Colorado is a big state, with more than just a few best places to elope. If you know that you want to elope here, but you have no idea which town or area you want to stay in, this guide is for you.
After photographing over 200 weddings and elopements across the Rocky Mountains, I have my own favorite places to elope in Colorado. In this post I’ll share everything I love (and some things I don’t) about different towns and regions, so that you can find the right fit for your own elopement or micro-wedding!
I won’t be sharing the exact names and locations of specific trails here—if I did, they would no longer be the best places to elope that I know and love. There are also too many variables when it comes to special use permits, like group size, vendors, and more, and permit restrictions are only becoming more common as formerly quiet locations become popular for elopements.
But I’m hoping this guide will help you narrow down which parts of Colorado you’re interested in, so that you can work directly with a photographer who knows the area well in finding the best place for your elopement.
I’m about to be biased (because I’ve never lived outside of Boulder County in the U.S.), but I absolutely love Boulder. Yes, it’s gotten busier in the fourteen years I’ve lived here, housing prices have gone through the roof, and it’s almost impossible to find parking at Chautauqua on a weekend.
But it’s also the perfect combination of mountain and city, with great restaurants and bars, lots of hotels (and even more vacation rentals), and world-class hiking within an hour drive—making it a great place to plan an elopement or micro-wedding.
I love planning elopements in Boulder, because you can have so many different experiences here. If you want to elope without any guests, the location options are endless, from short and easy walks with views of the Flatirons and historic venues like Sunrise Amphitheater, to full-day hikes (or even ski tours) in nearby Indian Peaks Wilderness. If you’re planning a micro-wedding, Boulder has great ceremony venues available through Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks, and dozens of venues for private dining and small receptions. And as you’d expect from a city of its size, there are plenty of wedding vendors to work with.
Over the past six years I’ve photographed more elopements in Estes Park than anywhere else in Colorado. Estes Park is a charming little mountain town about an hour and half north-west of Denver, and often a favorite for couples who are visiting from out-of-state and wanting to avoid a long drive from the airport.
The biggest draw by far is Rocky Mountain National Park—the fourth busiest National Park in the country with 4.3 million visitors a year. That’s a lot for a small town with a population of 6,000! But as long as you’re prepared for Estes to be busy (especially from the end of May through early October, and even more-so on weekends), it’s hard to beat the proximity to all the incredible hikes in RMNP.
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular places to elope in Colorado, and I wrote a whole guide to eloping in RMNP here. For micro-weddings, you can also check out this post on my favorite venues in Estes Park, and my favorite vacation rentals in Estes Park.
First things first, when I say Breckenridge I really mean all of Summit County—but as locals know, Breck gets all the attention from out-of-state, and most people don’t know where Silverthorne ends and Dillon begins. The whole area from Copper Mountain in the west to Keystone in the east, Silverthorne in the north to Breckenridge in the south, is a hot spot for outdoor elopements and micro-weddings. (I was even interviewed in the Summit Daily about it!)
Summit County is a quick and easy two-hour drive from Denver—unless it’s a weekend during ski season, then all bets are off. Close enough to have access to vendors from the metro, big enough to have plenty of restaurants, venues, and lodging to choose from, and still far enough into the mountains to feel like the Colorado people picture when talking about the mile high state.
Summit has loads of locations to choose from for self-solemnizing elopements without guests, but for micro-weddings the options are more limited. Many venues around here are targeted toward bigger weekend weddings, while small venues like Sapphire Point can feel overly busy, but there are some hidden gems if you know where to look. You can read more in my post about Breckenridge elopements, or check out my post on the best vacation rentals in Breck for some truly epic mountain homes and cabins.
Buena Vista is one of my very favorite towns for elopements for a couple of reasons: the views of the Collegiate Peaks are incredible, the hiking trails and off-roading in the area are some of the best in the state, the town itself is cute, walkable, and doesn’t feel overly touristy yet, and lastly it’s home to two of my favorite hotels in Colorado: The Surf Hotel and The Inn at Railroad + Main!
Because BV is small and more out of the way, positioned off highway 285 rather than I-70, it’s a bit more quiet than most of the other towns in this guide. That does also mean there are fewer vendors and venues to choose from, but if you’re planning in advance and open to a weekday, you won’t have any problems finding available vendors. It’s also close enough to Denver that many vendors are happy to drive out there (for a travel fee).
Buena Vista is the perfect place to elope for couples who want to stay in a smaller town, avoid tourist traps, and experience the Colorado mountains like a local. Check out my guide to Buena Vista elopements for more!
Aspen was one of the first mountain towns I spent time in after moving to Colorado, and I have such mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it’s known as an expensive, (often pretentious,) mountain town where the rich like to play. On the other, there is so much incredible outdoor recreation to explore from a home base in Aspen.
