Colorado Elopements: Everything You Need to Know for 2021

January 14, 2021

Colorado elopement in Estes Park

Colorado elopements have become a little more common & that’s a GREAT thing! It means that more & more couples are having a day for just them. It means that couples aren’t afraid of breaking free from wedding traditions & are having the best wedding days ever! Colorado is also just plain beautiful so it’s no wonder it is such a popular location for destination elopements. But it is still easy to find secluded & more private areas for elopements, you just have to know where to look. Location scouting & personalized recommendations for elopements are part of what I offer with my services.

What You Should Know About Planning Your Colorado Elopement

There is so much to see and do, you’ll want an all day Colorado elopement experience to explore! Elopements can be so much more than just some vows & an hour or so of quick photos. Your elopement can be an amazing all day experience! Start with getting ready, incorporate a first look, say your vows someplace amazing, & have an amazing adventure hiking, in a Jeep, on a snowmobile, or hit up the ski slopes! End your day with a meal by a private chef & chill in some hot springs. Make your elopement day in Colorado truly special. An all day elopement in Colorado is easy because there is so much to do in Colorado!

If you’re looking for quality vendors for your elopement in Colorado, keep in mind that Colorado is a more expensive state to live in & vendors do have to charge more to make a living. Many locations require that photographers, videographers, & other vendors pay permit fees for each year or for each elopement. The cost of living in on the rise with Colorado being a popular location, so just keep this in mind when looking for Colorado wedding vendors!

Getting to & Traveling in Colorado

If you’re eloping in Colorado & live outside of Colorado, Denver is one of the larger international airports & usually has good domestic & international flight deals. If you’re eloping in other areas of Colorado, there are also regional airports that have connecting flights to Denver. If you are eloping in western Colorado, Grand Junction is a good airport to fly into. I love using Google Flights & Kayak when looking for flight deals. The feature I love about both of these sites is that they have calendar view options that show a range of dates with the cheapest pricing options for flights into Colorado available.

When traveling in the state of Colorado, be prepared for driving on mountain roads. It may not be an issue at all depending on exactly where you are planning to go, but some mountain roads can be a little rough, steep, narrow, & honestly a little nerve-wracking to those not used to driving in the mountains. If you’re eloping in the winter, be sure to be familiar with Colorado’s passenger traction laws.

The information from CDOT states: “All motorists are required to either have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle, or (for two-wheel drive vehicles) snow tires or all-weather tires with a mud/snow designation. Tread depth on all tires must be at least 3/16″ regardless of vehicle type. Vehicles that do not meet these criteria must carry chain devices or alternative traction devices such as an AutoSock. The law focuses on passenger vehicles, as commercial vehicles have their own restrictions. It is unlawful to proceed when a state highway is closed or to proceed when a restriction is in effect without the required traction equipment.”

Colorado Elopements can Take a Bit More Planning

There are many things that go into eloping in Colorado which is why elopement planning is so important. Backups are always needed! Weather, trail closures, rock slides, blizzards, & more can affect your original plans for an elopement. You also need to know how long it might to hike a certain trail or how long it’ll take to drive a remote mountain road so you can properly plan your timeline. Popular areas & crowds might affect where you decide to elope & it can be hard to know these things if you’re not familiar with the areas.

A good plan is also important because once you get far off the interstate into the mountains or if you head into one of the national parks, you probably won’t have cell phone service. And you’ll likely be a long ways from cell phone service range. Be sure you download any needed information to your phone & have physical maps or maps downloaded to your phone. You may also want to bring a battery backup charger for your phone. You can download offline maps on Google maps, but an even better app to use is This app works much better offline & even has many of the trails & other public lands marked.

And eloping in Colorado doesn’t always have to involve hiking. You can snowshoe or ski if it is winter. If physical activity isn’t really your thing, eloping in Colorado can involve a snowmobile tour, hiring a Jeep driver, renting an ATV, or taking a private helicopter ride! You can adventure your way & have a truly epic adventure, even if you’re not into hiking!

Gearing Up for Your Colorado Elopement

You’ll definitely want to dress up for a winter elopement, but what about the rest of the seasons? Hiking before sunrise or after sunset can get kind of chilly even during the summer months in the mountains. Even hiking during the middle of day in the shadow of a mountain can get a little chilly. The sunshine makes spring and fall days feel warm, but it cools down once you are in the shade. I always recommend layers & be prepared for snow.

