| July 27, 2022

Rocky Mountain National Park Weddings & Elopements

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Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding

Rocky Mountain National Park weddings and elopements are a truly special way to get married! We’re a little biased – two of Adventure Instead’s photographers (Maddie Mae & Amber) live in Colorado and we love our backyard national park fiercely. Over the years we’ve gotten to witness these mountains grow in popularity and the park becomes more strict about elopement ceremonies – because of this we want you to feel prepared and ready to plan your Rocky Mountain wedding the right way. It’s definitely still one of the most beautiful places on earth to say “I do,” and we’d love to guide you through the process to make it happen!

Below you’ll read a bit more about what makes this park so special, why we think a wedding in RMNP is one of the best ways to get married, plus all the details for how to make this happen – how to acquire a special event permit, where within the park you can perform a ceremony, and what rules you’ll need to follow. 

Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement

The Rockies – 3,000 Miles of Wild Ridgeline Spanning North America

The Rocky Mountains span thousands of miles through the continent from northern British Columbia to New Mexico. Many of The Rockies highest peaks are in Colorado, which is what makes the national park such a special place – you feel quite literally on top of the world when you’re standing on these ridgelines. The longest thru-hike in the United States, the Continental Divide Trail, follows the course of these mountains and is considered one of the most difficult long-form hikes in the world. It’s no wonder that millions of people are drawn to the magnificence of this place – over 4.5 million people visited RMNP in 2021, making it the 5th most visited national park.

The park itself is located just west of Denver, Colorado. It’s not just one of the most visited national parks in the US, it’s also one of the oldest. The borders of over 256 thousand acres of RMNP w established in 1915, and in 1976 UNESCO designated it a World Biosphere Reserve because of the incredibly special environment found here. The mountains are marked by crystal blue lakes, lush old-growth forests, and beautiful wildlife. While visiting you might see moose, elk, or even a bear! Much of the landscape is known as “alpine tundra,” which is particularly fragile but essential for the wildlife who live on these slopes.

On the eastern side, Estes Park is the gateway to The Rockies, and is a gorgeous place to stay if you’re looking to find a rustic mountain cabin to home-base in for your elopement adventure. It’s also where you can access most of what is designated “wilderness” or “backcountry” areas within the park – hundreds of miles of trails here can take you to some of the most stunning forests, waterfalls, and meadows. The geology of this region is part of what it makes it so stunningly beautiful – steep cliff sides and jagged ridgelines descend quickly into bowls and valleys.

Rocky Mountain National Park weddings

Why You Should Have a Rocky Mountain Wedding

You should get married in Rocky Mountain National Park if you love the truly wild spaces! If hiking into the mountains is your idea of a fun weekend, this place is a wonderland. Even if you don’t want to hike to access your elopement location, there are plenty of spots within the park where you can drive right up to a viewpoint (like 3M Curve) and suddenly find yourself overlooking a vista it’s hard to imagine took basically no effort to reach!

A wedding in The Rockies isn’t for the faint of heart – you’ll be looking at high elevations, altitude that is no joke, unpredictable weather, and more cold days than heat waves. But, if none of that deters you, the reward is some of the most stunning scenery on earth! Summers in the park are more likely to have pleasant weather and incredible views. If you’re imagining a winter wonderland celebration, you’re more likely to find a spot to yourself. Basically, it’s a gorgeous place to get married year-round, but that depends on what kind of environment appeals to you. I always warn couples that you can find snow at the higher elevations basically 10 months out of the year, and that’s no exaggeration. If you’re interested in a Rocky Mountain wedding, we’ll give you a full run-down on what kind of weather you can expect from your location on your date – I’m sure we can find your dream wedding location at one of the ceremony posts listed below!

Elope in Rocky Mountain National park

Steps to Getting Married at RMNP

First: Pick a Date

Choose a date at least a few months in advance to give yourself enough time to secure necessary permits for a wedding in RMNP. The park currently accepts applications a year in advance of your desired wedding month, which means if you’d like to have a ceremony in July of 2023, applications open up August 1st of 2022.

Permits are limited, and are issued on a first-come-first-serve basis, so plan accordingly. To check availability, email romo_fees_permits@nps.gov or call the Concession Management Office at (970) 586-1209.

Second: Pick a Ceremony Location

The second step is securing a location for your ceremony. There are 12 sites in the park approved for wedding ceremonies, which offer a wide variety of scenery and space for guests. To learn more about the different locations, visit RMNP’s website to determine which locations fit your needs. We also recommend choosing at least one back up option in case your preferred site is booked or unexpectedly closed. 

When planning for 2023, please note that Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater will not be available as a wedding location.  

Third: Secure Your Permits & Reservations

Once you have your preferred date and time chosen (and back up options), it’s time to apply for the Special Use Permit. Besides the aforementioned information regarding date and location preferences, you will also need to include some additional details about your desired ceremony. This includes a description of any activities you’d like to perform, a list of any equipment you plan on bringing into the park, and the maximum number of participants (this includes the wedding party, guests, vendors, and officiants) and vehicles. At this time, Rocky Mountain National Park has a limit of 30 participants; however, many sites accommodate fewer people due to space. Make sure to refer to the wedding locations page for updated information. 

Once you’ve completed the permit application, email it to romo_fees_permits@nps.gov. There is a $300 nonrefundable administrative fee, but do not send money with your application. You will receive an email with payment instructions once your application has been accepted.

Finally: Have Your Dream Wedding

Once you’ve received your permit, you are good to go! Now, all you have to do is get yourself to Colorado and have the wedding ceremony of your dreams. As Rocky Mountain National Park weddings and elopements become more popular, so has the need to protect the land. As a result, it’s not uncommon to have a park ranger present at your ceremony. Additionally, RMNP requests that you have your permit in hand on the day of your ceremony. 

Following proper protocol allows everyone safe and fair access to the park while protecting the land and wildlife for future generations. 

Get married in RMNP

Whether you’re looking to have a ‘just us’ elopement or include your favorite people in the world on your wedding day—there are numerous breathtaking locations in Rocky Mountain National Park to choose from. Yes, we are biased, but we figured we’d at least put that bias to good work by sharing our favorite ceremony locations near Estes Park!

3M Curve in RMNP is a little over three miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, which is the park headquarters. It’s a stunning ceremony site with a large rock outcrop and views of both high mountains and grassy meadows. There’s not a lot of parking available (only 3 vehicles can be there at a time) so plan to carpool!

This is your perfect site if…

  • you’re looking for an easily accessible spot
  • you want the quintessential “RMNP” experience with mountains and meadows

The Alluvial Fan Bridge ceremony site in Rocky Mountain National Park is about 7 miles from the main headquarters of the park, Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. It’s very busy during the summer months and is a popular part of the park but it’s easy to see why. The Roaring River snakes through the site with large boulders, a waterfall, and a wooden footbridge. A bonus of this ceremony site is it’s restrooms nearby.

This is your perfect site if…

  • you want to be near a river
  • you want a waterfall
  • you want a bridge

Bear Lake Nature Trail is a beautiful spot for an elopement ceremony. It sits right on Bear Lake, surrounded by aspen trees and with beautiful mountain views of the Colorado Rockies. It’s busy year-round and no weddings are permitted on weekends at any time or from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend until Columbus Day in early October.

This is your perfect site if…

  • you want to be near a lake
  • you want lots of aspen trees

The Copeland Lake wedding ceremony site boasts mountain views from the lake as well as a forested area nearby. There are also restrooms at this site! The entrance is the Wild Basin Entrance Station off Highway 7, north of Allenspark. Only ten vehicles are permitted from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend in May through Columbus Day in early October.

This is your perfect site if…

  • you want a large space with room for lots of guests at your elopement
  • you want mountain views and a forest

Harbison Meadow is on the west side of the park near the Kawuneeche Visitor’s Center and the Grand Lake Entrance Station. It’s a large meadow with a lot of wildlife and beautiful mountain views since it’s adjacent to Trail Ridge Road. There is a limit of ten vehicles from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend in May until Columbus Day in early October.

This is your perfect site if…

  • you want a higher chance of seeing wildlife
  • you want to drive over Trail Ridge Road after your elopement

Hidden Valley is part of a picnic area. While your ceremony can’t occupy picnic sites, you can take advantage of beautiful forests of aspens and pines as well as wildflowers in the summer. Hidden Valley is wheelchair accessible and has restrooms, making it an easy choice if you’re having guests at your elopement. Be sure to call to check for availability at this one!

This is your perfect site if…

  • you want forests nearby of aspen and pine trees
  • you want a wheelchair-accessible elopement ceremony location
  • you want easy access to restrooms

Lily Lake Dock is off of Hwy 7 about 6 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor’s Center, the main headquarters of Rocky Mountain National Park. Lily Lake Dock sits on the edge of a lake as the name suggests with 360° mountain views. There are also restrooms and a wheelchair-accessible trail nearby. Since the space gets crowded, there is a vehicle limit of 10 from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.

This is your perfect site if…

  • you want 360° mountain views
  • you want to be close to water
  • you want easy access to restrooms
  • you want a wheelchair-accessible elopement location

Permits: How, Why, & Where

If it looks like a wedding, sounds like a wedding, or in any way could be perceived to be a wedding – you need a permit. In fact, you need to get a wedding permit to have any sort of celebratory event within RMNP – engagements, anniversaries, commitment ceremonies, wedding portraits, or elopements. 

As of July 1, 2022, Rocky Mountain National Park is issuing a total of 600 permits for the following year, on a first come first served basis, to take place within the park in 2021. Only 6 weddings can occur on any single day within the park. To apply, you must email the completed application to romo_fees_permits@nps.gov. Mailed and faxed applications are no longer accepted. You can apply up to a year in advance, or no later than 7 days prior to the event.

There’s a full guide on the National Parks Service website outlining the process of applying for a RMNP wedding permit. Be warned – you don’t want to wait until the last minute – we’ve witnessed the number of allowed permits be reduced each year, and the park is only growing in popularity. We highly recommend applying for your RMNP wedding permit as soon as you know you want to get married in the park. 

Unlike many other national parks, which request that you send your application fee at the time you apply, RMNP specifically requests you not send in your $300 application fee until they have decided to approve your application. You’ll receive a followup email to sign and return. If at any point in the planning process you change some details, the park asks to be notified.

You must have your permit in your possession at your ceremony.

RMNP weddings and elopements

What does it cost to have a RMNP wedding?

  • Wedding Permit (includes photography) – $300
  • Entrance Fee – $35 per car (or $80 America The Beautiful pass)
  • Lodging – Varied $$$ 

    Total: $335+

A Few RMNP Wedding Restrictions & Questions Answered:

  • You can have your dog (on leash) at some locations where weddings are allowed in the park. Dogs are allowed within 100 feet of the roads, and at the Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater. Dogs are not allowed at Sprague Lake, Lily Lake, Alluvial Fan, Bear Lake, or Hidden Valley.
  • Amplified music is not permitted within the park. Live music under 60 decibels is allowed.
  • The Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater is the only place within the park where you can have an arch.
  • Lily Lake Southside Picnic area is the only place within the park where you can have a designated picnic food reception following a wedding, but that required a separate special use permit.
  • Drones are prohibited from flying anywhere within Rocky Mountain National Park, even if the user/photographer is FFA licensed.
  • Flower petals, birdseed, rice, and other materials natural or unnatural are prohibited from being “thrown or scattered.”
  • You can go other places than your designated ceremony location within the park for photos, but you must note those areas on your initial application.
  • In most places within the park setting up tables, chairs, or other structures is not permitted.

RMNP wedding

Want to Learn More About Getting Married in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Head over to Rocky Mountain National Park’s website for current restrictions, site conditions, and permit info. We have so much love for our backyard national park and are always eager to share more information and answer any questions about making your wedding day ideas a reality.

Ready to plan your Rocky Mountain National Park wedding or elopement?

We can’t wait to help you plan your DREAM celebration!

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Maddie Mae

Elopement Photographer

& Planning Consultant

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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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