| February 25, 2019

Rugged 4×4 Adventure Wedding

Table of Contents

Rugged 4×4 Adventure Wedding

Katie & Logan

Ouray, CO

At the very start of the planning phase for Katie and Logan’s elopement adventure, they asked me a question: if you were to pick the most incredible part of Colorado for us to elope, where would you choose?

Immediately, I thought of the San Juan Mountains.  

This incredible mountain range in Southwest Colorado (in Ouray, more specifically) is unlike any other place in the state because the mountains were formed so differently than the rest of the front range. A lot of these mountains were created from an old volcano that collapsed in on itself, then pushed back upward to be carved out by glaciers. The resulting landscape is steep-sided, incredibly young-looking peaks that are unlike the more granite, sloped peaks in the rest of the state.

Personally, this range reminds me a lot of the Alps, and as someone who is obsessed with the Alps, I don’t think there’s a prettier part of Colorado. Luckily, Katie and Logan loved it, too.

We spent a ton of time scouting out possible spots in the range and eventually Katie and Logan decided to plan their elopement at a lesser-traveled basin with gorgeous, jagged peaks and a beautiful alpenglow. The most exciting part? They were adventurous enough to take on some of Colorado’s most epic 4×4 roads to get there.

The San Juan Mountain Range has some of the best 4×4 roads in the country — it’s home to infamous routes like Black Bear Pass and Poughkeepsie Pass. A lot of these four-wheel-drive roads were created in the old mining days, resulting in gorgeous — and definitely adventurous — off-road routes all over the mountain.

Katie and Logan wanted to go all out for their adventurous elopement to make it as memorable and unforgettable as possible. During the planning process, they hired incredible vendors, like Kent, a private, world-class chef to prepare a gourmet meal for them after their ceremony. They also hired Ken, an expert 4×4 driver who’s been driving Jeeps up and down the mountains for about 40 years.

When they woke up on their big day, they chose to get ready in separate rooms in their Airbnb. They had an adorable first look right outside, before we piled into the Jeep — Ken at the wheel — and we were on our way to their spot.

Katie and Logan chose to take the scenic route to their elopement spot over 4 different mountain passes, and I am so grateful they did.

I can say with absolute certainty that if you want an unforgettable elopement experience where you can see as much gorgeous Colorado scenery as possible in a single day, you should consider a Jeep tour to have an epic 4×4 wedding day experience. Every single moment brought us to jaw-dropping scenery. We all spent the entire, bumpy ride with our mouths wide open, looking out the windows, and taking it all in. We stopped at so many incredible places along the way, every turn showed us something different. One minute, we were looking at red mountains full of iron,  the next, were staring at rolling green hills and jagged peaks — I was taking as many pictures as my camera would hold.

When we got to their basin, it was sunny and beautiful. The spot they wanted to have their ceremony was about a one-mile hike from where we parked the Jeep. It was a steep-sided area, so Ken (who had many decades of experience climbing the mountains in this area) volunteered to keep an eye on the weather for us while we hiked.

One thing about adventurous elopements is that no matter how well you plan, there are going to be some factors that are entirely out of your hands — the weather is one of those.

Within minutes of starting the hike up the mountain, a thunderstorm rolled in. It all happened so quickly, and even though we were scrambling down the mountain as fast as possible, we still got caught in a wild mix of rain, hail, and lightning. Ken guided us back toward the Jeep — it was wonderful to have another mountain-experienced person with us on this adventure — and we waited out the storm.

As quickly as it rolled in, the storm vanished. In its place came the sun and a huge, beautiful rainbow. Katie and Logan took that as the perfect signal to start their ceremony. They grabbed their vows, and in the midst of a glowing mountain, under an unpredictable (but welcomed) rainbow, they pledged their lives to each other.

Katie and Logan had been dreaming about this location for months and somehow it was even better than they’d planned. The basin looked unreal — it was so green and lush, it was full of wildflowers, and the glow behind the mountain was spectacular. We hopped back into the Jeep and Ken drove us back down the bumpy mountain roads in the dark (something he’d done many, many times in his experience as a Jeep driver). When we arrived back at their Airbnb, the walkway toward the apartment was lined with candles, and the whole place was filled with the most amazing smells— courtesy of Kent, that world-class chef we mentioned earlier.

