Bear Lake Wedding and Elopement Guide
After photographing dozens of couples at their Bear Lake wedding, we’ve decided to put all of our knowledge and experience into one blog post. This blog post serves as a free resource for all the couples wanting to get married at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Having your wedding at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect idea for couples wanting to get married outside with a mountain backdrop, right on a lake. Because Bear Lake is located within Rocky Mountain National Park, navigating the process of securing your date and time can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re never done it before. But don’t worry, navigating the permit process for your Bear Lake elopement is actually pretty simple, and we’ve laid it all out right here for ya!
From step-by-step instructions for getting your permit, all the way to our insider tips, you’ll be completely set and prepared for your Bear Lake wedding or elopement!
Can you have a wedding ceremony at Bear Lake?
Yes! Bear Lake is one of the 12 designated ceremony sites within Rocky Mountain National Park where you can hold a wedding ceremony.
How do I get married at Bear Lake?
The only thing you absolutely need in order to get married at Bear Lake is your partner, a marriage license, and a special use permit. Keep reading to find out how to obtain the special use permit, and for the closest Clerk and Recorders office to get your marriage license.
What’s a good alternative location to Bear Lake?
If Bear Lake doesn’t have availability for the date you’re wanting, we recommend considering either Sprague Lake or Lily Lake. Both of these ceremony sites offer mountain views, and a lake, just like Bear Lake. There is also a location on the Grand Mesa just outside of Grand Junction (where we live) that looks exactly like Bear Lake in the winter. Snow covered, untouched, but with way less people, and no permit fee. Let us know if you’d like to get married at our secret location on Grand Mesa that’s right in our backyard 😊
If you love the idea of getting married outside, but Bear Lake just isn’t speaking to you, consider one of the locations off of The Best Places to Elope in Colorado List. You’ll be sure to find something on this list if you’re not feeling Bear Lake for your big day!
Do I need a permit to get married at Bear Lake?
Yes. You will need a special use permit from Rocky Mountain National Park to hold a wedding ceremony at Bear Lake.
Wedding License Info
Wedding licenses vary by state, but Colorado is one of the easiest states to obtain a marriage license.
Where should I get my marriage license?
Whatever county you get your marriage license in, you do not have to get married in that county. But you do have to return the marriage license back to that county. So depending on your plans, you have options for where to get your marriage license for your Bear Lake wedding.
Locations to obtain your marriage license for your Bear Lake Wedding
The City and County of Denver Clerk and Recorders Office
The City and County of Denver Clerk and Recorders office is located at 201 W Colfax Ave, Denver 80202. Currently, due to COVID, you have to schedule an appointment to go in and get a marriage license.
Adams County Clerk and Recorders Office
Boulder County Clerk and Recorders Office
Boulder County Clerk and Recorders offices have implemented a virtual process to obtain marriage licenses.
*Always check with the clerk and recorder’s office first, due to COVID, there have been many changes to the marriage license process. When we wrote this blog, we used the most current info, but it’s always subject to change.
Permit Info for a Bear Lake Wedding or Elopement
How to get a permit for a Bear Lake Wedding or Elopement
Step 1: Check the availability
Check the availability of Bear Lake by contacting the park. You can either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Concession Management Office at 970-586-1209 to check permit availability for Bear Lake weddings and elopements. We have the direct contact information for the person in charge of permits, so if you’d like, we could reach out for you! Just reach out to us by filling out our inquiry form on our contact page to get the process started! We usually hear back from our contact at RMNP within 1-2 business days.
Step 2: Submit an application
Step 3: Pay for your permit and return the permit with your signature back to the park
After you submit your application, wait patiently to hear back from RMNP. If the date and time submitted on your application are available, they’ll email you back with the next steps to securing that date and time which include paying for your special use permit and returning the permit with your signature back to the park. If your date and time are not available, they’ll work with you to pick out a new date and time.
Step 4: Watch out for the email containing your official signed permit, and print it out
The park will email you the official permit, signed and dated by a National Park Service official. Print a few copies of this permit out and keep it with you at all times during your Bear Lake wedding or elopement. You may be required to present the permit at the entrance.
