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How to Plan a Maroon Bells Wedding
Maroon Bells is regularly touted at the “most photographed place in Colorado,” and we definitely understand why. The stunning snow-capped mountains, crystal clear alpine lakes, and seasonally shifting colorful groves of aspen make this one of the most beautiful places in Colorado to get married. Whether you want to have a small ceremony at The Amphitheater, or a just-us elopement on a hike into the wilderness, we have all the answers to help you plan your perfect wedding!
Below, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about when to get married at Maroon Bells, how to obtain any permits or reservations, what each season is like, how accessible certain places are at different times of year, and our favorite wedding and elopement venues. If you have any other questions, please reach out! We’d love to help you plan your dream wedding in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Maroon Bells—Two of the Most Picturesque Peaks in Colorado
The Maroon Bells are made up of two peaks in the Elk Mountains near Aspen, Colorado—Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak. The scenic area is a part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, in the White River National Forest. It’s important to know which designation you are in when planning a photography session, because there are slightly different expectations between “wilderness” areas and other public lands.
The geology of the area is really interesting, and you might notice that the Maroon Bells are aptly named—the mountains themselves look red in the rising or setting sun. You might also notice that they are kind of “crumbly,” because they are formed from a soft rock called mudstone.
Because of the fragility of the area, it’s important that visitors remain on trail and take all necessary precautions to avoid getting hurt or damaging the landscape. Hiking, climbing, and the use of recreational vehicles is well-regulated in this area. A significant increase in foot traffic recently has changed the way we visit—a shuttle system has been implemented, as well as a permitting process for overnight camping in popular areas. While all of these methods are essential for keeping the scenic area pristine, we do everything we can to abide by the regulations so there’s no need to limit access. Together, we can keep this place clean so that when you revisit for your anniversary, it’s as beautiful as you remember!
Why You Should Have a Maroon Bells Wedding
You should get married at Maroon Bells if you love the mountains! There’s no place more easily accessible and wildly beautiful for couples who want to say “I do” standing before the snow-capped peaks of a couple 14ers. The blue alpine lakes create awesome reflections when the air is still, and a sunrise overlooking this scene is probably one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever witnessed.
It’s also important to note that Maroon Bells is dog-friendly! You can even take your four-legged friend on the shuttle with you if you visit during the peak season. If you want to invite your dogs to your wedding or elopement, this place should definitely be on your short list.
Maroon Bells is a place for outdoor lovers of all kinds—you could hike for days on one of the 20+ mile trails that traverse these peaks, or you could take a casual stroll along Maroon Lake only a few hundred feet from the parking lot. There are plenty of activities for those who want something a little strenuous, but doable over the course of a day or afternoon. Whatever kind of adventure you’re looking for—if you love the mountains, this place is ideal for you!
Getting Married at Maroon Bells
First: Pick a Date –
Choose a date at least a few months out (at the minimum) to give yourself enough time to secure any necessary permits for a wedding at Maroon Bells.
Second: Pick a ceremony location –
You’ll need to list your ceremony spot & date on your permit application.
Third: Secure your permits & reservations –
Depending on the location and scope of your event, you’ll likely need a permit or reservation to get married at Maroon Bells. If you want to have your ceremony at The Amphitheater, you can reserve your space HERE.
Finally: Have your dream wedding!
Now, all you have to do is get yourself to Aspen, Colorado!
When is the best time of year to have a Maroon Bells wedding?
The best time of year to elope or host a wedding at Maroon Bells depends a lot on the kind of recreation you want to do, and the level of accessibility you (or your guests) require. If we had to choose, summer and autumn would be our favorite times of year here!
Summer in Maroon Bells is extremely accessible—you can drive up on certain days/times or take the shuttle. The Amphitheater is available for reservations on most weekdays and you have many nearby hikes to choose from for every level of activity. Accessibility also means less privacy, so expect to run into quite a few visitors during your time here, unless you get really lucky or wake up for sunrise. Also, be aware that The Rockies have a monsoon-season, which is usually late July to early September. Monsoons are fast-moving afternoon thunderstorms, which you don’t want to get stuck in on the mountains.
