Everything you need to know about planning your elopement or micro-wedding in Crested Butte—the wildflower capital of Colorado, and my absolute favorite mountain town!
Five Reasons to Elope in Crested Butte
Colorado is known for cute mountain towns, but many are completely over-priced … and overly touristy. Crested Butte is the complete opposite. (I have a full guide on how to elope in Colorado, too, if you’re still considering other options.) Wearing wool socks in your Birkenstocks when getting coffee in the morning is completely on brand, and if your car isn’t muddy, you’re doing CB wrong. I’ll personally take any excuse for a road trip to my favorite mountain town, and if I could have a do-over on my own elopement, I’d head for Crested Butte in a heartbeat. Here are five reasons why you might want to get married here.
1. It’s remote. Yep, I realize this isn’t a pro for everyone, but hear me out. It’s a 4.5 hour drive from Denver International Airport to Crested Butte, and in winter that drive can often turn much longer due to bad weather. But the long drive is also what keeps the crowds away! If having a relaxed, outdoorsy, and private wedding is important to you, Crested Butte is the place to be.
2. It’s affordable. Compare Crested Butte to Telluride, Aspen, and Vail, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much cheaper it can be. But that doesn’t mean CB is lacking in luxury, either! With private ranches, ski resort, and some of the best wedding venues in Colorado, you can absolutely have a high end wedding here, too.
3. Crested Butte has the prettiest mountains in Colorado. Okay, I know that’s only my personal opinion, but I love the mountains here more than anywhere else in the mile high state. There are high peaks in every direction, which is a photographer’s dream!
4. The ski resort and slopes are world-class. If you’re looking for a place to elope that you can combine with an epic adventurous honeymoon, Crested Butte is what you want. Ski or snowboard in winter, or join in the local cross-country skiing scene. You can even take guided tours for backcountry skiing and snowmobiling, and the snowshoeing trails are endless.
5. A well established wedding market. While Crested Butte is smaller than some of the other mountain towns, you can find everything from wedding planners to florists right here in town. And most vendors across Colorado are happy to travel here!
Best places to elope in Crested Butte
Here’s the thing. You’re not going to find the exact names of hiking trails and hidden gem locations online, because we photographers try to protect these places and keep them as quiet and pristine as the first time we experienced them. Tagging exact locations also goes against Leave No Trace practices. That being said, there are some places to elope in Crested Butte that are considered common knowledge, and some that can be rented and reserved via the Crested Butte Land Trust. If you are looking for more specific location names, your best bet is to hire an elopement photographer with experience in the area who can help you find the perfect spot for what you’re planning.
Woods Walk is one of the ceremony sites owned by Crested Butte Land Trust, that you can reserve for both elopements and larger weddings. It’s walking distance to downtown, which makes it very easy to combine an outdoor ceremony here with a reception at one of the many restaurants on Elk Ave.
Peanut Lake is another of the ceremony sites that can be rented via the Crested Butte Land Trust. It’s close enough to downtown to be walkable in summer, and features views of Mount Crested Butte and a small lake. (The lake is much more visible in summer, when it’s not covered in snow!)
I know the word “secret” gets thrown around a lot, but this waterfall is truly deserving of the word. Unmarked on all maps, I only found out about this place from chatting with an older man who has lived in the area his whole life! While getting here involves some bushwacking along an unmarked trail and a short walk through a freezing river, it’s easily one of the most epic locations to elope anywhere in Colorado! (Want something easier to access? I have six different waterfalls mapped around CB, and most are easier than this one!)
If you’re up for some semi-sketchy 4×4 driving, there’s a world of options in the mountains above Crested Butte. There’s some epic dispersed camping in this area, so you could even camp under the stars on your wedding night! These passes are usually accessible from early July, when the snow has melted, until early October, when the first snow falls, but be prepared for surprises—in 2019, an avalanche closed off one of the main passes until well into August before they could get the road cleared.
Aspen groves with wildflowers
There’s an abundance of aspen trees in Crested Butte, which is part of why the area is so popular in mid-late September when the leaves are changing color. But I love photographing the aspens in summer with green leaves, and especially when they’re surrounded by wildflowers!
Lake Irwin is a large recreation area about half an hour outside of Crested Butte along Kebler Pass, which connects Crested Butte to nearby Aspen. If you want to go paddle-boarding or swimming on your elopement day, Lake Irwin may be the perfect spot for you. Keep in mind that this is the go to lake for water activities in the area, so it’s never quiet, even on weekdays.
Gothic Road leads out of Crested Butte, through the ski resort, and up to the old townsite of Gothic. There are countless beautiful spots along the road that are perfect for a small elopement ceremony without guests. I’d only recommend these places for weekdays in the off-season, as it can be very busy on summer weekends, and cars driving by on the dirt road can be loud and annoying. This area is all part of the Gunnison National Forest, and you may need a permit to elope here.
There are many alpine lakes surrounding Crested Butte, and this one is among my favorites for it’s emerald blue-green water. It can only be accessed from the end of June through the end of September, but other lakes have a longer season. In 2019 the road was closed until August because of avalanche damage, so there’s always a chance that it’ll be inaccessible longer when we’ve had a heavy snow year.
