Eloping In The Mountains | Everything You Need To Know

How To Bring Your Dream Mountain Elopement To Life

A Guide To Eloping In The Mountains | Why Mountain Elopements Are So Awesome

When it comes to elopements, we’re big believers that it doesn’t get any better than eloping in the mountains. As adventure wedding photographers who specialize exclusively in small weddings and elopements, we spend so much of our time scouting out the best elopement locations for our couples. And without fail, the locations that consistently take our breath away are the mountains. 

Being Colorado-based, we’re definitely a bit biased, as we spend pretty much all of our time in the Rockies. But the thing we love most about eloping in the mountains is the variety you can get in your elopement location. The San Juan mountains in Colorado are vastly different from the dry, barren mountains in California’s Death Valley National Park. And the earthy, green-covered mountains in the Pacific Northwest are truly in a league of their own. Contrary to popular belief, not all mountains look the same. And depending on which mountain range in the US you’re eyeballing for your mountain elopement, the views will be vastly different.

Eloping In THe Mountains, Based On The Season

Mountain Elopements Are Highly Season-Dependent

One of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re eloping in the mountains is how the seasons can impact your elopement day. Washington State is a great example of this. While Seattle itself might not have any snow in the city on a winter day, the mountains could be getting absolutely covered in powder. On the other hand, it could be a swelteringly hot day in Colorado’s front range towns, but your elopement on one of Colorado’s 14ers could require winter attire.

When we photograph mountain elopements, we like to let our couples know that the mountains have their own weather (and to some extent, their own seasons!). Because of the elevation difference between the mountains and the larger cities that sit near them, the weather at higher elevation could be vastly different than what people are experiencing in town. With that said, we’re breaking down each season in the mountains, and what the pros and cons of each are.

Eloping In The Mountains In The Summer And Fall

Eloping In The Mountains In The Summer

  • We absolutely love summertime elopements in the mountains. In places like Colorado, Washington State, and Montana, the mountains are at their prime during this season.
  • A lot of high elevation mountain passes are closed during most of the year, but they open up in months like July and August.
  • Summertime is also wildflower season in some mountain regions.
  • There are definitely certain mountains you want to avoid in the summertime: namely the mountains in places like Death Valley NP and Palm Springs. The uncomfortably high heat will make for a not-so-fun elopement day.

Eloping In The Mountains In The Fall

  • There’s a reason fall elopements are so popular in the mountains, especially in Colorado. The changing of the leaves is stunning. Places like Aspen and Telluride are on fire with yellows and oranges, making the mountains looks like they came straight out of a painting.
  • Fall is great for mountain elopements because of the cooler temperatures. It hasn’t gotten too cold yet, but the summer heat is fading away.
  • Peak fall colors will vary from state to state, and from mountain range to mountain range, so definitely take a look at when that happens for your specific mountain elopement location. For example, in the Rockies, we usually see peak fall colors towards the end of September. 

Eloping In The Mountains In The Winter And Spring

Eloping In The Mountains In The Winter

  • If you’re going for a winter wonderland vibe, eloping in the mountains in the winter is your best bet. 
  • The ski towns of Colorado are ideal locations for mountain elopements. There’s plenty to do nearby, from local breweries to cozy coffee shops, but you can also get away from it all as well.
  • Word to the wise: if you’re eloping in the mountains in the winter, be prepared for your plans to go out the window when inclement weather arises. Snowstorms and blizzards are not unheard of, and winter weather can be very unpredictable. Roads can shut down and avalanches can close trailheads.
  • So if you’re looking to elope in the mountains, we recommend giving yourselves a few extra days of padding in case your date needs to change because of weather.

Eloping In The Mountains In The Spring

  • We’ll be honest with you: we don’t typically recommend eloping in the mountains in the spring. In many places, particularly Washington State and Colorado, this is when the weather is kind of gross. 
  • Hail storms in Colorado are super common at this time of year. And in Washington State, the rainy season still hasn’t ended. Early spring in places like Utah mean the greenery is still a little dull and dead-looking.
  • However, the hot, dry desert mountains are a great option in the early spring. The summer temperatures haven’t kicked in and the area is much more manageable. If you want to elope in the springtime, this is where we’d recommend doing it.

The amazing thing about eloping in the mountains is that there’s a season for every type of elopement. It really just depends on the vibe your’e going for. Once you and your partner have narrowed down what you’d like your mountain elopement day to look like and the activities you’d like to do, figuring out which season becomes a fun and easy task.

