The Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement Guide

Everything you need to know about eloping in Rocky Mountain National Park: ceremony locations, permit process, best photo locations and so much more!

Couple kissing with the sun setting behind the mountains on Trail Ridge road during their Rocky Mountain National Park elopement.

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of those places that you visit and you just sit there going “WOW” for a solid 10 minutes. 

Meadows teeming with elk, crystal clear alpine lakes, the jaw-dropping views of the mountain peaks from Trail Ridge Road, and miles and miles of winding trails. There’s something so special about eloping in Rocky Mountain National Park.
And there’s no wonder it’s so popular! If you want to escape the crowds, why not take a hike to Sky Pond or Nymph Lake, or have a picnic in Moraine Park?
This really is one of the most amazing elopement locations you can find in the U.S. and if you’re considering a Rocky Mountain National Park elopement then you’re in luck! This guide is filled with all kinds of resources—from the best times to go, to the best ceremony locations, to the best activities to do in the area. We’re so excited to share our love of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) with you, so grab your hiking boots or maybe just some tea, and let’s get started!

What we’ll cover:

Where is RMNP?
Why you should elope in Rocky Mountain National Park?
When to elope in Rocky Mountain National Park?
Best elopement ceremony locations
Best photo locations before/after your ceremony
Permits for eloping in RMNP
All about Colorado marriage licenses
Where to stay for your elopement
Fun activities to do during your RMNP elopement
Timeline examples for your elopement day
Just a little about us: your Rocky Mountain National Park photographers

Couple holding hands and walking to their Rocky Mountain National Park Ceremony location.

Where is Rocky Mountain National Park and how to get there

The National Park is located just outside of Estes Park, Colorado, and continues all the way to Grand Lake, Colorado. The closest airport is Denver International, which is a gorgeous 1 hr 30 min drive through the mountains. Rocky Mountain National Park actually has 4 main entrances: 

  • Beaver Meadows Entrance – closest to Estes Park
  • Fall River Entrance – the quiet Estes Park entrance
  • Grand Lake Entrance – closest to Grand Lake/Granby areas
  • Wild Basin Entrance- the hidden gem entrance

So why should you elope in Rocky Mountain National Park?

  1. Have you seen the views?! Just the mountainous views from Trail Ridge Road are some of the most stunning across all of the continental divide. Then there are the forests, alpine lakes, rivers, and meadows.
  2. It’s super accessible!
  3. It’s great all year-round. While you won’t be able to drive along Trail Ridge Road during Winter or Spring, you’ll be treated to gorgeous snow-capped peaks, frozen rivers, and a winter wonderland. And Summer is just as serene, with wildlife teeming and wildflowers blooming.
  4. There’s so much to do from hiking to visiting Estes Park, or going on a horse-back ride. It’s a location that you can spend a whole week at!

When to elope in RMNP:

| Biggest piece of advice: Choose a weekday elopement |

When planning your Rocky Mountain National Park elopement, choosing the best time of year is crucial. Each season offers its own unique charm and activities, so consider what you and your partner prioritize most and what you envision when you dream about your elopement day. 

Spring:

If you’re a fan of vibrant wildflowers and want a chance to see wildlife like elk and moose, spring is the perfect time for your elopement. Keep in mind that most higher-elevation trails may still have quite a bit of snow in early spring, so plan accordingly. Trail Ridge Road typically opens at the end of May/early June, so while you may not have access to one of the more expansive views, there are still so many gorgeous areas in the park that you can explore. 

Summer: 

This is the busiest time in Rocky Mountain National Park, but for good reason. The weather is generally sunny and warm, and the wildflowers are in full bloom. You can hike to high alpine lakes, such as Dream Lake or Emerald Lake, and enjoy breathtaking views without worrying about snow. Just be prepared for larger crowds, especially on popular trails.

Fall:

If you dream of a backdrop of golden aspens and crisp mountain air, then fall is the ideal time for your elopement. The park is transformed into a stunning display of autumn colors, and the crowds start to thin out. This season offers great opportunities for hiking and photography, and you may even spot some wildlife preparing for winter. This is also a great time to see elk! Mid-September to mid-October is known as elk rut season, where hundreds of elk descend into the meadows to mate and munch on the meadows to prepare for winter! Just be sure to stay far away (75 feet) since they can be aggressive during this time. 

