Telluride Elopement Guide: The Only One You’ll Ever Need
Telluride provides one of the most magical elopement settings in Colorado, with stunning mountainscapes, untouched wilderness, and a charming old town. Imagining your special day in the area? Read on to learn what to keep in mind as you plan your Telluride elopement!
How to Get to Telluride
The small town of Telluride lies near the southwestern corner of Colorado, near the Utah border. Since Telluride is fairly remote, it takes a while to get there, but you’ll discover that it’s worth every minute of the commute! Here are the easiest ways to access the area:
Fly to Denver. Denver has by far the most accessible airport in the state of Colorado. Even if you are coming from overseas you should be able to fly to this international hub with ease. All the major car rental agencies have kiosks nearby and shuttles from the airport, so you can reserve a car in advance. Telluride is about a 6 ½ or 7 hour drive from Denver, and there are two scenic roads to choose from to get you there.
Fly to Montrose. Montrose is a small city located a 1.5-hour drive from Telluride, and its airport receives flights regularly from Denver as well as a few other destinations in the southwest. Once you’ve arrived in Montrose, you can either rent a car or get a ride from the Telluride Express, a direct shuttle service to Telluride.
Fly to Telluride. Telluride does have an airport of its own that receives one or two flights a day, although know that if you fly directly to Telluride you’re in for a bit of a thrill! Since the airport is located on a small plateau in the middle of the San Juans, landing is weather dependent, and anxiety- producing even in the best of conditions… Once you arrive, you’ll have to find a way to travel the 5.5 miles from the airport into town.
Telluride and Mountain Village: Explained
When looking into an elopement in Telluride, you may see the name “Mountain Village” mentioned. This small town is built around the ski resort in the mountains just above Telluride at 9,545 feet. Mountain Village is the ski hub, as it consists of a few luxury hotels and a small village core with shops and restaurants just off the slopes.
Telluride and Mountain Village are linked via a free gondola, which takes you on a scenic 15-minute ride up over the mountains between the towns. There is also a road that connects the two.
How to Get a Marriage License in Telluride
The great thing about eloping anywhere in Colorado is that you can marry yourselves–meaning that you don’t need to find an officiant to preside over the ceremony. Once you get your marriage license, you can sign it and exchange your vows in private if you wish.
If you’re thinking of eloping in Telluride, make sure to pick up your marriage license first! You can make an appointment with the San Miguel County Courthouse right in town to register and pick up your marriage license for a Telluride elopement.
You can apply for a marriage license at the courthouse Monday through Thursday any time between 7:30 am and 5 pm. You must use the license within 35 days and return it to be filed within 63 days after the ceremony.
Best Season to Elope in Telluride
Telluride may be known as a ski destination (with bluebird skies and mild temperatures when it isn’t snowing), but it also features pleasant weather year-round! Consider eloping in Telluride during these seasons:
Summer. In the summer, Telluride is sunny and warm at around 70 degrees. All the mountains surrounding the town are carpeted in green and sprinkled with wildflowers. Although summers are becoming busier in Telluride, this is still a lovely time to be in the area and less crowded than in winter.
Fall. Autumn in the Telluride area is perhaps the most underrated time to be there. Indian Summer means that temperatures stay warm even through the end of September or early October, and golden aspen leaves make for stunning views. The summer season for the town and ski resort officially ends around the second week of October, so if you’re looking to have the place to yourself that’s a good time to go. Just be warned that many businesses and the free gondola to Mountain Village will be closed!
Winter. How does a Telluride elopement on the slopes sound? Or outside among snow-blanketed mountains? This is a beautiful time to elope in Telluride–bring your skis and lots of layers!
Spring in Telluride is often cold and rainy until mid-May, so it’s not the best time of the year for an elopement. That being said, off season begins the first week of April, so if you’re looking for a quiet elopement in the mountains, and you’re not afraid of a little rain and mud, this may work for you.
Best Locations for Your Telluride Elopement
There is no shortage of gorgeous spots in the Telluride area to plan an elopement! The following are a few favorites:
San Sophia. In between Telluride and Mountain Village lies this small stop along the free gondola ride. The area functions as an entrance to ski slopes in winter and mountain bike trails in summer. There also happens to be a gorgeous overlook here, with a platform and space for guests as you conduct an elopement ceremony overlooking the box canyon and town of Telluride down below. This spot requires booking through the resort and fills up fast, so if it sounds right for you reach out to the ski resort right away!
Alta Lakes. A 20-minute drive from the town of Telluride (or ten minutes from the entrance to Mountain Village) lies the road to Alta Lakes. This road is pretty much impassable in winter, and is best done in an all-wheel drive vehicle in summer. After a harrowing set of switchbacks, you’ll come across a small ghost town in the mountains and the nearby Alta lakes. Just know that this is a public area with campsites, so you probably won’t have it all to yourselves.
Blue Lake. If you’re up for a challenging hike and some sweaty vow exchanging, head to Blue Lake, a crystalline alpine lake just below towering mountain peaks at the end of town. The hike is a little over 6 miles round-trip over steep, rocky terrain, but the views are totally worth it.
Woods Lake. A 45-minute drive from Telluride is Woods Lake, another peaceful body of water hidden in an Aspen forest. It’s often quieter here than at other lakes in the area, plus there are plenty of trails and space around it so you can find a private spot to have your elopement ceremony then enjoy a picnic by the water!