Finding Your Dream Mountain Elopement Location

Once you and your partner have figured out which season you’d like to elope during, you can jump right into finding your dream mountain elopement location. We recommend checking in with your mountain elopement photographer at this point, as they’ll be able to guide you in the right direction. As elopement photographers, it’s super important to us to ensure we’re constantly scouting the best places in the mountains for elopements. And we do it so we can recommend the best off-the-beaten-path mountain elopement locations for couples eloping in the mountains.

That said, when choosing the best mountain elopement locations, it’s definitely a good idea brainstorm what specific landscapes really speak to you and your partner. Do you like the look of barren, desert mountains? Or would you prefer a forest-y, mossy look? Maybe you want super jagged mountain peaks or aqua colored alpine lakes. Whatever you prefer, bring these preferences to your elopement photographer and they can help you figure things out. We talk more about this in our Ultimate Elopement Planning Checklist, which covers the elopement process from beginning to end.

Acquire Wedding Permits To Elope In The Mountains

Depending on where you’re eloping in the mountains, there’s a chance you’ll need to acquire a wedding permit to do so. If you’re eloping in a national park, a wedding permit is pretty much a guaranteed necessity. When it comes to eloping in national forests, it’ll vary on a case-by-case basis. The best thing you can do is check in with the local ranger for your mountain elopement location. They can point you in the right direction. 

Eloping In the Mountains, By State

Our Favorite States For Mountain Elopements

As elopement photographers who specialize in photographing adventurous weddings, we have a few favorite states that we recommend when couples are eloping in the mountains. So without further ado, our top mountain elopement states…

Best Mountain Elopement State #1

Colorado

With more 14ers than any other state in the US, Colorado is a mountain lover’s paradise. If you’re looking for the ultimate mountain adventure elopement location, look no further than Colorado. There’s an outdoors culture unlike anything else, and you’ll run across some of the most epic mountain views imaginable.

From alpine lakes to giant sand dunes, Colorado’s mountains have it all. And it’s the reason we thing Colorado is the best state for eloping in the mountains.

Best Mountain Elopement State #2

Washington State

When we think about Washington State’s mountains, one word comes to mind: alive. The greenery in Washington is world-class. So world class, it’s like you can practically hear the trees and grass and ferns breathing while you’re hiking down a trail in the North Cascades. 

Eloping in the mountains in Washington State means being surrounded by some of the most epic mountain views imaginable, with some of the most diverse landscapes. 

Best Mountain Elopement State #3

California

When most people think of California, usually beaches come to mind. But let’s be honest: California’s mountains are where it’s at. From the gorgeous granite mountains of Yosemite to the snow-capped peaks in Bishop to the dry, cracked desert mountains of southern inland California, you can find pretty much any type of mountain here.

California spans more than half of the west coast of the US, so you’re bound to find a ton of different landscapes as you make your way down the length of the state. There’s no shortage of locations when eloping in the mountains of California.

Best Mountain Elopement State #4

Utah

Utah may be most known for its incredible high desert, but it also is home to some absolutely stunning mountain elopement locations. From Park City to Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons, the areas near SLC make for excellent mountain elopement spots.

But beyond that, the drive west on 80 towards Nevada also has wide, expansive mountain views that are kind of like the hidden gems of Utah. While many people choose to elope in Utah because of the desert towns like Moab and St. George, we believe eloping in the mountains of Utah can be just as incredible (if not more!).

Best Mountain Elopement State #5

Montana

Montana is home to the incredible Glacier National Park, arguably one of the best national parks in the United States. If places like Banff and Japer in Canada pique your interest (pun intended!), then you’re sure to love Montana.

Glacier NP has aqua-colored alpine lakes and jagged, expansive mountain views that rival those you might find in the Canadian Rockies. It’s honestly the closest you can get to that look in the US, which is why it’s one of our favorite mountain elopement locations.

How Time Of Day CaN IMpact Your Mountain Elopement Ceremony

Best Times Of Day For Eloping In The Mountains

When our couples are eloping in the mountains, we exclusively recommend two key times of day for them to have their ceremony. Why? As mountain elopement photographers, it’s our priority to find our couples the best light for their mountain elopement ceremonies.

One thing to bear in mind when you’re eloping in the mountains: depending on where you elope, keep in mind that the sunrise or sunset can start later or earlier than usual. Because of their height, the mountains block light, which can lead to premature sunsets and later sunrises (or vice versa). 

