As the days grow shorter and the air turns a bit crisper, I find myself reflecting on the incredible summer I’ve had photographing families against the stunning backdrop of Northern Michigan. While the season may be winding down, my editing is in full swing, with galleries being delivered right on schedule, three weeks post-session.

One of the joys of my work is not only capturing beautiful moments but also helping families discover the best spots to enjoy Northern Michigan’s natural wonders. So, I thought it’d be a great idea to not only share some of my recent family sessions but also reveal my top five favorite scenic hikes, perfect for families of all sizes and ages.


1. Maple Bay Natural Area

A mere 25 minutes from Traverse City, Maple Bay Natural Area is a local gem. Its popular and picturesque beach offers ample space for families to find their own slice of paradise. Beyond the shoreline, a short 10-minute hike through the woods leads to hidden spots surrounded by dune formations and beautiful trees. It’s an ideal choice for families seeking both beachfront serenity and a touch of adventure.

Maple Bay Natural Area Family Session


2. Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

For breathtaking vistas and easy access, the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a must. This 7-mile driving loop boasts several scenic stops, including a charming covered bridge, dune hikes, and an epic sunset viewpoint overlooking the water. To avoid the crowds, I recommend visiting in the morning or on weekdays, and if you’re up for a 10-minute hike, you’ll discover even more secluded spots tucked away from the hustle and bustle.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Family Photographer What to Wear Family Photographer


3. Glen Haven Beach and Nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes Trail

Just 35 minutes from Traverse City, Glen Haven Beach is a family-friendly haven, conveniently located near the Cannery Boathouse Museum. With easy access to the beach, even older family members can comfortably join in for those memorable group photos. Afterward, a short 3-minute drive to the dunes trailhead opens up opportunities for playful exploration. This area is quite popular, so scheduling your session earlier in the day or on weekdays can help you avoid the crowds.

Old Mission Peninsula Family SessionGlen Haven Dunes Family Photo Shoot


4. Brown Bridge Quiet Area

A mere 25-minute drive from Traverse City, the Brown Bridge Quiet Area is a woodland wonderland. It offers a winding river, meadow, and enchanting wooded paths. If your family has an adventurous spirit, there are miles of trails to explore. As autumn paints the landscape with vibrant hues, this location becomes a perfect choice for October sessions.

Brown Bridge Quiet Area Family SessionBrown Bridge Quiet Area Family Session



5. Mission Point Lighthouse on Old Mission

The Mission Point Lighthouse, located just 30 minutes from Traverse City, offers a picturesque backdrop for your family photos. While it can get busy, especially in the evenings, it’s an excellent spot for capturing sunset moments. If privacy is a priority, a short drive down the road reveals quieter, more secluded beaches. Old Mission Peninsula also offers fantastic wooded areas to explore, adding variety to your family portraits.

Glen Haven Beach Family Session


Whether you’re drawn to sandy shores, forested trails, or scenic overlooks, Northern Michigan offers an array of settings to make your family session truly special. As the season transitions, I look forward to helping more families create lasting memories against the backdrop of this beautiful region.

Stay tuned for more adventures, and if you’re considering a family session this fall, don’t hesitate to reach out. See you at the trailhead!

Josh Hartman – Traverse City Family Photographer