Phone: (970) 586-1206
There are 16 national parks, monuments, historic sites, historic trails, recreation areas, and preserves located in Colorado. Arguably, the crown jewel of these is Rocky Mountain National Park and it’s beem breaking records with over 4.5 million visitors each year. It’s also the closest National Park to the Front Range and Colorado’s most populated area. This means that elopements and weddings at Rocky Mountain National Park are incredibly in demand. If you’ve ever visited this stunning national park located between Grand Lake to the west and Estes Park to the east, you’ll understand why it’s one of Colorado’s most popular places to elope. The mountain views are spectacular and it’s an outdoor lover’s dream. Rocky Mountain National Park is perfect for no-frills couples who just want a simple, rustic ceremony site and don’t need or want a lot of set up, chairs, and other complicated decor for their wedding celebrations.
A Rocky Mountain National Park wedding ceremony costs a $300 non-refundable administrative application fee. This does not include entrance fees for the vehicles needed to transport guests into the park. The daily entrance fee for Rocky Mountain National Park is $25 per vehicle or $35 for a weekly pass. If you know you’ll be visiting a lot of national park sites there is also the annual America the Beautiful Parks pass for $80. This affordable Colorado wedding ceremony spot books up extremely fast so it pays to plan early at Rocky Mountain National Park. They require at least 7 days before your wedding to complete paperwork.
If the above information hasn’t scared you off too much and you are still attracted to the idea of getting married at Rocky Mountain National Park where peaceful beauty is all you need for your nuptials you can find some information about each of the wedding spots offered at RMNP below. At each of these Rocky Mountain National Park ceremony sites, you’ll be allowed to book them for 2 hours maximum and they are first come, first serve. I tried my best to give an honest overview of the good and the bad for each of these places and all opinions written are entirely my own. Please don’t take them as fact;)
3M Curve is actually one of my favorite places to take my portrait clients in all of Rocky Mountain National Park and it’s my favorite wedding location out of all of RMNP’s official ceremony sites. It’s a really beautiful place just a short walk from the road where you’ll find a tiny little rock outcrop with stunning mountain views. Nearby there are pretty forests to get some variety in your photos too. Sadly, this location was tricky to access during 2020 due to the road construction and 2021 is looking to be much the same. Rocky Mountain National Park is not allowing wedding ceremonies to be scheduled at 3M Curve from May-October due to construction. In normal years the maximum number of people allowed is 15 and you can have up to 3 cars.
Pros: 3M Curve is one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most beautiful wedding ceremony locations in my opinion.
Cons: There is very limited parking along that stretch of road. Also, the upper area is pretty crowded, but in my experience, park-goers don’t realize how pretty it is down the path toward the ceremony site and tend to stick to the area up by the road.
Another wedding ceremony option at Rocky Mountain National Park is the Alluvial Fan Bridge. This area was created in 1982 when there was a huge dam break which resulted in flooding of this area and in my opinion it still just sort of has the feel of a large nature mess which I know some find nice, but it’s just not my personal favorite. This is one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s waterfall locations, but it’s really not a spectacular waterfall like ones you might find in the Pacific Northwest. Much of the time there is barely any water coming down so in my opinion it’s a little underwhelming. What this location does have is wide open skies, some trees, a TON of large boulders strewn all over the place, and a bit of a river. You’ll be able to have 20 people at your wedding here and up to 5 cars.
Pros: Less popular location for weddings so may have more availability, I also think there are some aspen groves in this area so it could be particularly pretty during fall.
Cons: Not as pretty as other Rocky Mountain National Park locations, pretty crowded with tourists.
I have to be honest, I generally avoid taking my clients to the Bear Lake Nature Trail, not because it’s not a great spot, but because it is such a great spot that it’s insanely crowded pretty much all the time now and it can be so hit or miss to find parking there. In fact, they don’t allow weddings here between Memorial Day and Columbus Day or on weekends ever because it’s just too popular of a location. All that said, I do really love the beauty of this alpine lake. It’s surrounded by tons of Evergreen trees and the loop path around it is a really easy walk. And even though I am definitely not a fan of rising early in the morning, this is a place where your best bet is to try for a sunrise elopement if you want to try to beat the crowds. You can have up to 20 people at a ceremony at Bear Lake Nature Trail and up to 5 cars as well.
Pros: Beautiful, has a lake and mountain views
Cons: Extremely crowded, not good for those who want privacy, does have a lot of parking but even the large lot gets full quickly.
Rocky Mountain National Park allows wedding ceremonies at Copeland Lake which is not accessed at one of the major park entrances in Estes Park but is located further south in the Allenspark area. I like that this simple mountain lake has some mountain views, although they aren’t as dramatic as what you’ll find in other parts of the park. Still, there is water and lots of evergreen trees making it a really beautiful place to get married at Rocky Mountain National Park
Pros: Lake, trees, mountain stream all in one place!
