You’ve decided that an epic and intentional Colorado elopement is your future…
With mountain views, old Western towns, national parks, and endless opportunities for adventure, Colorado is the perfect state for an elopement! Even if hiking a 14-er to exchange your vows at the top of a mountain is not your ideal way to get married, Colorado is a great place to host your special day. All lovers are welcome here! Check out this Colorado elopement guide as you start dreaming about your ideal celebration…
For a lot of couples, the stress starts the moment you get engaged and realize you now have a wedding to plan. Your elopement is going to be one of the best days of your lives, so it makes sense that you want it to be perfect! So many couples confide in me that they have no idea where to start with planning their elopement, but that doesn’t have to be anxiety inducing…
This is where I come in!
I’m Mikayla, a Colorado elopement photographer based in Colorado Springs. I’ve been hiking, camping, and exploring this beautiful state since I moved out here in 2013. My goal is to provide you a stress-free elopement experience! I’m the perfect Colorado elopement resource in one tall package (I’m 5’ 10 haha). This elopement guide will provide insight on when, where, and how to elope in Colorado. By the time you’re done reading this you’ll feel confident enough to start planning the perfect day.
Remember, your elopement deserves all of the hype and excitement that a traditional wedding day would. It’s your chance to celebrate your love in the way that suits you both best. So read on to learn how to plan a Colorado elopement!
Couples elope when they decide they want something smaller that a traditional wedding and everyone has their own reasons why. There is a very outdated notion that to elope means that you run away with your partner and secretly get married. As a Colorado elopement photographer, I have witnessed many elopements that are days full of intention, intimacy, and lots of love. No, elopements don’t have to be planned at the very last minute. Yes, you can invite your favorite people to celebrate with you.
One of the most popular reasons couples chose to elope is because traditional weddings can be pretty expensive. The Knot recently published an article stating that Colorado weddings are approximately $30,000 per couple…enough said.
If you haven’t settled on an elopement location yet, check out these reasons to elope in Colorado that might just make the decision easier.
Self-Solemnization. Colorado is a self-solemnization state, meaning you don’t need an officiant or witness to preside over your ceremony in order to become legally married. Many couples take advantage of this to host a more intimate ceremony, or take their elopement into the mountains where few officiants would follow. This also means that you can have a friend or family member officiate your ceremony without needing to be ordained. So much freedom!
Additionally, there is no cooling off period after you go to the County Clerk’s office to get your marriage license. If you wanted, you could walk into the County Clerk’s office engaged and walk out married! This is convenient for people who are coming out of state to Colorado to elope. You can fly in, grab your marriage license and head to the mountains to get married.
Scenery. If you’ve ever been to Colorado you know that it is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the US. And not only mountains! In Colorado you’ll also find alpine lakes, meadows full of wildflowers, aspen groves, waterfalls, and even sand dunes. Part of my job is to help my couples dream up their ideal adventure and find the perfect spot for them based on their scenery preferences.
420-Friendly. If enjoying some MJ on your elopement day sounds like a dream come true, then Colorado may truly be the best place to host your elopement. The state is full of recreational facilities, where anyone over 21 can purchase smokeables and edibles of all kinds. Unity joints are a big hit here!
Activities. No matter what your preferred outdoor adventure is, you’re sure to find it in Colorado. The state offers unbeatable opportunities to hike, SUP, kayak, fish, raft, mountain bike, horseback ride, off-road, and even (for the ultra adventurous) paraglide or scuba dive! Choosing to have a Colorado elopement makes it easy to turn your ceremony into a full-blown honeymoon where you can explore the great outdoors with your newly minted spouse.
Colorado is known for having over 300 days of sunlight a year. So if you’ve settled on Colorado but have yet to choose a time of year, make the decision based on scenery and temperatures, not the season! Do you thrive in warm weather or have always dreamed of saying “I do” in a field of wildflowers? Or are you enchanted by golden aspen groves? Do you want to celebrate on the summit of a mountain rather than at the base of one? Your answers to these questions determine the best time of the year for you to elope in Colorado.
Summer months are the most popular for Colorado elopements. Not only is the weather warm, making high altitude conditions more enjoyable, but also you’ll have more trails and 4×4 roads to choose from during these months.
