Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding GuideA complete guide to official wedding locations, permit requirements, and scenic hikes in the park where you can get epic photos before or after your ceremony!
So You Want To Plan a Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding?
I might be biased here since RMNP feels like my own backyard, but you’ve picked an amazing place to get married. Eloping in national parks keeps getting more popular, and for good reason: it’s beautiful, affordable, and unlike any wedding venue out there!
With increased demand for nature elopements comes a lot of responsibility for us photographers to help educate couples on how this all works. I personally shoot multiple Rocky Mountain National Park weddings a year, and when you add in engagement sessions it’s by far the place I work most often. As a result I’ve gotten to know the park regulations well, and since I keep getting the same questions from many couples, I wanted to build this guide to answer everything in one place. I’ve visited all the official wedding locations and studied up on the permit rules, so that I can help couples like you plan the perfect elopement in the park!
There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when considering a Rocky Mountain National Park wedding:
1. You need a permit. No exceptions. (It’s $200 – it’ll be $250 starting June 1, 2019.)
2. There are specific locations where you’re allowed to do a ceremony. You can’t exchange your vows at the top of Trail Ridge Road, at Sky Pond, Dream Lake, or some other epic location you’ve seen on Instagram – it’s illegal. You can see a list of the official locations further down this page.
3. You are allowed to go elsewhere in the park before or after your ceremony for portraits, but you do need to indicate where you want to go for photos on your wedding permit.
Tips for Choosing Your Ceremony site
1. Think of the logistics. Are you staying on the east or west side of the park? Do you need to coordinate multiple cars full of people to the ceremony site? Make sure to look at the location descriptions, because each of the Rocky Mountain National Park wedding locations come with a max attendance and max cars allowed.
2. Think of what type of location you want. Are you open to a short hike to get to your ceremony spot, or do you want a location where you can pull up in your car and be ready to go? Do you prefer complete privacy or are you okay with having hikers passing your ceremony?
3. Think about the timing. Some of these locations are crazy busy on weekends, others are extra popular when the leaves are changing in fall. If you don’t want a ton of hikers around you as you exchange vows, take my notes about which locations are busy or not into consideration. And if you haven’t already picked a date, I recommend reading my post on why you should consider eloping on a weekday. Nowhere in Colorado is this more relevant than in Rocky Mountain National Park, as it can often take a whole hour just to get in through the entrance gate on a Saturday in summer!
4. Once you’ve narrowed down your options and found a couple of locations that you like, do some googling to see more photos from that area. Or better yet, take the time to check it out in person before you make a decision!
5. And of course, if you have questions not answered in this guide, email me and I’d be happy to help!
Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding Location MapSee all the official RMNP wedding locations on the map!
Red dots are the official wedding locations. Blue dots are other beautiful places in the park where we can do photos before or after your ceremony.
About the Wedding LocationsLearn more about each of the official Rocky Mountain National Park wedding locations so that you can choose the best one for your elopement!
Pros: In my opinion, 3M Curve has the prettiest mountain views out of all the official Rocky Mountain National Park wedding locations. It’s not marked on Google Maps, but is easy to find if you have the GPS location or use the link above. There’s always available parking. The walk down to the ceremony site is not completely flat, so it’s not ideal in high heels, but it’s doable. There are multiple spots where you can do the ceremony, which is great for being able to choose based on the light/time of day and how many people you have. It’s great for getting a variety of views and looks in your photos all in one place.
Cons: It’s close to the main road, which means it’s very busy on weekends. You can hear some road noise from the ceremony site, but there’s no direct view of the site from the road thanks to a big rock formation, which also muffles the sound a bit. There will almost always be other cars parked there, but most people only take photos from the road, so you are unlikely to have people walking right by the ceremony. There are no restrooms here. Not handicap accessible, and not ideal for older family members due to uneven terrain.
Ceremony rules: Max 15 people + 3 cars year round.
Upper Beaver Meadows
Pros: This is one of the most quiet and private ceremony sites in RMNP! It’s easy access of a nice dirt road, has restrooms at the trailhead, plenty of parking, and features a flat grassy meadow and a very easy trail, so it’s perfect for having family along. I personally love this spot for photos! And it’s super close to 3M Curve, Moraine Valley, and on the way up Trail Ridge Road, so you can still get more “mountainy” photos before or after your ceremony.
Cons: No access in winter as the road is not maintained.
Ceremony rules: Max 60 guests + 10 cars.
Pros: This is another easy access location, with a handicap accessible trail to the dock. There are three different ceremony sites at Lily Lake; the Dock, the Trail, and the Southside Picnic Area. The Dock has the best views, but is also the busiest. There are restrooms at the trailhead, and a picnic shelter.
Cons: Very busy area, lots of people on any weekends throughout spring/summer/fall. (But unlike Bear Lake, they do allow weekend rentals!)
Ceremony rules: You can have a maximum of 10 guests at the dock, 20 at the trail, or 60 at the picnic area. You can never have more than 10 cars parked at the trailhead for any of the sites.
Pros: Sprague Lake is one of the most easily accessible sites in the park. The trail that goes around the lake is wheelchair accessible, except for when there’s fresh snow or slushy conditions. Most couples choose to use the dock for their ceremonies, which means hikers will be passing behind the photographer rather than getting close to the couple. The loop around the lake is a short and easy walk, and has plenty good spots to stop for photos. There are restrooms at the trailhead.
Cons: Sprague Lake is one of the busiest trailheads in RMNP. There are always lots of people here, including families with young kids, so do not expect much privacy here. The trail can be very muddy in winter/spring/fall after rain or snow.
