If you’re looking to elope in Colorado, there’s a good chance Rocky Mountain National Park has crossed your mind, and for good reason! One of the prettiest places in the state, RMNP offers numerous spots for your intimate ceremony year-round. Deciding when and where to elope can be a bit overwhelming, so I’ve broken down things to consider in a step-by-step guide!
If you’ve ever been to Colorado, you’ve probably heard something along the lines of “don’t like the weather? Wait 5 minutes!” This is never truer than when in the mountains! While Colorado is known for having over 300 days of sunshine per year, the weather can be quite unpredictable. It’s often windy year-round in RMNP, so layers are a must no matter which season you choose! When picking a date for your elopement, it’s important to keep in mind which season you’ll be in!
Summer is one of the best times to be in Colorado when looking at the weather. Most roads in RMNP are open by Memorial Day. While we do get the occasional thunderstorm in the afternoon, they typically don’t last too long!
Because the weather is gorgeous during the summer months, it also means this is the park’s busiest time of the year. If you’re looking to elope during this time, it’s best to choose a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, when the park tends to be less crowded.
Fall is another great option to plan your elopement! While the leaves typically change at different times each year, they usually start as early as late-August at high elevations and last through the beginning of October at lower elevations. The weather tends to be a bit cooler but still quite nice. Snow is possible, especially at higher elevations as early as September. Trail Ridge Road usually closes in mid-October. As I mentioned, it is best to elope on a weekday to avoid crowds.
Winter can be a great option for your elopement if you’re wanting your own real-life snow globe! Alpine lakes such as Sprague Lake, Bear Lake, and Lily Lake remain frozen over all winter, surrounded by lots of snow-covered ground. While the weather can be quite varied (some days will be sunny and 40 degrees and others will be in the teens with blowing snow), this tends to be a slower time of year in the park with less crowds to deal with.
Spring in Colorado tends to be our snowiest time. Believe it or not, the majority of blizzards in Colorado historically happen in March and April! Eloping in the Spring is totally doable, but also might require a bit more flexibility, as storms will come out of nowhere and make travel around the park quite difficult. Snow is typically present in the mountains until around June, so if you’re hoping for Spring wildflowers, looking at the summer months starting in late June might be a better option!
Couples eloping in Rocky Mountain National Park have several locations to choose from. Couples must secure a wedding permit for $250 from the National Park Service up to one year in advance, and no fewer than 7 days before the ceremony. Only six weddings are allowed within the park, with up to two at each location each day, so it is important to secure your date as soon as possible! While these are the only locations that ceremonies are permitted throughout the park, there are numerous options for portraits at other locations before or after!
3M Curve is a great spot if you’re looking for sweeping mountain views. Located 3.5 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, it is accessible year-round. The rock outcropping is close to the road, which means there’s no need to walk very far, but also means you might not have much privacy during your ceremony. This spot allows up to 15 people and 3 cars at a time. Note: 3M Curve is closed from May through October 2020 for road work.
Alluvial Fan Bridge boasts a waterfall, wooden bridge and aspens. Along a large boulder-strewn river, it can be extremely busy during the summer. Located 7 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center along Old Fall River road, this spot can hold up to 20 people regardless of the season and up to 5 cars.
Bear Lake is one of the busiest locations in the park year-round, but has some stunning views if you’re okay with people passing close by. During winter months, the lake is frozen over with a snow-capped peak in the distance. During the summer, the trail around the lake has ample locations for a ceremony. Located 11 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, Bear Lake is easily accessible with a short (0.1 mile) walk from the parking lot. Due to its popularity, no weddings are permitted on any weekends, nor the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day. Up to 20 people and 5 cars are permitted at a time.
Tucked away in Wild Basin 13 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, Copeland Lake is a small body of water with mountain views, aspen trees and forest. I strongly suggest avoiding this location during winter, as the lake is often almost empty until snow starts to melt. Up to 30 people are allowed. There is a limit of 10 cars at a time the Friday before Memorial Day though Columbus Day.
Harbison Meadow Picnic Area is on the west side of the park, close to Grand Lake. Just off of Trail Ridge Road, it is a large meadow with gorgeous mountain views. There aren’t any restrooms close by, but it’s not uncommon to see lots of wildlife! This is one of the larger ceremony sites, with up to 60 people allowed. There is a limit of 10 cars at a time the Friday before Memorial Day though Columbus Day.