Heels are ok for flat, even terrain but literally nothing is flat or even about the natural outdoor areas in Colorado! Hiking boots are highly recommended for elopements in Colorado. Not only for function, but also for safety. You don’t want to sprain an ankle or slip on a ledge on your wedding day. Besides, you can totally rock those hiking boots in a wedding dress or suit!

People will love being you in your suit, dress, romper, or whatever you decide to wear for your elopement. Rock those hiking boots in a wedding dress & show off your awesome bouquet because people will love it! Expect a lot of congratulations when you’re out & about. Tourists might be surprised whereas locals might have seen this sort of thing a time or two before. But even many locals will be surprised.

Marriage Laws in Colorado

Colorado is one of the easiest states to get married in. If you’re looking for how to get married in Colorado, there really isn’t much to it! All you really need is to go to a courthouse to get a marriage license. You don’t even need an officiant or witnesses to legally get married in Colorado! This is called “self solemnizing” where you can basically marry yourselves in Colorado without the need for anyone else.

You Don’t Need an Officiant to Legally Get Married

Did you know that you can get married in Colorado without an officiant or celebrant? You can legally marry yourselves without the need for anyone else there. This makes eloping in Colorado at remote locations easier as you don’t need to rely on other people to marry you. Your kids or even your dog can sign your marriage license if you are getting married in Colorado. This can make for a very fun & memorable keepsake of your elopement.

You Don’t Need Witnesses to Get Married

You don’t even need witnesses to get married in Colorado. If you want to get married in the most private & intimate way possible, self solemnizing in Colorado might be for you. At sunrise or at remote locations, it’s not always easy to find people to be your officiant or witnesses.

It’s Easy to Get a Marriage License in Colorado 

In Colorado it is easy to get married & to get a marriage license. You need to go to a county courthouse to get your marriage license. Then you just mail it back or drop it off after your ceremony. There are no waiting periods & the fee is only $30 for marriage licenses in Colorado. Learn more about self solemnizing & marriage licenses in Colorado.

When to Elope in Colorado

Colorado weather is effected a lot by the valleys & mountains. Storms build up against the mountains & can release with great force. The landscapes can make storms suddenly change or shift direction. If you’re coming in spring, don’t always expect spring weather. In fact, last summer we had snowstorms on the first day of summer in June! With elopements in Colorado, you need someone who knows the area, knows the weather, & you need to have a backup plan or be able to come up with one quickly in case of weather.

Spring in Colorado

When you think of spring, you might think of warmer weather and flowers. While warmer weather is here during the spring in Colorado, it takes a long time for the snow to melt at higher elevations. This delays things like trees getting leaves and wildflowers blooming. When planning an outdoor elopement with driving or hiking, you have to know the area and what trails may be harder to access because of snow. In some places the snow doesn’t melt until June and some areas even have patches of snow year round!

Things to bring for a spring elopement:

• Warm clothes & layers

• Lighter traction devices for your shoes like Yaktrax

• Water & mud proof hiking shoes or boots

Summer in Colorado

Summer is one of the best seasons to elope in Colorado because the weather is mild and somewhat more predictable. Many people think of summer as being very hot and uncomfortable. But summer in the Colorado mountains is actually very mild and quite comfortable. Spring also comes late to the mountains. A lot of the wildflowers actually bloom in summer instead of spring because the snow takes a long time to melt.

One thing you should note is the summer thunderstorms. The storms that do come through, come through quickly. Many times summer thunderstorms are almost predictable during the so called “monsoon season”. During the summer, it will rain almost every day in the mountains. The rain usually comes in the early to mid afternoon. The storms in summer come through quick & fast. So if you can ride out a quick storm, you’ll be good to go after it passes.

Things to bring for a summer elopement:

• Umbrellas & rain gear

• Lighter weight hiking boots or hiking shoes

• A jacket or coat that can be packed away

Fall in Colorado

If you’ve never seen fall colors in Colorado, they truly are a sight to behold! We actually have an unofficial holiday in Colorado called “color Sunday” on the last Sunday of every September. This is usually around the best time to see fall colors in Colorado. The aspens change colors with the seasons & even locals search for this so called aspen gold. Fall colors are very dependent on weather in Colorado and turn depending on temperatures. Because of this, higher elevations start the color change sooner.