June is the earliest chance to elope in Colorado without running into a lot of snow in the mountains. At this point in the summer, hiking trails are becoming more accessible, but you should still plan on running into some snow at high altitude and on 4×4 trails. Bring layers and don’t forget the sunscreen–the air is thinner up here so you’ll burn easily.
July means more alpine paths are open and the snow has melted on off-road trails. Depending on the harshness of the preceding winter, wildflowers may start to bloom during the later part of the month.
In August you’ll definitely see wildflowers. Expect mountainsides to be bright green and the weather to be warm and even hot in some lower elevation areas.
Average Summer Temperatures: 60-85 in the day, 40-55 at night
Summer Colorado Elopement Packing List:
Couples who are in search of cooler weather and colorful aspen leaves choose September for their Colorado elopement. The exact time of peak foliage depends on the elevation and weather patterns, but generally mid-September through early October is the best time to witness fall colors. “Indian Summers” are common in Colorado, when a sudden heat wave comes through just when the weather has started to cool, making for an even more pleasant autumn.
Although September is a great month for foliage and may be as warm as August, keep in mind that this is the month when rogue snow storms may happen. On September 5th, 2020, a full on blizzard passed through the state! While this is very rare, you can’t completely count it out.
While sometimes Indian Summer hangs on into mid October, this is typically the month when temperatures plummet and leaves start to fall. You’ll start to see snow on the tops of mountain peaks, scenic passes will close for the season as locals gear up for winter. October is the month of moody elopements.
Average Autumn Temperatures: Usually around 50 during the day and 40 at night, but it can get below freezing or above 70 during this time, too!
Autumn Colorado Elopement Packing List:
If you are skiing fanatics, you may want to plan a winter Colorado elopement, when the mountains are blanketed in snow and ski resort areas are in full swing. In recent years, snow has been late to hit much of the state, not arriving until mid December rather than November. That being said, if you’re planning on heading to Colorado in November you should pack with snow in mind. Some off-road adventures may still be accessible, but don’t plan on it.
In January and February you can plan on frequent snowstorms and cold temperatures. Layers, warm coats, gloves, hats, scarves, and even hand warmers are a must, especially if you’ll be spending lots of time out on the slopes. Mountain passes will be closed during this time, so don’t even think about attempting a scenic ride through the mountains, and drive carefully on all roads, especially if you are not used to snow conditions.
While winters in Colorado can be cold and snowy, you should also expect plenty of bluebird days with sunny skies. In many places, temperatures remain in the 30s and 40s throughout the winter, which feels quite warm in direct sunlight. If you’re hoping to elope in the mountains, you’ll need to plan to access your elopement location by snowshoe or snowmobile. Even some areas that are accessible year-round, like Loveland Pass or Hoosier Pass, can be impossible to reach due to high winds and avalanche danger.
If you’re skiing in the backcountry, make sure to follow safety protocols for avalanches and check-in with locals who know the terrain well. There are a lot of accidents each year due to people skiing unfamiliar territory, so exercise an abundance of caution.
Average Winter Temperatures: 30s during the day, 20s at night. Can get up to mid forties or down below zero!
Winter Colorado Elopement Packing List:
While March and April may still be chilly with snowstorms, generally at this time the majority of snow on the ground will melt and temperatures will become more and more mild. April and May are typically extremely muddy as snow melts. This also affects the rivers, making their water level rise and move much faster, so activities like fishing or rafting may be affected.
Spring is probably the least popular time for a Colorado elopement due to unpredictable weather and conditions. Many mountain passes aren’t open until at least May, and many hiking trails may be impassable with melting snow or lots of mud.
Average Spring Temperatures: 40s and 50s.
Spring Colorado Elopement Packing List:
Because so many of Colorado’s activities are purely seasonal, there are low and high seasons in many towns throughout the state. This is particularly true in ski resort areas, when often the entire town will shut down for off season twice a year. Off season may be the best or worst time to visit, depending on what you’re looking for!
Off season in Colorado’s ski resorts typically runs from early October through late November and then early April to late May. During these periods, many businesses in towns will close, leaving very few restaurants, hotels, and shops open. If you’re hoping to get the place to yourselves, don’t mind the weather during these times, and are looking for discounted lodging, slow seasons may be perfect for your elopement.