Ceremony rules Max 15 people + 3 cars in summer, 30 people + 10 cars in winter.
See more photos from a Sprague Lake elopement here.
Pros: With a 256ft flat walk from the trailhead, Bear Lake is one of the easiest access locations in the park. The lake and mountain views are really pretty, but hard to capture in summer as you’re more limited in where to go, and the trail is mostly covered in trees. In winter you can go out on the frozen lake, which is my favorite time to shoot here! This is a great spot to combine with doing photos at Dream Lake, The Loch, or Mills Lake, if you want a longer hike before or after your ceremony. There are restrooms at the trailhead.
Cons: The busiest trailhead in RMNP by far. There are always a lot of people here, no matter the day, time of year, or weather, so there is very little privacy. In summer and on school holidays in winter, you are very unlikely to get a parking spot at this trailhead, and would need to take the Park ‘N Ride shuttle up there.
Ceremony rules: Max 20 people + 5 cars. No weddings permitted from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day. No weekends any time.
Pros: Copeland Lake is a short drive down a dirt road, but still easily accessible by any car. It’s on the east side of the park, which makes it less busy than some of the other Rocky Mountain National Park wedding locations.
Cons: It’s a somewhat busy area, and with traffic going right past the little lake. I would not recommend this site in fall or winter, as the water level of the lake is very low this time of year, so it looks half empty and not very photogenic.
Ceremony rules: Max 50 people + 10 cars.
Pros: Flat and easily accessible area in an open meadow. The west side of the park is less busy than the east side. Great if you’re staying in the Grand Lake area.
Cons: There were lots of area closures for revegetation when I last visited (Oct 2018), so you’re limited in where you can do the ceremony. The available sites are all very close to the parking lot, and you can see/hear the road going right by. No restrooms.
Ceremony rules: Max 60 people + 10 cars.
Pros: Easy access with a big parking lot. Large meadow that gets wildflowers in summer, and the forest provides shade and relief from midday heat. Wheelchair accessible trail. Restrooms and picnic shelter at the trailhead.
Cons: Busy trailhead. Not the most exciting location for photos, but easy to combine with Trail Ridge Road before/after your ceremony.
Ceremony rules: 20 people max at some times, 100 people max at other times. Call RMNP for specifics.
Moraine Park amphitheater
Pros: With 60-100 people allowed (depending on the time of year) and wooden benches in an amphitheater setting, this is the best Rocky Mountain National Park wedding location for large weddings. It’s also easily accessible, has lots of parking, and restrooms in the nearby visitor center building.
Cons: This site is right by one of the busiest roads in the park, and you can hear and see cars passing from the amphitheater. It’s also in the trees, so you don’t have particularly great views from here, but that can be great for staying out of the heat in summer.
Ceremony rules: Max 60 people in summer / 100 in winter + 10 cars in summer / more in winter.
Timber Creek Amphitheater
Note: This is the only ceremony site in RMNP that I’ve been unable to visit in person, as it was closed for construction when I tried to visit in October 2018. Will update with photos when it opens summer 2019.
Pros: It’s at a campground, so you could actually camp there with all your guests! It’s easily accessible of the west side of Trail Ridge Road, with a wheelchair accessible trail, and restrooms.
Cons: There aren’t particularly great views, and it’s at a big and busy campground so there’s very little privacy.
Ceremony rules: Max 20 people + 5 cars in summer
Alluvial Fan Bridge
Pros: I honestly can’t think of any.
Cons: The bridge was washed away in the flood in 2013, and has not been rebuilt yet. The area is rocky and not very pretty for photos, and it’s very busy in summer.
Ceremony rules: Max 20 people + 5 cars.
Rocky Mountain Weddings, Elopements, and EngagementsSee some of my favorite weddings and elopements that I have photographed in RMNP.
Permits + Rules and Practical InformationLearn how to apply for a Rocky Mountain National Park wedding permit, read the official park rules, and study up on Leave No Trace practices.
Official RMNP Wedding Rules and Regulations
The permit does not give exclusive use of the area. All sites remain open to the public, which means that you can’t close down an area or deny access to hikers.
- Park visitor centers, restrooms, and other buildings may not be used for wedding preparations such as dressing, picture-taking, rehearsals, and waiting areas. These facilities cannot be used in the event of inclement weather.
- No disruption of the atmosphere of peace and tranquility in the park; no amplified music.
- Equipment such as tables, chairs, carpets, tents, floral displays, signs, banners, flags, generators and amplifiers cannot be used in the park.
- Throwing and scattering rice, birdseed, flower petals or other materials is prohibited.
- Normal entrance fees apply to all vehicles associated with the wedding. (Entrance fee is $30 per car, unless you have an annual pass or 7-day pass.)
- Follow “Leave No Trace” Principles
How to apply for a Rocky Mountain National Park wedding permit
1. If you already have a date set, call the RMNP Concession Management Office at 970 586-1209 to see which locations are available for your date (so you don’t waste your time considering ones that are unavailable).
2. If you live in Colorado, I highly recommend spending a day in RMNP to check out the locations you’re interested in person. If you live out-of-state, spend some time googling each location to see photos from multiple different photographers to get a better idea of what each site looks like.
3. When you have your date and site set, download and complete the printable wedding permit from the official RMNP site. In “proposed activity,” put something simple like: “Elopement ceremony and wedding photos.” For Preferred Start/End Time, talk to your photographer first! Remember to include your photographer and officiant in the guest count and vehicle count.
4. There is a $200 application fee for all permits.
Notes: You cannot apply for a site more than one year in advance. The park cannot process applications on short notice, so please call the concession office to ask before submitting an application for next week.