Hiking Elopement Guide

So a traditional wedding isn’t for you?

Here’s everything you need to know about planning a hiking elopement and trailblazing your wedding day!

What is a hiking elopement?

A hiking elopement is a wedding day where the bride and groom venture off together to a location of their choosing to celebrate their day of marriage. Some couples choose this option to say their vows in privacy and celebrate with loved ones after. Others may choose to hike after a ceremony to “reset” and absorb their first adventure together as newlyweds.

Pros & Cons to a hiking elopement

Pro: Selecting your location

Arguably the most exciting part of the entire planning process is choosing the location of your hiking elopement! Things to consider include: views, scenery, weather, seasons, accessibility, and seclusion.

Whether it’s a short hike with incredible 360° panoramic views, or a backpacking trip into the wee hours of the night, a hiking elopement is whatever degree of comfort you want it to be. Personally, I lean towards that type 2 fun, but also know plenty of locations for couples that want less of an impact, but just as incredible of the views!

Pro: Experience & Activities

When planning a non-traditional wedding there’s so much flexibility with your experience that the fun doesn’t have to stop at your destination or at the end of the hike. Consider these activities throughout the day of your hiking elopement:

  • Relaxing in a hammock
  • Sightseeing and a picnic
  • Post hike campfire at a cabin
  • First dance by firelight
  • Stargazing and a hot tub soak
  • The list goes on!

Pro: Symbolism & meaning

Maybe it’s a favorite location you shared together or a location you’ve dreamt of sharing with each other, there’s plenty of room for symbolism and meaning with planning a hiking elopement. I love the idea of creating an experience you work through together while satisfying that adventurous type 2 person within. What’s unique about a hiking elopement is the ability to visit that same location every anniversary or when adventure calls.

Con: Unpredictable weather

Planning around weather is a lot like passing the sticker aisle at REI, you never really know what you’re gonna get. Regionally speaking there’s sweet spots in regards to the best time of year to elope, but in general I try to stay open-minded to the possibilities of mother nature wanting to make an appearance. I love viewing it as details to the story, besides…you’re already hiking around and getting covered in dust, sweat and tears (from the beauty or difficulty), let’s have some fun with it!

Con: Logistically challenging

No reception, forgetting to download the trail maps, and does anyone even know how to use a printer still? These are all things that could happen if your hiking elopement is in the mountains and has limited reception. It’s always beneficial to be extra detail oriented and work with a professional that knows those details when planning your hiking elopement.

Con: Navigating a special use permit

With the booming of elopements around the country, there’s a lot of confusion around permits, how to apply, and what steps are needed. It often feels like a game of telephone where information changes based on the forest service you contact. Don’t always believe what you find on social media, and absolutely cross check your research.

It’s best to do our due diligence to ensure a location is preserved and accessible for years to come. There have been stories of locations being banned due various reasons including high impact and illegal use; it’s our jobs to be stewards to the land!

Being aware of this myself, I do my best to capture epic moments in a less impactful way to help keep nature wild and protect the natural beauty of this planet!

Why you ask?

Not only does this help preserve outdoor spaces and our access to them, but also by making sure that we use them sustainability and responsibly– so that you can return to whatever location you choose to have a vow renewal or anniversary session and still have it be as pristine as the day that you got married.

How do you plan a hiking elopement?

Here is a general checklist to help you get started with planning your hiking elopement. There will be situations where it makes sense to pick your location before choosing your vendors because of logistics or even worse booking your travel and accommodations only to be denied a special use permit at your ceremony location. Plan ahead, plan accordingly and the rest will fall into place!

  1. Start Daydreaming
  2. Find Your Elopement Photographer
  3. Select Your Date & Location
  4. Obtain Any Potential Permits For Locations
  5. Construct Your Vendor Team
  6. Book Your Travel And/Or Accommodations
  7. Plan Out All The Details Of Your Adventurous Day
  8. Celebrate Your Hiking Elopement!

What should you wear for a hiking elopement?

In the great outdoors, mother nature can always be unpredictable, if you’re hiking during your elopement it’s always a good idea to consider layers. Snow can last year-round in some spots. Ensuring your warmth and preparedness is hugely important and can make all the difference when it comes to your comfort level.

Knowing how to layer and which layers to choose matters. Regardless of the games nature may play, you’re always in control of what you pack and good gear makes all the difference!

For the hike

  • Athletic / leisurely attire
  • Hiking boots
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses

For the ceremony

  • Wedding attire
  • Accessories
  • Sandals and/or Hiking Boots
  • Extra layers such as a jacket or shawl

Post Ceremony

It’s always fun to leave your wedding attire on after the ceremony! There’s something about a wedding dress with incredible mountain scenery to create this fairytale vibe for your hiking elopement.

What should you pack for a hiking elopement?