Things to bring for a fall elopement:

• Layers & jackets

• Hiking shoes or boots that can handle a variety of environments such as snow, mud, & water

• An outer shell covering to help with moisture in case of rain or snow

Winter in Colorado

Winter elopements in Colorado are always something different! But you can pretty much always be guaranteed snow in the mountains. Winter days in Colorado can either be very mild and almost warm, or quite cold! There really isn’t any pattern to the winter weather or any weather in Colorado. One day I shot in what was basically a blizzard in Rocky Mountain National Park. The next day I was photographing an elopement on a sunny, mild day.

Winter is absolutely beautiful in Colorado. It is prime time for skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, & all sorts of other winter sports. The snow blankets the mountains & trees & much of the state becomes a winter wonderland. Snow can present some issues though. Winter affects the accessibility of a lot of locations in Colorado but there are still plenty of places to go & winter hikes you can do.

Things to bring for a winter elopement:

• Warm clothes & layers

• Something warm to drink can help you warm up from the inside

• Hand, body, & foot warmers

• Heavier duty traction devices for your shoes like micro spikes

• Appropriate traction or chains for your car (if needed)

No Matter the Time of Year, Colorado is Beautiful

With the diverse terrain that Colorado has, it is beautiful no matter what time of year it is. In the spring wildflowers are blooming down in the valleys while the mountains are still a winter wonderland. Summer is a great time to see alpine lakes in the San Juan Mountains & mountains full of wildflowers. In winter, the deserts of Colorado stay a little more dry while the mountains are full of snow. Even with the in between seasons, with so many varying elevations in Colorado, there’s always someplace beautiful.

bride getting ready outside for a winter elopement in Colorado

Weekday Elopements in Colorado for More Privacy

Weekends are usually more convenient for people which is when many get out & hit the trails. The middle of the week is one of the best times to elope. Many like to take days off to extend their weekends which is why the middle of the week is the best time for less people.

Plan for a Sunrise Elopement to Have Popular Locations to Yourself

I get it, certain spots in Colorado are popular for a reason. If you don’t want a ton of people around, I highly suggest sunrise. Combine a sunrise elopement with a weekday elopement in Colorado & you are sure to have popular locations more to yourself. A sunrise elopement will mean starting early, sometimes it could mean starting at 6am, but it could mean starting as early as 3am or even as early as 12am! But trust me, a sunrise elopement is worth it & can make for some great memories.

Planning Your Timeline Around Logistics

Your elopement timeline is one of the most important things you need to plan! Be sure of the logistics of your day. How long will it take to get ready? Will you have to travel far & will there be weather or traffic that could delay you? If you’re having a hiking elopement, how do you know how much time to plan for hiking? You really don’t want a cramped timeline as that will add more stress to your day. As an elopement photographer in Colorado, I help make custom timelines for each couple. I take into account the various locations, transportation methods, & so many other things that can affect the timeline of your day.

Colorado Elopement Locations

The great thing about outdoor adventure elopements is that you don’t need a venue. There are outdoor locations in Colorado where you can accommodate having guests at your elopement. However, the less guests you have, the more location options that open up. There are many places in the national parks, national forests, & BLM land that are gorgeous elopement locations. Contact me if you need help with locations!

Colorado has four different national parks throughout the state. There is Rocky Mountain near Estes Park, Mesa Verde near Cortez, Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa, & Black Canyon of the Gunnison near Montrose. The national monuments throughout the state are Colorado National Monument, Browns Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients, Chimney Rock, Florissant Fossil Beds, Hovenweep, Yucca House, & Dinosaur National Monument. The national heritage areas in Colorado are Cache la Poudre River, Sangre De Cristo, & South Park.

If you’re eloping in Colorado, you probably want some amazing views of the various landscapes. Luckily, many mountain top locations are easy to get to. Ski resorts have lifts & gondolas that sometimes run both in the winter & the summer. Other locations such as Loveland Pass are easy to drive right up to. The front range & all along I-70 is where most people tend to go in Colorado. But if you head way out west, you’ll discover some beautiful & unexpected areas of Colorado! Helping couples elope in the San Juan Mountains is one of my favorite things to do. The San Juan Mountains have some of the bluest lakes in Colorado, along with mountains that are completely red. The arches, red rocks, canyons, mesas, & book cliffs are also all out in western Colorado.

Want to elope with your dog in Colorado? Colorado is one of the most dog friendly states! Some of the national parks aren’t as dog friendly. But the national forests and other pubic lands are pretty much all open to dogs. And did you know, your dog can even “sign” as a witness if you self solemnize in Colorado!