Winter:

For the adventurous couple who doesn’t mind the cold, a winter elopement in RMNP can be truly magical, like being transported inside a snowglobe! The park takes on a serene and peaceful atmosphere, with snowy landscapes and frozen lakes. Be prepared for icy trails and limited accessibility to some areas, but with the right gear (snowshoes, hiking poles, or snowspikes) and an experienced elopement photographer, you can have a magical winter-wonderland elopement in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Best Rocky Mountain National Park elopement ceremony locations:

If you’re dreaming of an adventurous and unforgettable elopement in Rocky Mountain National Park, you’re in luck! This stunning park is home to some of the most picturesque ceremony location spots, however, the park does require you to choose one of the below ceremony locations if you wish to elope in the park. You may then go elsewhere in the park for photos

  • 3M Curve
  • Alluvial Fan Bridge
  • Bear Lake Nature Trail
  • Copeland Lake (Wild Basin Area)
  • Harbison Meadow Picnic Area
  • Hidden Valley
  • Lily Lake (Trail and Dock)
  • Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater
  • Sprague Lake
  • Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater
  •  Upper Beaver Meadows

Each of these locations has different ceremony size limits and some may have unique restrictions. 

| 3M Curve |

This scenic spot is not marked on any map and has no trail markings, but it’s super easy to find! There is a huge rock outcropping along US Highway 36/Trail Ridge Road (it’s about 3.5 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center), that’s where you’ll find 3M Curve. It’s got stunning views of Beaver Meadows and Longs Peak.

Car size: 3
Ceremony size: 15
Meadows & Mountain Views

| Alluvial Fan Bridge |

This is one of our FAVES! It features a gorgeous wooden bridge, an even more gorgeous waterfall, and rocks galore. To get to the bridge, drive along Old Fall River road and once you see a parking lot, hike up the aspen-covered walkway and you’ll get to a bend where you can see the waterfall and bridge.

Car size: 5
Ceremony size: 20
Waterfalls & Aspen groves

| Bear Lake Nature Trail |

If you’re looking for a gorgeous ceremony site with a lake and jagged peaks this one is for you! The trail is 0.8 miles roundtrip and only 45 feet elevation change. We recommend getting to this spot early in the day or late afternoon since it can be super busy mid-day. 

Car Size: 5
Ceremony size: 20
Restrictions: no weekend ceremonies, no ceremonies from Friday before Memorial Day to Columbus Day (no summer weddings).
Lake and mountain views

Best Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement photo locations for after/before your ceremony:

  • Dream Lake
  • Emerald Lake
  • Sky Pond 
  • Bear Lake
  • Alpine views along Trail Ridge Road

| Dream Lake |

This easy-to-moderate hike offers breathtaking views of the mountains and takes you to the stunning Dream Lake, a pristine alpine lake surrounded by towering peaks.

| Emerald Lake |

If you’re looking for a more secluded spot, consider Emerald Lake. This hidden gem is tucked away in the heart of the park and the trail leading to Emerald Lake is relatively easy. Majestic peaks surround the lake and the crystal-clear water makes for stunning photos.

| Sky Pond

For those looking for a more adventurous elopement, consider Sky Pond. This challenging hike will take you to one of the most breathtaking locations in the park. The trail winds through alpine meadows, past stunning waterfalls, and eventually leads to Sky Pond, nestled beneath towering cliffs. It’s a dramatic and awe-inspiring location that will make for truly epic photos after your ceremony!

| Bear Lake |

This iconic location offers stunning views of Hallett Peak and the surrounding mountains. The trail around the lake is easy and accessible, making it a great option for couples of all fitness levels.

| Trail Ridge Road

One of the most iconic areas in the park, Trail Ridge Road offers expansive mountain views of the Continental Divide, alpine meadows, and gorgeous overlooks!

Permits

When planning your elopement in Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s important to be aware of the permits and regulations that come with choosing this beautiful location. While the park offers a stunning backdrop for your special day, it is a protected area that requires certain permissions to ensure the preservation of its natural beauty.

First and foremost, you will need to obtain a special use wedding permit to have your ceremony within the park, then email the application to romo_fees_permits@nps.gov. This $300 permit allows you to legally exchange your vows in designated areas and helps the park manage the impact of weddings on the environment. If you are including guests in your Rocky Mountain National Park elopement or wedding, they will also have to pay the $30 entrance fee.

Permits are first come, first served, so be sure to submit your application well in advance to secure your desired date and location! RMNP accepts applications a year in advance from your wedding month and is accepting applications through to November 2024.

It’s important to note that some areas within the park have specific restrictions or closures. For example, areas that are sensitive to wildlife or have fragile ecosystems may have limitations on the number of guests, the use of amplified sound, or even the use of certain decorations. It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with these restrictions and follow them to protect the park’s natural resources.

The legal stuff: getting your Colorado marriage license 

Applying for your Colorado marriage license is a pretty easy process. Since you will be eloping in RMNP, you can go to the Estes Park Clerk and Recorder Vehicle Licensing Office located at 1601 Brodie Ave. Other Larimer County offices are located in Fort Collins and Loveland. Both the Loveland and Estes Park offices require an appointment and are open from 8 A.M to 5 P.M and 4:30 PM respectively. 

While many offices will allow you to start your marriage application online, you must complete it and sign in-person. For most appointments, you’ll be done within 30 minutes, so it’s a pretty quick and simple process! 

Unlike some states, there is no waiting period for the license, so you may elope that same day. Though we usually suggest getting there a few days before to complete the process, just in case. You must use the license within 35 days of obtaining it.

