Eloping In Colorado: Everything You Need To Get Started

Eloping in Colorado is absolutely as adventurous as it sounds. But how? Where? What are the possibilities?

Here’s some things you should know when planning your elopement in this beautifully immense and diverse place!

What is an elopement?

First things first; let’s debunk some of the history. Despite what the dictionary says, an elopement is less about the 14th century perspective in being scandalous or even taboo and has matured into something open-ended and celebrated. Today, an elopement is a day of marriage that solves many challenges for the modern couple including:

  • An alternative to the production of a traditional wedding
  • A cost saving option both mentally and financially
  • An authentic & creative way to celebrate your day of marriage
  • A chance to be more present with your partner 

Are elopements becoming more popular?

More and more couples are researching the idea of elopements as the potential solution to their day of marriage. There’s no denying the fact that more couples are choosing to elope rather than have a traditional wedding. recent google trends review highlighted the word “elopement” has nearly doubled in search in the United States since 2004.

(Wyoming seems to be an anomaly).

Are adventure elopements becoming just as popular?

If you associate adventure with mountains then heck yes! A recent trend report from Pinterest highlighted that “unique locations such as destination weddings in the mountains” have increased in search by +32% in 2019.

With eloping, I find that you have so much flexibility to celebrate your day of marriage. Using my background in outdoor and landscape photography, I not only focus on the adventure side of elopements, but also capture the memories along the day. 

Whether it’s a beautiful sunrise, or that type 2 fun where you earn that epic backdrop in the mountains, I help couples plan adventurous elopements in nature. Living in a beautiful state like Colorado presents so many opportunities to discover a new adventure. With so many activities to choose from all-year round, I never take this place for granted!

Fun reasons to elope in Colorado!

couple saying their vows at loveland pass

Picture perfect backdrops 

With so many places to say “I do”, eloping in Colorado presents a variety of natural features to explore and experience including:

  • Mountain Peaks
  • Alpine Lakes
  • Deserts
  • Canyons
  • Rivers
  • Dunes
  • Glaciers
  • Tundras
couple star gazing in the Colorado night sky

So many activities to choose from

What can you actually do with a state that boasts in having so many outdoor activities? With 15 mountain ranges and hidden gems in every corner of the state, here’s some adventurous activity ideas you can experience in Colorado on your elopement day:

  • Sunrise Hike
  • Paddle-Boarding
  • 2-Day Backpacking Trek
  • Snowshoeing
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride
  • Star Gazing
  • Helicopter Tour
  • S’mores & Campfires

You can self-solemnize in Colorado

Simply put, self-solemnization means that you and your partner are the only ones who need to be a part of your day of marriage. There’s no need to hire an officiant or celebrant to make things official!  All it takes is a quick trip to the county clerk, a few signatures and voilà! There’s typically no waiting period for the application approval

Your pup can sign your marriage license in Colorado

Although you don’t need a human witness for your day, your fur baby can be your witness! it’s totally as adorable as it sounds and there’s even dog-safe ink.

When is the best time of year to elope in Colorado?

Hidden gems that may require a hike to reach are locked away by snow until the later parts of June with a few exceptions. I like to think in terms of elevation and region-dependent mountain ranges across the state. Areas like Steamboat and Vail typically receive a lot of snow because of their locations and so it can be ideal for a winter elopement, but can be locked away by snow until late summer.

Despite what your calendar might say, Colorado will always be the wild card in regards to weather. The best time to elope in Colorado will depend on the couple and what they want to include as a potential activity on their wedding day. In general most couples elope in Colorado between the months of June and September. The later part of the summer is typically the most ideal in providing the largest variety of adventure activities. Think of something lush like a wildflower festival or an epic 4×4 Jeep tour over a mountain pass!

couple taking portrait at sunrise at loveland pass Colorado

Colorado elopements by the season

Spring elopements

Spring elopements

The snow melt has begun, the waterfalls are flowing, the clocks have sprung forward one hour and the momentum is building. Eloping during the spring time can be somewhat strategic as a lot of the state is experiencing a large melt and rather muddy period of time. If you plan to elope between March and May I would recommend lower elevation areas such as the front range (cities as far north as Fort Collins and as far south as Pueblo) or even the western part of the state during this season. If you’re trying to experience those harder to reach gems in the high alpine, I would consider waiting until the summer season.