Now that you’ve chosen a season for your Colorado elopement, it’s time to choose a day of the week! As you may expect, weekends are often the highest traffic times for hikes and national parks. If you’re planning on renting an event space for your elopement or after-party, you can expect to pay extra for a weekend elopement.
The quietest times to elope in Colorado? Weekday afternoons, or early mornings. Opt for a sunrise hike to your elopement location rather than heading there for sunset, or elope in a national park at 2pm on a Monday.
Garden of the Gods. This National Natural Landmark is one of the most unique places to celebrate in the state. Interesting red rock formations with Pikes Peak in the background make this an unforgettable Colorado elopement location.
Loveland Pass. This mountain road in upper central Colorado represents a continental divide and is a scenic spot for an elopement. Plus, it tends to stay open pretty much year-round and is easily accessible from highway 70. Up here you’ll get 360° mountain views, then you can return to a Summit County Airbnb to celebrate.
If you’re looking to hike on Loveland Pass, Grizzly Peak and Mt. Sniktau are gorgeous options!
Rocky Mountain National Park. Rocky Mountain National Park is easily one of the most incredible national parks in the country, with gorgeous mountainscapes, meadows, and lakes. In this park you have access to twelve different elopement sites you can rent with a $300 permit. Note: RMNP doesn’t allow dogs at any of the designated ceremony site or at on any of the trails, this includes Trail Ridge Road. Check out this Rocky Mountain National Park elopement!
Note: Due to the amount of visitors per year, and people not respecting the land, the park has developed very strict rules for couples wanting to elope.
RMNP begins accepting permit applications one year in advance. So if you and your honey want to elope in September of next year, the earliest that you can submit your permit is September of this year. From May-October, RMNP will only approve 60 elopements/wedding ceremonies per month. From November to April, only 40 elopements/wedding ceremonies will be allowed per month. To read more about RMNP’s permit system, click here.
3m Curve. This spot is an easy and quick drive from the visitor center by the east entrance to the national park. It features a rocky area that’s perfect for exchanging vows overlooking fields with Longs peak in the distance. You can gather with up to 15 people here.
Sapphire Point. This overlook lies between Keystone and Breckenridge at about 9,500 feet. From here, you’ll get a breathtaking view over Dillon Reservoir and two different mountain ranges. With an open recreation area and picnic tables, this is the perfect elopement spot for you and a group of close family and friends. You can reserve Sapphire Point at recreation.gov in two hour blocks for $120. Learn more from my Sapphire Point Wedding and Elopement Guide!
Sapphire Point is an easily accessible overlook in Dillon, Colorado–a town neighboring Breckenrige. From the parking lot there is a short dirt trail to the overlook spot where ceremonies normally take place. Keep in mind that there are about 15 parking spots, so consider a shuttle if you’re bringing guests.
Cheyenne Canon. This beautiful canon is the perfect location if you’re planning on eloping in Colorado Springs. This 1,600 acre park has accessible trails that lead to gorgeous views. There are many destinations to choose from and you will get a wide variety of scenery along the way. Check out this beautiful Cheyenne Canon elopement!
Maroon Bells. This area is known as “the most photographed place in Colorado” thanks to its picturesque mountain peaks, alpine lakes, and surrounding aspen groves. Elopement photographs here will be absolutely stunning! You’ll find this area, which is part of the Snowmass Wilderness, in the Elks Mountains near Aspen. Check out my recent Maroon Bells elopement!
This is another wheelchair accessible location!
Reserving the amphitheater is required and ensures that you have that spot to yourself during your time there. Reservations can be made as early as one year in advance. Given how iconic this spot is, mark it in your calendars.
Pro-tip: Please note that while you can have your ceremony here (max of 50 guests), you cannot have your reception here–check out the East Maroon Portal Picnic Site for a post ceremony celebration.
Independence Pass. The road to this high alpine pass is closed October through May, so plan a summer Colorado elopement here. This continental divide between Aspen and Leadville features dramatic mountainscapes, forests, and crystal clear lakes. Wander a little ways from the road and you’re sure to have the area to yourselves!
San Juan Mountains. The San Juans in southwestern Colorado provide some of the most incredible scenery in the state. Charming rural towns like Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride make for wonderful elopement locations, and there is no shortage of scenic mountain passes, alpine lakes, and hiking trails where you can plan your special day.
