a bride's guide on

I CAN TELL YOU'RE ON TO SOMETHING spectacular.

You Absolutely CANNOT Go Wrong With Ouray As Your Elopement Location Destination!

But If This Is Your First Time In Ouray, Or At Least Getting MARRIED In Ouray, There Are Definitely Some Things You Should Know As You Get Started Planning.

IF YOU ARE THINKING OF
 ELOPING IN OURAY

HOW TO ELOPE IN
OURAY, COLORADO
THE SWITZERLAND OF AMERICA

But first, why should you elope?

If you’re over the big “show” that weddings can bring, everyone inputting their own opinions in how you want YOUR day to look, the drama that comes with planning a big luxurious day, the insane amount of money you have to put down just to get married,

THEN ELOPING MIGHT BE FOR YOU.

time of year

what's the best?

what are the crowds like?

Best time of day to elope?

When planning on when to get married in Ouray, the first thing you have to consider is the time of year you plan on eloping.

If you plan on eloping between November - May, access to locations like Imogene Pass and Yankee Boy Basin will be more challenging to get to because the roads will be closed for winter, and would be "ski" in only.

Typically these roads open in late May and remain open until mid-October. With that in mind, if you’d like to get married in either of these places, it’s best to consider getting married between the latter part of June and October (With July - August guaranteed being accessible).

Because the roads are open to everyone between June and October, people take full advantage of this to see The San Juan Mountain’s beauty, and the popular points like Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass tend to get crowded, although crowds are most typical during the middle of the day. I always recommend starting early for sunrise or opting for the afternoon to capture the sunset.

But, there are ways to avoid this.

My best advice if you’d like to get married in a popular spot is to elope on a weekday (Monday - Thursday), and plan around late summer to early fall (August to October).

The tours and crowds tend to die down at this time as families prepare for the new school year, and vacationers get back to their work routine.

You can check road status for Ouray County Mountain roads here.

Ouray is in the San Juan mountain range, and because of this, the sun is very different because of the altitude.

Considering this, the best lighting for a place like Ouray in the mountains is early morning (sunrise), or sunset as the lighting is softer and the valley changes color as the sun moves.

It’s incredible to watch at the tops of the passes - like Imogene Pass and Black Bear Pass, and it’s also less crowded most mornings at sunrise (not many people want to get up at 3 am).

However, you will never see a more BEAUTIFUL sunrise than in Ouray. It is 100% worth it to get up early and experience the San Juan's come to life as the sun rises and illuminates the mountains. (Alpenglow is my favorite)!

Location is so important

Location

Choosing your exact elopement location is definitely something that requires some research to help you decide where you’d like to go. Ouray County is home to 46 named mountains of which the highest and most prominent is Mount Sneffels – one of only two fourteeners in the county, though the other one, Wetterhorn Peak, is shared with adjacent Hinsdale County. With so many mountains right here in the heart of Ouray, there are so many off-roading and hiking trails. Here are my top 5 off-roading trails that are picture perfect:

Imogene Pass
Yankee Boy Basin
Corkscrew Pass
Black Bear Pass
California Pass

Depending on which mountain road you take, most take upwards of 2-3 hours to get to the top of the mountain pass.

Since there are so many options on where to go and what trails to consider, my main advice is to start with easier trails and work up from there.


01. IMOGENE PASS

Yankee Boy Basin has many spectacular views along the way, which could include photos spots at Twin Falls or Wright Lake at the top. There is also an angle to take photos where you can stand on the edge of a cliff and look down on Twin Falls and the valley below you - a pretty amazing site (I only recommend this spot from Mid-September to October, when you can cross the mountain stream). There are many photo-perfect spots to move around here and explore, with many viewpoints for amazing views to get married.

Yankee Boy Basin OHV Route is a 18.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Ouray, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Yankee Boy Basin is nestled beneath some of the San Juan’s most breathtaking peaks: Potosi Peak, Teakettle Mountain, Cirque Mountain, Stony Mountain, Gilpin Mountain, and the most well-known, Mount Sneffels, which is over 14,000 feet in elevation. The drive to this green-carpeted valley presents spectacular alpine scenery, abundant wildflowers, waterfalls, a high-walled canyon, and old town sites in a once-booming mining area.

The first half of the trail is fairly easy. After that, it gets a little more difficult, but a car with good clearance with a good driver will be able to make it. There are a few steep dips and some high points so a car with a long wheelbase or bad approach and departure angles would have a hard time. Once you make it to the restrooms at the bottom of the basin it gets to be a moderate 4X4 road. A stock SUV with decent clearance and 4-low mode can make it if you drive carefully and pick the right lines. One of the most popular destinations in the Ouray area due to its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and colorful wildflowers. Popular landmarks include the Drinking Cup, Twin Falls, Atlas Mill, Camp Bird Mine and the rock overhang. Because the area is used so heavily, camping is restricted to designated areas and a fee is charged to camp.