How far in advance can I submit an application for my Bear Lake wedding or elopement?
You can submit an application for your Bear Lake wedding or elopement up to one year in advance for the month of your ceremony. For example, on March 1, 2022, RMNP will start accepting applications for all dates in March 2023, and on April 1, 2022, they will start accepting applications for all dates in April 2023.
How much does a special use permit cost for a Bear Lake wedding or elopement?
Is the permit for Bear Lake more expensive than the other sites?
No. All 12 designated wedding ceremony sites are the same price of $300.
Does my photographer or officiant need a separate permit?
No. The special use permit covers your photographer and the officiant.
Other permit info for your Bear Lake Wedding
RMNP does not allow any weddings or elopements at Bear Lake from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, through Columbus Day. RMNP does not allow any weddings or elopements at Bear Lake on the weekends at any time of year.
Will other people be present during my Bear Lake wedding?
Bear Lake is a busy area during any time of year. The park does not close it off to the public either during your set time. You can expect visitors to be near during your Bear Lake wedding or elopement, but no other weddings will be taking place during your time slot. There is only one wedding that should be happening at a time, and they are usually reserved in two-hour time slots, with a half-hour in between.
Best time of year to get married at Bear Lake
If it was possible to rope off Bear Lake for a summer wedding/elopement, we would. But because the lake is open to the public, and it gets super busy at the lake during the warmer months, the park doesn’t allow summer weddings/elopements at Bear Lake. Starting from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, through Indigenous People’s Day/Columbus Day, wedding ceremonies can not be held at Bear Lake. So you have to pick between winter, spring, and fall. If we had to elope again, we would choose a winter month for our Bear Lake elopement.
What to expect at Bear Lake during the winter
Bear Lake is usually frozen and safe to walk on from the end of November through May, which makes for some awesome photos!
Possibly Harsh Weather Conditions
Winter weddings in Rocky Mountain National Park can be a little harsh, with high winds, and well below freezing temps, so bundle up and prepare for the worst.
Tall Evergreen Trees
Bear Lake is surrounded by tall evergreen trees, so sneaking away into the trees to get a break from the wind is always an option and a good one at that!
Snow & Ice
There is almost guaranteed snow up at Bear Lake during the winter months. Pay close attention to the weather forecast. If a winter storm rolls in the day or two before your Bear Lake winter wedding, there’s a chance you might need snowshoes. This depends on how much it snowed, and whether or not other visitors have packed down the snow on the trails. Yak tracks might be needed. When the temperature rises, and then drops and snow on the trail melts and re-freezes, it causes the trail to get super icy. The trail has a bit of an incline, so having yak tracks will make your trek a lot more enjoyable if there are icy conditions.
Because wedding ceremonies are only allowed during the week at Bear Lake, you can expect fewer people. Plus, historically, winter months are the least visited months out of the whole year in RMNP.
Real Bear Lake Weddings
How many guests can I have at my Bear Lake elopement?
The max number of people that can be present during your Bear Lake wedding or elopement is 20 people, including the guest, couple, and all vendors (officiant, photographer).
How far away is the parking lot from the lake?
The parking lot is very close to the lake. It’s less than a 5-minute walk, and there is very little hiking involved. The parking lot itself is longer in distance than the walk from the start of the trail to the lake, so if you have to park at the farthest spot, it will triple the walking distance.
Are there bathrooms located near Bear Lake?
Yes. There are vault toilettes located at the parking lot near the start of the trail.
Is Bear Lake wheelchair accessible?
No, Bear Lake is not wheelchair accessible.
Can I bring in an arch?
No. Arches are not allowed during your Bear Lake wedding or elopement.
Can I have real flowers at my Bear Lake Wedding?
Yes. However, you should be careful that you don’t leave behind any flowers, pedals, or stems. All flowers, pedals, or stems need to be picked up if they fall off of the bouquet or any other floral arrangements.
How much does it cost to get married at Bear Lake?
Rocky Mountain National Park charges $300 per special use permit.
Is Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park?
Yes. Bear Lake is located within Rocky Mountain National Park.