Cons: At the moment, I can’t think of any cons for Copeland Lake wedding ceremonies except that the mountain views aren’t as dramatic as I would like.
Most people tend to stay on the Estes Park side of Rocky Mountain National Park when they are visiting because many of the most popular trails are concentrated on the east side of the park. However, even though I grew up spending lots of time on the Estes Park side, as an adult I’ve become quite fond of the Grand Lake side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Luckily, they do have Harbison Meadow Picnic Area designated as a wedding ceremony spot for the west side of the park. Since it can take 2 hours with non-stop driving along Trail Ridge Road to cross between the two sides of the park, it’s nice that RMNP has an option for weddings on the west side for those who want to base themselves in Grand Lake. Harbison Meadow Picnic Area is just as it sounds, a nice open mountain meadow with a ton of trees (many are the dreaded and unsightly beetle kill kind though). You’ll be able to host up to 30 people and have 10 cards at this RMNP wedding site.
Pros: Easy access, and it’s also one of only 2 locations you can get married at Rocky Mountain National Park on the west side near Grand Lake!
Cons: Not the most scenic option for wedding ceremonies
Hidden Valley at Rocky Mountain National Park is another one of my top picks for wedding ceremonies inside the park. I like this location a lot because it has a nice mix of wide open mountain meadows with some forested areas and a cute little stream as well which all give some good variety for your wedding pictures. It’s also quite spacious in this area and I think you can find a good little spot to hold your ceremony away from the crowds of tourists in this location a little more easily than in some of the others on this list. There is a nice large parking lot at this spot and you’ll be able to host up to 30 people at this location. They do make a special note that you cannot occupy the picnic sites for your ceremony but I think there are plenty of other good places in this area that will work nicely instead.
Pros: Good variety with the scenery, good for privacy, plenty of parking
Cons: Not as good for mountain views
Lily Lake is another great wedding spot with a lake at Rocky Mountain National Park. As with many of the other locations on this list, it’s become pretty popular in recent years but I’ve always managed to find a place to park when photographing here. They have a few different options for where you can hold your wedding ceremony in the Lily Lake area. Please check out this Lily Lake Weddings Guide to see even more photos and read more about this pretty mountain wedding location.
Lily Lake Dock: Can host up to 10 people at the dock
Lily Lake Trail: Can host up to 20 people on the trail
Lily Lake Picnic Area: Can host up to 30 people at the picnic area
Pros: I love the plant life and greenery and if you can manage to hike up on the more rugged trail, the views are awesome here.
Cons: As with many locations at RMNP, it can be a bit crowded since you don’t actually have to head inside the entrance booths at Fall River and Beaver Meadows to enjoy this walk. The Lily Lake Dock location has zero privacy too.
Moraine Park Visitors Center wedding amphitheater is probably my 2nd favorite location for weddings at Rocky Mountain National Park because it’s secluded and it’s extremely close to my favorite easy to get to mountain views in the entire park. I’m not too sure why, but the limit is just 30 people max at this ceremony site even though it could clearly fit much more than that with all of those benches. Might be worth checking in with the folks running the park to ask about this directly but I think the ceremony size limits are meant for high season from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day when park management is actively trying to keep the number of visitors lower. This is a rustic setting with benches layered on a hill for maximum viewing of your wedding ceremony. The views of Moraine Park and the mountains off in the distance are somewhat obstructed by trees here but I like that they provide a lot of privacy for your ceremony. You are allowed up to 10 vehicles in the parking lot during high season.
Pros: One of the most private wedding ceremony areas at Rocky Mountain National Park with the most space. I love that it’s super close to the Moraine Park mountain views too.
Cons: Mountain views are obscured by the trees.
Sprague Lake weddings are actually quite similar to Lily Lake in that there is a lot of pretty greenery surrounding this small mountain lake with a super easy wheelchair accessible path that circles the lake. From the ground level, I like the mountain views at Sprague Lake a little more than the ones at Lily Lake but Sprague Lake can also get quite crowded at times since it’s such an easy and simple place to take a walk. I highly recommend doing a sunrise elopement if you plan to use the dock just to have a little more privacy although the crowds also clear a little bit at sunset too. You’ll be able to have up to 15 people during summer and 30 people during winter at your Sprague Lake wedding ceremony.
Pros: Beautiful lake with mountain views, I almost always see wildlife when I’m here!
Cons: Can be a crowded location although they do have a lot of parking at this particular spot as well as a decent number of bathrooms too.
