Lily Lake elopement

Lily Lake Wedding Guide

Everything you need to know about planning a wedding or elopement ceremony at Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes ParkColorado.

Lily Lake elopement

Larsen Photo Co. is authorized by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, to conduct services in Rocky Mountain National Park.

About Lily Lake

Lily Lake is one of the designated wedding locations that you can reserve from Rocky Mountain National Park. There are three different ceremony sites at Lily Lake, and I’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each in this post.

Unlike the other wedding sites in RMNP, Lily Lake is located outside of the main park entrance gates, which means you don’t have to pay the $30/car entrance fee to go here. You do still need the $300 wedding permit, but at least your guests don’t have to pay a separate fee to attend your wedding.

Lily Lake is located right off highway 7 that connects Estes Park and Allenspark, and is a short ten-minute drive south from central Estes Park. There are two parking lots at the lake: a small one on the lake-side, and a larger lot on the other side of highway 7. Be careful when crossing the road here—not all cars are good about slowing down and watching for foot traffic.

Google Maps:

Lily Lake Dock

Lily Lake wedding dock in Rocky Mountain National Park

Ceremony size: 10
Max cars in parking: 10
Permit fee: $300

The dock at Lily Lake is the most popular of the tree ceremony sites, and also the easiest to get to. The dock is a short minute walk from the trailhead, and it’s even ADA accessible (when the trails are dry—snow can make the trail more difficult).

This is a great option for tiny elopements with few (or no) guests. It’s best used on weekdays at sunrise or sunset when there are fewer people around, as the main trail loop goes directly behind the dock. I was standing on the trail when taking the photo above, so you can get a feel for how close you’ll have other hikers passing by your ceremony.

Lily Lake Trail

Lily Lake trail elopement

Ceremony size: 20
Max cars in parking: 10
Permit fee: $300

The Lily Lake trail is my favorite of the tree designated sites here, as it has the best mountain views, and feels more like being in nature than right off the trailhead like the dock. It’s a short 6-10 minute walk from the parking lot on a wide and even trail. The trail does go close by, but there’s enough space for your group to get off the trail and not have other hikers too close to your ceremony.

Lily Lake Southside Picnic Area

Ceremony size: 30
Max cars in parking: 10
Permit fee: $300

The Lily Lake Southside Picnic Area is the biggest of the tree sites, and allows groups of up to 30 people total. This is also the only ceremony site in Rocky Mountain National Park that can accommodate a simple picnic-style reception. While the views here aren’t quite as open as at the Dock and Trail, it’s much more private and away from the trail, and you’re less likely to have other hikers close-by.

Lily Lake Wedding Permit

The wedding permit for Lily costs $300, and you can reserve it from Rocky Mountain National Park. Reservations are available up to a year in advance, on the first day of the month. That means reservations for August 2025 go live on August 1, 2024, and so on.

There’s a limited number of permits available for each location, day, and month. Reservations typically sell out 4-6 months in advance for summer and fall, and 2-3 months in advance for winter, so you should get your permit as soon as you’ve decided on a location.

I cover the $300 wedding permit for couples who book me for photography, since I do over a dozen elopements in Rocky Mountain National Park every year and work directly with their permit office.

Learn more about getting a wedding permit for Lily Lake from the National Park Service. (Or talk to me about photography, and I’ll take care of it for you.)

Winter elopement at Lily Lake

Best time to elope at Lily Lake

Lily Lake is open and accessible year-round, but the trail and lake are snow-covered in winter. The lake even freezes solid enough to walk out on, which can make for really beautiful photos. Definitely wear solid snow boots if you’re coming here in winter.

June through September are the most popular times to visit Lily Lake, both for weddings and for hikers and tourists in general. If you’re planning to get married in the summer months, pick a weekday if at all possible to give yourselves more privacy. On weekends in summer, the parking lots often fill up early in the morning, and it can be hard to get a spot.

Sunrise is always a great time of day for photos, but after that soft morning light is gone (usually within an hour after sunrise), I prefer late afternoon light at Lily Lake.

Winter elopement at Lily Lake

Trying to pick the best place to elope in Rocky Mountain National Park? I have a whole guide to weddings in the park here, including Bear Lake, Sprague Lake, Upper Beaver Meadows, Moraine Park Amphitheater, and more.


  1. Hi. I saw your post when I was google searching. I am interested in getting married by the waterfall in the RMNP on June 23, 2023. I have already sent the park service an email to see if that is allowed or a possibility on that date. If it is, do you have availability as a photographer?

    Thank you

    1. I replied to your email, but posting this here too in case anyone else has the same questions: there are lots of waterfalls in RMNP, but none of them are designated ceremony locations. To elope in RMNP, you need a wedding permit from the park, and to have your wedding at one of the specific approved locations.

    1. As of January 1, 2024, you no longer need a photography permit for portrait sessions like engagements! (The only related permits now are for wedding/elopement ceremonies, and a special use permit for things like styled shoots and workshops.)

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