Ahhhhh …. Boulder. It’s been called the “Foodiest Town in America”, the “Happiest Town in America“, “Fittest Town in America“, “The Bubble”, the “Gore-Tex Vortex” and “25 square miles surrounded by reality.” It’s also a place I’ve been lucky enough to call home since 2007*. As a Boulder elopement photographer, I’m lucky enough to get to photograph elopements and intimate weddings right here in Boulder (and across this beautiful state). Let’s talk about eloping in Boulder, how to do it, and why it may (or may not) be the right choice for you!
* Technically I live 5 miles from Boulder (life in the Bubble is expensive, y’all!) in the the cutest town you’ve ever seen – I still consider it part of Boulder, and it’s definitely still Boulder County! This article includes not just Boulder proper but also all of Boulder County.
Why Should You Elope in Boulder, Colorado
When folks from outside Colorado think of Boulder they think of mountains, but that is only part of the story. Technically Boulder sits at the base of the foothills, at 5,430 feet above sea level – only slightly higher than Denver. But the cool thing about Boulder is that the (relatively) low elevation coupled with just how quickly you gain elevation when you head west from town means that we have tons of outdoor opportunities (and varying weather conditions) both way up high and down lower. Fun fact: Boulder County has the biggest difference between it’s highest and lowest elevations of any county in Colorado. Just a 30 minute drive from town get you up to 10,000 feet – and that’s before you leave the pavement. Bonkers!
When is the Best Time of Year to Elope in Boulder, Colorado?
Eloping in Boulder in Winter and Spring: (the snowy season): Unlike the towns in Colorado that are higher in the mountains, Boulder tends to have surprisingly mild temperatures year round. Why the emphasis on the word “tends”? Because when it comes to Colorado weather anything is possible, yes, even in Boulder. Having said that, we our weather is typically sunny and warm-ish (or at least warmer than the high mountains) year round. If you’re hoping for MILD weather for your winter elopement, Boulder is a great place to elope.
Eloping in Boulder in Summer and Fall (the warm, busy season): If you are thinking of eloping in Boulder during the summer months, my first question to you would be “do you want to hike and how far?”. Because Boulder is close to the major urban areas of Colorado, places that are easily accessed from parking lots can be very crowded, even during the week. However, if you are willing to put in a few miles (like 5-ish round trip), you have a bunch of options for STUNNINGLY gorgeous locations that will be far less crowded, especially if you elope on a weekday and plan your ceremony around sunrise or sunset (both of which I always recommend!). If you’re planning a summer elopement and don’t want to hike, I’d probably steer your towards somewhere like Breckenridge or Telluride.
Who Should Elope in Boulder?
Boulder and Boulder County are ideal for couples who want to combine stunning mountains with the amenities of being near a more cosmopolitan area. Boulder is FULL of amazing restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and all the cute little boutiques you could ever want to wander in – while also being right next to some big ass mountains. It’s also SUPER easy to access from the Denver airport, making it a great option for people who don’t want to spend half their time in Colorado driving, those who aren’t comfortable with winter driving (I-70 into the mountains can get GNARLY during the snowy months), and anyone bringing guests or family to their elopement.
Boulder County is also a really great place to have your ceremony if you were thinking you would elope in Estes Park or Rocky Mountain National Park. RMNP has extremely strict rules about elopements and where and when they can take place and I honestly don’t recommend eloping there to anyone. BUT …. if you want to make a trip into RMNP (and some pictures up at Dream Lake!) a part of your day, you can have your ceremony in one of the beautiful wild areas near Boulder and then head into the Park to celebrate.
Who Should NOT Elope in Boulder?
The folks for whom eloping in Boulder is generally a bad idea? I’d say anyone who feels VERY strongly about not seeing other people during their elopement would be well advised to look elsewhere. Also, if you are looking a summer elopement and don’t want to do any hiking, Boulder is probably not the best place for you.
