summer. This location is also 40 minutes away from Ellensburg. But it really is a site to see. I recommend taking photos here between October-April.

boy standing arms out on rock
frenchman coulee landscape

Umtanum Creek Recreational Site

Another beautiful area. This is about a 20 minute drive from Ellensburg, but worth the little drive down Yakima Canyon. There is an impressive walking bridge that takes you across the Yakima River. And it is new and improved! Before, it made me a little nervous with little kids, but now it is much safer and gorgeous. There are spots before crossing the bridge, on the bridge and after the bridge.

You will need to have a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) pass for this park.

Umtanum Creek Recreational site location with family of three during the fall
couple kissing on the bridge at umtanum creek recreational site
parents holding up their toddler in front of fall bushes at umtanum creek recreational site

Manastash Trail

I love the variety here. You park on Cove Road, then walk up to the trailhead. Well, the walk up is just as wonderful as being on the trail. There is a dirt road, lined with trees and a wooden fence. It makes me so happy walking up here. In just a short amount of time, you get so many different looks. Again, this is here in Ellensburg, nice and close.

four kids running to their parents' arms at the Manastash trailhead
tween girl sitting on a wood bench in front of tall trees at the Manastash Trailhead
woman walking on trail at Manastash Ridge trail

Central Washington University

Central Washington University has some amazing old buildings. I just love them. This is such a different location than all the others I have mentioned, but just as lovely. The Shaw-Smyser building has these amazing pillars in font and will turn a boring photo into stunning. I also found this huge wall of brick and windows (not shown) that just makes for the perfect backdrop or walkway. I am dreaming of a photo of a little kid riding there bike next to this wall.

I have done so many CWU senior photos here on campus. So much fun! (Learn a little more about this location HERE.)

CWU senior girl wearing cap and gown on the CWU campus in front of Shaw-Smyser Hall building
60s themed sitting on steps at central washington university

Reecer Creek Floodplain Restoration Site

Super long title, right?! I am just not really sure what to call this area or if it has an actual name. It is a location they have recently restored along the Reecer creek habitat area and added a walking trail through. It is beautiful. Best thing is, it is right here in Ellensburg!

sunset 60s theme at reecer creek floodplain restoration
running through field at reecer creek floodplain restoration
senior boy sitting on a large log during the fall at reecer creek floodplain restoration site in ellensburg

That's a Wrap

Well, that's a wrap for now. Feel free to check back to see if I have added any new locations. Do you have any favorite Ellensburg or near Ellensburg locations? I would love to hear about it. Or if you have found your location and would like to book a session, click HERE. I also love coming to you and taking photos on your property. Take that into consideration when planning your photo location.