bride and groom in wedding clothes standing on boulder in front of lake and pink mountains at lake isabelle colorado elopement

How to Elope at Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle is far and away one of my favorite places in Colorado for hiking elopements, especially for couples who don't want to travel terribly far from the Front Range (and Denver's massive airport). In this guide I'll talk about why I love this spot so much and give you all the info you need to elope there safely, legally, and in the most epic way possible. If you want to plan a Lake Isabelle elopement, this guide is for you!

Can you get married at Lake Isabelle?

Generally speaking, yes! While there are some important rules to follow when it comes to eloping or getting married at Lake Isabelle, it is generally doable (and so, so pretty!). Lake Isabelle is part of the Indian Peaks Wilderness area which means that it’s important to follow all of the rules that come with being in a Wilderness (with a capital W) area. This means keeping group sizes to a minimum and no use of drones.

bride and groom drink champagne on rock at lake isabelle colorado elopement
bride and groom in hiking clothes carry their wedding clothes to lake isabelle elopement

How long is the hike to Lake Isabelle?

How long it take to hike to Lake Isabelle varies pretty dramatically throughout the year. During the warmer months, Lake Isabelle is a 4 mile round trip hike from the Long Lake Trailhead. While it does climb somewhat up to the lake, it is not an especially strenuous hike compared to other in the area. I always tell people that this is a “big bang for your buck” kind of hike – you'll feel like you went on an adventure but you probably won't be totally beat.

From mid-October through early summer the road to Brainard Lake itself and up to the Long Lake trailhead stays closed. To access Lake Isabelle during these months you must hike or snowshoe from the Brainard Lake winter lot, adding an additional 7 miles to your trek. The views and solitude are worth it, however, if you're up for an adventure!

Where is Lake Isabelle?

Lake Isabelle is located in the mountains of Boulder County, just outside the tiny town of Ward. The closest towns (of any substantial size) are Nederland, Estes Park, and Boulder. It is approximately an hour to an hour and a half from Denver International Airport. It's located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and accessed from the Brainard Lake Recreation area and Long Lake trailhead.

Do you need a permit to get married at Lake Isabelle?

If you have less than 8 people total in your group and no vendors other than a photographer and videographer you do NOT need a permit to elope at lake Isabelle.

Note that these rules are subject to change. I always recommend working with a local photographer to make sure that you're getting the most up to date information!

Do you need a reservation to get married at Lake Isabelle?

Generally, yes! A few years ago they implemented a timed entry system. To park at the Long Lake Trailhead or at Brainard Lake itself you will need to purchase a parking pass here. You can always park at the winter trailhead but remember that it makes your hike much longer! Definitely plan ahead!!

bride and groom snuggle at lake isabelle sunrise elopement

Best Time of Day to Elope at Lake Isabelle

While Lake Isabelle is gorgeous all day long, it's especially magical at sunrise and sunset Crowds are fewer and the light makes for amazing photos. If you can swing a middle of the night alarm to get there for sunrise it is SO WORTH IT. The sun lights up the peaks behind the lake and it is JUST PERFECT. I'm a sucker for alpenglow and sunrise at Lake Isabelle has some of the best!

Best Time of Year to Elope at Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle is beautiful year round but there are definitely some times of year that are better than others to elope up there. I especially love early to mid summer up there (say, July through early August). The road to the trailhead is open, the wildflowers are popping, and the lake is full. The lake is drained in late August and will likely not be as full in the late summer and fall as it is earlier in the year. Winter in this area is beautiful but a much, much longer hike!

bride and groom cuddle in lake with moon rising over them at lake isabelle colorado hiking elopement

Some things to keep in mind for your Lake Isabelle Elopement:

  • This is a high alpine area and can be subject to intense weather, particularly in the afternoon. Bring proper rain gear and warm layers (yes, even in summer) just to be prepared! Also keep in mind that if the weather is really bad you may need to stay below treeline for safety (fortunately the entire hike is gorgeous and you really can't go wrong!). This is another reason I generally prefer sunrise elopements here!
  • Wildlife is plentiful in this area – especially moose. Be aware of your surroundings and keep your dogs on leash (which is required anyway!)
  • Leave No Trace – stay on durable surfaces (rocks, trails, etc.) and pack out everything you brought in
  • Don't be a jerk! – While solitude can certainly be found here there is a really good chance you will see other people. Remember that they have as much of a right to be there as you do!
  • Avoid weekends.

Lake Isabelle is an absolute gem and truly one of the most beautiful places to elope in Colorado! Hopefully this guide helped get you started on having an epic mountain elopement of your own. If you're thinking of eloping at Lake Isabelle, I'd love to help you plan and capture it all as it goes down! Please get in touch and lets make your day (and your photos!) incredible!