A couple embracing and smiling in a desert scene with a tall cactus in the background, conveying warmth and affection.

10 Best Desert Locations for Family Photos in Arizona

March 8, 2024

With so many spots to take family photos in Arizona, it can be hard to choose! Luckily, I’ve done the research for you, and rounded up the ultimate list of quintessential desert locations throughout AZ for families.

As an Arizona family photographer, I’ve photographed many family sessions, especially in the Mesa area. So, I can personally vouch for a lot of the locations on this list!

From beautiful saguaro cacti to stunning rock formations, Arizona’s landscapes really do have it all. Keep reading to learn all about the best spots for desert family photos in Arizona.

Where to Take Family Photos in Arizona

First Water Trailhead, Apache Junction

n expecting couple holding each other and the woman's belly, standing in a desert landscape, symbolizing anticipation and love.

Let’s start off strong with a location right in the Arizona desert: First Water Trailhead! Situated in the Apache Junction area, First Water Trailhead is a beautiful outdoor trail in the Tonto National Forest.

While the trail itself is considered moderately strenuous with its 5.6 miles and 436 feet of elevation gain, you only have to walk a little bit along this trail to get great views that make for beautiful family photos right in the heart of Arizona.

There’s beautiful scenery at First Water Trailhead, no matter the time of year. It’s especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction

Next is another of the best spots for family photos in Arizona, Lost Dutchman State Park. It’s particularly beautiful at sunrise! Throughout this 320-acre state park, there are so many fun things to do, from viewing wildlife to hiking and taking in the scenery… and, of course, having photo sessions!

One of the things that makes the state park such a great photo spot is that it’s generally fairly secluded. Even though it’s near Phoenix, there are beautiful views and fairly quiet trails. Plus, with the Superstition Mountains in the background, it’s really hard to get a bad family photo taken here.

History lovers will also enjoy visiting this park, as it’s named after a gold mine from Old West legends: Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

San Tan Mountain Regional Park, Queen Creek

Three smiling young girls standing on a desert trail with a large saguaro cactus in the background, showcasing a sunny and warm environment.

This large park covers more than 10,000 acres of land right near Queen Creek. For anyone looking for a sprawling backdrop in their desert family photos, you can’t go wrong with choosing San Tan Mountain.

Throughout the park, there are so many quiet areas where you can escape and take family photos. Plus, there are all types of desert cacti and flowers that will fill the backdrop of your photos.

Scorpion Gulch at South Mountain, Phoenix

A family of four, with two teenage girls, dressed in smart casual attire posing in front of a rustic stone building surrounded by trees.

This location is one of the ones that is absolutely unbeatable at sunset. Located right in Phoenix, Scorpion Gulch is an old storefront that used to sell a handful of items. The story of the building itself is incredibly interesting, so this is another spot that history lovers will enjoy for family photos.

This spot can get pretty busy on the weekends, so it’s perfect for family sessions during the week. Because it’s a building, there are lots of “activities” that you can partake in here to not feel as awkward in front of the camera, like sitting on the steps, standing next to a tree, walking around the home, and more.

Saguaro Lake, Mesa

A marina in the desert? Yes! Saguaro Lake is one of the more unique spots for family photos in Arizona. There are many spots around the lake where you can pose with your family for an unforgettable photo, and during certain times of day (and when the water is calm), you can even get beautiful reflections of the mountains on the lake in your backdrop.

Sunrise can definitely be a great time to take photos here, especially if your kids are early risers. That’s normally the best time of day to beat the crowds here and when the water is calmest.

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

There are many beautiful photo spots throughout Arizona for families who want a desert landscape, but the #1 spot that I’ll always recommend is Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I love it so much that I even have an entire blog post about it!

Perfect for out-of-towners (and honestly, those who are local, too), this garden is filled with more than 100 acres waiting to be explored. This spot is perfect for sessions around an hour and a half long; just make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes.

Papago Park, Phoenix

A joyful family of four with two young children wearing denim and yellow, posing together in an outdoor setting with lush greenery in the background.

Situated in Phoenix, Papago Park is one of the best outdoor spots in the desert for family photos (and hiking)! Throughout the 1500-acre park, there are endless trails, desert landscapes, ponds, and more. Plus, it’s only a short drive from the Desert Botanical Garden mentioned above. 

Because of how much there is to explore within this park, it’s perfect for a family photo session. We can easily spend some time exploring the park, using different backdrops for scenery.

Riparian Preserve, Gilbert

A family of four dressed in Western attire, standing confidently in a desert landscape with tall cacti and clear blue skies.

Gilbert’s Riparian Reserve is another area that’s perfect for family photos in Arizona, featuring water and desert landscapes throughout. It covers 110 acres, so there are lots of spots throughout that are pretty secluded for family pictures. 

While a lot of the park does feel more like the wetlands, parts of the park do have giant cacti like you’d expect to find in the Arizona desert. These provide such a fun and quintessential Arizona backdrop for any family photos, especially at sunset when the sun starts to peek around them.

The best spot to take photos throughout here is at the saguaro garden. The views here are extremely breathtaking, and you can’t find anything else quite like it throughout the rest of the park. However, because the views here are super different from one section of the park to the next, it’s easy to get a wide variety of backdrops in the images so that they don’t all feel and look the same.

Veteran’s Oasis Park, Chandler 

Veteran’s Oasis Park in Chandler AZ is one of those outdoor spots that combines the desert with greenery, featuring a pond, multiple trails, and even a playground that can be fun for children to play on after a photo session there. 

The park spans more than 110 acres and has a variety of cacti throughout so that you’re able to get those classic backdrops that Arizona is so iconic for. We can get photos of your family near the water features, with cacti in the background, or along one of the many peaceful trails throughout the park.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa

Last but certainly not least is the Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa, Arizona! This park is slightly over 3500 acres and is filled with everything from caves to trails and everything in between. Plus, it’s another great desert landscape, with large cacti throughout.

The mountains peeking out in the background here, too, make for a beautiful landscape with lots of depth for your family photos. It’s fairly easy to walk around the park as well and can be seen as similar to the views that you’d get at Lost Dutchman State Park, with the mountains just being a bit further away here.

Final Thoughts: Desert Family Photos in Arizona

There are so many great spots for desert family photos in Arizona. From parks to trails and everything in between, Arizona is filled with so much natural beauty that can make for unforgettable photographs of your family.

As a family photographer based right here in Arizona, I’ve been able to photograph many family sessions against these beautiful desert backgrounds. If you’re dreaming of a family photoshoot set against Arizona’s stunning landscapes, I’d be thrilled to help bring that dream to life. Click here to get in touch and learn more about my family portrait sessions.

Check out these posts next:


Download the free guide to get my best tips for how to prepare for your family session. After you input your information below, check your inbox!

Tips for Preparing for Your Family Session

Free Guide

create with kendra

It’s time to celebrate your family’s milestones together.