Twin Lakes, Leadville, and Buena Vista Elopement Guide
How to Elope in Twin Lakes, Colorado – Updated for 2023
An Elopement Photographer's Guide to Getting Married in Colorado's Central Mountains
How to Elope in Twin Lakes, Leadville, and Buena Vista, Colorado
If you're planning to elope in Colorado and are looking for a beautiful spot with ample nature, gorgeous hikes, a less ski resort-y vibe, and cute mountain towns all within a couple hour's drive from Denver, look no further than Twin Lakes and the nearby towns of Leadville and Buena Vista.
These areas aren't on a lot of people's radar, especially if you're from out of state, but they should be! In this guide I'm going to tell you why I think they're so awesome for elopements and microweddings and help get you started on planning your own Twin Lakes elopement!
Meet Your Guide for this Adventure!
A leadville love story ….
Hey! I'm Jen Dz. I'm a Colorado based adventure elopement and microwedding photographer. The mountains around Twin Lakes and Leadville are my home away from home.
When we first moved to Colorado in 2007 we spent nearly every summer weekend in these mountains – climbing 14ers, swimming with the dogs in alpine lakes, eating pizza at High Mountain Pies, and living out of our tent as much as possible.
Fast forward 15 years and this area has become one of my absolute favorite spots to help couples elope. Few things make me happier than showing folks around the mountains that feel like my second home!
Where is Twin Lakes, Colorado?
Twin Lakes is a tiny town located in the Sawatch Mountains, approximately 2.5 hours from Denver. It is about 30 minutes south of Leadville and 30 minutes north of Buena Vista and surrounded by some of Colorado's tallest peaks.
For simplicity's sake, I'll generally be using the term “Twin Lakes” Twin Lakes itself as well as neighboring Leadville and Buena Vista. All three are very different (we'll talk about those differences!) and any would make a great choice for your elopement – it just kind of depends on the vibe you want!
Is Twin Lakes, Colorado, a good place to elope?
Yes, yes, yes!!! A thousand times yes!
Twin Lakes (and it's nearby mountains and towns) is one of my all time favorite locations for Colorado elopements. Why? It is stunningly beautiful and gives you access to all kinds of scenery from mountain meadows to high peaks to waterfalls to rivers and more … and it's only a few hours from Denver.
If you are looking to avoid crowded, overpriced ski towns (that sometimes feel more like Disneyland than authentic Colorado), you will LOVE this area!
Twin Lakes, Leadville, and BV are beautiful year round and each season has it's own character. When the best time of year is to elope in this area will largely depend on the type of activities you want to do and what kind of weather you are hoping for!
When is the best time of year to elope in Twin Lakes, Colorado?
Eloping in Twin Lakes in Summer (June – August)
Eloping in Twin Lakes in Winter (December – early April-ish)
Summer in Twin Lakes is glorious. Long warm days give way to cool, pleasant nights and after early July just about everywhere is accessible. This is also a very busy season in the mountains (with a few weekends being EXTRA busy in Twin Lakes and Leadville – we'll talk about that later) so it's always best to elope on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
Winter is looooong in the high country … but it's also extraordinarily beautiful and typically not as cold as you would expect due to the dry climate and ample number of sunny days. A lot of the higher altitude locations will be harder (if not impossible) to access due to road closures and avalanche danger but don't worry, there's still tons of adventure and gorgeous scenery to be had!
Eloping in Twin Lakes in Fall (September – November-ish)
Eloping in Twin Lakes in Spring (April-ish to May)
If I'm being completely honest, this is my least favorite time of the year in Colorado. While most of the rest of the country is thawing out, we're getting pounded with HEAVY snow interspersed with warm days that turn everything to mud. If you really want to elope in these months I'd recommend thinking about heading to the desert (Moab is just a short drive away) or hitting the coastal Pacific Northwest.
Fall is my FAVORITE season in the mountains and this area is no exception! The aspens turn bright yellow sometime around mid-September, the temperatures are cool and crisp, and the summer tourists have all gone home. Snow can begin as early as late September but typically you have really good weather well into early October. Definitely plan your elopement for a weekday, especially when the aspens are changing, to avoid the weekend crowds.
When NOT to elope in Twin Lakes
Take it from someone who has spent literally hundreds of days romping around in these mountains, there are a couple weekends you DON'T want to elope in Twin Lakes.
Every summer Leadville plays host to an insanely epic race series that builds through the summer and culminates in the world famous Leadville Trail 100 Run and Mountain Bike races. Every year thousands of runners and cyclists and their crews descend on this area and both races go right through Twin Lakes.
I'm a huge fan of both of these races (my husband did the 100 mile mountain bike race and I've gone up many times to cheer for racers doing the 100 mile run!) and they are very cool to see – just don't expect solitude in Twin Lakes on those weekends and Leadville itself will be crazy busy!
Generally speaking I always recommend planning your elopement for a weekday, ideally Monday-Thursday, to avoid crowds. This is especially true of these race weeks!
You can check the Leadville Race Series calendar here.
