How to get married in Rocky Mountain National Park

So you’re dreaming of a Rocky Mountain National Park wedding? Huge mountains, lush pine forests, crystal clear streams, elk and moose. It’s one of Colorado’s most iconic and scenic locations nestled into the town of Estes Park. It’s the perfect setting for a wedding.

Wedding couple standing on snowy mountaintop in Rocky Mountain National Park

Why choose Rocky Mountain National Park for your wedding?

  • The mountain scenery here is out of this world. 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. It is a perfect spot to have both an adventurous and laid-back wedding experience.
  • It only costs $300 for a wedding permit. Each year RMNP releases a limited number of wedding permits. If you want to be one of the lucky ones to snag your wedding permit, you’ve come to the right spot. Read on.
  • Wildlife sightings. Estes Park and Grand Lake are particularly good spotting wildlife! Especially elk, and the occasional moose if you know where to go. (Ask me to show you my “moose zoomies” video sometime).

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!

How to apply for your RMNP wedding permit

A wedding permit is required to get married within the park, and any ceremony/vow exchange/ring exchange/letter reading must take place at an approved wedding site with an approved permit. It’s strictly enforced, so here’s how to make sure you do it right.

1. First, meet the requirements

Rocky Mountain National Park accommodates weddings with up to 30 guests, including children, photographers, officiants—any person physically there.

2. Check for availability

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, 2025 you can apply on July 1, 2024.

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.

3. Apply for your permit

Email your completed Special Use Application to romo_fees_permits@nps.gov.

Once you have approval, they will instruct you on making the payment and necessary signatures.

It’s that easy! Your approved permit is then your timed entry into the park. Be sure you (and all of your guests) have this permit handy at all times.

The best Rocky Mountain National Park wedding ceremony locations

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.

Lily Lake

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!

  • 10-30 guests maximum
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Lily Lake is available for permit reservations year-round
  • Restrooms are available close by at the parking area
  • Popular spot for moose sightings, especially in the morning

See more photos of Lily Lake wedding ceremony sites here. Or check out this real Lily Lake elopement there on a snowy day in May.

Lily Lake outside of Estes Park, Colorado in the fall time

3M Curve

Just 3 miles into the park from the Beaver Meadows 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.

  • 15 guests maximum
  • Available and accessible year-round
  • Closest restroom is 3.5 miles at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center

Couple getting married in Rocky Mountain National Park at 3M Curve ceremony site
Couple at rocky outcropping at 3M Curve in Rocky Mountain National Park
view of 3M Curve in June

Sprague Lake

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 wedding spot in Colorado, or somewhere beautiful to just take photos.

  • 15 guests maximum in Summer
  • 30 guests maximum in Winter
  • Available and accessible year-round
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Restrooms available in parking lot
  • Popular spot for spotting wildlife, especially in the mornings

Check out more Sprague Lake wedding ceremony site photos here, and see an August wedding here.

The view of Sprague Lake from Northwest side
Couple getting married in Rocky Mountain National Park at Sprague Lake

Upper Beaver Meadows

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 summer intimate wedding at Upper Beaver Meadows, or this Autumn elopement.

  • 30 guests maximum
  • Road closure (no vehicles allowed) from October to mid-May

Scenic view from dirt road in Upper Beaver Meadows

Bear Lake

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).

  • Available between mid-October and the end of May
  • Available on weekdays only
  • Restrooms at parking area

Check out a May Bear Lake elopement on the blog here.

Couple getting married in Rocky Mountain National Park at Bear Lake in May

Copeland Lake

Just 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.

Frozen Copeland Lake in Allenspark Colorado with mountains in the distance

Hidden Valley

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.

View of Hidden Valley wedding ceremony spot in RMNP

Favorite hikes and portrait locations

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.

Trail Ridge Road

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.

View of snowy Trail Ridge Road at sunrise in June
Cliffs along Trail Ridge Road

Dream Lake

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.

  • 2.2 mile roundtrip hike to Dream Lake
  • 3.6 mile roundtrip hike to Emerald Lake

This couple hiked to Dream Lake for their military wedding portraits.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park at sunrise

The Loch

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!

  • 5.4 mile roundtrip hike

Wide view of The Loch at sunrise in Estes Park

Endovalley

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.

View of Endovalley in RMNP

Moraine Park

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!

Couple drinking coffee in the back of their Jeep after getting married in Rocky Mountain National Park

Seasons & weather in Rocky Mountain National Park

What is 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.

January-April

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!

May

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.

June

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!

July-August

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.

September

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.

October-November

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.

December

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!

Sunrise vs. sunset wedding

Alpenglow at sunrise at Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park


Pros for sunrise

  • Less people. When you’re willing to wake up early, there’s a much better chance to have hiking trails and popular areas of the park all to yourselves. Early bird gets the worm!
  • Alpenglow. That beautiful light display that happens just before sunrise or just after sunset. The sunrises on the East Side of RMNP are something to behold on a clear day.
  • Better weather. Mornings generally offer the best weather window in the mountains, especially mid-summer when we experience those mid-afternoon thunderstorms.
  • Maximize time. Because when you get married first thing in the morning, you get the whole rest of the day to celebrate.

Cons for sunrise

  • Coldest part of the day. Though sometimes this is nice when you’re hiking uphill.
  • Early wake up call. Depending on your destination and adventure, you may wake up between 1am-5am for a sunrise elopement, especially if there’s hiking involved.

Pros for sunset

  • Warmer temperatures. You’ll start your day much warmer during this time of day.
  • You sleep in. Not morning people? Instead enjoy the extra time in bed and frame your wedding day around sunset!

Cons for sunset

  • More people. The trails and locations see much higher traffic in the afternoons and evenings than first thing in the morning. This also means longer wait times and potential traffic getting into the park.
  • Higher risk of rain or thunderstorms. Particularly in the summer time, we experience mid-afternoon thunderstorms. They typically move through quickly (and create beautiful sunsets), but it is an important consideration, especially if you’re planning to be above treeline.

Estes Park dog friendly locations

Are you hoping to have a Rocky Mountain National Park wedding, but want to bring your pet along for part of the day? Fortunately, there are some nearby dog-friendly hikes + scenic areas to take your pups. Let me break down my favorites.

Lily Mountain Hike

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!

  • 3.7 mile roundtrip hike to the summit
  • Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail

View from the summit of the Lily Mountain hike in Estes Park Colorado

Brainard Lake

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.

Sprague Lake at sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park

Lake Isabelle

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.

  • 4 mile hike from the Long Lake Trailhead

Lake Isabelle Elopement

Here’s a sunrise July elopement at Lake Isabelle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a wedding permit in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Yes! You will absolutely need a permit to be married, exchange vows, exchange rings, or have any type of ceremony in the National Park.

Will we see wildlife?

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!

Can we bring our dog?

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.

How much does it cost to get married in Rocky Mountain National Park?

The current permit fee to get married in the National Park is $300.

Do we need an officiant?

Impressively, you do not legally need an officiant to marry you in the state of Colorado.

Where do we get our Colorado marriage license?

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.

Can we get married on a hike?

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!

When should we apply for a wedding permit?

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.

How much does it cost to enter Rocky Mountain National Park?

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.

Rocky Mountain National Park wedding photographer

RMNP is one of my favorite places on earth, and I’d love to show you my favorite magic little corners of the park. If you think I might be a good fit as your elopement or micro wedding photographer, reach out and schedule a discovery call now. ✨

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