Couple cuddling next to creek in the forest at Boulder, CO elopement.

Brainard Lake Wedding and Elopement Guide

For couples looking to get married close to the Denver metro area, but still in the mountains, the Brainard Lake area is an extremely popular spot – and there is a VERY good reason for it. It’s super close to Denver (and it’s big airport), Boulder (and it’s plethora of dining and lodging options), and Estes Park (and nearby Rocky Mountain National Park). It may be easy to get to but figuring out how to get married at Brainard Lake is a whole other story – so let’s talk about it!

where is brainard lake, Colorado?

Brainard Lake sits just west of the Peak to Peak Highway in Colorado at an elevation of 10,300 feet. It’s just south of Estes Park, west of Boulder, and north of Nederland. It’s located right on the edge of the staggeringly beautiful Indian Peaks Wilderness.

It’s a little over an hour from Denver and a half hour from Boulder. If you are coming from out of town you will definitely want to rent a car as public transportation does not go up there and there is no cell service at the lake.

Can you elope at brainard lake year round?

Sort of. The road to Brainard Lake itself is not maintained through winter. It is typically open from mid-June through mid-October (or whenever it really starts to snow). When the road is closed it is a relatively flat 2 mile hike from the winter trailhead to the lake. If you don’t want to do that hike, make sure you pick a mid-summer or early fall date!

Note that if you are wanting to access any of the trailheads to places like Lake Isabelle or Blue Lake, those roads open even later in the summer.

bride and groom in wedding clothes snuggle at brainard lake colorado sunrise elopement

Brainard Lake Wedding Permits

do you need a permit to get married at Brainard Lake?

Permit requirements depend on how many (if any) guests you are having and where you are going to go. Because part of this area is U.S. Forest Service land and part of it is in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the rules vary greatly depending on location.

I highly recommend working with an elopement photographer/planner who is well versed in this stuff to help make sure you are legal!

Where to stay for your brainard lake wedding or elopement

Brainard Lake is located very close to the tiny town of Ward, Colorado. There aren’t many amenities there so most people decide to stay somewhere else nearby. Where you stay will depend on the kind of experience you want.

Here are your options:


Boulder is the perfect spot for couples who want the amenities of a big town/small city. It’s full of incredible restaurants, lively bars, and tons of lodging options. It’s a town that is equal parts laid-back and bougie.

Estes park

Estes Park is at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and a great place to stay for couples who want easy access to the park. It has good tourist infrastructure with lots of lodging and restaurants.


Nederland is a funky hippie town just down the Peak to Peak highway. If you are looking for a mountain town that is a little less touristy than Estes Park, this is the spot for you! It also has easy access to other locations in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Want to elope at brainard lake? I’d love to help!

Hey! I’m Jen Dz! I’m a Boulder, Colorado based adventure elopement and microwedding photographer and planner. I shot my VERY first elopement ever at Brainard Lake way back in 2016. I know this area like the back of my hand and would love to help you have the best day ever in one of my favorite places!