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.

Key Takeaways

  • Eloping at Lake Isabelle offers couples the opportunity to experience stunning views of the Rockies in a tucked away area of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. From moss covered forests and alpine lakes to glacial valleys and mountain passes, there’s a sense of awe every corner you look.
  • Accessing Lake Isabelle requires a permit through the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. The permit system is straightforward and helps regulate the area due to its popularity. With available parking, and restrooms, Lake Isabelle is the perfect blend of basic amenities and adventure for couple’s seeking a unique experience to celebrate their wedding day.

Reasons To Elope At Lake Isabelle

Incredible Views

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.

Activities At Brainard Lake Recreation Area

  • Hiking
  • Picnicking
  • Fishing
  • Stargazing
  • Camping
  • Backpacking
  • Kayaking
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Snow Shoeing
  • Cross Country Skiing

If you’re interested in a hiking elopement, check out this helpful guide I wrote.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Long Lake Elopement Colorado

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:

  • Plan for unpredictable weather by bringing layers, and umbrellas etc.
  • Give wildlife space and avoid approaching them too closely.
  • Avoid using items that may cause a fire, such as sparklers or smoke bombs.
  • Protect the delicate landscape by staying on designated trails.
  • Leave any natural items found on the trail; avoid taking them as souvenirs.
  • Avoid using natural items like rice or flower pedals not natural to the area.
  • Be mindful of other visitors and refrain from loud music and noise.
  • If you would like to camp, Pawnee campground can be reserved on

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.

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. 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!

  4. Having family in Colorado, they are always raving about this lake, I can see why now! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and and guide to making this gorgeous location a perfect elopement spot!

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