Permits for Elopements in Colorado

Locations throughout Colorado usually require permits for weddings, elopements, & even general photography. Permits can be anywhere from $50-$250. And some locations don’t require permits at all. It is always important to thoroughly check if your location requires permits. Always assume that the location requires permits until you hear otherwise from an official source. Colorado is very strict on permits & part of my job as elopement photographer is to help you with the entire process.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the top elopement locations in the United States & probably in the world. Trail Ridge Road takes you up to an elevation of over 12,000 feet. You’ll drive up to the top and be surrounded by alpine meadows with views of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There are many roads throughout the park that take you to beautiful areas that are easy to access. Wildlife, such as elk, is abundant in the park. Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular location for eloping in Colorado, but don’t rule out other areas!

One of the downsides to Rocky Mountain National Park is that it is so popular. So many people visit the park during spring through fall that there can be traffic jams & parking lots will be full. Many people hear about how beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park is, but don’t think to look beyond the park. There are many, even more beautiful locations all throughout Colorado! Colorado is literally full of mountains & has the highest average elevation of any state in the United States.

Ouray, Colorado mountain top elopement

Colorado has More than Just Mountains

Colorado is definitely famous for its mountains, but there are also so many different types of landscapes. Grand Mesa is not a typical mountain, but it is the largest flat top mountain in the world. Aside from mountains, Colorado has deep canyons such as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the Unaweep Canyon, & Tabeguache Canyon. Mesas & book cliffs are some unique landscapes of western Colorado such as areas around Palisade & Mount Garfield. Utah & Arizona are not the only places to find red rock, Colorado has quite a bit as well & even has red mountains. Colorado even has red rock arches like Moab!

Rattlesnake Canyon in western Colorado has some of the largest concentration of arches outside of Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. They are a little harder to get to & require driving on some dirt roads or hiking quite a ways through some remote parts of Colorado’s desert. If you want to elope with arches in the background but avoid the crowds of Moab, Colorado might be your answer!

Activities & Things to Do for Your Colorado Elopement 

Colorado definitely has many adventurous outdoor activities. But Colorado also has adventure for everyone. That means that you can hang off the side of the cliff, hike a massive mountain pass, or go ice climbing in Ouray. It also means that your adventure could be a scenic drive through the mountains, a simple hike, or taking a ride with a professional Jeep driver. Colorado has a huge variety of things to do & there’s more than just mountains in Colorado! So whatever you’re not, you’re sure to find something fun to do in Colorado.

Finding Wildflowers in the Mountains & Deserts of Colorado

If you haven’t seen a mountainside in full bloom with every color of flower, you are in for a treat! Crested Butte is the wildflower capital of Colorado. And I do have to say that I’m definitely partial to the amazing displays of summer wildflowers on the western slope of Colorado. Most wildflowers don’t bloom in spring in the mountains since there can still be snow at high elevations & many times the ground hasn’t thawed out yet. The majority of wildflowers bloom in mid July through mid August. A Colorado elopement with the wildflowers in bloom is sure to be a beautiful & romantic experience.

Hiking in Colorado

There are many areas in Colorado where you can literally pull off the side of the road & have amazing views. But if you want something more intimate & private, hiking, even just a short distance can get you to some more private areas. If you want something truly epic & want to conquer something together on your wedding day, a hiking elopement can provide you with an experience that you will truly remember. Hike to some of the blue lakes, climb a mountain pass, or even conquer one of many 14ers in Colorado on your wedding day! Colorado has a total of 58 peaks over 14,000 feet. Many of these 14ers are easy to hike & are great for beginners if you’ve never hiked a 14er before. If you’re really in for an adventure, more difficult 14ers like Mount Sneffels can be a fun challenge to conquer together.

Jeep & OHV Trails in Colorado

There are literally thousands of miles of trails all throughout the backcountry of Colorado. These trails take you on top of mountains, miles & miles away from towns & paved roads. You can either rent a Jeep yourself or hire a guide to take you on an epic tour through the mountains. Other off highway vehicles & side by sides are also commonly available for rent to take you beyond the interstates & highways to explore all that Colorado has to offer.

Soak in Hot Springs After Your Elopement

After an amazing elopement day, why not relax in some hot springs? The hot springs in Ouray, Steamboat Springs, & Glenwood Springs are some of my favorites. After hiking, Jeeping, or doing whatever you did on your elopement day, the hot springs are always a welcome end to a great day.

Colorado’s Mountain Towns are Full of Good Food

It seems like no matter what mountain town you are in, there are always GREAT food options! Did you know that you can even hire a private chef to make you some amazing food after your elopement? It’s a great way to add something really special to your day. If you’re inviting friends & family, many restaurants offer room rentals or private seating for small gatherings.