One of my favorite things about Crested Butte is the vast number of dispersed camp sites in the area. There are of course established camp grounds as well where you can reserve a site, but if you’re feeling adventurous—and plan on arriving early in the week—you can find some incredible spots for car camping in the mountains.
Permits & Regulations
Most outdoor locations in Crested Butte require some sort of permit, whether it’s a ceremony site rental from the Crested Butte Land Trust, or a photography permit from the National Forest Service. I don’t want to give legal advice online, so please do your own research on any permits that are required to elope or take photos in different locations.
If you’re interested in doing your own research on permits, a good place to start is googling “special use permit,” “commercial use permit,” or “wedding permit” for the location names you’re interested in. Often these can be hard to find, so an easier approach is to call the local ranger district.
Remember that if we want these mountains to stay beautiful and open to weddings, we all need to do our part to take good care of the land. Always follow Leave No Trace practices, and when in doubt about what’s allowed, ask an expert for help.
Crested Butte wedding venues
Looking for a Crested Butte wedding venue for a larger ceremony, or somewhere to celebrate with guests after your adventurous elopement in the mountains? Here are some of my favorite local venues and restaurants.
Scarp Ridge Lodge
Scarp Ridge Lodge is a luxury boutique hotel in the center of Crested Butte, and one of my favorite wedding venues anywhere in Colorado. A full buyout includes accommodations for up to 18 guests, and the venue can fit up to 50 guests for sit down dinner. (Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel once rented this place out with their families. Yeah, it’s that nice!)
Taylor River Lodge
Taylor River Lodge is owned by Eleven Experience, the same company that owns Scarp Ridge Lodge, and these people sure know how to run an exceptional wedding venue! Located in Almont, half an hour south-east of Crested Butte, this property is tucked away in a secluded canyon with incredible views. Weddings here require a two-night buyout of the property, which means you can plan an unforgettable wedding weekend for all your guests.
The Chalet at Crested Butte
The Chalet is a luxury short term rental, and the perfect venue for intimate weddings and elopements. The newly built property sits on 50 acres of private land, about 15 minutes south of Crested Butte. Elope in the mountains then come back here to celebrate with your guests, or keep it simple and host the ceremony in an aspen grove on the property before celebrating the night away. Venues like this with lodging and dinner space all in one are my favorite!
Rocky Mountain Biological Lab
RMBL hosts weddings in September and October, when the venues are not in use by their scientists and students. Located in the old townsite of Gothic, this area is beautiful all summer long, but especially nice in fall when the aspens are changing color.
Ten Peaks is one of the venues that belong to Crested Butte Ski Resort, and is in the middle of a meadow of wildflower with mountain views in every direction. The venue has a ceremony amphitheater with views of Gothic Valley, and a large reception tent for the perfect outdoor wedding with cover from the weather.
Mountain Wedding Garden
The Crested Butte Mountain Wedding Garden is by far the most affordable of the venues on this list. It’s close to the ski resort in Mt. Crested Butte, and has a beautiful mountain backdrop looking up toward Gothic. This venue can be rented for just your ceremony, or combined with a reception at their Pavilion. At under $1500 for the combo, it can’t be beat on price!
Crested Butte Town Ranch
Crested Butte Town Ranch is a unique venue within the town limits of Crested Butte, bordered by open space and with mountain views in every direction. It’s walking distance to downtown, and large enough to accommodate parties of 200 people – although you would need to rent a party tent or similar for weddings that big. There’s a small gazebo for ceremonies, and at $650 for a full-day rental, it’s one of the more affordable options.
Uley’s Cabin belongs to the Crested Butte ski resort, and can be rented for intimate weddings. Just the two of you? In winter, you can book a sleigh ride dinner experience, where you’ll cozy up under blankets on a sleigh that takes you from the resort base and to the cabin, where a multiple-course fine dining experience awaits you.
Best AirBnBs in Crested Butte
If you’re thinking about eloping in Crested Butte, I’m guessing that you’ll likely be traveling in from elsewhere in Colorado or from out-of-state. And while there are multiple hotels in Crested Butte, especially in the ski resort area, I’d highly recommend that you book an AirBnB for your stay instead. It’ll give you plenty space to get ready without seeing each other (if that’s your style), better lighting for getting ready photos, and a more personal space to celebrate the day than a generic hotel room.
As one of the smaller mountain towns in Colorado, lodging in Crested Butte books up quickly. If you’re looking for a home large enough to accommodate your whole family or a bigger group of guests, book as soon as possible as the best options disappear first.
I’ve scrolled through every AirBnB and vrbo listing in the Crested Butte area, looking for the cutest homes to recommend to my couples. The result is a short list of beautiful homes, from small cabins to luxury mountain estates, that would all make a wonderful place to stay for your elopement vacation.
Looking for a Crested Butte elopement photographer?
I’m based in Boulder County, but travel to Crested Butte as often as I can, and have photographed a dozen elopements here over the past six years. If you’re looking for an elopement photographer who has spent their time hiking local trails and driving mountain passes to explore the best locations (and because it’s fun, duh), I’d love to chat about how I can help you plan and capture the perfect adventurous elopement in my favorite place in Colorado. Check out my elopement collections, then contact me to schedule a video chat!