If you want a bougie elopement, it’s hard to beat Aspen. The hotels, restaurants, and even views from town are next-level good. Of course that comes with a matching price tag! The bigger your guest list, the more dramatically your wedding budget will increase if you want to get married in Aspen, but there are also many venues and restaurants that are well suited for micro-weddings.
But if you’re eloping without guests, there are so many great options—whether you want to go hiking, off-roading, backcountry skiing, or just casually driving up to one of the best views in the country on a paved road. (Yes, I’m talking about Maroon Bells.)
For couples who want a more local experience in the Aspen area, I recommend staying in nearby Basalt or Carbondale. Both are smaller, more affordable, and without the same tourist numbers. Check out my guide to Aspen elopements for more!
Steamboat Springs is one of my absolute favorite mountain towns to spend time in, both for elopements and for my own adventuring. The ski resort is one of the best, but Steamboat also has so much more to offer: hot springs, hiking, water sports, horseback riding, off-roading, and four state parks all within a short drive! The mountain views may not be as big and jagged as elsewhere in Colorado, but Steamboat makes up for it with its western charm.
Because the ski resort draws a lot of people to “the Boat,” Steamboat has a wide variety of lodging, from affordable motels to luxury vacation rentals. It’s also one of few ski towns in Colorado that feels alive year-round, without shutting down in spring and fall. There’s a small but strong vendor community in Steamboat too, thanks to the many high end wedding venues in the area.
For more about the best wedding venues and places to elope, check out my guide to elopements in Steamboat Springs.
Crested Butte is where I photographed one of my very first adventure elopements in 2018, and I keep going back a couple of times every year. With a 4.5h drive from Denver, it’s further out than most of the other towns in this guide, but that’s also what makes Crested Butte so special. While tourism keeps increasing every year, CB still manages to feel local.
Crested Butte is an outdoor recreation paradise, but it’s especially known for mountain biking, hiking and trail running, and leaf peeping in fall when the aspens are changing colors. Because it’s such a small town (with a population of 1,600), there aren’t as many vendors out here, and restaurants and wedding venues are also a bit more limited—but don’t let that stop you from getting married in Crested Butte! It’s such a special place, and I love getting to share it with my couples.
Idaho Springs & Georgetown
I’m grouping Idaho Springs and Georgetown together because the two towns, both right off I-70 in Clear Creek County, are only fifteen minutes apart. This is probably one of the most overlooked areas for elopements in Colorado, and one of my personal favorites! Idaho Springs is a bit bigger than Georgetown, but both still show their old mining town past. New restaurants and businesses have been popping up, but this is not the place you choose because you want the liveliest town.
Because neither town is considered much of a tourist destination, they feel very quiet and local. Vacation rentals are abundant, but much more affordable than in nearby Summit County. What Clear Creek really has going for it is some of the best off-roading trails in Colorado, combined with multiple fourteeners, thirteeners, and other epic hiking trails. Some trails (especially the fourteeners) are busier because of the proximity to Denver, but I still love this area for weekday elopements when you can get all the privacy you want on most trails.
While there aren’t many vendors in Clear Creek itself, it’s less than an hour drive from Denver, and you won’t have any problems finding vendors willing to make the drive up here. I do think this area is best for elopements with few to no guests, as there aren’t many options for micro-wedding venues or private dining celebrations—but you can always elope in the mountains here in the morning then celebrate with your guests in Golden or Denver in the evening!
Leadville, the highest city in the country, is well worth a full trip rather than just a quick stop while driving through on your way to Aspen or Buena Vista. While the town itself is still small, the whole area has been growing rapidly, and the outdoor recreation opportunities are endless. In summer you’ll find incredible hiking and off-roading, plus some of the best campgrounds and dispersed camping in Colorado. But it’s winter in Leadville that makes it my favorite!
Ski Cooper is the local’s mountain, an independently owned ski resort a quick fifteen minutes outside of town. This is where you’ll find the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, one of the most unique micro-wedding venues in Colorado—and you can even rent yurts to stay there. The much larger Copper Mountain (on the Ikon Pass) is only half an hour away. There are also multiple snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snow cat tour operators in the area if you want to get further into the mountains and away from the resort crowds.
There are a handful of good vendors based in Leadville, and it’s easy enough to bring in vendors from neighboring Summit County. Freight offers both lodging and a wedding venue right in town, and there are plenty of vacation rentals in the area. It might not be bougie like Breck to the east and Aspen to the west, but Leadville is a great place to elope for couples who want a down-to-earth mountain elopement.
Ouray & Silverton
I haven’t spent nearly enough time in the San Juans for the same reason that it’s such an epic place to elope: it’s far enough from the Denver area to keep people away. But when I planned my own vow renewal in 2020, it was Silverton that won for “most epic location I can think of in Colorado.” And after spending a couple of trips hiking, off-roading, and even backcountry skiing to scout for new locations, I can’t wait to get back down here again this fall for two elopements.
