You’re here because you’re looking for places to elope in Rocky Mountain National Park – Estes Park, Colorado. Well, you are in the right place! As a Colorado elopement photographer for the last decade I have made the trek up to the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park many times. I have photographed dozens of elopements and intimate weddings in the mountains of Colorado, but Rocky Mountain National Park is absolutely a favorite.
Now before we dive deep in to the list of places to elope we need to talk about a few formalities first. Your elopement photographer, whether they’re a traveling elopement photographer, destination elopement photographer or a Colorado elopement photographer it is required that they have the photography permit in order to take your photos in Rocky Mountain National Park. This photography permit only costs $50 for a single day or $300 annually. The nice thing is, photographers can start with the $50 permit but if it accumulates over the course of the year to reach $300 it’ll automatically transition in to the annual permit. Easy peasy. Why should this matter to you as the couple? Well, if your photographer gets caught without the photography permit for Rocky Mountain National Park during your elopement or even after the fact if and when they try publishing the photos online the penalties and fines can be hefty. Not to mention, it would be pretty vibe killing to get stopped by a park ranger mid-elopement and find out you were breaking the rules and getting a ticket. Chances are, your photographer will (hopefully) do their due diligence to obtain this permit, but if they don’t and they are fined for breaking the rules they could try to pass that fee and fine on to you. No thank you. So be safe and get your permit, people.
The list of designated places to elope in Rocky Mountain National Park is actually listed on their website too, but don’t worry, I’ve got some extra goodies in here for you to share where some of my favorite spots are to take portraits in the park after your ceremony is finished! Three very need to know pieces of information when planning your Colorado elopement in Rocky Mountain National Park –
1. The permit fee for your ceremony location is only $250. This is nothing compared to the cost of a large wedding venue and worth it to make it feel like you’re getting married in an actual post card.
2. You must follow leave no trace principles. The places to elope in Rocky Mountain National Park are some of the best for a reason. We have to be nice to our planet (and our wildlife) to make sure it stays that way.
3. You must exchange your vows at one of the designated ceremony locations. This means you can’t exchange your vows on Trail Ridge Road, at Dream Lake or in another off the beaten path area of the park, but it does *not* mean that you can’t visit those places after your ceremony is finished and take some stunning portraits there.
So now that you’re still with me here we are and here it is – the all of places to elope in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Upper Beaver Meadows
Alluvial Fan Bridge
Harbison Meadow Picnic Area (West Side near Grand Lake)
Moraine Park Visitor Center Amphitheater
Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater
Have your heart set on one of these spots already? The first thing you’ll want to do is head over to Rocky Mountain National Park’s website and pick a date and time for your ceremony. I highly recommend doing this sooner rather than later since as of 2019 only 6 ceremonies are allowed per day in the park. Pro-tip: I highly recommend booking your elopement location for a Monday-Thursday at either sunrise or sunset for the least amount of interruption from people and the best lighting for photos.
*Important update: During COVID-19 the Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement concierge is requiring a minimum of two weeks to submit your elopement application.
Important notes from the Rocky Mountain National Park website:
- Ceremony sites in Rocky Mountain National Park are located in areas that are open to the public. All locations are outdoors and rustic in nature without protection from the weather.
- Ceremony site use is on a first-come, first-served basis based on the date applications are received by our office.
- Ceremonies are limited to two hours maximum at all locations.
- Weddings are not permitted in public facilities such as visitor centers, roadside turnouts, parking areas, overlooks, or in special wildlife viewing areas.
- No sites can be reserved for the exclusive use of your event. Scheduled park programs and activities may be taking place at the same time and in the same general area.
- Most designated sites can only accommodate small groups of up to 20 people. The number of sites available to accommodate larger wedding parties (21 to 100) is limited due to high visitation and resource protection. For wedding ceremonies, the overall number includes the wedding party, children, officiant, and photographer(s).
- There are limited sites that will accommodate these larger ceremonies, and these should be scheduled as soon as possible through the application process with the Concessions Office. Not all party sizes will be permitted in all areas. Size limits vary depending on parking, time of year, and location of site. The maximum size for any ceremony is 100 people.
- Construction may take place unexpectedly at any time or location throughout the park. Construction is considered a critical need and may impact areas within the ceremony site locations. However, we cannot offer refunds for locations that are impacted by this. If there is construction at the location of your ceremony, contact the Concessions Office to discuss the option of changing the site location.
- Do we need a marriage license?
Yes. Learn more.
- Can you obtain a permit on the weekend?
No, there is no one to process the application on the weekends.
- Can you obtain a permit at the last minute?
Ceremonies can be scheduled up to a year in advance and up to 7 days prior to the ceremony. A last minute request might be accommodated, but there are no guarantees.
- Do I need a separate permit for my photography or officiant?
No, the photographer and officiant are covered under the wedding permit.
- Can I go to other places in the park to take pictures after my ceremony?
Yes. Indicate this on the request on your application to be approved on your permit.
- Can I have my dog in the wedding ceremony?
Dogs are only allowed within 100 feet of the road and must be on a leash. If your designated site is within 100 feet of the road or at Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater, then your dog can be in your ceremony following park rules and regulations.
- Dogs are not allowed at the following designated sites:
- Sprague Lake
- Lily Lake
- Alluvial Fan
- Bear Lake
- Hidden Valley
- Indicate on your application if you would like your dog in the ceremony.
- Dogs are not allowed at the following designated sites:
- Can I have an arch?
Only at Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater.
- Can I have a band at my wedding?
Amplified music is not permitted. Music must at 60 decibels or less.
- Does the park provide an officiant?
- Does the park provide wedding packages?
- Do the wedding party and guests need to pay entrance fees?
- Can the wedding party use the park shuttles?
- Does the park provide private transportation?
No. However, during summer months there are free park shuttles.
- Is there a different cost for different sites and group sizes?
No. The $250 fee applies for all sites and ceremony sizes.
- Can I have a drone take pictures at my ceremony?
No. Drones are prohibited in all national park service areas.
- Can we hold a reception at the park?
Lily Lake Southside Picnic is the only site that can accommodate a picnic or simple food reception. Holding a simple reception at that location requires an additional special use permit.
- Can we have boutonnieres and bouquets?
Yes, however items like flower petals, birdseed, rice, or similar material or items cannot be used, thrown, or scattered
Check out all of the elopements I have photographed in Colorado by clicking here!