Our favorite part about Colorado?? You can self-solemnize!! Basically, it just means you don’t need an officiant and can perform your own ceremony. Colorado also doesn’t require witnesses and a lot of counties allow dogs to sign! It’s SO CUTE! However, RMNP does not allow dogs on trails or at any ceremony site except Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater.

After your ceremony, return the license to the Clerk & Recorder Office either in person or by mail. They will finalize your marriage license and send the original back within 14 days. 

Where to stay for your Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement

While Estes Park may be known for the iconic and historic Stanley Hotel, there are some gorgeous hotels and lodges in the area. Della Terra Mountain Chateau is one of our favorites! 

But in all honesty, book an Airbnb or VRBO rental! Renting a house or a cabin means you’ll have a space to call your own, and means you’ll have a more relaxing, adventurous time. You’ll also have space for your hair and makeup artist to work, space for getting ready photos (whether together or separately) and space to relax after your elopement (hot tubs and fires are always a great idea!). 

Some of our fave Airbnbs around Estes Park:

Modern mountain cabin
Snowglobe
A-frame with gorgeous hot-tub
Secluded cabin on 10 acres

If you’re looking for a reception space for your elopement, check out specific VRBO rentals that allow events (Airbnb does not allow events at any rental). You can also host your reception at one of the gorgeous wedding venues in Estes Park: 

Della Terra Mountain Chateau
Taharaa Mountain Lodge
Bristlecone Inn
Black Canyon Inn
Skyview at Fall River

Fun activities to do during your RMNP elopement

While the main focus of your Rocky Mountain National Park elopement will be your intimate ceremony, there are plenty of fun activities to do during your special day. After all, this is a chance to celebrate your love in one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world. Here are a few activities to consider that will make your elopement truly unforgettable.

  • Hiking
  • Wildlife watching
  • Picnic
  • Going to a brewery or coffee shop in Estes Park
  • Soaking in a hot tub at your Airbnb
  • Sit around a campfire & have smores
  • Cycling
  • Horseback riding
  • Camping
  • Taking a scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road and Bear Lake Road
  • Snow-shoeing around Bear Lake (it’s one of the snowiest areas of the park)
  • Fishing
  • Sled rides at Hidden Valley sledding hill
  • Rock Climbing

Timeline examples:

Full-day hiking elopement at RMNP:

11:00 am —We arrive at your Airbnb as you have a quiet morning together, sipping coffee, finishing your vows, and just cuddling up on the porch. 

12:00 pm — You get ready separately, get your hair and makeup done (if you want), and do a first look on the porch of your Airbnb, it’s super cute!

1:30 pm — You head out to Estes Park, grab a beer at the local brewery, and get a picnic to share once in the park.

2:30 pm – You find the most perfect picnic spot and share a delicious picnic together overlooking the meadows and mountains of RMNP. It’s serene. 

4:00 pm — You get to your ceremony location after we drive around a little just taking in the sights! You have your private ceremony and we capture the tears and laughter. 

4:30 pm – Time to have some fun!! We hike to a gorgeous alpine lake, take in the views and you might even see some wildlife on the way!

6:00 pm – We get to the alpine lake, you have your first dance and we all spend some time just exploring! Since the peaks are higher than the lake, the first signs of sunset show on the mountains and it’s stunning!

7:45 pm – After hiking down, we drive up to the top of Trail Ridge Road to watch the sunset over the peaks! 

8:45 pm – We drive back down to the Airbnb, and you have a catered dinner waiting for you: it’s your favorite meal! 

9:30 pm — Campfire, smores, and hot tub soaks, with champagne to end the night!

10:30 pm — Photo coverage ends! 

The best part about Rocky Mountain National Park: the wildlife

One of my favorite moments in RMNP was driving around early in the morning, snow glistening and stillness in the air. Then we heard howling…Nestled on a small hill by Horseshoe Park were two juvenile coyotes. They were the CUTEST animals I had ever seen. They started playing, chasing each other around, before scampering away. 

Every time we visit RMNP there’s always a new sight, a new animal, or a new adventure! You may even get to see elk, moose, coyotes, deer, foxes, chipmunks, pikas, and marmots. 

Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement photographers

Hey there! We’re Lauren & Blake and, as you can see, we LOVE Rocky Mountain National park elopements! Eloping in RMNP is an amazing experience and we’re there to guide you every step of the way. 

We’ve spent time exploring the sights and adventures RMNP holds, and know all of the best ceremony and photo spots. We’ve got locations for the best alpine lake hikes, the best Continental Divide views, the best winter spots and so much more. When you hire us, you’ll not only get the best location recommendations, but you’ll get recommendations for the best breweries in the area, best coffee shops, best times to see certain wildlife (and we will absolutely nerd out if we see wildlife, especially coyotes and foxes), and all the best local vendors to help make your RMNP elopement come true. 

So that’s all folks!

If you’re considering a Rocky Mountain National Park elopement and haven’t booked your photographer, reach out now and we’ll help you turn this dream into an amazing adventurous elopement day!

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