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American Basin Engagement | Madeline and Chris

Madeline and Chris | American Basin Engagement

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Savannah Chandler Photography | San Juan Mountain Engagement Photographer

The American Basin.

What a magnificent place. Somehow, existing in nature, are these amazing jagged peaks right above a stunning alpine basin that fills with wildflowers each year. Just outside of Lake City, the lower basin is accessible by 2wd vehicles. Having a 4×4 will grant you direct access to the upper basin which is where the trailhead for Handies Peak sits.

When Madeline and Chris decided on the basin for their Colorado engagement photographs – I knew they’d absolutely LOVE the area. Neither of them had been to this area of the San Juan mountains yet. We decided on sunrise (which is my personal favorite time of day in the high country) and that we’d meet up in Silverton to make the drive over Cinnamon Pass together in the dark.

Cinnamon Pass is mild on the Lake City side – however, coming from Silverton requires a 4×4 vehicle capable of climbing over some rocks that sit on a shelf road. Knowing that their vehicle would have some trouble, we met up at Grouse Gulch trailhead and took my Jeep over the pass at 3am in the complete darkness. Madeline and Chris wanted to hike the spectacular Handies Peak after their shoot, and they could make a loop to meet back up at their car at Grouse Gulch – which worked out amazingly.

After a little white knuckling over the pass, we arrived into the basin just as blue hour was starting to give way to the sun breaking the horizon. We had the clearest Colorado skies, which always makes for an amazing display of Alpenglow on the mountaintops. American Peak turned an amazing full red right as we began photographing down near the river.

We made our way around the basin, making sure to walk on foot paths and dirt ways as to not damage any of these amazing wildflowers. Remember that photographs and angles can be deceiving – leave no trace when you’re in areas with fragile tundra and wildflowers.

Once we were done photographing, Madeline and Chris headed up the trail to hike Handies Peak. Both of them are avid mountain hikers, and Chris is a legit mountain and alpine climber. No climbing necessary on this amazing Class 1 14er, but in my opinion, you picked the prettiest peak in all of Colorado to hike up and conclude your morning.

I had an absolutely AMAZING time adventuring around the American Basin with you, Madeline and Chris. I can’t wait to see all the photographs from your California wedding <3

Cheers –



Savannah Chandler Photography | Telluride Engagement Photographer | San Juan Mountain Adventure Photographer | Based in Denver, Colorado | Available for Travel Worldwide

Photographing across the Rocky Mountain Region: Telluride |Aspen | Dillon | Keystone | Vail | Breckenridge | Winter Park | Granby | Grand Lake | Estes | Buena Vista | Ouray | Arapahoe Basin | Silverton | Silverthorne | Spanish Peaks

Interested in seeing all the different locations that the San Juan mountains have to offer? Click HERE to see my location suggestions!

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