Summer elopements

The busiest time of year in the Rockies and with good reason. The high alpine mountains have risen from their slumber. Everything from warm summer nights and camping-out to hot air balloons and wild flower festivals is happening between June and August. Overall it’s a magical time of year to experience the most of what Colorado has to offer. This is the period where you can truly experience something epic!

Summer elopements
Autumn Elopements

Autumn elopements

There’s one early morning that stands out to me during this time of year. You know it’s arrived when you wake up and can feel the crispness in the air, the changing of the colors, and the shortening of the days. The best months to experience the fall foliage in Colorado are between September and early October in the high country. The rest of the front range can experience this during the later weeks of October. Autumn is a special time of year to elope in Colorado as the cooler nights have arrived and endless groves of golden aspens are sought after during this unpredictable time. Sometimes fall lasts an entire season and other times it’s gone in the blink of an eye.

Winter elopements

If winter activities like snowmobiling, snowshoeing and hot springs sound like a blast, then you’ll definitely want to experience a winter elopement in Colorado. In general, the best months to experience this winter wonderland are between late December and early March. Because of the terrain during this time of year, there’s not as much foot traffic in the mountains presenting you more privacy and different backdrops from their summertime counterparts. This is the time of year for snow adventures, cozy fireplaces, and drinking hot cocoa while watching the snow fall.

couple snuggling at loveland pass during sunrise on their elopement

Reasons to elope during the week in Colorado

One common thing you can expect when visiting Colorado – the weekend warriors. It doesn’t matter the season, if it’s 3pm on a Friday you will be sure to see some traffic heading west on I-70 into the mountains. If you’re considering eloping in Colorado, I would recommend doing it during the week. Beyond traffic, other reasons to consider an elopement during the week include:

  • More secluded
  • Flexibility with
    • Rentals
    • Vendors
    • Reservations
    • Accommodations
  • Accessibility
  • Peace & Quiet
  • Less distractions
  • Less photobombers
  • Less random paparazzi
Best time of day to elope in Colorado: Sunrise vs. Sunset

Best time of day to elope in Colorado: Sunrise vs. Sunset

Despite the similarities associated with eloping during the week, eloping during sunrise and sunset each present something unique to consider. Let’s break it down.

Eloping at sunrise presents the opportunity for privacy in more popular locations and the potential for better weather as things can only get brighter and warmer. Normally for the best lighting possible, I recommend sunrise to couples if they want to elope in a more heavily trafficked area or if they select an eastern facing location! The magic you can witness from alpenglow is unbeatable and absolutely worth sacrificing a little sleep. There’s something about chasing sunrise that can charge the soul.

Eloping at sunset presents similarities to sunrise, but on the opposite side of the spectrum – and with a little more rest. Normally I recommend western facing locations if couples opt for sunset as their general time frame. This, in conjunction with more remote regions, provides you the most privacy. It also gives you the chance to slow down a little and embrace the magic of experiencing the glowing transition to sunset.

Where can I elope in Colorado? Colorado’s Public Lands: By the numbers

With 8.3 million acres of public land according to the Bureau of Land Management, there’s plenty of room for adventure. A large some of the public land in Colorado can be broken down into:

  • 58 peaks that exceed 14,000ft
  • 42 State Parks
  • 41 Wilderness Areas
  • 11 National Forests
  • 8 National Monuments
  • 4 National Parks
Crested Butte Colorado

Places to elope in Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Dinosaur National Monument

Crested Butte

Vail

Guanella Pass

Loveland Pass

Red Rocks

Lost Gulch Overlook

Sapphire Point

St. Mary’s Glacier

Lake Isabelle

Loch Lomond

Chief Mountain

Blue Lakes Waterfall

Blue Lakes

Long Lake

couple signing their marriage license

Colorado Marriage License & Paperwork

Although paperwork can sometimes feel daunting or even tricky, Colorado is pretty straightforward with its process. After you decide on a date for your elopement, there are a few things to keep in mind when beginning the paperwork process. 

  • Apply for your license
  • Schedule an appointment
  • Sign your license
  • File your signed license

Some County Clerk’s offer online application forms and appointments for your marriage license or you can always fill it out at the Clerk’s office. I like to recommend trying to set an appointment at the Clerk’s office of your choosing. Appointments aren’t required (in some cases), but we’re all about making this process smooth!  Once you’re done filling out the forms, most Clerk’s only take about 20 minutes to give you a license.

