Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding Guide

Updated March 29, 2021

bride and groom wedding day portrait with Longs Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park elopement by Boulder elopement photographer Jennie Crate

Rocky Mountain National Park is an iconic part of living and visiting Colorado. It boasts over 415 acres of preserved wildlife and encompasses a wide variety of scenery and landscapes. From low lying meadows popular for Elk rutting to high alpine passes that take you up to 12,000, Rocky Mountain National Park is as picturesque as it gets. Being an outdoors person, weddings and sessions in Rocky Mountain National Park are some of my favorite!

I hope you can use this guide to help you plan the Rocky Mountain National Park wedding, elopement, engagement session, or post-weddings session of your dreams!

How do you get to Rocky Mountain National Park?

You can access RMNP from two directions. From the east, you enter the park from Estes Park using one of their two entrances. The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center sits right outside the Beaver Meadows entrance and is the most popular place to enter the park. The other entrance in Estes Park is the Fall River Road entrance. This entrance is smaller, but usually less traveled, so often it’s faster to get in to the park from this side.

You enter the west side of the park in Grand Lake.

Trail Ridge Road (Highway 34) is the road that connects Estes Park to Grand Lake. Due to the high altitude of the road (12,000 feet at the Alpine Visitor Center–the highest National Park visitor center in the country), the road closes periodically for weather in the spring, summer, and fall. It closes permanently for the winter, usually sometime in late September or early October.

Why choose Rocky Mountain National Park for your wedding?

One word: VIEWS. The views in the park are spectacular. Particularly above tree-line, but there are also amazing views even in the low lying areas.

Planning a wedding in RMNP is affordable. For just $300, you can have the park as your backdrop for your ceremony. Receptions are not allowed in the park, so you’ll have to plan your post-ceremony celebration for somewhere in Estes Park or Grand Lake.

bride and groom in light rain in Rocky Mountain National Park photo

Practical Tips for Getting Married in Rocky Mountain National Park

RMNP is first and foremost a park. The integrity of the land, the animals, and the landscape is the top priority for the National Park Service, the rangers, and the land mangers. With that in mind, there are things to be aware of when planning your wedding ceremony for Rocky Mountain National Park.

  • The park is only allowing 250 wedding permits to be issued in 2021. They reached that quota in January of 2021. If you’ve missed the cutoff to grab one of those permits, you can still plan to do portraits in the park, but you’ll have to plan your ceremony elsewhere.
  • Your wedding MUST take place in one of the designated ceremony sites in the park. NO exceptions. This applies to any form of ceremony where vows are exchanged, even vow renewals and two person elopements.
  • No more than two wedding ceremonies will be booked at any given ceremony site per day.
  • No more than 6 weddings will be booked in the park per day, no matter which ceremony site they’re at.
  • Your guests will need to pay the daily entrance fee for the park (or have a Parks pass) in order to attend your wedding.
  • Remember, you’re choosing to get married in a public park, so no areas will be closed or blocked for your ceremony.
  • Due to COVID, ceremony capacity is limited to 30 people, even if the site can accommodate larger numbers in non-COVID years.
  • Amplified sound is not permitted in the park.
  • Equipment such as tents, tables, floral displays and carpets is not allowed. Neither is the throwing of rice, birdseed, flowers, or other celebration materials. You can have an arch at Moraine Valley Discover Amphitheater.
  • Cell phone service is spotty in the park. Let your guests know this ahead of time and encourage them to embrace being off the grid for the evening.

After your ceremony, your wedding permit gives you permission to drive around to other parts of the park and take photos, which I would highly recommend.

Planning a couple’s session or engagement session? There is a permit fee for this, but it’s only $50 and can be gotten day of in case we have to change plans due to weather.

Don’t forget that Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are higher in altitude than Denver (and the rest of the country). Check out my 10 Tips for Getting Married at Altitude and my Guide for Planning a Destination Wedding.

Can I bring my dog to my ceremony in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Similar to most national parks, dogs are not allowed more than 100 feet from designated parking area. Dogs are allowed at Moraine Park Discover Center, on a leash. They are not allowed at the Sprague Lake, Lily Lake, Aluvial Fan, Bear Lake, or Hidden Valley ceremony spots.

Designated Ceremony Sites in Rocky Mountain National Park

There are 12 designated ceremony sites within Rocky Mountain National Park. These are the ONLY places in the park that you can hold your ceremony. Attempts to hold a ceremony at any other spot, including Dream Lake and Trail Ridge Road is illegal.

NOTE: All 250 wedding permits for RMNP in 2021 have been issued already. If they increase the number of permits they’ll issues, I’ll be sure to update this page. The park typically opens up reservations for the next year in October of the current year.

3M Curve

One of the prettiest ceremony spots, 3M curve is only located about 3 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. It’s not marked on any maps, so it’s helpful to use the GPS coordinates to find it: 40°22’50.3″N 105°36’13.3″W. Just make sure you download directions before leaving Estes Park as most people won’t have service in the park.

Note: 3M Curve isn’t giving out permits for weddings May – October 2021 due to road construction.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 15 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 3

Romantic RMNP 3M Curve Wedding by Denver wedding photographer Jennie Crate

Bear Lake Nature Trail

Bear Lake is located off the main parking lot on Bear Lake Road (the road dead ends at the parking lot). This lot is the prime parking lot for Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and Bear Lake trails and is very popular. Due to the popularity of the area, no ceremonies are allowed at Bear Lake on the weekends, and no ceremonies are allowed between the Friday before Memorial Day (May) and Columbus Day (October).

Maximum Guest Capacity: 20 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 5

Alluvial Fan

This site is located 7 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance along Old Fall Road. The main feature is a boulder strewn hillside with waterfall and bridge. It’s a popular spot for visitors in the summer.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 20 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 5

Photo courtesy of Rock Mountain National Park website

Copeland Lake

Located in the Wild Basin Area, Copeland Lake features a lake with mountain views and some trees. Dogs a allowed on a leash.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 30 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 10

Harbison Meadow Picnic Area

One of two ceremony sites on the west side of the park (Grand Lake side), Harbison Meadow houses a beautiful picnic shelter next to a wide meadow.

*Due to the East Troublesome Fire that swept through Grand Lake and the West side of RMNP in October 2021, the trail to Harbison Meadow Picnic area remains closed.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 30 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 10

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain National Park website.

Hidden Valley

Just 6 miles from the Beaver Meadows visitor center, Hidden Valley is located along Highway 36 (trail ridge road). This area is beautiful in the fall, when Aspens dot the mountainside. The picnic areas at Hidden Valley cannot be used for wedding celebrations.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 30 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)

Lily Lake Dock

The only ceremony spot located outside of the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance stations, Lily Lake is a great option for ceremonies. The vicinity to Estes Park also means that you’ll likely have cell service at this spot. The dock is close to the parking area and has nice afternoon/ evening light. There is a trail that goes around Lily Lake, which means there are plenty of places to wander around for photos, without needing to do any major hiking.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 10 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 10

bride and groom first kiss at Lily Lake Elopement by Estes Park elopement photographer Jennie Crate

Lily Lake Tail and Picnic Area

This trail and Picnic area are close to the Lily Lake Dock (so also located outside the gates of RMNP). Though not as picturesque as the dock, they do allow larger options for weddings at Lily Lake. After your ceremony, you can take advantage of the same scenery as if you held your ceremony at the Lily Lake dock.

Maximum Guest Capacity on trail: 20 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 10

Maximum Guest Capacity at picnic area: 30 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 10

Moraine Park Visitor Center Amphitheater

Located just 2.5 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center along Bear Lake Road, the amphitheater is easily accessible. It’s also the only ceremony spot located more than 100 feet from a parking lot where you can have leased pets. The more formal setting also allows you to bring in a decorative ceremony arch if you like.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 30 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 10

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain National park website

Sprague Lake

Also along Bear Lake road, Sprague Lake is one of the more spectacular ceremony sites in Rocky Mountain National Park. Similar to Lily Lake, there is a trail that runs around the whole lake and features awesome views of the mountains. Ceremonies take place at the dock. The flat nature of the trail means that the site is wheelchair accessible. It is a very popular trail, though, so expect ample public traffic.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 30 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests) in winter, 15 in summer.
Cars allowed: 10 in winter, 3 in summer.

sprague lake panorama photo

Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater

The second of two ceremony sites on the West side of the park (Grand Lake side), Timber Creek Amphitheater is located next to a large campground. It includes a stage, but it isn’t the prettiest of sites. It is wheelchair accessible.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 10 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 5

Upper Beaver Meadows

Only about 1.5 miles from the Beaver Meadows visitor center, Upper Beaver Meadows features views similar to 3M curve, without the rocky outcroppings. It’s more exposed than 3M curve, but still beautiful.

No vehicles are allowed at this site from October – May.

Maximum Guest Capacity: 30 (including couple, photographer, officiant, and guests)
Cars allowed: 10

Where do you get ready at Rocky Mountain National Park?

The park prohibits getting ready in any of their buildings or picnic shelters, so you’ll have to plan to get fully ready outside of the park somewhere in Estes Park.

Where can I have my reception if I get married in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Receptions aren’t allowed in rocky, though you could plan an informal, no-frills picnic at one of the first come first serve picnic areas located in the park. The smartest thing to do is to plan a reception at one of the nearby wedding venues in Estes Park. That way you can enjoy the park in its grand, yet simple beauty for your reception, take photos in the park, and then head back down town for dinner, dancing, and other reception celebrations.

Best places for wedding party and couples photos in Rocky Mountain National Park

There are literally no bad places to take photos in Rocky Mountain National Park. And each season brings its own beauty to different parts of the park. I have a long list of places that I’ve photographed for engagement sessions and wedding couple’s portraits.

One of my favorite things to do with couples (especially for engagement sessions) is photograph at a spot at lower elevation, and then drive up Trail Ridge Road to take in sunset above treeline.

The really nice thing about the park, is that even though your ceremony has to be held in a designated ceremony site, you can still take photos anywhere else in the park with a simple permit. Check out the blog posts at the end of this guide to see some of the places that I’ve explored with couples.

portrait with rainbow at sunset at top of trail ridge road during engagement session by Estes Park engagement photographer Jennie Crate

How much does it cost to get married in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Wedding permits are $300. You can download a wedding permit application on the RMNP website, and it can be submitted to romo_fees_permits@nps.gov. The park is no longer accepting mailed or faxed applications and aren’t taking reservation requests via phone.

Blogs from Rocky Mountain National Park Weddings, Elopements, and Sessions

I travel all over the state of Colorado and across the US to capture connected wedding stories for devoted and courageous couples.I am very familiar Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I’d love to be your Rocky Mountain National Park wedding photographer!

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