7 Best Photo Opps in Dillon, CO
You don’t have to travel far from Denver to find some of the best photo ops in Colorado—some might even argue in the country. Dillon is just an hour and a half west of Denver International Airport, but with towering granite peaks, abundant aspen trees, and an enormous lake, it’s easy to take gorgeous photos that capture the Centennial State’s natural beauty. There’s no wrong time of year to visit Dillon for photography. Winter is particularly beautiful since the snow-capped peaks make for phenomenal alpenglow. Fall means softer light and vibrant foliage, while the long days of spring and summer mean you’ll have more opportunities to shoot landscapes and wildlife.
The best times of day to shoot are typically at dawn and dusk when the light is best. The snow on the hills during the winter turn sunrises and sunsets into fiery displays of pink and orange. Of course, those are the times of day wildlife is most active, too, so it’s crucial that you’re aware of your surroundings, regardless of what time of year you’re shooting.
Dillon’s surroundings mean you’ll want to be prepared to shoot landscapes. A simple DSLR camera with a stable, easy-to-transport tripod will serve you well. Bring along a wide-angle zoom lens so you can capture panoramic images of the Gore and Tenmile Ranges. Haven’t yet stocked up on all those gadgets? Not to worry: Dillon is so beautiful that it’s tough to take a bad photo—the one on your phone will work fine. Once you’re ready to play Ansel Adams, here’s where you need to be.
1. Dillon Waterfront
What’s more picturesque than a sailboat? A sailboat with craggy peaks in the background. It’s rare to get a big body of water with mountains more than 10,000 feet high framing the shot, but Dillon delivers on that front. Head down to the Dillon Marina to get up close and personal with the sailboats, or swing by the Dillon Amphitheater for stunning views all the way across the lake. Head out early to catch the morning light on the lake—it’s particularly memorable just after sunrise.
2. Peak 8
Just across the Dillon Reservoir from the town is Breckenridge Ski Area. When you make the drive, you’ll be following in the cinematic footsteps of the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and, of course, Dumb and Dumber’s Lloyd and Harry. Once you’ve arrived at the resort, take the gondola up to the top of Peak 8—the ride up makes for stunning photos—and take in the far-out views from the ridgeline.
3. Loveland Pass
The 11,990-foot summit of Loveland Pass is just a short drive from Dillon proper. Park at the trailhead and start hiking east toward Mount Sniktau. It won’t take you long to catch 360-degree views of the Rocky Mountains. (If you’re visiting in winter, check before leaving town to make sure the pass is open, and don’t venture from the parking lot without avalanche safety gear.) Early summer is an especially great time to take photos since the peaks in the distance are still punctuated with snow.
4. Ptarmigan Trailhead
The Ptarmigan Trail begins right across Interstate 70 from Dillon proper. It’s a challenge—the trail gains more than 3,500 feet in elevation on its 6.5-mile journey to the summit of its namesake peak. Don’t be put off; you don’t have to get all the way to the top to snag views of the Dillon Reservoir and the surrounding peaks and valleys. Bring a headlamp, because the sunrise and sunset shots from this vantage point are epic.
5. Sapphire Point
Anything named for a gem has to be a good photo opp, right? From the Sapphire Point Overlook on Swan Mountain Road, you can see miles up the Blue River Valley, and the Tenmile Range lights up at dusk. This is a low-effort way to get a from-above view of the Dillon Reservoir, so it’s a great place to lug equipment if you’re still getting the hang of how to use it all. In the fall, you might even hear elk bugling in the distance.
6. Quandary Peak
At 14,265 feet above sea level, it’s no wonder Quandary Peak boasts views for days. It doesn’t hurt that you’re very likely to see the area’s resident mountain goats. Bring a zoom lens if you want photos of these creatures—they can be aggressive, and it’s bad form to approach wildlife. Not quite up for the full fourteener experience? No problem. Visit in the fall, when the drive up Highway 9 will have you pulling over to take photos of the golden aspens.
7. Tenderfoot Trail
The easy, 1.2-mile Tenderfoot Trail provides an excellent vantage point to shoot images not only of the lake but of the rugged peaks behind it. You’ll pass through stands of lodgepole pine and aspen trees, and in quintessential Colorado fashion, the trail plays host to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. It’s also the perfect spot to get a shot of the sunset behind the magnificent Gore Range.
Written by Emma Walker for Matcha in partnership with Town of Dillon.
- Updated: 03/16/2020