How To Get Married in Rocky Mountain National Park
Getting married? Congratulations! Now, it’s time to figure out the details.
When do you want to get married? Where do you want to get married? And, more importantly, how do you want to get married?
Do you want to have a big wedding, a small intimate wedding, or are you planning to elope?
If you love the outdoors, I have five words for you: Rocky Mountain National Park elopement. Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect place for you to get the whole outdoor wedding experience.
This guide covers everything you need to know about getting married in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Start Planning Right Away
To secure your spot for a wedding in the Rocky Mountain National Park, you have to make sure it’s available on your chosen wedding date and then apply for a special-use permit.
You can reserve a ceremony site up to one year in advance. However, only a certain number of permits are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are 60 permits per month from May through October and 40 permits per month from November through April.
Technically, you could reserve your ceremony site a week before your wedding, it’s not recommended. If you wait until the last minute to book your site, it might limit your options. Your best bet is to apply for that special-use permit immediately.
A special-use permit costs $300. This price tag is significantly cheaper than having to rent out your venues, hire a DJ, and supply the alcohol.
The permit covers the cost of your timed-entry fee. However, you will still have to pay $25 for each vehicle that enters the park with you on your wedding day. These entrance permits can be purchased ahead of time online or on the day of the wedding at the gate.
Once you finalize your permit, an authorized copy will be sent to your email. You will have to print it out and have it with you on your wedding day. The park rangers do make their rounds and they will ask you for it.
Get Your Marriage License
The days leading up to your wedding will be pretty hectic, but there are a few things that you need so that the only thing hitched at your wedding is you and your spouse. The most important thing like this is getting your marriage license to make things official. You can apply for that at your local county clerk and recorder’s office in Colorado.
The good news is that Colorado doesn’t require an officiant or any witnesses to make it a legal union. This makes eloping so much easier without the added expense of hiring an officiant or catering to a wedding party!
You can sign your own marriage certificate! You can even have your dog sign your marriage license if you wanted (just remember to bring a pen!).
Wedding Ceremony Size Allowance
The maximum number for an RMNP wedding is 30 people. This number includes the newlyweds, the wedding party, your officiant, your photographer, AND your guests! Certain sites have a smaller limit on how many people can be at the wedding.
If you are planning to elope, you might only have your partner and your photographer with you. But if you’re planning a small wedding, you have to account for how many people you’re allowed to have at the ceremony site.
Wedding Ceremony Sites at RMNP
There are so many beautiful ceremony sites to choose from when you decide to plan an elopement to Rocky Mountain National Park. So, how do you pick the perfect site for your ceremony? You’ll want to ask yourself a few questions first.
How many people will attend your wedding? Do you need wheelchair access? Will everyone be able to hike out to a site off the beaten path? Let’s take a look at your options!
The 3M Curve is 3.5 miles from the Beaver Meadow Visitor Center. The hike to the curve is rather rocky, but the views are so worth the journey. The rocky outcrop overlooks gorgeous mountains, rocky moraine, and beautiful meadows perfect for capturing beautiful wedding pictures in warmer months.Â
This location is ideal for small weddings with a maximum of 15 people and 3 vehicles from June to October.
Alluvial Fan Bridge
The Alluvial Fan Bridge on Old Fall River is 7 miles from the visitor center. Wedding pictures at this location will display the boulder-filled river, featuring waterfalls and aspen trees surrounding the wooden footbridge. Because the hike is super rocky, it isn’t a wheelchair-accessible location.
This bridge is ideal for up to 20 people and 5 vehicles. It is very busy during the summer months, so you will have to plan around that. Due to how busy it gets, a ceremony at the bridge may be ideal during the spring and the fall.
Bear Lake Nature Trail
Bear Lake Nature Trail is 11 miles from the visitor center. This ceremony site sits right on Bear Lake with stunning views of the mountains along with alpine and aspen trees. This location gives access to Dream Lake via an easy hike.
It’s important to note that this location doesn’t allow weddings between Memorial Day and Columbus Day or on the weekends. This area of Rocky Mountain National Park is very busy year-round.Â This location allows up to 20 people and 5 vehicles at your ceremony.
If you’re looking for a site right on the lake with breathtaking views of the mountain and forest, Copeland Lake is the right place for your RMNP elopement!
This lake sits 13 miles from the visitor center, but don’t fear … This location may be a bit off the beaten path, but it’s not directly located in the Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s also very accessible from a parking lot.
This is one of the locations that allows dogs, so if you want your dog to be a part of your Rocky Mountain wedding, you might consider having it here. Ceremonies at this location can have up to 30 people in attendance.
Harbison Meadow Picnic Area
Harbison Meadow is a beautiful place for a wedding if you enjoy meadows full of beautiful wildflowers with a stunning view of mountains. It’s your ideal location if you want a more solid wildlife presence during your wedding. This location is known for having elk and moose wandering around.
This location is on the west side of the park near Grand Lake. If your lodging arrangements and other wedding activities are going to take place in Grand Lake, this location may be perfect for you. This location is flat and accessible, but it’s a little noisy and lacks privacy.
