Your Go-To Guide to Planning Your Dream Mountain Elopement in Colorado
Are you envisioning a dreamy elopement in the clouds?
Surrounded by alpine meadows popping with vibrant wildflowers, your mountain elopement in Colorado can look like a fairy tale scene. But without proper planning, a dreamy rocky-mountain-high elopement can quickly turn sour. From planning around the weather to packing the right shoes, a perfect mountain elopement in Colorado takes a little extra prep.
Lucky for you, you’ve got a local to show you around! As a Colorado local, I have tons of experience taking couples into the San Juan mountains for their elopement days. And today, I’m sharing the top tips I’ve learned to make your mountain elopement a breeze!
Planning out the day of your mountain elopement
Elopement Day Activities
One of the best things about elopements is making them all your own! There’s no standard formula to follow like there is for a traditional wedding. But it also means there’s a huge blank canvas to fill! Here are some tips for what to include in your mountain elopement day-of plan:
Hiking: One of the most popular elopement activities is simply taking a hike in the beautiful mountains! Whether you’re in the San Juans down south like me, the Front Range near Denver, or the flattops up north near Steamboat, there are so many stunning hikes to enjoy. If you’re planning on eloping in Ouray, I have many recommendations and secret spots to share to make your elopement day hike one you’ll never forget.
Off-roading: Equipped with my trusty Jeep, we can head into the mountains on wheels rather than by foot! We can cover a ton of ground this way and can even use this as a method for getting to some far-off hikes and adventures you’d never usually get to experience. Off-roading is also a great option to get to your elopement venue without breaking a sweat! So, if you have a viewpoint where you’re dreaming of saying “I do,” taking a jeep to get there is a great option.
More traditional elements to make the elopement feel like a wedding: The outdoor activities are fun, but you are here to get married, after all! So I recommend incorporating a few of your favorite traditional elements into the day to make it feel like the real deal. Things such as reading vows, cutting a cake, having a first dance, and popping champagne are all fun mountain elopement activities.
Mountainside picnic: You can never go wrong with a simple mountainside picnic! Throw a blanket, some folding chairs, and a table in the back of my Jeep, and you’ll be good to go. And why not enjoy your wedding cake up here while you’re at it? I recommend freezing your cake, so it doesn’t get smashed on the Jeep ride up—it will have melted by the time you’re cutting into it, and it will be firm and delicious for that unforgettable first bite as a married couple!
Best Time to Elope in Colorado
Your activities will undoubtedly depend on the time of year you come. A winter trip is ideal for snowshoeing and cross country skiing, while a fall trip comes with tons of leaf-peeping and long drives through the mountains to chase those alpine fall colors.
I recommend planning the season you elope around the activities you want to do and the type of photos you wish to have.
Good times include:
Summer (late June to early September): Best for high-mountain adventures, wildflowers, alpine lake visits, and all the most epic views and activities Colorado offers.
Fall (late September to late October): This short window is your alpine autumn. Leaves change quickly and dramatically up high. For the best fall elopement experience, be flexible with your plans—you may not know precisely when leaves will pop until they do, so we could be racing here to catch them before they’re gone!
Winter (late December to early March): The snow will be blanketing the ground, and your elopement day will look like a winter wonderland! I adore winter elopements and have lots of tips on making them happen without getting too chilly.
Times to choose with caution:
Spring (mid-March to mid-June): This is one of two “shoulder” seasons when the snow is still on the ground up high but isn’t a full-on winter wonderland. It also gets very muddy in the spring, and most trails will be closed.
Fourth of July weekend: Believe it or not, this is the busiest time to elope in Colorado! So, let’s plan your elopement day sometime later in July.
End of Fall (November to mid-December): As another “shoulder” season, this is when the leaves have fallen off the trees, and the snow begins falling. Sometimes we’ll have a beautiful winter wonderland this time of year, but it’s too unreliable to plan your elopement around.
Taylor and Jon’s elopement was in Colorado in the summer, which meant green trees, non-snowy mountains, and dry trails to hike in on.
Packing for your big adventure
If you’re not from the mountains, packing can feel overwhelming. There are many things you’ll want to grab that you’re probably not used to bringing on an ordinary walk or day-hike. Here’s my list of go-to essentials:
Good shoes for hiking: If you want to wear heels for your ceremony, go for it, but you’re not going to want to be wearing heels on the way up! Noooo no no! Instead, bring comfortable hiking boots or trail runners for the best hiking experience (and make sure this isn’t the first time you’re wearing them—you need to break them in). Then, you can change once we hit the top!
Lots of layers: It may be warm at the mountain base, but it’ll get chillier as we climb. Be sure to bring more clothing than you think you need, just in case. And Colorado weather can be tricky with snow on the ground until June and falling again in October! That means it could still be crisp on the top of the mountain, even in August. Bring flannels, down jackets, sweaters, beanies…anything that keeps you warm while looking cute and cozy for photos.
Sunscreen, hat, chapstick, and sunglasses: We’re closer to the sun at high altitudes, which means the rays are stronger, and you could get quite burnt! Don’t risk a nasty sunburn, especially before your elopement day photos! I recommend coming prepared for the high-altitude sun with strong sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, and maybe even a long sleeve shirt or sun shirt to prevent burning. It’s also very dry here, so pack your trusty chapstick, too!
Wedding necessities: Clothing, vow books, rings, cake, champagne…anything you want in your elopement photos needs to go into your hiking bag!
When in doubt, follow the Original “Ten Essentials”
This list was established in the 1930s by a Seattle-based group of alpinists called The Mountaineers. Today, the list is still helpful when packing your bag! It includes:
First aid kit
Firestarter, such as matches
Small shelter or tent
When we’re heading into the wilderness, I’ll bring my 10 essentials in the Jeep, so you don’t have to worry about every little thing! But I do recommend bringing your own sunscreen, layers, food, water, and clothing.
Or…Follow My Mountain Elopement Ten Essentials!
After years of working as an adventure elopement photographer, I’ve created my own version of the list geared specifically to couples saying “I do!” Here are my modified “10 essentials” of what you need to bring up the mountain for your ceremony:
Good shoes for hiking
Cake, champagne, and any food you’d like
Lipstick/lip gloss and any makeup or hair retouching items you need
Raingear such as an umbrella, poncho, and rain jacket (for those summer showers)
Tips and Tricks
Don’t get discouraged if you see rain in the forecast in the summer: Brief showers are widespread in the mountains and often pass in only ten minutes. (But do bring your rain gear in case we get caught in one!) The dramatic clouds that roll in just before the storm really make your photos pop.
Be prepared for a small-town feel in Ouray and any mountain town you may visit: With the closest Starbucks 45 minutes away, Ouray is a postage stamp compared to most cities and towns. But it’s the perfect access point for the stunning mountains all around it. The same goes for the other off-the-beaten-path mountain towns. Embrace the vibe!
Arrive a few days early to adjust to the altitude: You’ll probably feel tired and short of breath the first day or two at altitude, and exercising will feel much harder. I recommend getting to Ouray, or a nearby mountain town, a couple of days before your elopement so you can get used to living life well over a mile high!
Hydrate more than usual: The air is very dry in Colorado, and being at altitude means you’ll start to feel depleted much more quickly than at sea level. Bring a water bottle and fill it often, and consider getting some electrolyte tablets for your drinks…or go the old-fashioned way and grab a Gatorade!
As an Ouray and Colorado elopement photographer, I’d love to help you craft the mountain elopement day of your dreams. I have many secret locations and tips that only a local would know, so you’ll have an elopement experience far from the crowds or the clichés. Read more about my elopement experience here, and let’s plan yours!