When planning a hiking elopement, you should pack everything you would need for a simple wedding ceremony in conjunction with everything you need for a hike in nature. It’s definitely nice to have things to freshen up with after your hike, but part of the experience is accepting some of the dirt that comes with it. Here’s some recommendations on what to pack for your hiking elopement:

For the hike

  • Permit (if needed)
  • Marriage License
  • Backpacks
  • Headlamps
  • Water
  • Food/Snacks
  • Trekking Poles
  • Backpacking stove
  • Base Layer
  • Mid Layer
  • Outer Layer
  • Blankets
  • Skin protection
  • Camp bathroom
  • Bug Spray

For the ceremony

  • Personalized vows
  • Rings or another token
  • Surprises and gifts
  • Momento for those not present
  • Downloaded music for first dance

Post Ceremony

Some couples choose to celebrate with a champagne toast after their ceremony, while others may opt for a sweet treat. My favorite is when couples bring donuts to their elopement!

Things to consider for your hiking elopement

If you’re set on saying your vows somewhere epic that requires a hike, there’s unique qualities to keep in mind when planning that differs from a traditional wedding.

Planning Around Sunrise vs. Sunset

Sunrise hiking elopement

If you enjoy coffee and headlamps while chasing the sun then this might be an option for you. A sunrise hiking elopement satisfies that type 2 fun while providing more privacy as everyone else sleeps in. I normally recommend sunrise hikes for the more competitive type that wants a race for adventure or if they decide on a location that is eastern facing, providing a jaw dropping alpen glow just before the sun rises from its slumber. This also gives you the rest of the day to relax as much as you want or continue on to any other activities! Saying your vows during sunrise is a great way to start your day and the rest of your lives together!

Sunset hiking elopement

If you prefer sleeping in and soaking up the details of your day, then a sunset hiking elopement could be the best option for you! This gives the photographer and couple the chance to interact more throughout the day, sometimes providing an additional layer of comfort for the couple prior to photos being taken. Beyond photographer interaction, I recommend sunset to couples that want to really absorb their surroundings or if they decide on a location that is western facing, providing the dreamiest glow into the evening night. This can be a secluded time as lots of locals and tourists are aiming for dinner while you’re exploring. Cap it off with a bonfire and s’mores and that’s one hell of a way to elope.

Distance & elevation gain

I like to consider this part of the selection process more of a choose your own adventure. Regardless of where you lie on the comfort level of how far or high you’d like to go, I encourage couples to leave plenty of room for spontaneity and the chance to be present. As much as hiking to a location is about the anticipation and reward of accomplishment, there’s no need to overexert yourself, allow yourself to be grounded to experience every last detail of the day, not just the endorphins. Normally I like to average 30 minutes to an hour per mile of hiking with couples, also depending on any guests attending and their acclamation to the area.

Self solemnize or include an officiant

If you’re considering including an officiant to your hiking elopement, you’ll want to have your location selected first so that you can select an officiant locally, or so that you can inform your top officiant selections of the location’s distance and elevation. Sometimes couples will include a family member or friend as their officiant, but If you want to elope in Colorado an officiant is not needed and you can self solemnize after a quick trip to the county clerk for some paperwork. (Colorado is also accepting of all forms of love).

Selecting your photographer for your hiking elopement

Is there really a difference between an elopement photographer and a wedding photographer? Absolutely! Selecting a wedding photographer provides reassurance at scale, while tailoring an experience towards a production, whereas an elopement photographer has to be aware of the landscape, the impact we make on the land, the weather, the logistics and safety.

As an elopement photographer that has roots built on adventure photography, I take the utmost pride in planning an epic day for couples that want an adventurous hiking elopement at some of the most beautiful locations in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hiking Elopements

Do I wear my wedding attire throughout the whole day including the hike?

This depends on your comfort level! Some couples choose to wear their wedding attire through the entirety of their day while others may hike in athletic attire and change into their wedding attire to keep things fresh.

What kind of foot wear should I pack for?

Normally I like to recommend comfort and safety when selecting footwear. Although it may look great to wear heels and dress shoes, the risk of distractions from discomfort or injury is too great for me to want take that chance as a recommendation. Consider hiking boots with good traction and high ankle support to give you the most confidence while exploring the great outdoors!

Ethan James Rivera | Colorado Elopement Photographer

As an Elopement Photographer my goal is to have you look back on your day and feel what it was like to be there; to create a lasting emotion that resurfaces every-time you want to relive this chapter of your lives.

I would love to learn about your story and help co-create your wedding experience in the rockies. Check out my packages page & elopement guide to help you get started!


  1. Awesome guide for how to decide on and plan for a hiking elopement! I like that you noted elevation gain and taking the time to soak it in and not sign up for too much!

  2. Wow! This guide literally covers everything you’d need for a hiking elopement! Love that you included pros and cons about different aspects involved of doing a hiking elopement!

  3. As keen hikers this is definitely a comprehensive look at what it takes to build your celebrations around hiking. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I love the symbolism and meaning of a hiking elopement! I never thought of that before but it is so true hiking is an activity you work at together, and thats a beautiful symbol on your wedding day. Also, beautiful photos, as always.

  5. Wow such helpful info for couples planning a hiking elopement! I really loved your packing list! Bug spray is a huge must!! Great guide for those hiking ceremonies!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *