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Why you should elope in Telluride
I have spent years traveling around the western US, and world, exploring some of the wildest destinations. Among all of the destinations that I have explored, the San Juan mountains remains one of my favorite places in the world. The rugged, wild landscape, small town charm, and rich mining history holds a unique draw. It’s the kind of place that leaves a mark on those who are lucky enough to stumble across it. I have often found that once someone visits, they are often drawn back again and again. I have been to a lot of beautiful places but very few have the same profound impact that the San Juan mountains do. In my opinion, that’s exactly what you should look for when choosing a place to elope. Of course, you want it to be beautiful (and the San Juan mountains have no shortage of spectacular scenery), but I think it’s also important to choose a place that you can return to, to remember the vows you made, and feel all those feelings all over again.
The San Juan Mountains are unlike any other area of Colorado. The mountains are rugged, and vast, with hundreds of Jeeping trails that allow you to explore extremely remote areas that would be otherwise inaccessible. During the summer months, the landscape blanketed with wildflowers, lush green landscapes, and waterfalls cascading down the mountainside. During the fall, the mountains turn vibrant, with golden aspen trees, snow-capped mountain peaks, and a crispness in the air. And in the winter months, you literally feel like you are in a snow-globe as you stand in awe of the mountains towering around you, blanketed in fresh snow. No matter which season you choose, you’ll find the magic that you are looking for.
The San Juan Mountains are made up of three little towns – Telluride, Ouray and Silverton. The towns are all within close proximity to one another, so most visitors will end up exploring all three throughout their trip. Today though, I want to focus on how to elope in Telluride. If you want to learn more about how to elope in Ouray then you can read that blog post here.
Getting to Telluride
Telluride is probably the most remote of the three towns that make up the San Juan mountains, meaning that it’s a little harder to get to, but it’s also less touristy than some of the other more popular towns in Colorado like Vail, and Breckenridge. Telluride is located in the Western part of Colorado, about 6 hours from Denver. The drive from Denver is gorgeous, but the easiest way to reach Telluride would be to fly into the Telluride Regional Airport. Because this airport is so small, the flights can be pricey, so you can also opt to fly into the Montrose Regional Airport which is a bit further away, but also more reasonably priced. The drive from Montrose to Telluride is about 1.5 hours.
Where to stay for your Telluride Elopement
Telluride is definitely the more luxurious of the three towns in the San Juans, meaning that there are a lot of options for incredible Airbnbs, boutique hotels, and really unique, rustic stays. Your elopement day is more than just reading your vows. In fact, typically most of the day will be spent at the place you are staying. It will be where you ready yourselves for the day, with nervous anticipation, and the place you come back to (maybe with a romantic candlelit dinner) after committing your lives to one another. For that reason, I always encourage my couples to choose accommodations that will enhance their elopement experience – whether it be a modern Airbnb with incredible architecture, or a luxurious hotel that offers a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else, or an off-the-grid cabin, completely secluded from the outside world.
Here are a few of my top recommendations for places to stay in Telluride:
The Dunton Hot Springs is my top recommendation for where to stay for an elopement in Telluride. A historic mining town, restored to offer a unique retreat, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before – rugged, charming, and luxurious all at once, nestled in the mountains just outside of Telluride. The accomodations are made up of log cabins, and spacious canvas tents. They are rustic, retaining their original character, yet delightfully comfortable. There are also multiple natural mineral hot springs onsite.
The Schmid Family Ranch is another spot that sits just outside of Telluride. This ranch features 2 cabins that can accommodate up to 16 people, making this a perfect spot to stay if you are eloping with guests. Not only does the ranch feature absolutely stunning 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains, but it also offers unique activities that would be so much fun to incorporate into an elopement day, such as horseback riding, or sleigh rides with hot chocolate. The views are stunning, so you could elope without ever leaving the property, but you are also in close proximity to the surrounding Jeeping trails if you wanted to add a bit of adventure to your day.
Alta Lakes Observatory is an off-the-grid cabin that is only accessible via a 4×4 trail up the mountains. The lake sits at the shoreline of Alta Lakes – one of the most pristine lakes in the San Juan Mountains. There is something incredibly special and romantic about staying in a cozy cabin, in complete solitude. This really is the perfect place to stay for your Telluride elopement. Alta Lakes sleeps up to 12 people, you can bring your small group of guests along as well.