Once you have the license in-hand, sign it on your ceremony day! Depending on where you applied for the license, you have roughly 30-60 days to send it back signed.

Do you need a permit when eloping in Colorado?

You do not need a permit to elope in Colorado, but you may need a permit for your elopement location in Colorado.

Permits are dependent upon what Federal or State Agency’s jurisdiction that your location falls under. The process and price varies depending on what kind of land (National Park, National Forest, Wilderness Area, etc.) the ceremony will take place at, as well as the type of documentation (photography, videography etc.). The impact your ceremony could have on the land itself (size of party, props such as arches or ceremony seats for guests, etc.) also plays a role in whether or not a permit is required. To put things simply, permits can be needed or not needed based on a couple’s specific situation.

It’s always a good idea to do your own research on permitting in the areas you’ve been considering.  You can take steps such as calling the Ranger District offices to inquire about if permits are needed. You’ll need to explain your specific plans to get accurate input of the process and costs associated with permits. Don’t always believe what you find on social media.

Also, hiring a professional who has been doing this for a while (cough, cough) can really help take the permit hunting off of your plate. Then you can focus more on the planning that means the most to you! I know the questions to ask and can help navigate things like what Ranger District or online platforms to consult when doing the research. Having boots on the ground is more valuable than typically recognized in these planning situations.

couples portrait on their elopement day
family photo of couple eloping in Colorado

Will you include guests at your elopement?

Colorado is known for harboring the “Mile High City” as its capital.  Keeping that in mind, to get those epic views most couples are dreaming of involves going higher into the elevation.  If you plan to have family and friends joining, keep the elevation in mind with anyone visiting from out of town. Sometimes the elevation can creep up on us and it’s best to allow acclamation time. We want to save most of the gasps for the ceremony! 

Elopement day details

Another thing to consider is splitting up your time. Unlike traditional weddings that typically have a set agenda, elopements provide the freedom and flexibility of being able to custom create your wedding day. For instance, you can break things up and choose to have a private, adventure-filled ceremony (or snowball fight) at a higher elevation in the morning and celebrate with your closest loved-ones at a different time & place. 

couple having snowball fight on their elopement day at loveland pass
couple camping on their elopement day

Costs to consider

Everyone’s budget & circumstances are different. You can technically pay nothing for your day of marriage if you decide to have a commitment ceremony rather than involving the legal paperwork. Generally speaking marriage licenses are $30 in Colorado where as fees and permits for locations can range anywhere from $0 – $300+.

Not only does Colorado welcome all types of love, but your options are truly endless when deciding how to celebrate your elopement day in the rocky mountains! Not far from the city are winding roads and beautiful landscapes to explore, experience and venture through!

Photographer Ethan James Rivera

Are you looking for an Elopement Photographer?

I hope this guide provides some layer of clarification, peace of mind and even excitement during your research process! If you’re a couple looking to elope, I’d love to help you plan out your day!

You can reach me here, or directly at info@ethanjamesrivera.com

Happy Adventuring!

Colorado Elopement Resources & Inspiration

22 Comments

  1. Colorado look absolutely stunning! The perfect place for an elopement! And such good guide you have written, this will help many couples wanting to elope in Colorado!

  2. You’ve included so many informative tips! Colorado really seems to have it all, and I love that you can self-solemnize your elopement, too!

  3. After all these amazing photos and tips, who wouldn’t want to elope or get married in Colorado? Like it is such a perfect place, so many options to choose from. Everyone literally can have their best day!!|

  4. My playground….such a stunning piece of Earth to adventure anywhere in Colorado!!! Love my home and this is absolutely amazing info for all interested to elope here!

  5. This is a very helpful and thorough article. I love that Colorado has everything from mountains to canyons, deserts to glaciers. A little something for any couple!

  6. This is such an incredible resource for couples looking to elope in Colorado!! You’ve covered it all! And your photos are a dream! Beautiful work, Ethan!

  7. Fantastic article full with useful informations stuffed with great photos. Beautiful locaitons – I did not know there is a Loch Lomond in Colorado too. I was sure there is only one here in Scotland. 🙂

  8. I can’t believe I forgot some of these places. There’s so much in Colorado it’s pretty crazy. You knocked it out of the park. This is full of so much good information. I have never been to Loch Lomond in Colorado only the one in Scotland. I want to go check it out now.

  9. Holy wow, this is a great resource on eloping in Colorado. I love all the details and information you provided here, and the photos are stunning!

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