If you are an outdoorsy couple who have thought that maybe it’d be fun to host a camping wedding, the Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater might be perfect for your wedding. Rocky Mountain National Park’s campgrounds fill up super fast, but if you are the type of couple who can plan ahead, you could book the Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater for your ceremony and then stay right there at the campground for your rustic camping honeymoon. This is one of only 2 wedding ceremony options that are located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park with the quaint town of Grand Lake being closer than Estes Park. The Timber Creek Amphitheater is simple, rustic, and on the smaller side with a wall of Evergreen trees for its backdrop. Just beyond the trees is the Colorado River so you should be able to hear the rush of its water during your wedding ceremony. You’ll be able to have up to 10 people with 5 cars at this wedding spot inside RMNP.
Pros: Great spot for a camping wedding and it’s one of only two wedding ceremony options on the west wide of Rocky Mountain National Park
Cons: It’s not my favorite location for scenery and mountain views because there is a large structure set up for movies and talks at the front of the amphitheater. However, we should be able to go exploring for better views after your ceremony.
The Upper Beaver Meadows area is a little bit more off the beaten path for wedding ceremonies at Rocky Mountain National Park because this location requires driving down a dirt road to get to it. This road is not open during winter so you won’t be able to drive to this location from mid-October through mid-May. It is a 1.6 mile walk along the road to reach the end of the road so that would add a bit of a hike to your wedding day during winter. It’s quite a pretty meadow with lots of beautiful mountain views. You’ll be able to host up to 30 people and can park 10 cars during summer at this wedding ceremony site in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Pros: Not as crowded as some of the other wedding spots in RMNP
Cons: Although it does have good mountain views, you’ll need the right lens to really make them look nice (and bigger) in this wide open meadow. It’s also hard to access during winter.
If you’re sad that you missed out on one of the limited permits that are available for wedding ceremonies at Rocky Mountain National Park, I recommend booking an engagement session instead. There are so many more beautiful locations available to you if you are planning an engagement photo session at RMNP versus a wedding. As long as we follow the principles of the Leave No Trace philosophy the park has almost endless possibilities for beautiful and scenic photography locations. I’m happy to advise on what has worked well for me in the past or we can talk about doing something totally new for your session.
There you have it for this outline of what is available for weddings at Colorado’s beloved Rocky Mountain National Park. I would love to be your Rocky Mountain National Park wedding photographer. I grew up just outside of Estes Park and have been photographing happy couples and family there for many years. Take a look at the WEDDINGS page of my website and get in touch to tell me more about you and your wedding plans. I’d love to talk with you!
Because Rocky Mountain National Park has such a high number of visitors and is so well loved, they have recently instituted quite a few strict rules about where and how you can get married inside the park boundaries to help keep this national park a wonderful place for all visitors to treasure and enjoy. The most limiting thing couples should know upfront is that they are only allowed to get married at a set number of predetermined locations inside the park and RMNP only allows a total of 6 ceremonies per day throughout the entire park. Even if it’s just the two of you, they only allow permits for ceremonies to be conducted at the sites they have specified. In the past you could pretty much get married wherever you wanted, but in recent years they’ve made changes to help protect the fragile environment in the park. You can hike or drive to your favorite locations that aren’t on the official list and take some photos, but the park does not allow the exchanging of vows anywhere but the sites listed below. (I have heard rumors through the photographer grapevine that the rangers do check social media to find and fine couples and photographers who break this rule so please beware and don’t try to risk it so that we don’t all lose the privilege of holding ceremonies inside the park completely).
Rocky Mountain National Park has a ton of information on their site about getting married at the park, but there are a few things listed in the regulations that I think are important to know about getting married there. One is that when you receive a permit to get married inside RMNP it does not give you the exclusive use of an area or special parking privileges and you technically aren’t allowed to ask other visitors to move although I imagine most people are polite enough to do so when they see that someone is getting married. (One exception is that they do put up a sign for the Lily Lake Picnic Area) Rocky Mountain National Park along with many of Colorado’s state parks are experiencing extremely high numbers of visitors these days so you may want to consider booking your wedding during the off season or on a weekday to avoid crowds. You will also need to buy insurance for your wedding at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t allow decorating with banners, streamers, or other hanging objects. The park discourages decorating in general but specifically doesn’t allow decor to be attached to anything in the park so I suppose you could decorate with free-standing items that don’t need to be attached to anything and can easily be cleaned up (no rice, confetti etc…) They also don’t allow music over 60 decibels or amplified sound of any kind.
Essentially, when hosting your wedding ceremony at Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll be expected to follow the principles of “Leave No Trace.”
Special Note about 2021 Weddings
Because of Covid-19, Rocky Mountain National Park has also limited the number of weddings they will allow for 2021 inside the park to 250 permits for the entire year. Sadly, as of January 2021 all 250 available permits have already been issued. So if you were hoping to get married at RMNP, you will have to wait until 2022 to host your ceremony inside the park. The limit for groups at weddings in 2021 is 30 people total including your vendors.
Address: 1000 US Hwy 36 Estes Park, CO 80517