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The Best (Free!) Places Around the Triangle for Gorgeous Fall Photoshoots

(The Triangle Trend) — Lights! Camera! Pose! We’re entering the most colorful time of the year, meaning there’s no better time to use nature as a scenic backdrop to those family or glamour shots you’ve been wanting to take. Who needs a green screen when you’ve got mother nature behind you? It’s time to hop in the car, grab a camera or photographer, and head to one of these Triangle nature spots. The only thing you’ll love more than the scenery are the memories you’ll be capturing with the click of a button. Say cheese!

North Carolina Museum of Art

2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607

Art + nature + people is the formula you can look forward to at NCMA. The outdoors area allows you to appreciate sculptures as part of a magical landscape. The museum collection is rich and the architecture of the place is a masterpiece. This is a museum worthy of a successful capital city. The sculpture garden and outdoor walking trails are huge and always leave an impression.

Interesting installations, wide open vistas, beautiful plantings, and ample paved and unpaved trails to explore; all free of charge. The outdoor exhibits are reminders that grand works needn’t be sequestered or blocked off from the public, though children young and old do need to be reminded not to climb on them. Bear in mind that this museum is frequently busy, meaning your photoshoot may either take longer or have others in the background. Visit on a weekday before people start getting off work for a more peaceful experience.

The American Tobacco Trails

For a more tranquil environment, the American Tobacco Trail offers more than 22 miles of walkways that previously supported railroad trestles. The trails, which are located in Durham, Cary, Apex, and the Jordan Lake region, feature a combination of paved and natural terrain. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset. The following locations have access points:

  • 1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd., Apex
  • 1017 Wimberly Rd., Apex
  • Corner of Morehead and Blackwell streets in Durham
  • Pittard Sears Road in Durham


The trail surface is asphalt from its northern end to New Hope Church Road and has stone dust from its southern end to Scott King Road. The southern stretch of the American Tobacco Trail is open to horseback riders. The trail courses through beautiful pines, and its rural sections boast plentiful wildlife, including beavers, herons, hawks, songbirds, vultures, owls, turtles, and deer. It doesn’t have much in the way of stunning scenery, but it does have and encourages a sense of peace throughout the majority of its length. The trail is always kept in good condition. The route may get congested, as one would expect in a city, especially on weekends.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

420 Anderson St, Durham, NC 27708

If you’re looking for beautiful gardens and grounds, you’ll find it at Duke Gardens. It’s almost hard to describe in words the beauty of this whole place. The entire garden is large and you can easily spend several hours to half a day exploring and relaxing. It contains a very wide variety of plant life, walking trails, fields, water, and birds. It’s easy to fall in love with the Japanese themed section complete with a bamboo forest. There’s always a different experience in different seasons due to the changing of the trees and flowers. This is a hotspot for photoshoots, so come during the earlier hours of the day on weekdays to make sure you’re able to take photos in your favorite parts of the garden without interruption.

Eno River State Park

6101 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705

ERSP is an amazing park with a huge network of trails around the river. Playing and swimming in the shallow river is allowed and can also make for some great nature shots, given you visit on a warm day. Bridges or hopping rocks can get you from one side to another. Don’t get discouraged if the parking lots look full and you have to park a little farther up the hill. Once on the trails, and especially once over the river, you’ll encounter fewer and fewer people.

The river is beautiful and the simple campground is kept in great condition supplied with wood. Trails are very well marked and traveled, so finding where you want to go is no problem. Bear in mind this isn’t the best spot to bring a professional photographer, due to the walking and elevation changes that come with traveling to the most scenic backdrops, but definitely don’t hesitate to bring your own camera or phone to take some shots yourself. Bringing along a friend to help with the full-body shots is a good idea as well.

North Carolina Botanical Gardens

100 Old Mason Farm Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517

We strongly suggest taking your time to enjoy the serene beauty of the native plant life in this garden. It’s not just a showy garden of flashy, colorful, nonnative flowers, but a loving and dedicated effort to celebrate and conserve the indigenous plant life that is a part of the North American nature’s heritage. This is more of a natural garden as opposed to Duke Gardens, which emphasizes intricate landscaping to enhance its beauty. This spot is known for absolutely amazing floral scenes during the spring, but also features some breathtaking foliage during the heart of the Autumn season.

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Cierra Smith | Editor

Raleigh-born writer passionate about cultural awareness and social change. You’ll typically find me somewhere studying a language, writing, or doing pilates. Consider me a health-conscious foodie with an interest in all diets and lifestyles.

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