Twin Lakes Area Elopement Locations
Next to a River in the Woods
On Top of a Mountain
Next to an Alpine Lake
At a Waterfall
on top of a mountain
Where to Stay for Your Twin Lakes Elopement
Twin Lakes, Leadville, and Buena Vista are all very different places with very different characters. If you stay in one you can visit any of them so really, there are no bad choices here! In the interest of getting you started and helping you pick the right choice for YOU, let's talk about each of these towns!
Twin Lakes is a TINY little hamlet located at the base of the mountains. The good news is that this place is drop dead gorgeous and away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger towns. The bad news is that your dining and lodging options are limited. If you want to eat out a lot on your trip, this probably isn't the place for you but if you want to be surrounded by nature, you'll love it!
Staying in Twin Lakes
Leadville is one of my favorite places in the entire world so I'm bit biased here. This old mining town has gotten a little more bougie in recent years but it has still retained it's charm. Sitting at 10,152 feet, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in America. There are some good dining options like the slightly fancier Treeline Kitchen, Before and After (a cocktail bar with delicious snacks), the wildly popular coffee shop City on a Hill, and High Mountain Pies which makes delicious pizzas you can enjoy in their giant yard.
You won't find super fancy hotels in Leadville but there are plenty of places to stay including the historic Delaware Hotel and lots of VRBOs.
Staying in Leadville
Buena Vista is considerably lower in elevation than Leadville or Twin Lakes and located right on the Arkansas River, giving it much more of a river town feel (and also making it generally warmer in the winter). BV has a lot of restaurants and lodging options including one of my favorite hotels in all of Colorado, the Surf Hotel. Other notable lodging near BV is Mount Princeton Hot Springs which is a cozy resort featuring GORGEOUS hot springs, cute (and dog-friendly!) cabins, and on-site dining. This place will always hold a special place in my heart because I shot my second wedding ever there years ago and it went crazy viral!
Fun fact: In Colorado we (very incorrectly) pronounce the name of this town Ba-YOU-na Vista so forget everything you know about speaking Spanish if you want to sound like a local!
Staying in Buena Vista
Things to Do in Leadville, Twin Lakes, and Buena Vista
Whether you are looking for things to do during your elopement or wondering about activity ideas for the rest of your trip, you'll find plenty of options in this area! The possibilities for adventure (and relaxation) are endless.
Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
This area has the highest concentration of 14ers (14,000+ foot mountains) in Colorado and many can be accessed with any vehicle. While most of the mountains in this area are pretty standard hikes (technical skills not required), safety is still a concern. Before you go brush up on how to stay safe in high alpine environments (like starting before sunrise and getting off the mountain early to avoid storms). Some good beginner 14ers in this area are Mt Elbert (the tallest mountain Colorado), Mt Huron, La Plata Peak, and Mt Yale. Learn more about hiking 14ers at 14ers.com
Hike a 14er
While the big mountains get a lot of the attention, there are tons of beautiful places to hike in the Sawatch Range. Whether you want something long and epic or shorter and easier, you have tons of options. I love using AllTrails to find hikes!
Hike a non-14er
One of the most beautiful stretches of road in Colorado is Independence Pass. It connects Twin lakes to bougie Aspen. This drive makes an excellent day trip. This road is paved and can be driven in any standard size vehicle but it does close in the winter. Check CoTrip for road conditions.
Drive independence pass to aspen
Melanzana is a Leadville staple and if you're visiting this area you should absolutely stop by for a hoodie. All of their products are made in the store (you can see them being sewn!) and are wonderful quality. I've had my original “Melly” for 15 years! They recently implemented a reservation system for shopping because people were literally getting in fights over hoodies! Be sure to make an appointment well before your trip as they book up fast.
Buy a hoodie at melanzana
Mt Princeton Hot Springs is just a short drive from Buena Vista. These gorgeous hot springs are the perfect place to rest your weary legs after a long hike!
Soak in hot springs
The Mineral Belt Trail is a paved path (groomed snow in the winter) that runs through Leadville's historic mining country. See old mining ruins and learn about the area's rich boom (and bust) town history.
Hike, Ski, or bike the mineral Belt Trail
The world famous Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike and Run races take place every summer. While they can make town inconveniently busy, the finish line can also be an absolute blast! If you're around on the weekend of the run I highly recommend posting up near the finish line on Sunday morning and watching the folks who have been out there for TWO DAYS come staggering in. I cry every time!
Cheer for racers in the Leadville Race series
Due to it's location on the Arkansas River, BV is a river town with some of the best whitewater rafting in Colorado!
White water rafting
Colorado's official Summer Heritage Sport is pack burro racing and it is a BLAST both for participants and spectators alike! Paying homage to Colorado's mining history, runners and their donkey partners cover 15-30 miles or rugged trails carrying traditional mining equipment. The “Triple Crown” of pack burro racing takes place in Leadville, Buena Vista, and Fairplay every summer. If you are brave enough to attempt this yourself, burros can be rented.
Here's yours truly (and donkey bud Guinness) after coming in “Last Ass” in Leadville several years ago! We won a donkey butt trophy and 6-pack of beer for our mis-adventure. 😉
Catch (or participate in) a pack burro race