A Telluride Elopement Photographer’s Guide to Eloping in the San Juan Mountains
If you are thinking of eloping in the mountains and are looking for the most beautiful place in all of Colorado, look no further than Telluride. Yes, it’s kind of a pain to get to. Yes, it’s really far from Denver. Yes, it’s kind of expensive (although there are more affordable options in the area – we’ll talk about that!) but trust me when I say its SO WORTH IT! While Telluride is famous for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, there is SO MUCH more to this place than that! As a Telluride elopement photographer I get to experience all this beautiful area has to offer and I’m SO excited to share what I know with all of you!
How do you get to Telluride?
It’s FAR … from everywhere. Which is part of its magic. Telluride sits at the end of a slot canyon in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. It’s around a 6 hour drive from Denver airport (in good weather) but a world away from the hustle and bustle of the front range. If you want to cut out part of the drive, consider flying into Montrose or Grand Junction and driving from there. Telluride also has a small airport which may be worth looking into!
For the purposes of this article I’m going to not just talk about Telluride but also the San Juan mountains in general. Telluride itself may be the fanciest and most well known town in these parts but there are lots of other beautiful and more affordable options as well. Let’s take a look at the other home bases for your “Telluride” or San Juan mountain elopement!
Best Places to Elope in the San Juan Mountains
Eloping in Ouray, Colorado
Ouray is such a little hidden gem! It’s around an hour from Telluride (and also an hour closer to Denver). It has a really cute downtown area (without the ski-resort vibe) and its surrounded by giant mountains. Rent a RAZR or Jeep, soak in some hot springs, and then have a burger and beer on the deck at Ouray Brewing and you’ve got yourself a perfect day in the San Juans. From Ouray the mountains are your oyster and there are SO many epic spots to elope!
Eloping in Ridgway, Colorado
Ridgway is just up the road from Ouray (and en route to Telluride) and it’s one of my favorite little town in all of Colorado. While it doesn’t have that RIGHT AGAINST THE MOUNTAINS feel that Telluride and Ouray have, it’s just such a sweet little town with great spots to eat and friendly people. If you like hot springs (and don’t mind a little nudity …), I highly recommend Orvis Hot Springs for a post-adventure soak. Ridgway has some really great places to eat as well. Whenever I’m there I make sure to stop at Tacos del Gnar for tacos or grab dinner and a drink on the patio at Eatery 66.
Eloping in Silverton, Colorado
Silverton is a beautiful, scrappy little gown in the San Juans that makes for a perfect spot to elope. Take a drive on the Million Dollar Highway, spend the night at the insanely cool Wyman Hotel, and have the time of your life amongst some of the most beautiful mountains in Colorado!
Eloping in Telluride, Colorado
And then of course there is Telluride itself. Telluride is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and makes a great base for elopements. It’s a bustling ski town (that is equally lively in the summer) with tons to do. Hike to Bridal Veil Falls, get an adrenaline rush on the via Ferrata, ride the free gondola (with your dog!), and stuff your face with food and drinks without ever leaving town.
Best Elopement Ceremony Locations in Telluride and the San Juans
As for where to have your ceremony itself, you have tons of options!
San Sophia Overlook
If you want breathtakingly beautiful views that can be accessed with zero effort, right from town, San Sophia is your spot! This deck is easily accessed by the free gondola from both the town of Telluride as well as mountain village and makes a PERFECT spot for an elopement ceremony. The deck overlooks the town of Telluride with Bridal Veil falls cascading in the distance. Sunrises up here are epic …. and so is everything else!
Alta Lakes Observatory
If you want to have an elopement or small ceremony that feels a million miles way from the hustle and bustle of town but is close enough to venture in ….. and is surrounded by epic scenery …. Alta Lakes Observatory is for you! This place is SO COOL. The observatory was built in the 1975 (you can read more of the history of the Observatory here). Not only is the “cabin” itself beautiful and lux, its also one of the prettiest spots I’ve been to without a super difficult approach. Ringed by mountains and lakes (canoe included!) this place is just incredible. While the road to get there can be a little rough it is passable in any 4×4 or AWD vehicle (no Jeep required). This place is a DREAM for both eloping couples and this Telluride elopement photographer!
Next to a Waterfall
If a Colorado waterfall elopement is what you have in mind, Telluride and the San Juans are an awesome spot! This area has tons and tons of waterfalls that can be accessed by both driving and hiking, depending on the type of adventure you’re up for! The Ouray Ice Park
In a Beautiful Backcountry Location
Whether you want to Jeep in or hike, the San Juans are FULL of incredible spots to say your vows that are far from the grid. The list is just too long to go through here but trust me when I say there is something for EVERYONE in the rugged San Juans!
What is the best time of year to elope in Telluride?
When it comes to eloping in Colorado, including in the San Juan mountains, the key is to expect the unexpected. Our weather is highly unpredictable from day to day but there are a few things you can count on: Summer is going to be beautiful. Winter is going to be beautiful (and cold). And fall colors are OFF THE HOOK.
Unless a winter elopement in Telluride is specifically what you have in mind, I generally tend to recommend summer and fall to most couples because these are the months with the most options in terms of what you can do! Summer weather in the mountains is typically warm and mild with sunny days and cooler evenings. Once fall hits the temperature starts to drop (and snow CAN be possible!), the leaves turn gold, and the whole place turns perfectly cozy and magical.
If a winter elopement is what you have in mind then you are in luck because winter lasts a LONG time in these parts! Generally speaking, anytime from December through April (and often into May) should give you plenty of options with snow on the ground!
How to Elope in Telluride and the San Juan Mountains
Decide how much of an adventure you want
With my couples who want to elope in the San Juans, this is always where we start. The options in this area range from super lux no-hiking-required to Jeep accessible to long hikes into the backcountry. Do you want to do one long epic hike? Do you want to take a Jeep or RAZR to a spot that is far from civilization? Do you want to not do any of that stuff and stick much closer to town or where you are staying? There are options for all of those things and they will determine a lot about how the day is going to go!
Pick a location to elope
This is where it is really helpful to have an experienced Telluride elopement photographer on your side. If you are working with an experienced elopement photographer they should be able to help you with all of this (detailed location planning is one of the things I do for all of my elopement couples!) but if you aren’t working with someone with experience in this area you may be on your own. Either way, I’d suggest choosing a location that is likely to be quiet and uncrowded on the day of your elopement.
Get a marriage license for your Colorado elopement
Marriage licenses can be picked up on weekdays at various county clerk offices including ones in Telluride and Montrose. Colorado doesn’t require any kind of waiting period to get a marriage license and you do NOT need witnesses or an ordained officiant for your ceremony. Due to Covid 19 some county offices are closed or require appointments – double check before you show up!
Have the best damn day of your life!
This day is HUGE and its going to fly by. Slow down. Enjoy it. Take it ALL in! You’re getting married in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.!
Need more Telluride elopement inspiration? Check out these recent elopement adventures in the San Juans!
If you’re thinking of eloping in Telluride or the San Juan mountains or are looking for a Telluride elopement photographer, I’d love to help you have an incredible adventure! Get in touch!