Adventurous Locations For Your Midwest Session or Elopement

There is no doubt in our minds that having intentional experiences is always worth the effort. The lasting value of our memories can shape our lives for years to come. Things and possessions can be destroyed or fall apart, but when we sit down and weigh what matters the most to us, and consider what changes us the most, it’s our experiences that will resonate for a lifetime. That’s why we always recommend planning an adventure.

During this important stage in your life, putting your trust in the value of experiences over things is what turns your engagement and your wedding into an adventure. This isn’t just a process or a bunch of steps to follow before you get married. We want you to look back on this time in your life and remember what a wonderful and joyful time it was. We know that doing something like traveling to some adventurous location can take some additional effort and planning, but it really is worth the effort. The planning, the glow of anticipation and butterflies of seeing something beautiful allow us to experience happiness in a whole new way. Let’s celebrate the step you are taking in a way that will be memorable, unique and personal.


We are midwesterners, and we love this part of the country. It’s home for us. So here are some of our favorite adventurous locations in the Midwest.

Michigan Locations

Michigan’s upper peninsula includes amazing beaches and incredible views. There are so many options to consider.

Lake of the Clouds (Porcupine Mountains) – Ontonagon, MI (Upper Peninsula)

The Lake of the Clouds hike in the Porcupine Mountains is one of the best views in Michigan and one of the most amazing sunsets you’ll find in the entire state. If you plan a session here in the fall you will see some of the best views of the fall colors in the world.




Presque Isle & Black Rocks – Marquette, MI (Upper Peninsula)

On Presque Isle you will find the Black Rocks and some of the most beautiful beaches in the U.P. Seriously this is the closest you can get to the Oregon coast in the midwest.




Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore / 12 mile beach – Grand Marais, MI (Upper Peninsula)

Twelve Mile Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a gem of Michigan. The entire beach is located in the 12 Mile Beach campground and it’s one of the most incredible lake fronts in the entire country.






Sand dune locations are some of the most unique landscapes in the midwest that don’t include a waterfall or a mountain. The way the dunes can mimic the feel of the desert gives an other world feel. Here are some of our favorite spots. There are several incredible Sand Dune locations to look at, here is a great resource: Lake Michigan Sand Dunes. The obvious choice is Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, but they tend to get a lot more tourist activity than the ones we are going to show you below.




Grand Sable Dunes – Burt Township, MI (Upper Peninsula)

Northern Michigan Elopement Photographer - Grand Sable Dunes

Grand Sable Dunes cover a 5-mile stretch along the southern shore of Lake Superior in the upper peninsula of Michigan in the eastern portion of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. They are some the world’s most pristine perched dunes. We love the way these sand dunes are nestled into the greenery. It’s like the desert meeting Scotland. It’s incredible and beautiful.

Posts From Grand Sable Dunes:

Exploring Northern Michigan’s Upper Peninsula // Our Travels





Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Mears, MI

Silver Lake Sand Dunes are the epitome of desert like epicness. There is so much we can do with this type of landscape. It’s epic and clean and idyllic.






Fitzgerald Park / The Ledges Park – Grand Ledge, Michigan

The Ledges in Fitzgerald Park is a very easy hike to some beautiful boulders and rock outcropping along the shores of the Grand River.






Rest of the Midwest

Hocking Hills State Park – Logan, Ohio

Hocking Hills is one of the crown jewels of Ohio. It has so much diversity. There are cliffs, waterfalls and gorges. There are five separate sections: Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs and Rock House. The park’s newest edition —Whispering Caves — is located on the Hemlock Bridge Trail. So much to explore.

Sessions at Hocking Hills:

Mary + Jacob // Rainy Hocking Hills Adventure Session




Palisade Head – Beaver Bay, Minnesota

Palisade Head and Palisade Point is actually one of the easiest hikes on this list. You can almost drive right up to the point. With that said, this view is something straight out of the cliffs of Scotland.On a clear day, you can see the Sawtooth Mountains to the north and the Split Rock Lighthouse to the south. There are several short trails along the large rock formation that lead to different vantage points. And when the fog rolls in and sunrise comes, this is a sight to behold. There is also plenty of hiking to be done in the area.



Devil’s Lake State Park – Baraboo, Wisconsin

Devil’s Lake is a great hike to a 500 ft. quartzite bluffs. It is incredibly scenic and one of the great overlooks in the midwest.





Matthiessen State Park – Illinois

Photos © Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Matthiessen State Park has caves, canyons, streams, waterfalls and beautiful forests. The Cascade waterfalls shown above are one of the highlights.





Oakes Quarry Park – Fairborn, Ohio & Nelson Ledges Quarry Park – Portage County (Garrettsville), Ohio

We’ve not been to either of these two places yet, but we’ve heard good things and have see awesome photos from others. If you are nearby and want to check them out and let us know, we would love to see them in person.





There are so many options to consider when choosing an adventurous location for your wedding, engagement session or elopement. Don’t limit yourself to this list. There is so much out there, let’s really make it an adventure and do something amazing. Do the research and find something that moves you, something that you desperately want to see in person. What better place to celebrate your love?





Here’s some quick steps to help you plan for an adventurous session or elopement:


Step 1: Choose The Location

This is pretty obvious, but there is more to it than choosing any old location from a list. We really recommend the shoulder seasons which would be spring/summer or summer/fall. Travel is cheaper and you will have less crowds. Plus, the weather during these seasons generally leads to more dramatic scenery too.

Step 2: Choose The Time

You want the best possible light. Typically this means right after sunrise or right before sunset. Depending on the length of the walking needed to get to some of these locations, we should consider when to leave and the time it will take to get there or back in partial darkness. Also, because of the nature of some of the hikes to get to some of these spots you might want to consider staying the night in the area the day before the day after.

Step 3: Get Permits And Book Travel (if needed)

Many parks and public places will require a permit. 99 times out of a 100 no one will ask for it, but if they do, we don’t want to have your day ruined because we didn’t take this step. Generally they are only $50 to $100 bucks. Just check with local officials and they will advise you if it’s needed. As for travel, we generally will drive, but for some locations air travel can actually save you time and money and be pretty cheap. If you think travel will be required, let’s work together to find some deals.

Step 4: Have a Great Time

This is the most important part, but not always the easiest. We need to remember that this is a celebration. The reason you are opting for an adventure is because you want something unique and special to you. You are calling the shots, so let’s take our time and really enjoy ourselves.







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