Eloping In The Mountains At Sunrise

  • If you’re eloping in the mountains because you love the idea of having privacy during your ceremony, we highly recommend sunrise. There are typically much fewer people on the trails at this time.
  • Eloping in the mountains at sunrise is a great way to avoid afternoon storms in the summer at high elevations. The weather tends to be more predictable at this time of day.
  • Depending on where you’re eloping, sunrise can be a great opportunity to see alpenglow in the mountains.

Eloping In The Mountains At Sunset

  • The main perk behind eloping in the mountains at sunset versus sunrise is that you don’t have to wake up as early.
  • Sunset mountain elopements are a good option for couples who are bringing along friends and family for their elopement ceremony. This means your guests don’t have to get up early either.
  • If you want to elope in the mountains at sunset, we recommend doing so on a weekday. That’ll help you avoid crowds.
  • Depending on where you are eloping in the mountains, sunset can also be a good time to see alpenglow. Personally, we’ve found that many of our favorite Rocky Mountain elopement spots have alpenglow at sunrise, however.

There Is So Much Freedom In Choosing To Elope In The Mountains

Personally, We're Big Believers That The Mountains Are Some Of The Best Locations To Elope

The mountains are not one size fits all. Each mountain range has its own characteristics that make it distinct. Whether it’s the jagged look of the Tetons in Wyoming or the distinct lush appeal of the mountains in Washington State, each range has its own personality. 

What To Do During Your Mountain Elopement

Things To Do When you're Eloping In The Mountains

Elopements have changed a lot these days, and for the better! Nowadays couples choose to elope because they feel like the traditions of the wedding industry aren’t for them. The commercial focus of the industry pushes couples to feel like their wedding day needs to be filled to the brim with things rather than experiences. And for many engaged couples, that type of wedding day doesn’t really feel like “them.”

So that begs the question, what can your mountain elopement look like? And what types of activities can you do during your day? Honestly, it’s completely up to you. You can customize your day to look exactly how you want it to. Are you two interested in hiking up your favorite mountain before the sun rises to see the alpenglow in the morning? You can do that. Want to have a picnic beside the alpine lake you said your vows at? Go for it. Excited about popping champagne at 12,000 ft? Do it. There are no rules on how you choose to elope. Your mountain elopement can look however the heck you want it to, traditions be damned.

Looking For More Elopement Resources?

As Seasoned Elopement Photographers Who Specialize In Mountain Elopements, We've Got Your Back.

Our Ultimate Elopement Guide covers everything you need to know when planning your adventure elopement. Whether you’re eloping in the mountains or elsewhere, this guide will take you through the process, step by step.

If you’ve been struggling to explain to your friends and family why you’ve chosen to elope instead of have a traditional wedding, look no further. We’ve written an article all about how you can avoid offending friends and family when you choose to elope.

Feel like a Colorado elopement might be for you, but not sure what to do next? Our guide on how to elope in Colorado will take the pressure off your shoulders.

P.S. As mountain elopement and adventure wedding photographers, we pride ourselves on not just documenting your adventure elopement or small mountain wedding, but helping you plan out all the little details as well — like helping you figure out the perfect time of year for your Rocky Mountain elopement or finding you the best locations when eloping in the mountains. We’ve been in your shoes with our own mountain elopement, and that’s why we’re in this industry in the first place. We want to help.

Sure, we pride ourselves in taking killer photos of killer people in killer places, but we’re firm believers that your adventure wedding photographer should be so much more than that. They should be a resource and guide to you during the whole mountain elopement planning process. So if that sounds like your vibe, we’d love to chat with you about your dream mountain elopement.

Planning Your Adventure Wedding Or National Park Elopement?

Check out some of our favorite elopement and adventure wedding planning resources:

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Colorado Elopement Photographers

The Colorado Rockies are our home. We know these mountains like the back of our hand, and we love helping our couples plan their Colorado adventure elopements. Our land is your land, peeps. so let’s get you mountain married!

Small Adventure Wedding Photographers

We specialize in photographing small adventure weddings in the great outdoors. We believe small weddings empower couples to be themselves on their wedding day, which is what makes us so honored to be a part of them. There’s nothing better.

Adventure Elopement Photographers

We like to say we’re adventurers first, photographers second. Which frankly, is what we think makes us good at what we do. We live and breathe the outdoors lifestyle, and we make sure our adventure wedding photos show off your adventurous side too.

Sheena Shahangian Photography LLC

Not everyone loves tradition, but that doesn’t make your adventure wedding or elopement any less important.

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Sheena Shahangian is a Colorado elopement photographer + adventure wedding photographer specializing in Rocky Mountain adventure weddings and adventure elopements across the western United States.

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