This unique Airbnb is located in Mountain Village (just outside of Telluride). This is one of the most unique homes I have ever seen, with incredible architecture, massive floor-to-ceiling windows, and eclectic design. The Airbnb sits in a grove of aspen trees, and offers unmatched views of the surrounding mountain peaks. The space is thoughtfully designed to bring the outside world in, and it’s not uncommon to look up and see a bear or moose wandering by.
When to elope in Telluride
You truly cannot go wrong eloping in pretty much any season in Telluride. It’s absolutely gorgeous year round, and offers so many different types of activities depending on the season. Summer is going to offer the most opportunity for adventure in the outdoors, whether you want to hike to alpine lakes, Jeep to remote areas of the mountains, rock climb, horseback ride, ATV ride, or try out the Via Ferratta. The summer is also one of the most gorgeous times of year to explore Telluride. You’ll experience gorgeous wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, and lush greenery. The best timeframe to plan your elopement in Telluride is mid-July through mid-August.This is when the wildflowers will be at their peak, and most of the snow will have melted off the trials, making pretty much everything accessible by this point.
Fall in Telluride is my absolute favorite season. Telluride is surrounded by groves of aspen trees, so during the fall the entire landscape turns vibrant with warm fall colors. The mountain peaks are often dusted with fresh snow too, making it feel absolutely magical. It’s almost impossible to predict when the fall colors will peak, but I typically recommend planning for the last week of September through the first week of October. This timeframe tends to work well because the peak will usually fall within those two weeks, but the weather is also still mild and enjoyable. During fall most of the Jeeping and hiking trails should still be open and accessible, unless there is an early snow!
Winter in Telluride is absolutely magical, and opens up tons of new opportunities for outdoor adventures that you can’t experience during the warmer months. Colorado is one of the best states for a winter elopement, because the weather is typically sunny, with blue skies, and decently warm temperatures. While most days are mild, there is the occasional snow storm that blows through, making the outdoors pretty inaccessible, and sometimes dangerous. Because of this, I typically like to reserve 2-3 days on my calendar for an elopement, so we can avoid any crazy weather that comes through. When it does snow though, it is absolutely stunning. You’ll feel like you are in a snowglobe, with a fresh blanket of snow covering the surrounding mountain peaks. The best time for a winter elopement in Telluride is December – February.
Where to elope in Telluride
Choosing where you want to elope in Telluride will probably be one of the most important decisions you make throughout this entire process. There is something significant about saying your vows in a place that humbles you and inspires you and allows you to feel fully present. If you are staying at any of the accommodations I mentioned above, you may not even want to leave the property on your elopement day, since all of them offer spectacular views, coupled with total seclusion. But if you want to add an element of adventure into your elopement, Telluride offers so many options for breathtaking, wild locations. Before choosing where you want to elope, there are a couple factors that you will want to consider:
Telluride offers so many different types of landscapes to explore, from aspen groves that stretch as far as your eye can see, to turquoise alpine lakes, to rugged high alpine views that take your breath away (literally, because of the lack of oxygen). I recommend taking the time to sit down with your person and envision what you want your elopement ceremony to look like. Are you surrounded by fields of wildflowers, 360 degree mountain views, or maybe you are standing in front of a cascading waterfall? What type of landscape is going to make you feel most present with each other, as you commit your lives to one another? Telluride has SO many incredible spots, it can be hard to narrow it down, but luckily, you don’t have to choose just one. Most of my couples end up planning a full day experience for their elopement, which typically entails visiting a couple different spots so they can explore diverse scenery.
For most couples, privacy is one of their biggest priorities for their elopement day. There is something really special about saying your vows in complete solitude, with no one else around for miles. Luckily, because Telluride is so remote it doesn’t receive the same amount of tourism as places on the front range of Colorado. You’ll likely never find yourself fighting for parking spots at trailheads, or sharing a scenic view with hundreds of other people. Sure, there are some spots that can get busy, but if you know the best secret spots, and tricks to avoid tourists, you’ll be able to find solitude pretty easily. The majority of my couples are the only ones on the mountain when they say their vows. This is a big reason why I recommend hiring a photographer that knows the area well, and can provide you with the kind of privacy that you are looking for.
The last thing you’ll want to consider when choosing an elopement location is accessibility. It’s important to decide how much effort (and money) you want to spend to get to your elopement location. One of my favorite things about Telluride, and one of the reasons why it makes such an incredible elopement location, is because it is literally known as the Jeeping capital of the country. There are hundreds of incredible Jeeping trails all throughout the San Juan mountains that allow you to access some of the most remote, wild locations that would otherwise require a sweaty 8 mile hike to reach. The majority of my couples that elope in Telluride will choose a Jeep as their mode of transport! For the couples that like the idea of hiking 8 miles though, there are plenty of options for that as well, as Telluride has some world class hiking trails.