The high point of Yankee Boy Basin is 12,400 ft. For current conditions call Ouray Ranger District (970) 240-5300. The lower portion of the trail is easy. Beyond the toilet, the trail gets rocky, narrow and steep, but is suitable for aggressive, high-clearance, stock SUVs. A gate for the upper portion of the trail is closed until the snow melts, usually in late June or early July.




- Several cliffs and space to take portraits or get married
- Easier trail to drive compared to others in the area
- Mountain peaks, aspen trees, pines trees, waterfalls, and a lake (checks all the boxes)




- A very popular trail, you will not be alone
- After the sun sets, the trail gets dark. It’s important to have plenty of lights on your vehicle

Corkscrew Gulch is a 6.8 mile heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Silverton, Colorado that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. Corkscrew Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 12,244ft. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail. 

This route is a gorgeous drive that continues over Hurricane Pass. 

Once at the top of the pass, the views are fantastic. The drive offers an incredible bird’s eye view of Como Lake. The original route through Corkscrew Gulch was a rough trail built in 1882-1883 to provide access between Silverton with the towns and mines on Red Mountain. This track is unforgiving in many areas. With jaw-dropping views around every corner, the drive is especially beautiful in the fall when you can overlook the spectacular stands of aspen in the Ironton valley. It’s a very popular trail so expect lots of company.

This scenic trail cuts through the heart of old mining country as it winds between Red Mountain #1 and #2. Watch for logging trucks on lower part of trail. You can park and camp at bottom end of trail off Highway 550. From the bottom, you can also explore Brown Mountain and Gray Copper Gulch, which is left at the first major fork, marked as Brown Mountain.
 
This route is easy when dry. The road is wide and graded most of the way; however, one section of narrow switchbacks at the top may be intimidating to novice drivers. If wet, the trail becomes more difficult due to slippery clay soil. 

For current conditions call Ouray Ranger District (970) 240-5300. 




- Breathtaking mountain top spots to take portraits or get married
- Easier trail to drive compared to others in the area (EXCEPT when wet)
- Red Mountain peaks, high alpine lakes, and pines trees




- Slippery when wet
- A very popular trail, you will not be alone
- After the sun sets, the trail gets dark. It’s important to have plenty of lights on your vehicle



Black Bear Pass Trail is a 8.5 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Telluride, Colorado that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail. Black Bear Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 12,840ft.

Very scenic trail for off-roading purposes. You occasionally run into a hiker or mountain-biker, but for the most part, it’s all 4x4’s. The views are spectacular throughout the trail.

Incredible views from high above Red Mountain Pass and Telluride. Close-up views of historic mines and dramatic waterfalls. Feel the mist from spectacular Bridal Veil Falls. Switchbacks are one-way downhill; no return to start once you begin descent. Unlicensed vehicles should turn around before going down one-way switchbacks or have pick-up vehicle waiting at the bottom. 

Most of the trail is easy to moderate. The difficult rating is based on a mile-long stretch of dangerous switchbacks above Bridal Veil Falls. Your vehicle should have low-range 4WD, good tires, good brakes, excellent articulation, and a fully functional emergency brake. 

For current conditions call Ouray Ranger District (970) 240-5300. 

My recommendation is to stay on the Ouray side for portraits and or ceremony site, to avoid the most difficult part of the trail and the logistics of driving from Telluride back to Ouray.




- Amazing mountain top spots to take portraits or get married
- Run the Ouray half of the trail to achieve time efficiency and easy part of trail
- Unique location




- A very popular trail, you will not be alone
- To run the whole trail - rated difficult and logistics of ending up in Telluride
- After the sun sets, the trail gets dark. It’s important to have plenty of lights on your vehicle



California Gulch OHV Trail is a 15.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Silverton, Colorado that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for ohv/off road driving. California Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 12,960ft.

Incredibly scenic, this trail takes you above Lake Como and is an idyllic location for mountain top wedding ceremonies. California Pass is located on the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway. The entire Alpine Loop has several other fine viewing areas. Parts of Cinnamon and Engineer Passes have exquisite pockets of alpine flora and epic views. California Pass is well above tree-line and gives you a mountain-top feel, perfect for those epic elopement portraits!

For current conditions call Ouray Ranger District (970) 240-5300. 

My recommendation is to start this trail early, like 3 a.m early and beat the crowds in time for sunrise on the mountains! Trust me, it's magical!




