How to Elope at Brainard Lake | Alyssa + Rylan

bride and groom holding each others hands while standing in front of Mitchell Lake during their Brainard Lake Elopement in Colorado

Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains – Colorado boasts some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the United States. Among its many jewels lies the enchanting Brainard Lake Recreation Area, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Many people come here seeking solace in the embrace of nature’s splendor. In this blog post, we will embark on a journey to discover the wonders of this pristine wilderness area – from its shimmering alpine lakes to its rugged mountain trails. Read more to discover the magic of Brainard Lake and learn more about how you can have the Colorado elopement experience of a lifetime!

Why Should You Elope at Brainard Lake?

Brainard Lake Recreation Area offers incredible views throughout the entire park. It is definitely one of my favorite locations for couples to exchange vows. Not only does this area have pristine alpine lakes and rugged mountain peaks it has beautiful forested hiking trails leading to these view points. It really sets the stage for a romantic and unforgettable elopement.

Brainard Lake is also easily accessible from Denver and other parts of Colorado. It is only an hour from downtown Denver and is only an hour and half from Denver International Airport. Most elopement locations from Denver Metro are easily 2+ hours away making this such an easy location to get married at.

Additionally, Brainard Lake Recreation Area is home to Isabelle Glacier, one of fourteen named glaciers left in Colorado. This glacier is said to have begun forming almost 600 years ago. Once temperatures started rising again in Colorado, that is when Lake Isabelle was born. It is a bowl of frigid water that is contained by a steep-walled basin at the top of a spectacular, flower-infused valley. Jagged peaks are crowded around the alpine lake. This is one of my favorite locations within the park for elopements, considering you can only find views like this much further away.

Bride and groom being silly during their elopement photos at Brainard Lake in Colorado
Groom holding the bride while they both smile at the camera with Lake Mitchell in the background during their colorado elopement at Brainard Lake Recreation Area

When Is The Best Time To Elope at Brainard Lake?


Each season at Brainard Lake offers its own unique charm. Spring brings vibrant wildflowers, summer boasts lush greenery, fall showcases stunning foliage, and winter transforms the landscape into a winter wonderland.

Time of Day

Consider the lighting and ambiance you desire for your ceremony. Sunrise and sunset are popular choices for their soft, golden light. I usually urge my couples to opt for a sunrise elopement here because the afternoon can bring in thunderstorms.


While Colorado weather can be unpredictable, summer typically offers the most favorable conditions for outdoor ceremonies. However, be prepared for sudden changes in weather and come equipped with appropriate attire and gear. As mentioned above, afternoon thunderstorms are very common here in the mountains of Colorado.

Winter at Brainard Lake Recreation Area

During the winter months, the park remains accessible year-round, albeit with certain limitations. Approximately 2 miles from the main area of Brainard Lake, a gate is typically closed for the winter season. To access the lake and other trailheads during this time, visitors must traverse the snowy road via snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Generally, the gate opens for vehicular access from late June to late October, contingent upon weather conditions.

Bride and groom in traditional Vietnamese wedding attire with Lake Mitchell in the background during their Colorado elopement at Brainard Lake Recreation Area

How To Pick Your Elopement Date

There are several factors that can go into picking an elopement date. I find that choosing a season is important because it can drastically change what the scenery can look and feel like. Talk to your elopement photographer about your desired backdrop is and they should be able to recommend a season that would best fit your vision. Then if you want to narrow it down even more you might want to choose a date that holds personal significance.

close-up of bride's ring during her elopement photoshoot in Colorado at Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Timed Entry + Permitting at Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Due to the influx of visitors and restricted parking availability, Brainard Lake operates on a timed entry system. Securing entry passes involves reserving them through and specifying the trailhead where you intend to park. It’s essential to note that your pass is exclusively valid for the designated trailhead, and passes become available on a 14-day rolling window basis. The entry fee is $14 per vehicle and the timed entry is $2.

How to Choose the Perfect Location Inside the Park

When considering your elopement location I always recommend figuring out what you want to prioritize. Do you want accessibility, privacy, bathrooms or adventure? Once you know what your number one priority is, it become much easier to narrow down your chooses.

Recommended Locations in Brainard Lake Recreation Area for Elopements:

Brainard Lake

This is the most accessible lake in the park, as it has the largest parking lot and concrete paths leading up to it. This area of the park also has bathrooms available.

Mitchell Lake

You can access Mitchell Lake trailhead by parking at the Mitchell Lake Parking lot. From there you can access the trail and head into the beautiful forested trail. It is a 1.8 mile out and back trail.

Long Lake

You can access Long Lake trailhead by parking at the Long Lake Parking lot. From there you can access the trail. It is a .4 mile round-trip trail.

Isabelle Lake

You can access Lake Isabelle by parking at the Long Lake Parking lot. From there you can access the Pawnee Pass trail. It is a 4.2 mile round-trip.

bride and groom holding hands in the forest at Brainard Lake Recreation area during their colorado elopement

Example Elopement Activities for your Brainard Lake Elopement








Cross-country skiing

Bride and groom laughing and smiling at the camera

Best Places to Stay near Brainard Lake

Hotel Boulderado

Embassy Suites Boulder

Boulder Adventure Lodge

Mountain Oasis near Nederland, Black Hawk

Boulder Mountain Retreat

Mountain Airbnb

Bright, Airy, Tranquil Boulder Home-Away

Historic Downtown Creekside House

Sunshine Canyon Mtn. Retreat

Where to Celebrate with Your Guests

Lyons Farmette / Riverbend

Wild Basin Lodge

Colorado Mountain Ranch

Rembrandt Yard

St. Julien Hotel

Chautauqua Dining Hall

The Kitchen + Upstairs Lounge


Ready to Get Started with Planning your Brainard Lake Elopement?

I would absolutely love to help you get started planning the most epic elopement experience. I help all of my couples with location scouting, timeline creation, and so much more! Reach out here to get started!

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