If you are including guests in your day, I typically recommend opting for a more accessible location (like one of the accommodations I mentioned earlier, or maybe a lake you can drive a 2wd up to), and then heading out on a more adventurous excursion afterwards. This sort of timeline seems to work well, as it offers my couples both an experience to share with their loved ones, as well as a private adventure just the two of them. You can also opt for a 2-day elopement to really experience the area to the fullest, while also giving yourself the time to really relax and soak it all in. Check out this 2-day elopement in the San Juans here to get a better idea of how that could look.
Here are the best Telluride elopement locations:
Alta Lakes is one of my favorite spots for a Telluride elopement. This area is made up of a series of small alpine lakes, sitting just above 11,000 ft. of elevation. This is also where the Alta Lakes Observatory is located, but the lakes are accessible to the public. To access Alta Lakes, you’ll take a 4×4 road that is located just outside of Telluride. The road is super easy with stunning views, and you’ll pass the ghost town known as Alta on the way to the top.
Last Dollar Road:
Last Dollar Road is a 4×4 road that is located just outside of Telluride. The route is considered easy, and is known for it’s gorgeous color palette during the fall, due to the many aspen groves that grow along the road. There is also an incredible overlook area that offers some of the most beautiful views for sunset.
Trout lake is another favorite spot of mine for an elopement. The lake is located about 15 miles outside of Telluride, and the views along the drive are absolutely stunning. The lake is pretty big, so it offers lots of areas to explore, and wander along the shoreline to find privacy. You can canoe, or kayak in the water as well.
Check out this blog post I wrote about Where to Elope in the San Juan Mountains for more location ideas!
Telluride elopement ideas / Things to do in Telluride
Telluride has so many different activities you can do! Of course there are endless opportunities to hike, and Jeep into the mountains. The town is also so charming, and full of so many great places to eat, shop, and explore!
- Design a custom hat at Cross Bow Telluride
- Grab some lunch at the Butcher & the Baker
- Go on a Jeep tour with Telluride Offroad Adventures
- Explore Bridal Veil Falls
- Hike to Blue Lakes
- Take a day trip to Ouray
- Drive the Million Dollar Highway
- Take a day ride, or an overnight trip with Telluride Wranglers
- Do the Via Ferrata if you are brave enough
- Enjoy a sleigh ride with Telluride Sleighs and Wagons
- Ride the Gondola up to Mountain Village
How to get legally married in Telluride
Colorado is a super easy state to get married in! You can self-solemnize, meaning that you can legally marry yourselves without needing an officiant. To obtain your marriage license, all you will need to do is head to the county clerk (you can go to any county clerk, it doesn’t have to be specific to the county you are getting married in), fill out an application, show your ID’s and pay a fee. There is no waiting period, and once you have the marriage license it is valid for 35 days. The San Miguel county clerk is located in Telluride, making it the best option to get your marriage license for your Telluride elopement, but you can get it at any county clerk throughout the state.
Unlike a lot of locations on the front range of Colorado, the San Juan Mountains have super relaxed permitting regulations, and you likely will not need a permit for your elopement day. This is one of the main reasons why I love this area so much, and highly recommend Telluride as an elopement location.
Telluride Elopement Vendors
The vendors you choose to hire for your elopement day can have such a big impact on how everything comes together. You definitely don’t need to hire every single vendor I mention, but I do recommend choosing where you want to prioritize your money, and then investing in a few awesome vendors who will really elevate your overall experience. Here are a few different vendors you can consider hiring for your elopement day:
I think photography is one of the most important things you can invest in for your elopement day. These photos are so much more than just something to post on your social media, this is your legacy, and the way that your story will be remembered for decades to come. I believe it’s important to choose a photographer whose work you love, whose personality you vibe with, and who also has experience working in the area you are getting married. The San Juan mountains are beautiful, but they are also unforgiving. If you are going to be traveling out to extremely remote areas, it’s important that you are doing it safely, and have the proper guidance. I typically recommend hiring your elopement photographer before you do anything else! A great photographer will help you through a lot of the planning process. I provide all of my couples with customer location recommendations, timeline assistance, vendor recommendations, and anything else they need help with.