Ouray is a bigger town than Silverton, and offers more options for lodging, restaurants, venues, wedding vendors, and everything except privacy. The 4×4 roads around Silverton are generally more quiet than around Ouray, and the same goes for hiking trails. Silverton is also home to The Wyman, one of my favorite hotels anywhere in Colorado! This whole area is best for couples who want to adventure off the beaten path, and are willing to put in a bit of extra effort to make that happen.
Check out my travel guide to the San Juans for more about the area!
Telluride might be close to Ouray and Silverton on the map, but it’s got a distinctly different feel than the other towns in Southwest Colorado. On one hand, Telluride feels very similar to Aspen, with luxury hotels, fine dining, and expensive boutiques. On the other, it’s still an old western mining town, with easy access to incredible hikes and off-roading trails.
Because of Telluride’s bougie vibe, it’s easy to find florists, hair and makeup artists, and other wedding vendors here. Lodging is a bit more expensive than other towns in the area, but there are more affordable options too. I personally love staying at the New Sheridan Hotel, right downtown and a short walk from The Butcher & The Baker—one of my favorite bakeries in Colorado. You can also stay at the ski resort, which is where you’ll find Madeline (Telluride’s only 5-star hotel), but it means you’ll be taking the free gondola back and forth to downtown a lot. On the bright side, that means you’ll have easy access to San Sophia Overlook: easily the best ceremony site in Telluride.
While not in Telluride proper, you’ll also find Dunton Hot Springs nearby. Dunton is an old mining town turned boutique resort—think luxury glamping with private hot springs in the most beautiful setting imaginable, and you’re close. (Fun fact: being a bridesmaid at Dunton was what made me want to become an elopement photographer seven years ago!)
Denver is such an underrated big city for elopements! I know most people come to Colorado for the mountain views, but don’t rule out eloping in Denver if you love cityscapes. As you might expect from the state capitol, you’ll have a vast amount of venues to choose from no matter what size wedding you’re planning. And with epic hikes only an hour or two away, you can easily elope in the mountains in the morning before celebrating with your guests in Denver in the evening. (Or keep it simple and elope at Byron White Courthouse—it’s gorgeous!)
Grand County goes all the way from Berthoud Pass in the south to Rocky Mountain National Park in the north, from the Continental Divide in the east to Rabbit Ears Pass in the west, and includes mountain towns like Winter Park, Tabernash, Granby, and Grand Lake. There is a huge variety in landscapes within the county, but it’s most popular for elopements around Winter Park Resort and Grand Lake.
One of my favorite high-end elopement venues is Devil’s Thumb Ranch. This beautiful mountain property is heaven for anyone who loves outdoor experiences like horseback riding in summer and cross-country skiing in winter, and they also have a private dining room that’s perfect for a simple micro-wedding reception. Another great option is the brand new A-Frame Club in Winter Park. For a much simpler experience, head up one of the many mountain passes or dirt roads in the area, or hike (or ski tour) out into the wilderness for incredible mountain views.
Garden of the Gods is easily the most popular place to elope in Colorado Springs, with epic red rocks and views of Pikes Peak. There are a handful of designated elopement ceremony sites for up to 40 guests, and it’s completely free to get married here. But Colorado Springs is so much more than just Garden of the Gods! You can head out to the Paint Mines, take the train up Pikes Peak, or explore one of the many reservoirs and hiking trails nearby.
Vail is a mountain town and ski resort about two hours from Denver, and a popular destination for weddings and elopements. The area surrounding Vail is great for off-roading up mountain passes and long hikes into the wilderness. In winter, there are lots of gondolas and ski lifts you can take up the mountains, or you can rent snowmobiles or even a private snow cat for a unique adventure elopement.
When it comes to elopements, Grand Junction is like Moab but without the overcrowding. Colorado National Monument is a great option for elopements, with an easy application and affordable permit. While I haven’t photographed an elopement in Grand Junction yet, I have gone on a handful of camping and hiking trips over the years, and have some epic locations scouted (like the one above) for whenever the opportunity to work there arises.
Colorado State Parks
Colorado has 42 State Parks, and many of them have wedding facilities that can be reserved for simple ceremonies and picnic-style receptions, while others offer Special Use Agreements for elopements outside of the facilities. Some state parks are close to the towns I’ve already written about in this guide, but many are in remote parts of Colorado without much else around—making them perfect for camping elopements! You can read more in my post about CO State Park elopements here.
If you’re overwhelmed by the options, contact a local elopement photographer (hi, that’s me!) to get help from someone who knows the area well to find the best spot for you. A local photographer can also help you apply for a special use permit, tell you what to expect from the unpredictable weather, and help you pick the best time for the locations and conditions you want.
Want more personalized location suggestions? The names of specific locations from my photos? Help finding a hike with an alpine lake and wildflowers that’s near a brewery where you can celebrate with family, or a vacation rental with the perfect ceremony view from the deck?