Hope Lake. A 30-minute drive from Telluride you’ll find Trout Lake, a popular area for fishing and SUPing in the area. Just beyond Trout Lake is a 5.3 mile trail up to Hope Lake, another gorgeous alpine lake in a basin. Although this trail is heavily trafficked, you might get lucky and have the place to yourself for an unforgettable Telluride elopement.
Bridal Veil Falls. Stop on the way to Blue Lake for some photos under the thundering Bridal Veil falls. Reach the base of the falls by taking a 1-mile hike from the parking lot at the end of the box canyon.
Last Dollar Road. This mountain pass lies beyond the Telluride airport, and features some of the most incredible views in the area. There’s a lookout right before the road begins, and this is the perfect place for an elopement. Set up camping chairs to pop some champagne and check out the vista after exchanging your vows. From here you’ll see the river valley and layers upon layers of mountain peaks unfolding in the distance. This is especially stunning in autumn when the hillsides are full of color.
San Miguel River. The San Miguel River runs through Telluride and the adjacent valley floor, and is a picturesque place to host a simple elopement ceremony, have a celebration picnic, or take elopement photos. Take the trail that runs parallel to the river, or walk along the riverbanks to find a private spot to celebrate.
Backcountry. There are plenty of gorgeous backcountry locations you can choose for your Telluride elopement, whether you want to make your way up some 14’ers, ski from a backcountry hut, or simply get away for a while. These spots may be tough to access, as some require a long, arduous hike, 4×4 roads, or even helicopter drops.
Restaurants in Town. Telluride has an impressive culinary scene for a small town, with a handful of renowned fine dining restaurants and plenty of options for private chefs. Since the idyllic area sees a lot of elopements each year, restaurants and private chefs are well-versed in all it takes to make your dream Telluride elopement come true. Rent a part of a restaurant in town, make reservations for a special dinner, or invite a private chef into your AirBnb for an amazing meal.
Are Permits Required?
Many places don’t require permits for elopements, but check with local rangers to be sure.
Accommodation in Telluride is quite expensive, especially during peak times, so be prepared to stretch your budget! Here are a few of the most special lodging options in the area:
The New Sheridan Hotel. This historic building is right in the center of Telluride and is certainly a special, although not exactly budget-friendly, place to stay. Downstairs the New Sheridan Chop House serves great dinners and brunches.
Hotel Columbia. Hotel Columbia sits on top of the Cosmopolitan restaurant and is right across the street from the gondola, so is ideal if you are hoping to ski or mountain bike while in Telluride.
The Dunton Town House or Hot Springs. The Dunton Town House owns several rustic properties in the Telluride area that are perfect for a special occasion. Stay in a charming Victorian home spend the night in a well-preserved ghost town in the woods complete with its own hot springs (Lily Collins eloped here!), or go glamping at Dunton’s river camp.
AirBnb. If you’re thinking of bringing along friends and family for your elopement celebration, it might make sense to rent a large AirBnb and split the costs. There are tons of options in town–everything from studio apartments to mansions that can house your entire family.
Hotel Ouray. If you’re not willing to break the bank to stay in Telluride, spend the night at the Hotel Ouray just about an hour away. Ouray is called “the Switzerland of America” and is another old mountain town on the other side of the peaks from Telluride. This restored historic hotel offers unique charm at a good price within a fairly short distance of Telluride.
Best Ways to Celebrate Your Telluride Elopement
Once the intimate ceremony is over and the marriage license has been signed, it’s time to celebrate! Here are a few celebration options for your Telluride elopement…
Eat a Nice Meal
There are plenty of spots in town that are ideal for a special meal with your loved ones or new spouse. Or hire one of many talented private chefs to make a special meal at your AirBnb.
Spend the Day Outside
Telluride is known for its outdoor activities, so plan a day of outdoor adventure after eloping! Hit the slopes in wintertime or take a snowmobile tour through the mountains, try the mountain biking trails, paraglide into town, or hike and swim in alpine lakes.
Tips for Enjoying Telluride
To make the most of your Telluride elopement, take these tips into consideration:
Bring Your Dog. The streets of Telluride are full of dogs! This is one of the most pup-friendly towns you’ll ever visit, so bring yours along for the ride.
Factor in Time to Acclimatize. Telluride sits at 8,750 feet, so if you’re coming from near sea level you’ll want to give yourself time to acclimatize. Talk to your doctor about your altitude sickness options, or just show up a few days before your elopement (especially if you’re hiking!) to let your body adjust.
Spend Some Time in the Area. There’s lots to see in the Telluride area–from all the nearby outdoor wonders to the charming old Western towns nearby of Rico, Ouray, Ridgway, Silverton, and Durango.
Go to a Show. Telluride features a vibrant music scene, with live music every week and a whole bunch of festivals in the town each year. Schedule your Telluride elopement around Jazz Festival or Brews and Blues for an even more memorable experience.
Telluride Elopement Photography Packages
Ready to plan your Telluride elopement? Don’t forget to factor elopement photography into your day! No matter what kind of elopement you’re hoping for–whether you’re hiking at sunrise, eloping in private by the river, or celebrating with a small group of family and friends in town–documenting these beautiful moments of love is a must.
I am a firm believer that everyone should have the wedding day of their dreams–-the only “right” way to get married is to make sure your day looks exactly how you want it to look. With my experience photographing and helping to plan tons of elopements since 2018, I can help you make that happen!
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