Of course, I’m gonna recommend myself as the best option for a Telluride Elopement Photographer! I’ve been lucky enough to call these mountains a home for over 20 years, and know the area like the back of my hand. These mountains are meaningful to me, and hold a special place in my heart, and I absolutely love getting to share this area with my couples, who I know will connect with it in the same way that I do. I also take pretty good photos too 😉 Reach out here if you want to chat more about your Telluride elopement.
I absolutely love when my couples choose to include florals in their day. Florals are a great way to really elevate an elopement, and make it feel special. Here are my top recommendations for florists to hire for your Telluride elopement:
You don’t need an officiant to get legally married in Colorado, but some couples still choose to hire one to lead their ceremony. The right officiant can make your ceremony beautiful and emotional. Here are a few of my top recommendations:
Hair and Makeup:
Hair and Makeup is a great thing to splurge on if you think it will make you feel absolutely incredible on your elopement day! Most of my brides typically hire a hair & makeup artist. Here are my top recommendations for some incredible H&MU artists who I love:
Planning / Design:
Many couples feel as though they don’t need a planner for their elopement because their photography typically helps a lot with planning, but there are so many things that a planner can do to elevate your elopement experience (that a photographer can’t do). I highly recommend considering hiring a planner if you are including guests in your day, or want any sort of elaborate styling set up. Here are my top recommendations for elopement planners:
There is so much value in hiring awesome outdoor guides / outfitters to guide you in the outdoors! Investing in excursions is a great way to add an element of adventure to your elopement experience. Here are a few of my favorite Telluride outfitters:
- Telluride Wranglers
- Telluride Outside
- Telluride Jeeping Tours
- Telluride Offroad Adventures
- Telluride Outfitters
Food / Cake:
Of course you need to eat on your wedding day! There are so many different options, whether you want a beautiful charcuterie spread, a gorgeous cake, or a private chef to end the night. Here are some of my favorite local recommendations:
How much does it cost to elope in Telluride
Of course every elopement day is going to vary pretty drastically in cost, depending on how many vendors you hire and details you include. In reality, you only really need $30 to purchase the marriage license and make things official. Telluride is a more bougie area, so it will likely be more expensive to elope here, compared to other locations. Here are the average costs my couples are typically paying to have an elevated, full day elopement in Telluride.
Wedding dress / attire: $1500 – $4000
Marriage license: $30
Officiant: $500 (but not required)
Travel to Telluride / accommodations: $1500-$4000
Jeeping tour: $800-$1200
Special details (personal vow books / invitations, etc.): $100-$500
Planning your elopement with intention
Lastly, I want to talk about planning your elopement day with intention.
Eloping gives you so much freedom, and with that comes so many choices to make. While yes, eloping is about going against the mold, and doing things that feel authentic to you, I’ve found that it’s easy to get caught up in all the things you “should” be doing, similar to the pressure you’ll find in the traditional wedding industry. Only with elopements, instead of feeling like you have to have the most incredible bridesmaid dresses, or the most Pinterest-worthy table settings, you’ll be feeling the pressure to elope on the most Instagrammable mountain top, or have the most adventurous experience.
I want to encourage you to leave that all behind though, and instead take the time to truly prioritize what matters to you, and plan a day that is rooted in the significance of your marriage, not a day that’s meant for social media. The more you can focus on the why behind what you are doing, the more clear your vision will become, and the easier it will be to make choices that align with that vision, and to ditch the things that don’t. This day isn’t meant for anyone but you two. This is your legacy, and the true beauty of an elopement is that it can be all about the vows, the commitment and the marriage.
So focus on that and leave everything else behind.
Ready to start planning your Telluride elopement?
I specialize in helping couples plan a once in a lifetime experience for their elopement day, and I can’t recommend Telluride enough! My experience exploring the area means I have a long list of incredible spots that are perfect for your elopement.
My role as photographer goes waaaay beyond just taking incredible photos (although I do a lot of that too). I’m here to walk you through every step to plan your incredible Telluride elopement adventure. Beyond just a gallery of AMAZING photos, when you book with me you get:
- My elopement planning guide – exclusive only to my couples
- A “get to know you” questionnaire so I can learn all about you two + the your dream elopement
- A customized list of INCREDIBLE locations to choose from
- Vendor recommendations so you can book your vendor dream team
- Assistance with acquiring the proper permits (all the boring legal stuff)
- A hand crafted day of elopement timeline
- Plus any other help you need!
Let’s do this thing! Contact me here and we can get started planning your dream Telluride elopement experience!