Sand Dunes National Park. Outside of the funky town of Crestone lies the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. This provides a unique background of towering sand dunes framed by verdant mountains. Just keep in mind that it gets super hot here in the middle of a summer day! Pictured here are my and my babies hanging out at the dunes 🙂
Yankee Boy Basin. An 18-mile out and back OHV road near Ouray provides ample opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and mountain biking. You’ll want a vehicle with good clearance to drive this road, and a confident driver! But you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with gorgeous fields, mountains, waterfalls, and plenty of wildlife.
Woods Walk. Woods Walk is easily accessible from the town of Crested Butte, and features an opening in a gorgeous aspen grove with Mt. Crested Butte on the horizon. You’ll have to reserve this protected land with a $2000 deposit. This is a great option if you have guests that are not as mobile and need an accessible ceremony location. Learn more about reserving the Woods Walk ceremony site!
BLM Land. Colorado’s Bureau of Land Management oversees over 8 million acres of public land in the state. Many idyllic recreation areas, hiking trails, forests, and lakes are all under BLM supervision. You’ll need to apply for a special permit through the BLM website in order to celebrate on their land.
Bring your dog on your special day! Colorado is overall a very dog-friendly state, and bringing your dog along on an elopement hike makes it that much more precious.
Breckenridge. Breckenridge is one of the most convenient ski town elopement locations, as it’s only a two-hour drive from Denver airport. While the area is great for skiers and outdoor adventurers, the town is also an ideal place to celebrate, thanks to a bunch of charming Airbnb and VRBO properties that allow events and a wide range of dining options in town. Enjoy a celebratory meal at upscale Hearthstone Restaurant, or rent out The Lodge for your big day.
Idaho Springs. This small city is full of historic sites like the Argo Mill and Tunnel or the tranquil Indian Hot Springs. Just a 45-minutes from Denver you’ll find all kinds of amazing wedding venues, like the Blackstone Rivers Ranch with both indoor and outdoor event space, or choose one of the town’s steakhouses or breweries for a celebration. There are tons of national forest ceremony locations in Idaho Springs that you can get to by a tiny hike or some mild off-roading.
Crested Butte. Since Crested Butte lies pretty far off the beaten path, you can expect a private atmosphere for your elopement. The old town is charming and full of fun locals, and it features several unique inns and restaurants that would be happy to host your elopement celebration.
Buena Vista. Surrounded by the Collegiate Peaks, this laid-back town lies a little ways off highway 50 and is known for its white water rafting. Host your elopement in the nearby mountains, then celebrate in town. Or rent a rustic Airbnb for an intimate party.
Aspen. This chic ski town is known for celebrity sightings and excellent terrain, but there’s more to the town than that. Host a luxury elopement at a nearby mountain lodge or upscale resort, rent an Airbnb for all your friends and family, or host the ceremony on the Little Nell’s charming outdoor deck.
Telluride. Telluride has been named a “best town to visit” in the US by multiple sources thanks to its scenery and charm. The rustic main street is home to several fine dining eateries that can throw beautiful elopement celebrations, plus you’ll be surrounded by mountain peaks in this box canyon no matter where you find yourselves in town! Check out my Telluride elopement guide here!
Ouray. “The Switzerland of America” is another alluring alpine town with plenty of history and breathtaking views. Rent out one of the charming old hotels in town, or exchange vows in the mountains and dine at Brickhouse 737 or Bon Ton.
When you enter Silverton you get the feeling you’re still in the Wild West–one well-preserved street looks like a movie set and there are a bunch of saloons downtown. This rural town is found along the Million Dollar Highway, with views for miles. Many of Colorado’s most scenic and epic off-roading trails are accessed from Silverton!
Colorado Springs. Colorado’s second biggest city is surrounded by outdoor attractions. It’s also home to some of the most beautiful wedding venues in the state, including The Pinery with gorgeous ballrooms, verandas, and lounges. Rent an Airbnb by Garden of the Gods or celebrate at one of the area’s many picturesque ranches. Learn more about eloping in Colorado Springs in my guide!
Once you’ve planned your elopement, it’s time to figure out how you’re actually going to go about getting married! For that you’ll need a Colorado marriage license, which you can get from any county courthouse. There is no waiting period in Colorado, so you can use the license on the very same day you request it.