There are also many micro breweries throughout Colorado that specialize in making their own craft beers. I always love going to the Ouray Brewery in summer. They have great food, great beer, & I love their rooftop patio with views of the San Juan Mountains. But wherever you go, there is sure to be a brewery nearby! I have travelled A LOT & some of my favorite beers are made right here in Colorado. There are many big name & smaller breweries in Colorado. More & more, Colorado is becoming known for it’s craft brews & microbreweries. Go to a restaurant or bar, get some great food, & enjoy some of the great beers Colorado has to offer!

You Can Ski & Snowboard in Your Wedding Dress

Heck yeah you can ski in your wedding dress! Some of the best ski resorts are in Colorado. Just imagine skiing into or out from your wedding day. If you guys love to ski or snowboard, skiing in your wedding gear is sure to result in some epic photos & incorporate some of what you love into your wedding day.

Alpenglow in the Mountains is One of the Most Romantic Things to See Together

The light that creates alpenglow on the mountains is reflected off airborne water, ice crystals in the air, or other particles in the atmosphere. Alpenglow can be seen at either sunrise or sunset. It’s not a hard light that hits the mountains but a soft colorful light. The way it appears depends on the location & the way the mountains are facing. That’s why it is important to hire vendors that can help you plan your elopement & that know & research the areas well.

Leave No Trace in Colorado 

In order to preserve the amazing public lands we have here in Colorado, everyone needs to do their part in leaving no trace in Colorado. Please please get the proper permits if they are required for your location, learn about the areas where you’re going to be eloping, & do your best to leave a minimal impact on the land. Don’t do something like popping confetti or throwing your bouquet off a cliff just to “get the shot”. Learn more about leave no trace & elopements.

Don’t Pick the Wildflowers

You might be tempted to pick the wildflowers to make a natural bouquet for your elopement. Many wildflowers are very sensitive to human impact. Wildflowers take a longer time to mature because of the long winters & many wildflowers are uncommon & rare. And picking wildflowers sets an example for others. If you pick wildflowers, people will see that & want to pick them for their own use. Wildflowers need to be left alone & enjoyed but not picked. If there’s some wildflowers you see & love, ask your photographer to take some photos of them for you to have!

Alpine Environments are Sensitive to Human Impact

Alpine environments, especially above tree line, are very sensitive to human impact. These alpine tundra environments are sensitive even to people taking a few steps off of the trails. It’s very important that you stick to trails & durable surfaces to avoid harming the mosses, lichens, & wildflowers. These tundra areas can be easily disturbed & permanently harmed by humans.

leave no trace to protect wildlife like this black bear near Crested Butte, Colorado

Respect the Colorado Wildlife

Wildlife is common in Colorado. You might see elk, moose, deer, chipmunks, porcupines, black bears, magpies, & other wildlife. You especially need to keep your distance from larger wildlife such as elk & moose. They can become aggressive and protective. You really don’t need to fear the wildlife though. Most animals keep their distance, even the black bears & mountain lions we have in Colorado. You also do not want to feed the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, & smaller animals. Junk foods makes them lazy & it is unhealthy for them. They also loose their fear of humans.

Tag Locations Responsibly

When sharing your elopement photos on social media, be sure to tag responsibly. Instead of tagging an exact trail, lake, or other specific area, tag a more general area such as a national or state park, city, or region. You never know when something may get shared or if people will take screenshots & share even if your account is private. Not tagging exact locations isn’t gatekeeping or preventing others from finding these areas, it is simply preventing these areas from blowing up on social media & then having an overwhelming amount of people who may not even care about the outdoors & leave no trace come & ruin these natural areas for everyone. I highly recommend reading more from the Leave No Trace Center on their social media guidance.

You Have to be Mindful of Other Visitors

When you’re getting married in areas that are open to the public in Colorado, you have to be mindful of other visitors. Usually other visitors are very respectful of elopements. But because Colorado is more popular, finding locations that are a little more off the beaten path is great for couples that want more privacy. Sometimes if you want photos at more popular locations, we can find you a quieter location & go to other locations to explore & take more photos. There may also be other couples eloping at certain locations. It is always fun to see other couples having an amazing wedding day outdoors & there is room for everyone.

Eloping in Colorado can take a bit of work, but having a wedding day that is just perfect for you is totally doable. You deserve to truly enjoy your wedding day. If you want to learn more about what I offer & how I can help, contact me to learn more!

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