Estes Park Wedding and Elopement Guide

Estes Park Wedding and Elopement Guide

Why you should choose Estes Park for your wedding or elopement

Estes Park is hands down one of the most beautiful mountain towns in the country. Growing up in Longmont, Estes Park was one of my favorite mountain getaways for hiking, camping, four wheeling, and definitely buying taffy. I love the charm of the town and the beauty of the surrounding natural landscape. It’s why I recommend Estes Park as one of the top picks for couples getting married in Colorado. I consider myself both an Estes Park Wedding Photographer and Estes Park Elopement Photographer. As you can see, I pretty much jump at the chance to spend time photographing in Estes Park.  There are many good reasons to choose Estes Park for your wedding or elopement.

For out of state visitors, Estes Park is only about 1.5 hours from Denver International Airport (DIA). Unlike other scenic mountain towns, Estes is also close to Boulder, Fort Collins, and Denver. Perhaps the biggest appeal of Estes Park is Rocky Mountain National Park – one of the most beautiful and popular national parks in the country. On any given day you can see herds of elk and deer, bears, mountain goats, along with alpine lakes and mountain vistas. Even outside of RMNP, the Estes Park area offers amazing camping, hiking, horse back riding, four-wheeling, biking, skiing, picnicking, and more. Then at night, after spending the day at RMNP and doing outdoor adventures, you can go to great breweries, restaurants, and shopping (see below for specifics!) in Estes Park.  

Best Estes Park Wedding Venues

As an Estes Park Wedding and Elopement Photographer, I’ll be the first to tell you that I am spoiled whenever I’m lucky enough to work up here. There are SO many great places to get married. The best part is that if you choose one of these venues, you can still plan time during your day to do a first look, couple’s portraits, or wedding party portraits in RMNP! Here are some of my favorite Estes Park venues.

YMCA of the Rockies Estes Overlook Estes Park

YMCA of the Rockies

Both the Overlook and Sara Smith Chapel are ideal locations for your wedding or elopement! Not just because of the epic scenery or the elk walking around everywhere. The YMCA of the Rockies has multiple cabins on site, so your guests can stay on-site in a variety of accommodations. Plus, there are multiple sites both indoors and outdoors for a ceremony or a reception!

Wild Basin Lodge Wedding

Wild Basin Lodge

Here you’ll get access to a beautiful lodge and different ceremony site options! There are also stunning mountain views, aspen meadows and a sprawling campus to explore. The ceremony site even has built in bench seating, so no need for extra rentals for your guests to have a place to sit during your ceremony if you’re needing an accessible location for some guests!

Della Terra in Estes Park

Della Terra Mountain Chateau

Della Terra is an amazing indoor/outdoor wedding venue with magnificent architecture, balconies, and fireplaces. I also love the giant, vaulted windows in the reception space and the beautiful stone exterior! See more Della Terra photos from Shannon and Josh’s wedding.

Taharaa Mountain Lodge in Estes Park

Taharaa Mountain Lodge

Taharaa Mountain Lodge offers a charming outdoor ceremony site in a meadow bordering an aspen grove. And their reception area is in an incredible lodge with walls of windows with mountain views. See more Taharaa Mountain Lodge photos from Marina and Alex’s wedding.

Same Sex Wedding at Black Canyon Inn Estes Park

Black Canyon Inn

I love the covered ceremony site at Black Canyon Inn. It’s still open air with amazing, craggy views, but you get some protection from the elements. They have lodging and a new reception hall worth checking out too. See more photos of Black Canyon Inn and Cassidy and Julia’s heartwarming wedding.

The Stanley Hotel

The elegant and iconic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park is one of the most classic wedding venues in Colorado. The building itself is equally as incredible as the setting. It’s full of so much imagination that it served as the inspiration for the hotel from Stephen King’s The Shining. See more photos of The Stanley Hotel with Hilary and Duncan’s wedding. There are so many amazing places for portraits inside the hotel and around the entire property!

The Pavilion at The Stanley Hotel Estes Park

The Pavilion at the Stanley

The Pavilion at the Stanley is still located at the historic Stanley Hotel, but was recently built in 2018. It has a super unique indoor ceremony room with theatre seating that sits on the edge of a pond . So cool! And you get access to a large ballroom with balconies and tons of options for photos! See more photos of The Pavilion at the Stanley with Sarah and Nathan’s wedding.

Skyview at Fall River Village

Skyview at Fall River Village is a gorgeous, brand new space and something else entirely. It’s one of those places that was perfectly designed as a wedding venue. Big views, a large balcony, an ideal indoor space, and incredible building design and architecture. They also offer great wedding packages that make for easier planning.

Estes Park Resort

Who doesn’t want their wedding ceremony on the edge of a mountain lake, but seconds from an indoor pavilion and other amenities? The Estes Park Resort has just that. They have dining options, lodging, and other wedding packages to choose from.

Dao House

The Dao House isn’t quite in Estes Park, but it’s worth including because of its unique environment. It’s located in quieter Allenspark, closer to Boulder and Nederland and half an hour from Estes. Dao House is a tranquil setting with beautiful views and the feel of a retreat center. It’s perfect for a destination, private wedding with cabins and 81 acres.

O’Conner Pavilion

The O’Connor Pavilion is the perfect budget option in Estes Park.  You’ll have access to a 140 person covered pavilion and picnic area with beautiful outdoor spaces, a firepit, and outdoor games. You’ll have more freedom at this location to cater yourself or create one-of-a-kind ceremony and reception.