- Amazing mountain top spots to take portraits or get married
- The most amazing sunrise or sunset you will ever see
- Unique location




- A very popular trail, you will not be alone during 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
- Takes at least three hours to get to Lake Como
- After the sun sets, the trail gets dark. It’s important to have plenty of lights on your vehicle



The top of Imogene Pass is a great spot for perfect Mountain views. Typically mid-morning to mid-afternoon are the most popular times of this trail. Imogene Pass is a 17.5 mile heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Ouray, Colorado that features beautiful wildflowers.

When the roads are open, Imogene is rated as a moderate trail located in the Uncompaghre National Forest. Imogene Pass is the second highest drivable pass in Colorado. The drive is one of the most thrilling in the state. At Savage Basin, you'll pass through Tomboy Townsite, once one of the most active mining towns in Colorado. A great deal of mining debris is still scattered about. Most is on private property and is dangerous to explore. The pass is blocked by snow until it is plowed, usually in early July. Unlicensed vehicles are not permitted on the lower half of the south side and must start the trail from Camp Bird Road, where plenty of parking is available.

Imogene Pass's high point is at an elevation of 13,114 ft., The best time to hit this trail is Mid July-Sept. For current conditions call Norwood or Ouray Ranger District (970) 327-4261. Do not take this trip lightly. The road is rocky, steep, and narrow in places and passing can be dangerous. Stock SUVs should have low-range gearing, 4-wheel drive, high clearance, and skid plates. Experienced drivers only.

It’s definitely known to get crowded here in the summertime, especially in the afternoon time, so choosing a weekday in the early morning is usually my recommendation.





- One of the best views spots for epic views. For those couples looking for a little more edge to their adventure.
- Not your typical elopement location (as it requires an experienced off-roader)




- Requires off-roading experience and capable vehicle
- Takes at least 3.5 hours to drive to the top of Imogene Pass
- After the sun sets, the trail gets dark. It’s important to have plenty of lights on your vehicle

PROS

PROS

PROS

PROS

PROS

CONS

CONS

CONS

CONS

CONS

02. yankee boy basin

03. corkscrew  Pass

04. black bear  Pass

05. California  Pass

 Local Vendors

When you hire local vendors for your wedding or elopement you are hiring
local EXPERTS. We live here, we know the terrain great locations (like above, duh)
and other great vendor who are sure to make your day incredible. Plus, you won't
have to pay for travel fees, sounds like a win-win to me!

Colorado is a large state with 15 different mountain ranges! No two areas
of Colorado are alike. And just as well, no two venues, florist, photographer,
etc. are alike. By biggest piece of advice? Choose vendors who fit your vision!

Elevation Weddings and Events






Mountainesque Weddings and Elopements

Heirlooms Design






Kosi Events







Chelsea Cholas Wedding Planning







Lucky Penny Events 






K2 Event Co. 







planners:

Bakeries:

Venues:

caterers:

transportation:

officiants:

Entertainment:

florists:

Hair&make up:

Permits

Special activities involving large groups, educational activities, or film-making will require special use permits which authorize or grants a privilege for a use on National Forest lands with specific conditions for the use. The Forest Service grants these uses in a manner that protects natural resource values, public health and safety, and is consistent with the Forest land and resource management plans. **Weddings with sizes of 75 people or more will require a special-use permit.

You can find more information here.

A Free Guide to Ouray:

things to do:

Some of my favorite things to do in Ouray:

The Jeep Capital of the World! Off-highway adventures bring you to some of the most stunning landscapes in the Rocky Mountains. Ouray has an enormous variety of jeeping and OHV routes at every level. Go it alone or with guides who love to share their knowledge of the San Juans’ geology, flora, fauna, and most colorful stories.

Available from Spring to Fall. If you’re like me and love to sight-see, and also love horseback riding, this is the one for you! 

The Ouray Hot Springs Pool and Fitness Center houses five pools, three of which are geothermally heated. The water contains a vast number of minerals, including, iron, manganese, zinc, fluoride, and potassium, among others. The water does not contain any sulfur. Temperatures range from 75 to 104 F, which total to 750,000 gallons. 

Trails in the Ouray area vary considerably in their nature and origins depending on where they are. The southern part of the county is characterized by steep rugged terrain that is heavily mineralized. Trails in this region were generally created by early miners, beginning in the mid 1870s and continuing for several decades thereafter.

The northern half of the County is less steep with densely wooded terrain and an agricultural heritage of farms and ranches. Both halves offer unique and interesting hiking options that will vary with the season of the year. There are currently 84 trails maintained by the Ouray Trail Group.

NEED HELP PLANNING?

NOT ONLY AM I A PHOTOGRAPHER, BUT I'M ALSO AN ELOPEMENT PLANNER!

LET ME HELP!

Let's chat!