Simply make an appointment in advance, pick up the license, and then you have 35 days to use it and 63 days after marriage to return and file it. The only signatures you need on the license are the two people getting married, so it’s really simple!
Your ability to bring a marriage license with you and file it back home completely depends on your home state’s rules. You can easily determine this by quickly calling your County Clerk’s office! If the answer is no, it’s really simple to get your license when you arrive. Make sure you make an appointment in advance (current COVID practices), remember which office your appointment is at, and make sure you can make your appointment on time. Pro-tip: if you’re flying in to Colorado, make sure you have a time buffer to land, get your baggage, check out your rental, and drive all the way from DIA or COS to pick up your marriage license.
No, Colorado marriage licenses must be filed in Colorado. Your package will have instructions but they provide an address for you to turn it back in via mail if you don’t have time before heading back home.
$30. Verify with the required method of payment with the County Clerk ahead of time.
Of course, the cost of your Colorado elopement depends greatly on a number of factors, like how many people you invite, what venue you use, and how you choose to celebrate. That being said, Colorado has elopement options for couples on any budget. You can either stay in a cheap inn and elope in the mountains for free, or you can rent a mansion in a ritzy ski town on Airbnb and indulge in a pricey dinner for you and your guests.
Eloping is a great way to save money on your wedding, as you can narrow down the guest list to your closest friends and family and choose an outdoor location with a small fee or no fee at all. It’s all up to you!
In general, here is a breakdown of some Colorado elopement costs you might incur:
Curious what your Colorado elopement might look like? I’ve put together these timelines so you can get a sense of how your special day could play out.
5:30 am- Meet Mikayla at first look location and prepare for first look
6:00 am – First look at sunrise, portraits to follow
6:45 am – Drive to second location
7:00 am – Park car at trailhead, prepare to hike to ceremony location
7:15 am – Begin hiking, stopping along the way to take portraits
9:30 am – Arrive at summit for vow exchange, followed by celebrating and exploring
12:30 pm – Start hiking back to trailhead, stopping for more photos
1:45 pm – Arrive at trailhead, head to nearby lake
2:00 pm – Arrive at lake for photos, exploring, and SUPing while caterer prepares dinner
3:00 pm – Head back to AirBnB for dinner
3:30 pm – Eat dinner, relax, FaceTime family
5:30 pm – Photo coverage comes to an end, Mikayla leaves
1:00 pm – Mikayla arrives at AirBnb for getting ready photos & detail photos
2:00 pm – First look inside of aspen grove on property
2:30 pm – Drive to second location
3:00 pm – Arrive at trailhead, begin off-roading, stopping along the way for portraits
4:00 pm – Arrive at ceremony location
4:15 pm – Exchange vows, pop some bubbly, explore area
6:45 pm – Start drive back down mountain pass, stopping along the way for portraits
7:45 pm – Arrive at local eatery in Ouray, eat, celebrate
9:00 pm – Photo coverage comes to an end, Mikayla leaves
3:00 pm – Mikayla arrives at AirBnb for getting ready photos & detail photos
4:00 pm – Leave for first look location
4:30 pm – Arrive at first look location
4:10 pm – Have first look, take portraits
4:45 pm – Leave for ceremony location
5:10 pm – Arrive at ceremony location
5:15 pm – Exchange vows, read letters from loved ones, drink beers from your favorite brewery, explore the area
7:00 pm – Photo coverage comes to an end, Mikayla leaves
Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning a Colorado elopement:
Elopement Hike Packing List:
Additions for Winter Elopements:
You may think that eloping means a private ceremony with just the two of you, but that’s not necessarily the case. If you want your family ere are a few ways to include your family in your special day:
You’ll want photos from your elopement to show the kids someday (if you all choose to have some) or look back on years in the future, and that’s especially true when those photos are snapped with Colorado’s unforgettable scenery in the background! No matter how you choose to celebrate, you’ll want to factor an elopement photographer into your day. Photos are your legacy.
Convinced that Colorado is the place to elope? Reach out today and I can help you narrow down the ceremony locations and plan a stress-free experience that you’ll always cherish. Start with my Colorado Elopement Packages and we’ll take it from there, together.