If you’re considering having a Glacier National Park Elopement then I’m here to cheer you on and let you know what an incredible location decision you’ve made! Glacier is one of the most incredible national parks in the United States if not the most beautiful in my opinion! The glacier mountains that tower over valleys and lakes are truly stunning. There are hiking trails for everyone and even roads that lead directly to incredible locations that don’t require hiking!
Glacier National Park is gorgeous in every season, too! Whether you’re looking for wildflowers galore, stunning fall colors or a magical winter wonderland Glacier NP has you covered. This blog will go over all the major things to consider when eloping in Glacier National Park! Everything from hikes to seasonal closures to how to get your permit and more! Keep scrolling to get the inside scoop!
Glacier National Park Elopement Guide
1. Hire Your Glacier National Park Elopement Photographer
The very first thing you should do is hire your Glacier National Park Elopement Photographer (Ahem, me me me!!). Bringing on an experienced elopement photographer early in the process will help make your life so much easier! I personally work very closely with my couples to help them coordinate their elopement from beginning to end.
I’ll help you pick out the perfect location for you to say your vows, help plan out all your activities throughout the day and give you lots of ideas, create a timeline (more of a guideline really!), recommend any additional vendors, etc. I basically double as a coordinator for you!! I want to help you create the day that YOU want and that you’re looking for. I’m here to lay out the information in front of you so that you can make the best informed decisions along the way!
So, as you can see having someone who’s experienced in the area and documenting elopements will help keep you stress-free and make it an easy and fun process!!
2. Glacier National Park Entrances and Seasonal Openings
West Glacier is the main entrance into the park and is close to towns like Whitefish, Kalispell, and Columbia Falls which have a lot of options for places to stay and eat! This is the only entrance of the park that is open year-round. So, if you’re looking to elope in Glacier National Park from mid-October through June then this is the part of the park that you’ll be choosing your location at!
West Glacier is home to Lake McDonald which is the most popular lake in the park. There are a handful of shorter hikes as well as longer hikes that you can access here. If you’re looking for an easily accessible location for your ceremony then Lake McDonald is a fantastic choice! There are a ton of pulls off where you can park and walk a few short steps to the lakeside and take in the stunning views!
This is where Going-to-the-Sun-Road starts! From the West Glacier entrance, it’s about a 50-minute drive to Logan Pass and about 1.5 hours to the East Entrance at Saint Mary’s Lake.
East Glacier is the second most popular entrance and area in the park and is home to Saint Mary’s Lake. Depending on the weather during winter this entrance is open sometimes, but it’s very unpredictable and for that season I probably wouldn’t suggest trying it during the off-season for your elopement at Glacier.
Saint Mary Village is located just outside the entrance and has minimal accommodation options. It’s a great area to look if you’re wanting to explore more on the East Side though!
Many Glacier has some of the most incredible views in the park! A few of the main lakes here are Lake Sherburne, Lake Josephine, Swiftcurrent Lake, and Grinnell Lake. Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Sherburne you’re able to drive up to while Grinnell Lake and Lake Josephine you have to hike to. Lake Josephine is an easy 3-mile hike and Grinnell Lake is a 7-mile hike, but you can make it shorter if you take the Shuttle boat across the lake.
Many Glacier is typically open from July to the end of September. However, the shuttle boats stop operating in mid-September! If you’re looking for a bit more privacy for your elopement then this is a fantastic area as it’s more remote and is a longer drive to get to so a lot of people don’t go here. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get busy in peak season, because it does, but compared to other areas it’ll be quieter.
Two Medicine Lake and Upper Two Medicine Lake hold more dramatic views! Shocker, I know. There are a handful of gorgeous hikes along the lake and into the backcountry and short ones as well. It’s also a fantastic place to go camping!!
Two Medicine District is a bit lower elevation so it’ll be warmer like Lake McDonald during the fall. This area is also typically closed during winter starting in the beginning of October! You can check out a list of hikes here!
The North Fork District is home to Bowman Lake which holds similar views to Lake McDonald but isn’t as busy. It’s about a 1 hour and 45 minute drive from West Glacier and is off the beaten path. It’s a long bumpy dirt road to get and has zero amenities so come prepared! This area typically closes during the winter as well.
3. Glacier National Park Elopement Locations
The next step in the process is to pick out your location for your elopement! Glacier National Park does have specific locations where you’re allowed to have your ceremony regardless of whether you’re just saying vows or having a legal ceremony. You can get all the information about permits HERE.
As I mentioned above if you have an elopement photographer who helps with planning they’ll be able to help you with all of this, but here are some ideas to help you get started. I keep all of my secret locations for couples I work with and tailor each location list specific to the couples I work with based on what they’re looking for! Here are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning!
Hidden Lake Lookout
This is one of the best hikes in the park! Why do you ask? I say this because it is an easy hike, very easy to access, and ends in one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen!! The best time to hike is at sunset or sunrise which is when wildlife starts to come out and the trail gets less busy. Sunrise is by far less busy and you’ll have the privacy you want! In order to reach the Hidden Lake Lookout Trailhead, you’ll need to drive on the Going-To-The-Sun Road to Logan Pass. This road does close at certain times during the year so make sure you stay updated on it.