Hidden Valley is located 6 miles from Beaver Meadows and is the perfect spot if wheelchair accessibility is important to you! A former ski area, Hidden Valley is surrounded by aspens, pines and summer wildflowers. During winter it is the only place where sledding is allowed in the park. This spot can hold up to 100 people at certain times, and 20 people anytime throughout the year. There is no car limit.
Lily Lake, located just off of Highway 7, offers numerous options for your elopement. The dock, trail, and Southside Picnic Area all are options for the ceremony. The picnic area here is also the only site in the park that will accommodate a simple reception with an additional $50 permit. The dock is wheelchair accessible, although with its proximity to the parking lot is not very private. Lily Lake boasts 360° mountain views, including a straight shot of Longs Peak. The lake is frozen over during winter months, with a trail looping around for varied views. Up to 10 people at a time are allowed at the dock, 20 on the trail, and 30 at the picnic area. There is a limit of 10 cars at a time the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.
Moraine Park Visitor Center Amphitheater is one of the best options for larger weddings and the only option that allows dogs and an arch. Featuring a large amphitheater tucked away from the road, there are rustic wooden benches for guests to sit on, as well as a thicket of pine trees and views of Moraine Park and Longs Peak. Located just 2.7 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, it is easily accessible year-round. There is a limit of 60 people and 10 cars at a time the Friday before Memorial Day through Columbus Day, and 100 people the rest of the year.
Sprague Lake is one of my favorite wedding locations in the park. Located 7 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, it has a dramatic view of the mountains and the cutest dock for ceremonies. There is a wooden foot bridge, as well as a wheelchair accessible trail all the way around the lake. While it is a very busy area, the dock is positioned slightly away from the main walking trail, affording a bit of privacy for a ceremony. Up to 15 people and 3 cars are allowed at the dock the Friday before Memorial Day through Columbus Day, with 30 people and 10 cars allowed at a time the rest of the year.
Located near Grand Lake, Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater is on the west side of the park. It has partial views of the Colorado River and is close to a large campground, which is perfect for outdoorsy couples who are hoping to camp with their guests! It is also wheelchair accessible. There is a limit of 20 people and 5 cars at a time year-round.
Upper Beaver Meadows is just 1.5 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. While it is not accessible during the winter, there are views of the Continental Divide and an open meadow the rest of the year. Upper Beaver Meadows can hold up to 60 people and 10 cars at a time. Note: Upper Beaver Meadows is closed from May through October 2020 for road work.
While your dog IS allowed on established roads, in parking areas, campgrounds and picnic areas, and at Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater, bringing your pup along can become quite difficult when we move on to portraits, since there’s a good chance that we will be moving outside of these areas. If you are getting married at Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater, be sure to designate someone to hang out with your pup while we explore the park. Otherwise, please consider leaving them at home.
There is a $25 entrance fee to the park for each vehicle. I absolutely recommend having your guests carpool as much as possible, because in addition to the cost per vehicle, parking at many sites is limited.
It’s important to note that all of these locations are at least 8,000 feet above sea level (and up to 12,183 feet on Trail Ridge Road!) If you are coming from a different state that is significantly lower in elevation, it might be a good idea to arrive a day or two early to help you adjust to the high altitude. Drink LOTS more water than you think is necessary to keep hydrated. If you’re having a hard time adjusting, many local gas stations and shops carry cans of oxygen (crazy, right?!) that can help! No one wants to be fighting altitude sickness on their wedding day!
Altitude can also impact the weather. The higher up you go, the colder it often is, which means while it could be a gorgeous 70 degrees in Estes Park, it could be a good 20 degrees cooler on Trail Ridge Road. Layers are a must!
While a ceremony is a big part of your wedding day, the limits for what to include are endless. Want to get a drink with your boo after saying “I do”? Estes Park has some great distilleries and breweries, including Elkins Distilling Co. and Lumpy Ridge Brewing Company! Want a bird’s eye view of the city? How about taking a ride on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway? Better yet, rent a canoe and take it for a ride at the Lake Estes Marina! As you’re planning your elopement, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and include activities that are meaningful and memorable to you both.
Let’s chat about planning your perfect Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement!