So you want to get married in Rocky Mountain National Park? I don’t blame you. It is one of Colorado’s most iconic locations.
Rocky Mountain National Park has been captivating visitors for years because of its 360 degree mountain views, alpine lakes, dense pine forests and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife. Estes Park and Grand Lake are particularly good spots for moose and elk sightings! (Ask me to show you my “moose zoomies” video sometime).
When you’re driving from Denver or the Front Range, you will weave your way up a beautiful canyon before descending into Estes Valley. You’ll know you’ve arrived in Estes Park once you begin to see gigantic mountain peaks rising over the quaint town of Estes Park. It’s the kind of view that can give you goosebumps (in a good way), and quite the welcoming sight.
Rocky Mountain National Park is accessible year-round and is a perfect spot to have both an adventurous and laid-back wedding experience. Each year RMNP releases a limited number of wedding permits. If you want to be one of the lucky few to get married on one of our nation’s highest National Parks, you’re in the right place.
I live just 5 minutes from the East entrance of RMNP and have been a local here since 2015. I’ve got all the local knowledge to help you pick out the most beautiful hiking trails, quiet little corners of the park for a picnic, as well as unique lodging, things to do, and share all of the restaurants here that you just gotta try!
So here’s [almost] everything you need to know about getting married in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park accommodates weddings with up to 30 guests, including children, photographers, officiants—any person physically there.
A wedding permit is required to get married within the park, and your ceremony must be at a designated wedding site (you’re going to love them—see more below!). This means you cannot get married or exchange vows on a hike, but you can explore and hike in other areas of the park before or after your ceremony for your portraits.
Your permit application can be submitted up to 1 year before your wedding month. For example, if you want to get married on July 15, 2024 you can apply on July 1, 2023.
To apply for a wedding permit, first check the RMNP special use webpage for updates on availability or possible closures. While you’re on the website, download the Special Use Application linked on their wedding page.
Email your completed permit to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once you have approval, they will instruct you on making the payment and necessary signatures.
Finally, have that permit handy on your wedding day!
You don’t have to hike to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park! All of the designated wedding ceremony sites within RMNP are located within a short walk from a parking area. Lily Lake, Hidden Valley, Sprague Lake, and Bear Lake all have wheelchair accessible trails too.
Here are some of the most photogenic locations for your wedding ceremony in the park.
Located outside of the main entrances of the National Park, this lake offers beautiful views of nearby Longs Peak (highest mountain around). Lily Lake is surrounded by mountains, aspen groves, and it’s where you’ll find numerous hiking trails like Twin Sisters, Lily Mountain, and Estes Cone.
The Southside Picnic Area is the furthest walk (1/4 mile), but it’s the most private for an intimate wedding ceremony. Alternatively, the dock is very easily accessible from the Lily Lake parking lot and I would only recommend that during the winter months or at sunrise.
A bonus is that it’s also a popular area for spotting moose in Estes Park, especially first thing in the morning!
Just 3 miles into the park from the Beaver Meadow entrance station is this lovely site overlooking Upper Beaver Meadows with mountain peaks. There’s a great outcropping of rocks that perfectly frames this beautiful scene. It’s not uncommon to see deer and elk around here too.
This is another favorite lake for photos! There is a 0.8 mile flat loop around the lake with numerous benches and little fishing spots which make for great ceremony spots! You can even get married on the dock with the lake, trees, and mountain range in the background. This is an iconic spot to get married in Colorado, or just to wander around and take photos!
A stunning meadow with a walking path, forest, picnic site, and great views of Longs Peak. This meadow is large so there’s a good bit of room to spread out! Check out this beautiful intimate wedding at Upper Beaver Meadows.
If you’ve been to Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ve probably stopped here! This is a popular trailhead for many favorite hikes, and a stunning ceremony site during the winter months! During mid-winter, you can even get married on the ice (or just walk across it for fun).
Within the Wild Basin entrance of the park is this small lake! It’s a much quieter area than most, and there are some great waterfalls and hiking trails to lakes that begin nearby!
This is a more popular spot in the winter time due to the backcountry skiing and sledding, but in the summer this is an easy area to find a quiet spot in the forest along the stream with some mountain views in the distance. This is a great ceremony option for a couple wanting to elope later in the day while still ensuring to find a quiet place to read vows.
Before or after your wedding ceremony at a designated wedding site, you are able to go anywhere open to the public in the National Park to take portraits, explore, or simply enjoy the scenery! Below are some of my favorite scenic areas to take photos at during elopements, as well as my favorite photogenic hikes too.
This road connects the East and West side of Rocky Mountain National Park and reaches over 12,000 feet in elevation! This is an incredible spot for portraits if you’re looking for cliffs, high alpine mountain views, and want to feel like you are on top of the world. This road is open from the end of May through October, though snow and weather can temporarily close the roadway too.
This is a very popular hike, but for good reason because it gives you so much bang for your buck! In just about 2 miles you can see Bear Lake, Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. You may even choose continue up to Emerald Lake if you are feeling adventurous! The sunrise here is extraordinary on a clear day when the mountain peaks turn a bright pink.
Another favorite hike in RMNP. The Loch hike features a stunning lake, mountain views, thick pine forests, an aspen grove, overlooks, and multiple waterfalls. This trail is beautiful year round. If you feel adventurous, continue up to Sky Pond from here!
This is a lovely area of the park to wander around. Check out Alluvial Fan Falls, have a picnic at the Endovalley Picnic Area, or mosey up Old Fall River Road. There are lovely aspens in this area and is frequented by wildlife too.