They also don’t allow ceremonies here anymore so it’s just a great place to explore before or after your ceremony!
Distance: 2.7 Miles Out-And-Back
Elevation Gain: 540 Feet
Location: Logan Pass Area
This is one of the most epic mountain pass roads I’ve ever driven! If you don’t want to hike this would be a great adventurous drive to hit up multiple locations and see many views on your adventure! It does get pretty busy during the summer months so be sure to plan for traffic and extra time for that. During the off-season, it’ll be less busy for sure!
However, in order to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road, your vehicle must:
- be under 21 feet in length
- be under 8 feet wide, and
- be less than 10 feet tall
So, basically, no massive trucks and you’ll be fine. It’s a windy and narrow road so driving cautiously is a must!
Avalanche Lake Trail is one of the more popular hikes in Glacier National Park because it’s one of the closest locations to towns like Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls. These towns are typically where people will stay when visiting the national park! I would recommend staying at an Airbnb which you can read more about How to Plan an Airbnb Elopement here! It’s also a fairly easy hike making it great if you’re eloping with a few friends or family. This is another location I would recommend hiking at sunrise or late sunset. You can view this Avalanche Lake Elopement for inspiration!
The lake makes for the perfect backdrop for your vows as the lake sits between the mountains Little Matterhorn Mountain, Bearhat Mountain, and Mount Brown! If you have your ceremony early in the morning you’ll be able to catch the beautiful reflections on the lake, too!
Distance: 4.5 miles out-and-back
Elevation Gain: 730 Feet
Location: Lake McDonald Area
Trail of the Cedars
The Trail of Cedars is a flat and wheelchair accessible hike. So, if you have a family member or friend you want to include during your elopement that needs a wheelchair-accessible location this would be a fantastic option! The towering cedars are amazing here!
This trailhead shares the same parking lot as Avalanche Lake Trail and tends to fill up pretty quickly. So, be sure to have a sunrise or sunset elopement, which I would suggest anyway, to make sure you’re able to get a parking spot!
Distance: 1-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 60 feet
Location: Lake McDonald Area
Sun Point Nature Trail
This trail is called sun point for a reason! There’s not much shade or tree coverage on the trail so the sun is shining down for most of the day. The view you get once you reach the lake is absolutely gorgeous! You’ll see St. Mary Lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. It makes for the perfect place to enjoy the sunset and watch as the sun beams across the lake and through the mountains! However, because of the location and how the viewpoint sits, it tends to be a pretty windy location so it may not be the best location for you to say your vows if you don’t want to talk at the top of your lungs.
There are actually two places that you can use to reach this spot. One is from Sun Point Parking Lot making the trail a 0.1-mile out-and-back stop. This is perfect if you want a beautiful view without a crazy long hike–especially if you elope during the warmer months! The second way to reach this point is from Sunrift Gorge Parking Lot, making the Sun Point Nature Trail a total of 1.7-miles out and back.
Distance: 1.7 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 213 feet
Location: St. Mary/Rising Sun Area
If you’re looking for a longer trail for an all-day hiking elopement then this would be an incredible choice! While this trail is longer it’s still a pretty easy hike for beginners and throughout this trial, you’ll come across jaw-dropping views of glacier mountains!
Once you reach the lake you’ll be greeted with a beautiful blue lake surrounded by glaciers and won’t be surrounded by all the crowds! Talk about a win-win to me!!
Distance: 9.7 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 1275 feet
Location: Many Glacier Area
Highline Trail to Haystack Butte
This is another amazing all-day hike that will have your jaw on the ground! The well-known Highline trail is much longer, but cutting the trail down to Haystack Butte is a fantastic intermediate hike! You’ll be sure to find privacy and stunning views for your backdrop.
This is a great hike that you can easily hike a few miles in to get stunning views without hiking the whole trail! You’ll hike above Going-to-the-Sun-Road through the mountains and be able see the whole valley! Epic views are a great way to describe this hike.
Distance: 8.2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1690 feet
Location: Logan Pass
Looking for a gorgeous waterfall to have as your backdrop?! Then, this one is for you! This waterfall is a single drop that runs down the cliff face. You’ll be able to stand right below the falls as well! Along this hike, you’ll pass St. Mary’s Falls which is a great place to stop along the way.
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 452 feet
Location: St. Mary’s Lake
Swiftcurrent Nature Trail
This trail is perfect for all levels of hikers! It’s a fantastic trail to be able to get epic views of mountains in a fairly short distance. It tends to be less crowded since the Many Glacier area is smaller compared to Logan Pass and Lake McDonald!
Distance: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 127 feet
Location: Many Glacier
3. Apply for your Glacier National Park Elopement Permit
Once your location has been nailed down it’s time to apply for your permit to elope in Glacier National Park. You’ll need to apply for a special use permit through the official website. You’ll have to fill out the application and pay a fee of $125.