How to Get Married in Boulder
As with the rest of Colorado, getting married in Boulder is INCREDIBLY easy! Colorado allows self-solemnization which means that you don’t need an officiant or any witnesses to sign your marriage license. You can literally have your dog sign it with it’s paw print (because it’s adorable) or have no one sign it at all.
Depending on where you get married and who owns the land, you may need a permit for your ceremony and/or photos. Your Boulder elopement photographer can help you figure all this out (it’s what we’re here for)!
Boulder Elopement Locations
Elopement locations in Boulder range from spots that you get to reserve and call your own for the day (or just for a couple hours) to places you hike to that are way off the grid. In the interest of following Leave No Trace principles, I’m not going to give specifics for backcountry locations (we’ve got to protect these places, y’all!) but hopefully these will give you some ideas!
Chautauqua is perfect for couples who want to elope really close to town and who may also have family joining them for their elopement. While this is definitely not an off-the-beaten-path location, it is ideal for lower elevation elopements and intimate weddings with guests. It has that iconic backdrop of the Flatirons that most people think of when they think of Boulder. You can also stay in cabins right on site!
Lost Gulch Overlook
Lost Gulch is another spot that is super easy to access right from downtown Boulder (you will need a car, but it’s a short drive). This beautiful overlook has dramatic views that are really easy to access. Don’t expect this spot to be empty, but it is a great place for photos with zero effort to get there!
Sunrise Amphitheatre is one of the locations I most often recommend to couples having guests at their elopement or intimate wedding. It can be rented from the city of Boulder for a couple hours for a very reasonable price and is a super easy place to have your ceremony. From there you could go explore the higher mountains (with or without your guests)
Brainard Lake + The Indian Peaks Wilderness
When it comes to eloping in the Bubble, the Indian Peaks are where it’s at for this Boulder elopement photographer! Located just 20 miles west of town, the Indian Peaks Wilderness is full of towering peaks, wildflowers, alpine lakes, and big mountains. The most famous location in the area is Brainard Lake but there are lots of other beautiful spots, especially if you’re willing to do some hiking. Note that many of the most popular trails in the area become much longer hikes in the winter months (due to unmaintained roads) but if you are up for an adventure, it’s so worth it!
Things to do in Boulder
Sure, you’re here to get married, but if ALL you do is get married here, you’re definitely missing out! There is tons to do (and eat and drink) here!
Hikes in Boulder
Part of the magic of Boulder County is that a lot of the nearby land is preserved open space – that means there are loads of hiking trails right next to a small city. Some of my favorite trails are Mt Sanitas, Bear Peak, and the South Mesa Trail.
Hikes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness
I already talked about how magical the Indian Peaks Wilderness is and if you’re here and up for an adventure, I’d definitely recommend heading up that way for a hike. Some of my favorite hikes in the area are Lake Isabelle, Blue Lake, Lost Lake, and Mt Audubon.
Ski at Eldora
Eldora might not be the biggest or fanciest resort in Colorado but it’s proximity to Boulder can’t be beat! Just a half hour drive from town gets you on the mountain (without having to deal with I-70 traffic!). This is our family’s go to ski area and we love it!
Wander around Pearl Street
Downtown Boulder (aka “Pearl Street”) is full of awesome restaurants, bars, shops, and cafes and is well worth a visit if you need a break from all that hiking!
Eat + Drink
Boulder is a foodie town that is full of incredible restaurants, bars, breweries, and distilleries. Regardless of what you like to eat and drink, there will be something you love in Boulder! A few of our favorites are Southern Sun (the best place to grab a burger and beer after hiking the Flatirons), Avanti (awesome food hall right downtown), Acreage (cider + food with the best sunsets in Boulder County), and Oak (great food and amazing cocktails).
What other awesome places are there to elope in Colorado?
As a Boulder elopement photographer I think this part of the state is really freaking special …. but I also know there are lots of other beautiful spots around Colorado! If you’re thinking of eloping here and want some other ideas, check out these might help you out:
Looking for a Boulder elopement photographer? I’d love to help you out! Get in touch!