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.
Reasons To Elope At Lake Isabelle
Lake Isabelle offers breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains. After ascending the final mile of this 6.6 mile loop to the top, you’re greeted by a stunning glacial/alpine valley that’s framed by Navajo, Apache, and Shoshoni peaks.
Although Brainard Lake Recreation Area is a popular destination during the summer season, it is still possible to find tranquil moments and seclusion. Opting for a sunrise or sunset visit can reduce crowds, and provide the added benefit of excellent lighting for your moments captured. Personally I would recommend sunrise since the mountain range there faces east, resulting in a stunning alpine glow for your wedding.
Just 45 minutes away from Boulder Colorado, Brainard Lake Recreation 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 6.6 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 learn more about the recreation area here.
Tips For Eloping At Lake Isabelle
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.
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. Here’s some notes to consider:
- 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 6.6 mile trek.
- 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
Lake Isabelle Elopement Reservations & Permits
The cost for a 1-Day personal vehicle is $14 + $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 14-day rolling window that’s a first come first serve basis. You can read more on the seasons & bookings here.
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.
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. Refer to their page for additional information on the busiest season between July & August.
How To Leave No Trace At Lake Isabelle
It’s essential to follow Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the natural landscape for future memories! This will help ensure that the landscape remains unspoiled for your anniversary and future visits. Some examples of how to follow these principles include:
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
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!
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.