Why should you elope at Sprague Lake?
RMNP is very strict on making sure that all ceremonies within the park take place at one of their designated locations. You can see the full list of ceremony locations here. This means that you cannot get married along your favorite hiking trail or in the backcountry, even if it’s just the two of you without any guests.
Sprague Lake is one of the most beautiful designated wedding locations in Rocky Mountain National Park. While you can elope anywhere around the lake, the dock is the perfect spot to avoid having hikers in the background of your photos. Sprague Lake is accessible year-round, and especially beautiful in winter when the lake is frozen over.
Where exactly is Sprague Lake?
Sprague Lake is located seven miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, off Bear Lake Road.
I’ve marked the exact location of the ceremony dock on this Google Map, but you can input Sprague Lake to any navigation app and it’ll take you to the trailhead. Just make sure that you download the directions before leaving Estes Park, as most people won’t have cell phone service inside the park.
When driving along 36 from Estes Park toward Grand Lake on highway 36, you’ll make a left turn onto Bear Lake Road, then continue until you see the sign for Sprague Lake. It’s easy to find!
The trailhead parking area is plenty big, but there’s a limit on 3 cars for summer elopements, and 10 cars for winter elopements, so make sure that your guests are carpooling to stay within this limit. RMNP considers summer from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.
Practical information for Sprague Lake
Ceremony size: 15 people max in summer, and 30 people max in winter, which includes the couple, photographer, officiant, and any guests.
Number of vehicles: 3 max in summer, and 10 max in winter.
The summer limit applies from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.
The wedding permit for Sprague Lake costs $250. (It was increased from $200 in 2019.) National Park entrance fees still apply for every car – they are currently $25 per car for a day pass.
The permit does not give exclusive use of the area. All sites remain open to the public, which means you can expect to run into other hikers and visitors no matter the date.
The following guidelines are included as conditions of the permit:
- Follow “Leave No Trace” Principles
- No disruption of the atmosphere of peace and tranquility in the park; no amplified music
- Minimize interference with park programs, activities, and visitors
- Minimize interference with the operations of public facilities or the services of NPS concessionaires or contractors
- Maintain a safe and healthy environment for other park visitors
Source: National Parks Service
Insider tips for Sprague Lake weddings
For wedding ceremonies at Sprague Lake, please do not ever throw flower petals, bird seed, or other forms of confetti. This is incredibly hard to clean up, and leaves the site in poor condition for the next couple to get married here. Always do a final sweep of the area to make sure you haven’t left anything behind.
You cannot bring tables, chairs, ceremony arches, signs, or other furniture to elopements at Sprague Lake.
The trail from the parking lot to the ceremony area is a flat and easy walk, and takes about ten minutes. I do not recommend wearing high heels to weddings here, and that includes wedges. Between October and early June, there’s a decent chance of the trail being wet or covered in snow. The trail is considered wheelchair accessible, but this is really only true in the dry summer months (from late June through September).
Sprague Lake is accessible year-round, including the winter months. Driving in the Colorado mountains in winter can be challenging, and roads can be closed on short notice when there are adverse driving conditions. The roads are only plowed from around 7am until 5pm, so for sunrise ceremonies you risk having unplowed roads. Please drive safe in winter, and dress for snow: there is no plowed or shoveled path to the ceremony site, and you may be hiking through deep snow.
Want to learn more about weddings and elopements in Rocky Mountain National Park? I wrote this guide to help you choose your ceremony location, learn how to apply for a permit, and find the best places for photos.
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.