Steamboat Springs is arguably one of the most photogenic towns in America. Am I biased? Certainly. But I think you’ll agree once you spend ten minutes here. It’s an inspired place to take photos of your loved ones, your family, or landscapes. Don’t forget that there are plenty of local photographers, too! If you’re reading this post for ideas on where to propose to your fiancé or stage a family portrait, reach out to our friendly Steamboat photographers. It will be worth it to have someone capture your moment professionally.
Downtown Photo Ops
The best place to start is downtown. Walking down Lincoln Avenue, stop at the angel wings mural next to Kali’s boutique. Get in touch with your inner angel, because the wings are bold and beautiful and the tiniest kiddo as well as the 6’6” tall guy in your crew will look great in front of them. Make sure to look up at Steamboat’s buildings as you explore the main drag: The Rabbit Ears Motel and their retro neon sign, the “Skiing Jesus” stained glass window at Holy Name Catholic Church, and bronzed historical celebrity benches at Wild Horse Art Gallery are all perfect photo ops to snap a selfie! Who doesn’t want a photo with Benjamin Franklin, am I right? Check out the Mural Tour for a map of all of the outdoor murals around Steamboat ideal for photo ops.
To get the ideal Yampa River pictures, head down 9th Street towards the river. Once you are on Yampa, cross the street and walk towards the 9th Street Bridge for your next photo. Looking one way, you see the ski area framed by trees in spring bloom; looking the other you see the Yampa flowing west with its namesake mural on the search and rescue building in the background (I took my wedding pictures here, so this is a personal favorite!).
Keep walking west until you pass the Bud Werner Memorial Library and loop around to the art depot. There you’ll see the historic train caboose, painted by Brooklyn artist Espartaco Albornoz Abreum. You’re welcome to climb on the back of the caboose for your shot (just stay off the still-active railroad tracks!).
Feeling like you can stretch your legs a bit more? Get off the core trail and walk into the Old Town neighborhood, taking 7th Street away from the river. Hang a right on Logan Ave, walking until the end of the road. You’ll find yourself in Stehley Park and the entrance to Butcherknife Canyon, a short but beautiful trail next to the creek and full of boulders where people free climb. Exit the canyon through Stehley Park and stroll down Grand Avenue to step into the magical world of Harry Potter at Steamboat’s most fantastic street name: Diagon Alley (yes, it’s real).
Or, from downtown, take the Yampa River Core Trail east, past Weiss Park and Freshies until you see the gates to the Yampa River Botanic Park. The glassy pond, surrounded by beautiful blooms and the small, amphitheater lawn, is a favorite spot for locals, families, and wedding ceremonies to capture the serenity of the moment.
Want to see some “real” wild Colorado? Emerald Mountain is a beautiful spot to snap valley views. If you don’t want to hike the entire Blackmere trail to the quarry, then dodge left and follow signs to the Sulphur Cave. The shorter but steeper trail has an equally beautiful view. Or, avoid hiking all together by driving to the Colorado Mountain College campus on the top of 13th Street. Built-in one of the highest places in town, the college is a perfect place to pose with views without hiking shoes.
Classic Barn Snaps
The historic barn at the top of the mile and a half Mad Creek trail remains a staple. A fairly gentle incline, the trail is great for all hiking levels. Unlike many other historic structures, you can enter the barn and climb into the hayloft, an especially fun reward for kiddos. You can also head to the More Barn or the Arnold Barn, both mountainside, to get a snap of you and your family with the mountain and Steamboat’s ranching heritage looming behind you.
If you really have the time for a trek, then head to the ski resort. The view from Thunderhead lodge is unparalleled. Take a few hours out of your day on a bluebird morning to see as far as out as the Flat Tops. Sorry, there is no alternate option to the top this summer. Due to the gondola construction over the 2021 summer, you’ll have to hoof it (although in a return year, you can certainly be a foot passenger on the gondola).
If you have access to a vehicle, you’ll be able to pose in front of more natural wonders. The famous Fish Creeks Falls are a must; just follow Fish Creek Falls Road to the end. There is a forest service $5 day use fee, so be ready, and then walk the quarter mile down the historic and gorgeous falls. Try and get there early in the summer to see it at peak run off, when it’s at its most wild. If you’re up for it, get the far view of the falls by hiking the first part of the Uranium Mine trail.
Another option is to head outside of town towards Strawberry Park and take the legendary drive up to Buffalo Pass, “Buff Pass” to locals. In summer, the aspens are green and gorgeous, with views that show up as you go around each curve. These short-depth views of the valley are perfect places to snap nature shots outside of the downtown or pose for family photos in grove after grove of national forest.
Strangely, you also need to remember to look up! Hot air balloons lift off every morning at 6 am. Be ready to search the skies and see a happily drifting crew, or even better, as the balloon gets closer to the ground. Don’t forget that the skies will be part of what you want to capture, especially on a starry evening with a night camera set up. Happy snapping!