Best Estes Park Elopement Venues

For those who prefer an elopement or micro-wedding, Estes Park has some world-class options for that. You can also combine an elopement and large reception by eloping in one of the spots described below then going to one of the venues listed above to have your reception and big celebration. Many of the best places to elope are in Rocky Mountain National Park. For those of you having an intimate wedding crew or ‘large’ elopement crew you can even skip the venue entirely and host dinner at a local restaurant!

Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement Venues

Sprague Lake Elopement Ceremony in Rocky Mountain National park

Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake has a log dock, perfect paths, and among the most beautiful mountain views in the country. You’re also deep in Rocky Mountain National Park, but never to far from you car. You can get sunsets, bright sunshine, rain, or rainbows. It’s a magical place and one of the best for self-solemnizing. See Sterling and Colleen’s elopement for more fun.

Upper Beaver Meadows Elopement in Rocky Mountain National park

Upper Beaver Meadows

If you want serious meadow action, grazing elk, and mountains right there, then Upper Beaver Meadows is your place. You can literally get married in a huge meadow with dirt roads, ponderosa pines, and a trickling stream. Get some ideas from Maura and Bob’s sunrise elopement at Upper Beaver Meadows.

3M Curve Elopement in Rocky Mountain National Park

3M Curve

The 3M Curve allows you to get married on top of a rock outcropping over looking a meadow, forest, and of course, mountains. It’s the perfect spot and one you can easily visit for the rest of your life. Christina and Dan chose the 3M curve for their elopement.

Read here for more places to elope in Rocky Mountain National Park

Best Places to Elope in Estes Park (Outside of Rocky Mountain National Park)

RMNP is a stunner, but there are limited permits and some other logistical challenges. Estes Park has some great places to elope that aren’t within the national park and their restrictions.

Knoll Willows

Knoll Willows

Knoll Willows is an open space park just outside of Estes Park and near RMNP. You can see the Stanley Hotel through the trees and beautiful views in all directions. It’s a great option for anyone looking for an Estes Park elopement. See the full glory of Knoll Willows with Tom and Anya’s elopement ceremony.

Cheley Lodge and Grove Colorado Camps in Estes Park

Colorado Cheley Camps

Cheley Camp is located near Estes Park and is one of the best places to elope outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. There are meadows and aspen trees and privacy. Plus, plenty of space for frolicking! Maegan and Josh made a great choice deciding on Cheley Camp for their Estes Park elopement.

A Note on Local Airbnbs

I’m constantly updating my private list of local Airbnbs based on gathering size rules, proximity to RMNP and restaurants, etc. I customize this list of locations for my clients based on their group size, whether they want to have their ceremony at the Airbnb or at a location nearby, and if they want room for a backyard reception. I even have filters for dog friendly locations! This list is available to all my Estes Park Wedding and Elopement Photography clients. So jump on it!

Things to Do in Estes Park

Mountain Things

Some of my favorite places to explore in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Sprague Lake – you can paddle board here!
  • Dream Lake – easy 1.1 mile hike (in good weather lol)
  • Chasm Falls
  • Emerald Lake
  • Trail Ridge Road

Other Great Outdoor Options

  • Camping in or around RMNP
  • Horseback riding
  • Jeep Touring
  • Fishing in the river or at Lake Estes
  • Getting some much needed R&R at a creekside cabin

City Things

(I know, I know, Estes Park as a “city”)

Downtown Estes Park

Supporting local businesses:

  • Handmade Taffy / Ice Cream
  • Reel Mountain Theater
  • The Stanley Hotel (ghost tours – if you’re brave!)
  • Fun City – for people with kids. Great spot for kids today and a place I loved going as a kid too!
  • The Alpine Slides

Best Places to Eat and Drink in Estes Park

As a child, Estes Park was literally my favorite place to go. We always did something really fun like four-wheeling or horseback riding, and then went into town to get homemade taffy or ice cream. What a dream! Now it’s come full circle as I get to bring my own kiddo up there. **sniff, sniff** I’m tearing up a little just thinking about it. This is my curated list of the best places to eat and drink in Estes Parks.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Breweries, Distilleries, and other good drinkin’ spots

More suggestions were sent to me by a wonderful Estes Park local to update for 2022:

Here are a few more budget friendly, intimate locations for a diner:

  • Nicky’s Steakhouse
  • Ed’s Cantina (Private room upstairs overlooking the river)
  • The Wheel Bar (Private upstairs room for up to 40)
  • The Dunraven (Tuscan room, private upstairs on the lake)
  • Best Western Silver Saddle – Private meeting room for up to 60 and DIY catering/bar
  • The Wayfinder Restaurant

Hire Me as your Estes Park Wedding or Elopement Photographer

As a long-time Estes Park Wedding and Elopement Photographer, I’ve worked at almost every local venue and know all the best spots (even the ones not on the map or in this post). Unlike many Estes Park Elopement Photographers, I have an annual pass and annual photography permit for RMNP. I can also connect you with local vendors. Estes is like a home away from home for me, my kiddo and I go camping and hiking in Estes every year, we stay at local Airbnbs, and we keep the local taffy in our cupboards year-round. Nuff said. 

I’d love to be your Estes Park Wedding or Elopement Photographer! I hope you found this post helpful! Get in touch with me for any questions, learn about who I am, and check out my work

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