Everything you need to know about planning a Loveland Pass elopement or wedding in one of Colorado’s most beautiful mountain locations.
After ten years in Colorado and photographing multiple Loveland Pass elopements, I’ve built this guide to help answer the most commonly asked questions I get about planning an elopement here.
We’ll cover the best locations for your elopement ceremony, how to get the best light for your photos, and what to expect from the crazy Colorado weather. I’ll even give you some ideas for where to go for celebrations after your elopement at the top of Loveland Pass!
(If you’re a photographer who’s doing research before capturing your first Loveland Pass elopement, I promise there’s some good info in this guide for you too!)
Are you ready to learn everything you need to know about planning a Loveland Pass elopement?
Great! Let’s get started.
Why elope at Loveland Pass?
Pro: It’s easily accessible
This seems to be the number one reason why so many couples choose to elope at Loveland Pass. With one of the highest mountain pass roads in the country, and the only one that consistently stays open throughout winter, it’s an easy to access location for most couples. (The trails are all dirt and a little uneven, so I would not recommend it for wheelchair users.)
While you get epic views immediately from the summit parking lot, the best elopement views come when you’re willing and able to hike away from the main road. There are hiking trails on both sides of the road, and you can even hike all the way to the summit of Mount Snikatu – a thirteener – if you want extra bragging rights 😉
Pro: There are mountain views in every direction
It’s easy for local Coloradans to get jaded about our mountain views. You’ll often hear people say things like “sure, Loveland Pass is pretty, but you really need to hike a fourteener to get the best views.” And while I agree that fourteeners are pretty darn epic, I also totally understand that many of you want to bring your families and friends along for your elopement, and might not want a full hike to enjoy the mountains.
This place is perfect for those elopements where you want the full effect of the mountains with minimum effort.
Con: It’s incredibly busy
I couldn’t write this list without also including some reasons why you might not want to elope at Loveland Pass. Because this is one of the only mountains in Colorado that’s accessible all year round with minimal hiking required, it’s also one of the most popular places to elope in the Rocky Mountains.
The trailhead at Loveland Pass is one of the busiest in the whole state of Colorado, and you will never have it to yourselves. The parking lot at the summit is small, and only has room for 20 or so cars. When the weather is nice, and especially on weekends, it can be very hard to get a parking spot, and there are no backup locations to park close-by if the summit is full. You should expect to run into hikers, backcountry skiers, tourists stopping for photos, and lots of people.
If you’re hoping for a unique and private elopement location where you can enjoy nature in complete solitude, a Loveland Pass elopement might not be the best fit for you.
Con: You may need to apply for a special use permit
Before you can elope at Loveland Pass, you have to contact the National Forest Service and find out if you need to apply for a Special Use permit. The information on how to apply is hard to find and can be confusing, even for us photographers, as the rules of what’s allowed often seem to change based on which ranger you ask. But as elopements are becoming more popular, it’s really important that we respect the fragile nature environments that we’re in, and follow the rules for each location.
Choosing a month, day, and time
First things first; you need to choose a date for your wedding. I have a big guide over the best months to elope in Colorado, and highly recommend that you check it out before picking a date.
Loveland Pass will generally be covered in snow from the middle of October until the middle of June. If you want to guarantee a snow-free wedding, I recommend picking a date between early July and the middle of September. Some years the snow melts earlier, but some years (like 2019) there will be snow all the way through the end of June!
When you’re choosing a date, I also recommend that you pick a weekday if at all possible. Monday through Thursday will always be less busy than Friday through Sunday, and you’ll have fewer people around in this whole area.
Traffic on I-70 from Denver to Loveland Pass can also be a huge pain on weekends; especially Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings during winter thanks to ski traffic. If you want to avoid traffic for your Loveland Pass elopement, consider getting a place to stay in the Keystone area so that you can take highway 6 up there and avoid I-70 alltogether.
The time of date is also really important for your Loveland Pass elopement. I personally love sunrise up here, and will always suggest it to couples who are up for an early morning elopement. There are way fewer people around, and the light here at sunrise is unreal. There’s really nothing more beautiful than seeing the sun paint the mountain tops in pink and orange alpenglow!
Sunset at Loveland Pass can be epic if you’re in the right place, but many locations here lose the sun long before the actual sunset time as the sun drops behind the mountain ridges. Prepare for the temperature to drop by at least 10 degrees immediately when the sun disappears!
Loveland Pass elopement permits
One of the reasons why Loveland Pass has become such a popular place to elope is that it’s easy to access. But what many couples – and photographers – don’t know is that you need a Special Use permit from the National Forest Service to elope here.
While some locations like Rocky Mountain National Park make it easy to find information online about how to apply for a permit, the National Forest Service doesn’t have the same capacity to handle a large amount of permit applications, and the process is less straight-forward.
There are no ceremony locations that can be reserved at Loveland Pass. If you’re looking for an easy access ceremony site that you can reserve for your elopement in the same area, check out nearby Sapphire Point instead.
Whether you are a couple who wants to get married at Loveland Pass, or a photographer who wants to shoot there, I recommend that you call the Clear Creek Ranger District at 303-567-4382 to find out more about the permit application process.
It’s always better to get a direct answer from the local authority than to take someone else’s word for it. There’s a lot of conflicting information to be found on social media, so go right to the source instead.
Where to celebrate after your Loveland Pass elopement
Many couples who plan a Loveland Pass elopement only want to do photos outside on the mountain. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
But Summit County has so many beautiful airbnbs where you can get ready before your elopement, and restaurants where you can celebrate after! Why not make a whole day of it?
Whether you’re inviting friends and family along to witness your ceremony, want to meet up with people to celebrate afterwards, or keep the whole day focused on just the two of you, you can create a really unique elopement day in the Colorado mountains.
Bread Bar is my absolute favorite reception/celebration venue for elopements at Loveland Pass. This restaurant and bar is housed in a building from the 1800s in the small mining town of Silver Plume. They can host celebrations of up to 70 people, but also welcome reservations for couples and smaller groups.
Plume Coffee Bar
Planning a sunrise elopement? How about heading down to Silver Plume for some legit good coffee after? Plume Coffee Bar is right down the street from Bread Bar, and serves up coffee drinks in a historic old house with tons of charm.
I’ll be adding more venue options to this post soon!
Loveland Pass Rules & Regulations
As always with outdoor elopements, following Leave No Trace practices is very important! If couples start to break the rules and make a mess of nature, this will quickly turn into another off-limits location, so let’s all take responsibility for keeping Loveland Pass pristine!
- No ceremony arches, chairs, or other furniture and props that don’t belong in nature.
- No confetti, birdseed, rice, lavender, or other items that are impossible to clean up after.
- No amplified music or microphones.
- Stay on established trails. For every person who hikes off trail, more people think it’s okay to follow. The ground at Loveland Pass is fragile alpine tundra, which can take over a hundred years to regrow, so let’s take good care of it!
- No fireworks, which includes smoke bombs! Always be aware of local fire restrictions.
- Pets must be on leash.
- Be considerate of other visitors. You will not be the only people here, and do not have more right to the landscapes than others just because you are getting married 😉
Read the full rules & regulations directly on the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest website.
Start planning your Loveland Pass elopement today
If you’re ready to plan your own wedding or elopement at Loveland Pass, I would love to photograph the big day. Check out my elopement packages, then get in touch to schedule a no-obligation call to make sure we’re a good fit!
About Nina Larsen Reed
Nina Larsen Reed is an elopement photographer based in Boulder, Colorado. She plans and captures adventure elopements and intimate weddings, and has photographed over 200 couples across the Rocky Mountains since 2017.