Autumn in Maroon Bells is heaven on earth—the stunningly colorful groves of aspen give the town it’s name. You’ll find the weather beginning to cool, but if you choose a weekday you’ll also find yourself avoiding the crowds that flocked to these mountains in the summer. The crisp autumn weather that comes to The Rockies in early October makes this one of the most pleasant times of year to get married on a hike.
Don’t expect to have a “winter wonderland” wedding in the romantic sense—expect a strenuous trek up the 12.4 miles of closed road to access the viewpoints, and seriously cold days. On the bright side, the sunrise and sunset are closer together, meaning the harsh light of a summer midday doesn’t really happen at all in the winter. However, you’re likely to catch a few days with no sun at all. If you’re looking for snow in your wedding photos, choosing a date in the late spring or early summer will still provide that in Colorado.
Expect to find a decent amount of snow clinging to the mountains and the road. In fact, the road to Maroon Bells is still closed throughout most of the spring because the snowpack hangs on until late June. If you’re looking for the more lowland idea of “spring”—meaning wildflowers, cool soft breezes, and wildlife—choose a date in the summer. Higher elevations tend to not follow the same seasonal patterns as less mountainous regions.
Accessibility at Maroon Bells
Shuttles are used from June through October, and they make accessing the Maroon Bells scenic areas much easier. Maroon Creek Road is how you access the Maroon Bells from May through November each year, but it has restricted access from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Unless you plan on arriving early or late, you’ll need to take a shuttle. Last year (2020), the shuttles ran strictly on a reservation-only system. We’re keeping an eye out for the 2021 plan, but assume it will be similar and you can make reservations HERE.
Thankfully, the shuttles are accessible and even dog friendly. If you come during shuttle hours, parking at Aspen Highlands garage is available for day-use, but there is a fee.
It is possible to book one-way shuttles for plans to get out and hike into the wilderness. Be aware that the suggested parking structure for using the Maroon Bells shuttle is day-use, so you’ll want to ensure you leave your car somewhere that allows overnight parking if you plan to camp.
There are parking fees at the Aspen Highlands garage where you’ll then catch the shuttle—parking fees gradually increase depending on the hours used, but the all-day fee is $30. You’ll be charged $10 for the first 3 hours, $15 up to 8 hours, and $30 for 8+ hours.
If you choose to reserve the Maroon Bells amphitheater for your wedding, you are allotted 5 parking passes for the event. You can pick up your parking passes from the Maroon Bells Welcome Station 5 days early, or even the day before. Day-use parking with valid passes is only 200 yards from the ceremony site, and there is also wheelchair-accessible parking about 50 yards away.
Vault toilets are available for use, but have been recently closed often due to COVID-19, so it would be worth calling ahead to double check they are open when you plan to go. There is no potable water or outlets, so plan to bring enough to drink and an alternative power source if you need one. There are benches and picnic tables available throughout the day-use area.
Open / Close Dates
Mid-November—Early June: Maroon Creek Road is closed. You can only access the trails via a long hike, snowshoeing, skiing, or snowmobile.
Early June—Mid-November: Maroon Creek Road is accessible, but restricted to shuttles only from mid-June to late October.
Snowmobiling is one of the most fun ways to access Maroon Bells in the winter! There are numerous places around Aspen, Colorado that offer snowmobiling tours, or you can rent one if you are proficient using one.
Do you need a permit to elope at Maroon Bells?
Unlike many other popular Colorado elopement locations, the permitting process at Maroon Bells is actually really simple! If you want to get married at The Amphitheater, then you simply need to reserve the space if it is available (like you would a campsite).
If The Amphitheater is unavailable, or if you want to elope somewhere more private, then there are a few places you can hike out to that are ideal for small ceremonies. However, if you’re hoping to have a larger wedding (around 10+ guests), the more remote locations might not be ideal. When hiking out into the Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness, you’ll need to register your party at the trail log. The wilderness access permits are currently free, but signing the log ensures that you basically notify the parks system of where you are in case anything goes wrong. Parties are also limited to 10 people total—this reduces the environmental impact.
