Ouray, Colorado hiking elopement in the San Juan Mountains of the western slope.

Ouray, Colorado Hiking & Jeeping Elopement at Sunrise

Jolene & Adam were originally planning on a small destination wedding in Greece until COVID hit. Their (amazing!) backup plan was an adventurous Ouray elopement in western Colorado with hiking & Jeeping up in the San Juan Mountains at sunrise. We wanted to get to the top of the mountains before sunrise so that meant a very early start for us. We met around 4am in the town of Ouray so we could have time to drive the Jeep road & hike up the mountain pass before sunrise. On the way up to the mountains in the Jeep, we saw about a dozen or so deer, we even stopped the Jeep so a porcupine could cross the road! It’s so fun to see different wildlife at elopements. Jolene & Adam even saw a black bear cub on their drive to meet me & before I met up with them, I almost ran into a large black bear in Ouray! Thankfully black bears are usually nothing to worry about in Colorado.

We arrived way out in the mountains & the views of the stars were amazing. There were even some planets out that were shining even brighter. We stopped & took a couple star photos on our way up to the mountain pass near Ouray. The closest towns were far away with few lights & the mountains blocked out a lot of light pollution from the surrounding mountain towns. I highly recommend going way out into the mountains or other wilderness to truly see the stars. You won’t regret it & it will be worth the late night or early morning!

Sunrise Elopement Ceremony on a Mountain Pass Near Ouray

We found a spot at the top of the pass where they could have their ceremony. Jolene & Adam got ready on opposites sides of the mountain pass so that they could have a first look & see each other all dressed up for the first time. Adam played the song “Jolene” by Ray LaMontagne while they were both getting ready & it was the perfect soft song to play & that song will forever hold a memory for them.

I highly recommend including music somehow on your day. Either by making a playlist of songs to listen to while you are getting ready or choosing a special song or two to have a first dance to. Or if you’re not into dancing but want to include a special song to to help you make memories, you could play a song while you have a toast, eat a meal, or share some dessert together. There was no one else up there at the top for sunrise & the music just really added to setting the mood. They had their first look just before the sun popped over the mountains & it was such an incredible view from the top. In that moment I just thought it was such a perfect start to the day. And this was their backup plan due to COVID. Their first plan was a small destination wedding in Greece but I’d say this was one of the best backup plans for having a COVID wedding or elopement.

They had their first look together on top of the mountain pass at sunrise & then we went & took some photos of them right at sunrise to get some of that amazing glow & golden light on the mountains. They then both said their personal vows & self solemnized their marriage there where it felt like we were on top of the world. They were both tearing up & I was some distance away shooting with a longer lens so I couldn’t even hear their vows & I was tearing up. I cry at elopements almost every damn time! After their ceremony I let them just enjoy it up there & soak in the views.

Adventuring Around Ouray, Colorado 

After their elopement ceremony at the top of the mountain pass, Jolene & Adam changed back into their hiking clothes for the hike back down. The hike up & down this mountain pass isn’t the easiest & the trail is slick & eroded is some spots. We were all sliding a little bit on the way back down & we even fell a couple times! Once we were back at their Jeep that they rented from Colorado West, they both got changed & helped each other get back into their wedding clothes.

For the rest of their elopement, we explored around. We drove down the Jeep road, found some amazing fall colors, hiked around some more & took some photos at the base of the mountains. It was a fairly warm fall day in Ouray, Colorado once the sun came out so their husky mix, Chief, was getting a little warm & he really wanted to take a dip in the cool alpine lake. But they couldn’t let him get too messy because he still had to ride in the Jeep with us. We went into town & they explored around some more, we got coffee & took some more photos with the fall colors. The fall colors are seriously amazing in the San Juan Mountains & I highly recommend the end of September for weddings in Ouray. The weather is pretty decent (although we can get snow) & the fall colors are always stunning in western Colorado.

More About Ouray, Colorado

The little mountain town of Ouray is one of my favorite locations for elopements in Colorado. It is nicknamed “The Switzerland of America” for the amazing views of the mountains from right in the town of Ouray. This area has some of the best 4WD trails in Colorado, some of the best hiking trails, amazing alpine lakes, tons of hot springs, historic inns to stay at, amazing AirBnBs, ice climbing, rock climbing, great restaurants, amazing breweries, waterfalls, & more packed into this amazing little mountain community! Learn more about eloping in Colorado.

“Malachi made our elopement experience even better than we could have imagined. Like many, 2020 threw a wrench in our original wedding plans. We feel so lucky to have our ‘back up’ be an amazing Ouray sunrise hike with just the 2 of us, our pup, & the support of Malachi. Not only are the pictures stunning, the entire day was filled with the adventure we craved. We were in trusting hands from the moment we described the ambiguous moment we hoped to experience. And Malachi took it from there & was able to capture in detail exactly what we did not even imagine for ourselves!” – Jolene & Adam

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