This is a wonderful stop for photos if you’re looking for a large meadow with mountains stretching off in the distance. Additionally, there’s a lovely stream running through here with some great fly fishing, and the elk love to hang out in this area too. Consider making this a stop along your travels to or from the Bear Lake Corridor because it’s an easy photo opportunity!
When’s the best time to get married Rocky Mountain National Park?
Of course the weather in the mountains can throw you some fun curveballs, but generally speaking here’s what to expect when eloping outdoors in the mountains of Colorado.
You can expect winter wonderland style photos during these months in the majority of mountains in Colorado. During these months we see the coldest temperatures, and the most amount of snow accumulation. Don’t forget to bring your winter gear including microspikes and snowshoes for the snow packed trails in RMNP. You will even find winter gear to rent locally at the Estes Park Mountain Shop. They rent everything from snow pants to sleds to skis.
During these months, there’s a good chance it will be windy in the mountains too. Bring your layers!
We typically experience one last big snow-storm in May in the mountains of Colorado, while the other days are starting to feel like Springtime. There is still much snowpack on the ground, especially over 9,000 feet in elevation.
My favorite way to describe this month is “snowshoeing in a t-shirt”. It’s a great time of year for you to be married in Rocky Mountain National Park if you want snowy photos, but would prefer to avoid super cold mid-winter temperatures.
Alright, things are starting to thaw out as the temperatures rise. You can still expect plenty of snowpack at higher elevations, but the weather is warming up and it feels like Spring state-wide!
Our true months of summer. The snow has mostly melted and brought the wildflowers to life all across the mountain meadows! The landscape is a vibrant and lush green this time of year, lakes are typically full and streams are flowing!
It’s common to see quick afternoon thunderstorms at this time of year. Sunrise tends to offer the clearest forecasts, and evenings offer the most lovely sunsets after the storm.
Our Autumn. The ground is turning from green to gold, and aspen groves typically start to change colors as well. The days are clear and warm, and the evenings begin to have that crisp cool feeling of Fall.
Autumn fades to winter. Though the evergreens remain green, the rest of the landscapes remain warm and golden as snow begins to collect in the mountains.
We typically have some decent snowpack in the high mountains. Winter sports like snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, ice fishing are certainly in full swing. Estes Park even puts on a beautiful light display downtown around the holiday season and would be a great spot to stop for photos around twilight!
The only dog-friendly ceremony site location is Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater. Dogs are only permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park along the roadways and in established campsites or picnic areas.
With these limitations, it’s best to include your pups in parts of the day outside of the National Park (I’d love to help you plan this!). Fortunately, there are some nearby dog-friendly hikes + scenic areas to take your pups. Let me break down my favorites.
This is one of my favorite hikes to bring dogs on in Estes Park. There are lovely viewpoints along the way, overlooking the town of Estes Park with great views of Lumpy Ridge. Once you reach the summit of Lily Mountain after a short scramble, you’ll be rewarded with 360 degree views and feel like you’re on top of the world!
A favorite spot in the nearby mountains for sure! Tucked away in Indian Peaks Wilderness is Brainard Lake with some great surrounding hikes. There are road closures here during the winter which will add about 6 miles of hiking roundtrip. This is a great elopement location for groups under 12 people. Timed entry reservations may be required during peak months.
This is a great lake to paddle on too if you have a personal kayak, SUP, or canoe! It is common to see moose at Brainard Lake too.
You hike this trail right from Brainard Lake (or nearby trailhead)! In the summertime, particularly in the months of July and August, this trail is bursting with wildflowers, the lake is full, and the streams and waterfalls are flowing! It’s incredibly picturesque and not too difficult of a hike either. Because of this, the trail can get busy and the best time to visit here is at sunrise. Timed entry reservations may be required during peak months.
If you’re looking for a Colorado elopement photographer to help you get married in Rocky Mountain National Park, look no further! RMNP is one of my favorite places in the world, and I’m so excited to show you my favorite little corners of the park. Find my wedding photography pricing here, and when you are ready to get started, reach out here to set up a phone call so we can get to know each other better and see if we’re a good fit!
Yes! You will absolutely need a permit to be married, exchange vows, exchange rings, or have any type of ceremony in the National Park.
We hope so! The best hours for viewing wildlife are dawn and dusk. I love taking my couples to spots where wildlife consistently hangs out, especially elk, moose, big horn sheep, and mule deer!
Dogs are only allowed along roadways and at established picnic and campsites. There are ways to accommodate having your pet with you, but dog-friendly options are much more limited in most National Parks.
Instead, take your dog on a nearby dog-friendly hike in the National Forest or celebrate with your pup when you get back to your Airbnb for the day.
The current permit fee to get married in the National Park is $300.
Impressively, you do not legally need an officiant to marry you in the state of Colorado.
You pick up your marriage license right in Estes Park at the County Clerk Office or any other county clerk office in the state of Colorado.
Wedding ceremonies (including letter readings, vow readings, exchanging rings) may only take place at a designated wedding site within the park with an approved permit. You may certainly choose to hike or explore elsewhere in the park to take portraits before or after your ceremony though!
You may apply for your wedding permit up to one year out from your desired wedding month. The sooner you can apply the better as permits will be given out on a first-come-first-serve basis, and are limited.
The entrance fee is $30 a vehicle per day, or free with an annual America the Beautiful Interagency Pass.
Timed entry reservations may be required during peak months.
Ready to plan your Rocky Mountain National Park elopement?