Hidden Valley is more private than some ceremony sites and gives off magical forest vibes. It is great for a more woodsy theme for your wedding.
Your wedding pictures will have aspens, pines, and wildflowers on full display. The mountains aren’tÂ asÂ visible here, but there is a cute wooden footbridge that will make for a nice wedding photo session.
The Hidden Valley is 6 miles from the visitor center. A ceremony in the Hidden Valley houses up to 30 people (and there is no vehicle limit!). You will definitely need to call for availability at this location.
Lily Lake has three spots perfect for your RMNP wedding ceremony: Lily Lake Dock, Lily Lake Trail, and Lily Lake Picnic Area. At just 6.4 miles from the visitor center, you will have a full 360-degree view of the mountains and the lake. The 1/4 mile trail houses a knoll that overlooks Lily Lake and aspen trees.
A wedding ceremony on the Lily Lake Dock caps at 10 people and 10 vehicles. The trail can have up to 20 people and 10 vehicles. The Lily Lake Picnic Area can hold up to 30 people for a ceremony.
Moraine Park Visitor Center Amphitheater
The Moraine Park Visitor Center Amphitheater is a great choice for a more traditional (albeit rustic) wedding look. The amphitheater is the only location that allows visitors to set up arches on site. It also has plenty of shaded seating on wooden benches to stay cool on a hot summer day.
This ceremony site is located just 2.7 miles from the visitor center along Bear Lake Road. The scenery at this location is full of pine trees with views of Moraine Park and Longs Peak. The amphitheater also allows dogs as long as they are on a leash.
This location allows up to 30 people and 10 vehicles to take part in your big day.
Sprague Lake is 7 miles from the visitor center on Bear Lake Road. The Sprague Lake Trail has a stunning view of the mountains, but it also has a lake, a dock, a knoll, and a wooden footbridge.
The Sprague Lake ceremony site is usually a very busy area. It also has different allowances for the number of people and vehicles depending on the time of year. In winter, ceremonies hold up to 30 people and 10 vehicles. Those numbers drop to 15 people and 3 vehicles during the summer.
Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater
The Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater is a great wedding location for those who enjoy camping. In fact, you might even consider camping here for a few days with your wedding party to see more of the park.
This site is on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Plus, it offers partial views of the Colorado River. The amphitheater here has plenty of seating for a small wedding, with a maximum of 10 people and 5 vehicles. Parking is limited in this area.
Upper Beaver Meadows
Upper Beaver Meadows is a beautiful open-space. From here, you can even see the Continental Divide. This location is just 1.5 miles from the visitor center and allows up to 30 people to attend the ceremony.
It’s important to note that the road leading to Upper Beaver Meadows is closed for the winter from mid-October to mid-May. This means there is no access via vehicles during the colder months.
Wedding Portrait Locations
You aren’t stuck in one location beyond the duration of your wedding. Once your ceremony is over, you should definitely take advantage of other picturesque locations that make for perfect wedding photos.
Ideal photo opportunities include Emerald Lake, Nymph Lake, and Dream Lake. You might also consider checking out Trail Ridge Road, Sky Pond, and the Loch. You can also get some great photos at Alberta Falls.
Ideal Time to Get Married at Rocky Mountain National Park
Some people want to get married in the winter, while others would prefer to wait until it is warmer outside. Some people want an afternoon wedding, while others might want to have it early in the morning. It all boils down to your personal preference!
Choosing the Right Time of Year
Fall is a great time of year to get married if you want to include the oranges, reds, and browns associated with autumnal beauty. In fact, the trees in the Rocky Mountains start changing earlier than in the rest of Colorado. You can get the picture-perfect results as early as September!
Winter is great for your RMNP elopement if your goal is to avoid large crowds and would like to have snowy wedding pictures! There are a few things that you should consider for a winter wedding. Some of the roads leading to certain ceremony sites are closed off during the winter.
Winter in the Rocky Mountains is more unpredictable than the other seasons when it comes to weather. These regions are colder making them more likely to drop below freezing and have sudden blizzards.
Spring isn’t as unpredictable as winter, but you can expect sudden changes from hot to cold and from wet to dry. However, by late April, the weather gets warmer and the wildflowers begin to bloom.
Summer is the busiest season for RMNP making it the most ideal for a wedding. This time of year means that all of the roads are open and the weather is more pleasant. It also means that the trees are full of life and the wildflowers are in full bloom.
It’s important to note that you should plan to have an early morning or evening wedding to avoid the common afternoon thunderstorm.
Choosing the Best Time of Day
You have to consider the time of day when planning your RMNP wedding or elopement. Afternoons are more likely to have rainstorms and weekends are the most crowded. If you want a less stressful wedding in the park, you should plan to have it in the morning on a weekday!
Avoid Eloping on These Days
You might consider avoiding the park on free admission days. These days are usually really busy and it could make your time in the park a little less enjoyable.
