Lake Isabelle Elopement Guide

Lake Isabelle has it all – lush forest, glacial valleys, alpine lakes, beautiful waterfalls, winding rivers, and if you’re lucky you might even run into a moose! Here’s everything you need to know about planning an elopement at Lake Isabelle.

Why Elope At Lake Isabelle?

  • So many natural features
  • Tons of outdoor activities
  • Low impact with a big reward
  • Accessible from Boulder Colorado
  • Closest Wilderness to the Denver metro area

Located In Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Just 45 minutes away from Boulder Colorado, Brainard Lake Recreation Area is a gem of an area nestled within a glacier carved valley. Because of its accessibility to Boulder and the Greater Denver Metro area, this is a year round popular area for adventure seekers of all ages and experience levels.

Lake Isabelle is a 5.5 mile out & back trail that is heavily trafficked. The lake itself is located within the Indian Peaks Wilderness and a part of the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. You can read more on this iconic trail via AllTrails here.

Activities At Brainard Lake Recreation

Beyond Lake Isabelle, there’s so much more to experience in Brainard Lake Recreation throughout your elopement!

  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Sightseeing
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Explore the other 4 lakes:
    • Brainard Lake
    • Mitchell Lake
    • Blue Lake
    • Long Lake

For the type-2 adventure seekers you can:

  • Backpack in the wilderness
  • Summit a mountain pass
  • Kayak or Paddle Board
  • Cross Country Ski
  • Snow Shoe

Tips For Eloping At Lake Isabelle

Plan for Summer months

The busiest time of year at Lake Isabelle is the summer months and with good reason. Because it’s located at a higher elevation, snow usually has the area locked away until late June – early July. My recommendation is to plan for something between July and August:

  1. Because there’s a stronger chance of everything being melted and ready to explore!
  2. The upper parking lot isn’t open until July 1st. You’ll have to park in one of the lower lots near Pawnee Campground which adds around 3 miles to the 5.5 mile trek.
  3. Lake Isabelle is partially drained by mid August for irrigation purposes by a privately owned company. This isn’t to say the area doesn’t look just as beautiful, but if you want the pristine scenery of this area, I recommend eloping before mid August. You can read more about it here

Pick a weekday

Because of the year-round popularity and accessibility to this area, I recommend eloping at Lake Isabelle on a weekday between Monday – Thursday. The weekend warriors are a real thing in the Denver metro area and this is one of the simplest and most effective ways to add more privacy to your day.

Elope at sunrise

The best time of day to elope at Lake Isabelle is hands down sunrise. The primary reason is because there will be less traffic, the secondary reason is because the mountain range that surrounds Lake Isabelle is eastern facing. 

If you’re into type-2 fun and chasing the sunrise with headlamps and coffee, this is one of the best rewards to share with your partner. There’s something magical about experiencing that alpenglow on your elopement day that will carry through into the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Lake Isabelle Elopement Permits & Reservations

Whether or not you need a permit to elope at Lake Isabelle is dependent on your specific situation. It’s best to do your part and contact the Boulder Ranger District at (303) 541-2500. As of Spring 2021, officials of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests have implemented a timed-entry due to the popularity of the area. I would make a reservation for the Long Lake parking lot as it’s the closest parking area available.

As a note: the upper trailhead parking lots (Mitchell Lake, Long Lake and Niwot Picnic area) aren’t scheduled to open until later in the year around July, 1st.

Indian Peaks Wilderness Rules & Regulations

One of the reasons why Lake Isabelle is such an incredibly unique location is because it’s found within the Indian Peaks Wilderness. For those unaware, a wilderness area is considered one of the last frontiers for adventure seekers.

“These are special places where nature still calls the shots.  Places where people like you, with an appetite for adventure, can find a sense of true self-reliance and experience solitude.” – Forest Service

Indian Peaks Wilderness has its own set of rules to follow when you’re planning a trip. As of 11/2021 the information follows for the busiest season (July – August):

  • Pets are allowed and must be on a leash
  • Maximum group size limit is 12
  • For additional information refer to their page

Brainard Lake Recreation Costs & Booking Windows

The cost for a 1-Day personal vehicle is $12 + $2 Reservation Fee. If you have a National Parks Pass the initial fee is waived and you only need to pay the $2 reservation fee.

Normally around the late spring time you can expect timed tickets to be available on a 15-day rolling window that’s a first come first serve basis. You can read more on the seasons & bookings here.

How To Leave No Trace At Lake Isabelle

In an effort to preserve this delicate landscape it’s best to follow Leave No Trace Principles so that you can visit this place again on your anniversary and still experience it as pristine as the day of your elopement! Some examples of the principles at work include:

  • Prepare for weather and consider planning a weekday elopement for more privacy
  • Stay on trail and if you’re considering camping, follow the backcountry camp zoning here or camp at Pawnee campground and make reservations on
  • You can bring your pup as long as they stay on a leash, be sure to bring dog waste bags to dispose of any bathroom breaks properly
  • Do not use rice, flower petals or anything not originally there as a celebratory tossing item. This includes smoke bombs and sparklers. I can promise you the views will beat any of that 🙂
  • Although it may be tempting to bring something tangible back as memorabilia, remember to leave anything you may find and embrace that moment! 
  • Minimize campfires to only the designated areas
  • You may run into a moose, be sure to give them enough space. They don’t wanna smell you just as bad as you don’t want them charging at you.
  • Be considerate of other visitors. Yes it is your wedding, but let’s not disrupt their experience with music, noise makers or anything disrupting the natural landscape!

Where To Celebrate After Your Lake Isabelle Elopement

Camp at Pawnee Campground

Rather than driving home after your elopement day, consider camping at Pawnee campground for the night. You could have a bon fire and enjoy each others company under a star filled night. I’m totally picturing s’mores and a first dance under the night sky.

Dinner in Boulder

Some of my favorite restaurants to recommend after your elopement within the Boulder area include

Dinner in Denver

If you’re looking to head back to the Denver area throughout your elopement, I would consider these places to celebrate

  • Linger Eatuaries for the street food tapas in an old mortuary
  • El Five for the elegant dinner and epic skyline views
  • The Bindery for a brunch date accompanied by an urban marketplace
  • Beatrice & Woodsley for the cute romantic dinner (temporarily closed due to covid-19 mandates)

Need Help Planning Your Hiking Elopement?

You might have read through this and questioned where to even begin on planning for a hike on top of your wedding. Check out this helpful post I wrote on everything you need to know when planning your hiking elopement!

Looking for a Colorado Elopement Photographer?

Everyone has a story to share, your elopement photos should reflect that story – not just with the big moments, but the details that often get overlooked. My goal as your photographer is to have you look back on your day and feel what it was like to be there; To create a lasting emotion that always resurfaces every-time you want to relive this moment in time.

Thank you for stopping by my corner of the internet! I would love to hear from you and learn about your story. Be sure to check out my elopement guide to help you get started!


  1. Whenever I make it out to Colorado, Lake Isabelle is definitely going to be on my list! Such a beautiful place, and you’ve provided wonderful information for elopement couples! Thank you!

  2. Oh, I LOVE this! Another spot on my bucket list. Beautiful photos and location. Wonderful info as well. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of couples refer back to this fantastic resource!

  3. This location looks incredible! I love that you included all of the things a couple would need to know to leave no trace as well! Incredible!

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