If you plan to camp overnight, there are limited permits available.
If you have any questions about the reservation process, I recommend calling the Aspen Ranger Station at 970-963-2266.
What does it cost to have a Maroon Bells Wedding?
It could cost as much or as little as you want to get married at Maroon Bells. If you’d like to see a more detailed breakdown of the cost of elopements, we did that math and determined the average elopement costs a couple between $5,000-$15,000.
At Maroon Bells, your potential costs could be:
- Amphitheater reservation ($200)
- Parking ($10-$30)
- Entrance Fee ($10 per car)
- Shuttle ($16 per reservation)
- Plus, a photographer, officiant, and any other vendors you want to include.
Maroon Bells Wedding Venues
The Amphitheater is the only official wedding location in Maroon Bells. It consists of a small platform with benches located down a short, paved walkway from where the shuttle bus drops you off, or where you can park in the lot. You’ll want to book this location far in advance of your date, as it books out very quickly. The reservation fee is $200 and you can look for openings HERE.
Reservations for each day open up at the link above exactly one year in advance at 8 a.m. Mountain Time. Because of how quickly these reservations are claimed, we recommend booking your reservation at exactly the time it becomes available—one year in advance. If you have some flexibility with your date, you’re more likely to get a reservation.
We highly recommend planning for a weekend wedding if you’re going to be choosing a summer date, or planning for the off-season. Below, we’ve outlined the availability restrictions for this location, as well as the accessibility standards and headcount requirements.
Availability: Reservations are not accepted for Fridays and Saturdays in June, July and August; Reservations are not accepted for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in September and October. All other days The Amphitheater is available.
Max. Number of People: 50
Accessibility: The amphitheater is rated as wheelchair and stroller accessible.
The Maroon Bells amphitheater does not allow on-site receptions, but you are welcome to host a reception at the East Maroon Portal Picnic Site, only 4 miles down the road. This picnic area can accommodate 75 guests, but make a LNT plan for your food while the ceremony is taking place. Maroon Bells has a bear-poof locker where you can store items that might entice the wildlife.
Maroon Bells Elopement Locations
Maroon Lake—This is the iconic lake you see as you reach the Maroon Lake Trailhead. It is only a short 450-feet of paved walkway down to the best view of the lake itself. This is also a popular winter recularation spot and here is the winter trail, a 13.2-mile hike/snowshoe/ski if you do the whole thing.
Maroon Peak Trail—This 10-mile hike takes you to one of the best viewpoints in Colorado, but it’s not an easy trek. You gain nearly 5000 feet of elevation over the course of this out-and-back hike. We’d only recommend this one for someone with elevation experience, and be prepared to either hike up partially in the dark or come down using headlamps.
Crater Lake Trail—This 3.8 mile trail takes you out to the shores of a lake where you can get married before the gorgeous Maroon Bells peaks! The trail is only accessible for hiking from June-October, though it is possible to make it in snowshoes during the colder months of the year. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but must be kept on leash.
Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail—This is a super easy stroll for those who want to explore the beauty of the Maroon Bells without hiking deep out into the wilderness. Maybe this would be the perfect hike for some couples portraits after a family ceremony at The Amphitheater.
West Maroon Trail —We only recommend this trail for couples who want to do a two-day (or more) elopement. The 20-mile trail has significant elevation gain, and isn’t for the faint of heart.
West Maroon Bells Pass—If you want to see some of the most awe-inspiring spots from the trail listed above, while avoiding the intense length of the trail, consider this spot! The 7.8-mile trail still isn’t a walk in the park, but can be done in a day for those who want to elope at this stunning location. This trail is for those starting and finishing their hike in Crested Butte.
Ready to plan your Maroon Bells wedding or elopement?
We can’t wait to explore this incredible corner of the world with you!