Free admission days include nationally recognized holidays like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. It also includes days recognized by the National Park such as National Park Week, National Junior Rangers Day, and National Public Lands Day.
Planning for a Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding
Rain on your wedding day in the Rocky Mountains? No problem! There’s an old wive’s tale that suggests rain on your wedding day is actually good luck because wet knots are harder to untie, hence “tying the knot” on your wedding day!
The weather in the park changes all the time. It could rain one minute and then be sunny with blue skies the next. It’s a risk that comes with outdoor weddings, but it’s worth it.
Chances are that it won’t actually ruin your big day. You just have to plan accordingly. The best chance that you can take to avoid those pesky afternoon rain showers is to have your wedding at sunrise or sunset. It’s important to come to the park prepared for the possible weather! Bring layers and if rain is on the forecast, those cute clear umbrellas would make for really cute photos!
Packing for a Rocky Mountain Elopement or Wedding
Spending time in a national park means that you have to be prepared. You might not have immediate access to park rangers or medical professionals depending on how far you are from the visitor center.
When you pack for your RMNP wedding, make sure you have all of the necessary hiking essentials including hiking boots, snacks, water bottles, and a first aid kit!
Dressing for Your Wedding Day
You’ll want to consider your wedding day clothing choice when planning your RMNP wedding. It’s really important that the material that you choose for your dress or suit is comfortable and allows you to move well. Dresses should have loose skirts and suits should allow you to raise your arms and take large steps!
Depending on the time of year, you should consider wearing base layers under your clothes to stay warm. You can also add removable items (jackets, shawls, and gloves) over your outfit to stay warm between photos.
Wedding Party Hikes
Your big day doesn’t have to be contained to any tradition. After all, a Rocky Mountain National Park wedding is far from traditional. Even if you’re having a wedding in Estes Park, you can hike through the park with your wedding party or hike up the mountain with your new spouse after your ceremony.
There are several easy hikes in RMNP that are great for beginners or those who just want to enjoy the scenery. Hiking enthusiasts might enjoy more advanced RMNP hikes.
Rules for Weddings in RMNP
The park has quite a few rules that you need to follow when recreating, and even if you are there for a wedding. All of the rules are meant to help protect the park and preserve it for generations to come!
One of the main rules is to stay on the trails (and parking only in the designated parking areas!). This is a huge rule to remember because the alpine tundra in RMNP is very fragile! It can take over a hundred years to get back to its original state.
Another important thing to remember is that you cannot throw birdseed, flower petals, or rice during your wedding in RMNP. These items can compromise the integrity of the park, hurt wildlife, and can cause unfamiliar plants to grow in the park.
You must leave the ceremony site at RMNP just as it was when you arrived. “Leave No Trace” also means that you need to take everything back out of the park with you when you leave, including trash and wedding decorations. The stuff that gets left behind disturbed animals and future visitors may not get to enjoy the site to the fullest.
Your wedding can’t interfere with other park visitors so they can also have a pleasant experience in the park. You can’t use audio devices (unless they are below 60 decibels) or sound amplifiers. It also means that you can’t fly drones in the park (even if the drone operator is licensed to use them).
No hanging any decorations (banners, streamers, etc.). Additionally, you can’t set up arches or chairs unless otherwise stated.
Please note that chairs can be set up for guests who are unable to stand for long periods of time. Arches are also allowed at the Moraine Park Amphitheater so keep this in mind if your vision includes getting married in front of a beautiful arch!
Local Lodging Options
While there might not be any lodging options with modern amenities within the park, you have lots of options in Estes and Grand Lake. These locations are just outside the park entrances, and they have lots of options for wedding venues, lodging, and other wedding-related activities.
Estes is the larger of the two towns on the outskirts of RMNP. This means there are more options, including Estes Park Resort or Silver Moon Inn. Grand Lake might be smaller, but it still has a lot to offer, such as Colorado Cabin Adventures and Historic Rapids Lodge.
Planning a Reception
You only have a two-hour time slot for the ceremony. Even if you have some time left over, you can’t throw a reception party in the park. You can find several locations in Estes and Grand Lake that cater to wedding receptions.
Local Wedding Venues
Don’t want to have your actual wedding in the park? Not a problem.
You can rent a venue for your actual ceremony. In Estes, check out the Della Terra Mountain Chateau, Black Canyon Inn, or the Taharaa Mountain Lodge as potential wedding venues.
Once your ceremony is complete, you can pay a $50 photography permit to get your photographs taken in the park later in the day. This is a great idea for weddings that exceeds the limit on guests.
Estes and Grand Lake have plenty of places for wedding activities right outside of the park, including restaurants and breweries. Estes is known for Bird & Jim, the Dunraven, and Twin Owls Steakhouse (at the Taharaa Mountain Lodge).
Are You Getting Married in Rocky Mountain National Park?
I’m not just a photographer, but I can also be your personal RMNP bff through your special day! I can help you find the perfect location for your wedding pictures, help you secure your wedding permit, plus so much more!
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