If you want to take your elopement to the next level, consider hiring a private chef — you can expect ingredients you’ve never heard, cooking methods that will blow your mind, and a meal that’s so unreal you’ll have to pinch your new spouse to make sure it’s all actually happening. It’s like having a magic show happen right at your table that you get to eat.  It was the perfect way to end an epic experience that was truly unforgettable.

Maybe the day didn’t go exactly as planned, but it’s sort of telling, right? One of the reasons I love working with couples outdoors is because it’s a snapshot of a true, long-lasting relationship happening right in front of you. You go through this unpredictable, maybe even scary situation, and you’re still standing there in front of each other, pulling out your vows saying, “yeah, I want to marry you. Let’s do this for the rest of our lives.”

That will always be wholly beautiful to me. In all the ways that this incredible elopement went down, I don’t wish a single part of it was different.

Landscape of San Juan mountains.
Landscape of San Juan mountains.
Wedding dress hanging in Airbnb.
Flat lay of vow books, rings, and flowers.
Close up of bride and grooms shoes.
Bride sits with eyes closed while getting her hair and makeup done in Airbnb.
Close-up of bride getting her makeup done in Airbnb.
Groom putting on cufflinks and smiling.
Close-up of groom putting on cufflinks.
Groom putting on tie.
Bride puts on shoes in Airbnb.
Close-up of bride putting on earrings while looking down.
Close-up of bride putting ring on ring finger.
Bride taps groom on shoulder for first look, with mountains in background.
Bride and groom embrace.
Jeep on dirt road, with trees in the background.
Bride and groom hold hands while sitting in Jeep.
Landscape of Jan Juan Mountains.
Bride applies lipgloss while looking into hand mirror and sitting inside Jeep.
Landscape of San Juan Mountains.
Landscape of San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom hold hands and walk along San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom walk through field, with San Juan Mountains in the background.
Landscape of San Juan Mountains with blue alpine lake.
Groom hugs bride from behind and kisses her on cheek.
Landscape of San Juan Mountains with rainbow.
Landscape of San Juan Mountains with rainbow.
Bride and groom walk on trail, surrounded by wildflowers.
With the storm clear, Katie and Logan (the bride and room) take hands and walk up the trail toward the top of the mountain. Logan, carrying a backpack over his suit, takes Katie’s hand as they walk between a bloom of mountain wildflowers in these elopement pictures captured by Adventure Instead, an elopement wedding photographer.
Bride and groom read their vows, surrounded by a field of wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom read their vows, surrounded by a field of wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom read their vows, surrounded by a field of wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom read their vows, surrounded by a field of wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom place rings on each others fingers during ceremony.
Bride and groom kiss, surrounded by a field of wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom kiss, surrounded by a field of wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom embrace, surrounded by a field of wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.
Bride and groom hold hands and walk through a field of wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.
Close-up of bottom of bride's dirty dress and shoes.
Bride and groom kiss in front of Jeep while it rains.
Charcuterie board prepared by private chef.
Chef prepares meal for bride and groom.
Bride and groom toast their drinks.
Bride and groom cut their cake together.

Colorado Elopement Photographer & Guide: Adventure Instead
Location: Airbnb in Ouray, CO & 4×4 roads near Ouray & Silverton, Colorado, U.S.A.
Hair: Megan Keever – The Loft Telluride
Makeup: Erin Cain
Jeep Driver: Ken Garard
Private Custom Food Experience: Chef L Kent Cottle of Z Catering & Events

Thinking about having your own epic 4×4 wedding?

Hi! We’re Maddie Mae, Amber, & Tori. We are elopement photographers & guides based in Colorado and Seattle—and we would love to chat with you about your dream elopement. In addition to a creative and laid back approach to documenting your intimate wedding experience, we’ll also help you find the perfect spot to elope and connect you will all the vendors you need to create your dream day.


Get in touch with us and let us guide you.

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Maddie Mae

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Adventure Instead

Your Elopement Photographers & Planning Consultants. We are Maddie Mae, Amber, and Tori. We're your photographers, your elopement consultants, your cheerleaders, and your go-to adventure buddy on the day you say your vows.

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