When filling out the permit you’ll have you put in your first choice of ceremony location as well as two alternate location options. You’ll also have to fill out what time you plan to have your ceremony – be sure you discuss this with your photographer ahead of time! The permit office prefers that you fill out your permit application, send it in and then follow up with them via phone call or wait for them to contact you so they have your application in hand while granting that permit.
As I mentioned above Glacier National Park now requires a permit for all ceremonies in the park even if it’s just the two of you saying your vows.
4. What type of weather do you want for your Glacier Elopement?
Before you pick a date be sure to think about the type of weather that you would love to have on your elopement day! If you want the sunshine then opt for a summer date for your Glacier National Park Elopement! July and August are definitely the busiest months to visit the park, but it’s for a good reason. The temperatures are most ideal, flowers will be blooming and the Going-the-Sun-Road will be fully open in the beginning of July!
May and June are also beautiful and springtime flowers are just starting to appear. While spring does have cooler temperatures the park will be way less crowded and the mountain peaks will still be covered in snow creating gorgeous mountain backdrops! However, the downside is that the Going-to-the-Sun-Road typically doesn’t fully open till July, but there are plenty of other incredible locations to elope in Glacier National Park that don’t involve taking this highway!
The fall time in Glacier National Park is overloaded with stunning fall colors! It’s pure magic. If you want mountain backdrops with beautiful oranges, reds and yellows all around then take advantage of this gorgeous time of year! The park is much less crowded during the fall which is always a plus.
Then, there’s winter! If you want snow and love this time of year, then choosing to have a winter Glacier National Park Elopement would be a fantastic choice. It’s cold, but it’s absolutely beautiful and the crowds will be gone! Not too many locations will be open, but West Glacier is still open and only a short drive from Whitefish.
You should definitely try to plan your elopement around sunset or sunrise! During the summer we have the most gorgeous late-night sunsets in the park. Sunsets can last way past 9:30 or 10:00 during the longest summer days! How crazy is that?! Another great option is to plan around sunrise if one of the trails you want to hike is a bit more popular like the Logan Pass area.
Pro Tip: No matter what season you want to elope in be sure to choose a weekday. The trails will be less busy and won’t have to run into as many people as you would on the weekend!
5. What to wear for your Glacier National Park Elopement
When you start your search for your elopement dress and outfits, keep in mind that when eloping outdoors there tends to be a decent amount of wind to have fun with! So, opt for a flowy dress that will look gorgeous in pictures and keep you comfortable throughout your day.
For a shorter hike, you’ll most likely wear your dress and hiking boots, but for a longer hike, you’ll probably tuck it away in your backpack and change once you reach your location. Another big reason to opt for a flowy dress is that you’ll be able to wear base layers under your dress to keep yourself warm if you’re eloping in one of the cooler seasons.
For the grooms out there this could look like wearing a suit or a more casual outfit versus wearing a tux. When you go to pick out your clothes try to get materials that have some stretch to them and are breathable. You’ll thank me later!!
When it comes to picking out shoes I can’t stress enough how important it is to have comfortable hiking boots or shoes even if you aren’t hiking. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and moving around and it wouldn’t be fun to have your feet be in pain a few hours into your special day. If you don’t have a good pair of hiking shoes already head to an outdoor store like REI, Cabela’s, or some outdoor store like these!
6. Where to Stay
There are loads of places to stay just outside the entrance to Glacier National Park. All it takes is a quick search on Airbnb or VRBO and start searching away! Here are a few lodges and places to check out to help you get started! You can view more over on How to Plan an Airbnb Elopement, too!
This cabin has 365-degree views and is very private and secluded! It’s perfect for staying at for your elopement and can fit up to 8 people. It’s only 15 minutes from Glacier National Park entrance, too!! What better way to end your evening under the stars, sipping a drink and enjoy the hot tub. It doesn’t get much better than that!
The lodge sits right on Many Glacier Lake and is fairly remote. There are loads of trails and epic views right outside the doorstep! There’s also a restaurant and bar located inside which is very convenient. This lodge sits right near East Glacier!
This lodge definitely has a more tourist vibe. It is located only 5 minutes from downtown Whitefish and is 27 minutes from Glacier National Park entrance. Whitefish has a bunch of shops and lots of restaurants to choose from!
If you’re looking for a place that is unique and special be sure to check this treehouse out! It is located about 21 miles from the West Glacier entrance. This place is completely surrounded by trees so privacy is all yours!
Glacier National Park Elopement Photographer
If you’re looking for someone to document your Glacier National Park Elopement and to help guide you through the whole process I would be so stoked to hear from you!
It’s extremely important to me to get to know you so that I can help craft the entire elopement experience around you and to make sure we’re a great fit for each other! I’m here to help you plan all the logistics and details of your elopement day so that you won’t be overwhelmed or confused. I’ll help you pick out the perfect spot, plan out all the details and activities, and keep your elopement day relaxed and fun!
You can contact me >HERE< and I look forward to hearing all about your vision for your elopement day!
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