How to Elope at Lake Isabelle, Colorado

How To Elope at Lake Isabelle in Colorado

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We are an Elopement Photography / Videography duo based in Fort Colins, Colorado. 

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Bailee & Jake



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One of our all-time favorite locations in Colorado: Lake Isabelle. I know, I know! That is a pretty bold claim, especially since Colorado has so many incredible locations all over the state! But it is one that I am willing to make because Lake Isabelle has it all. A wonderful moderate hike, gorgeous scenery, an alpine lake, and wildlife. In this blog, I’ll tell you all about how to elope at Lake Isabelle, Colorado.

Couple stands on rocks during their Lake Isabelle elopement in Colorado at sunrise

Where is Lake Isabelle?

This is a great question! Lake Isabelle is located in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area and is part of the Indian Peaks Wilderness located outside of Boulder, Colorado. More accurately, it is right outside of a tiny mountain town called Ward, Colorado along the Scenic Byway that connects Estes Park, Colorado to Ward, Colorado. It is also a little over an hour from Denver International Airport and 45 minutes from Boulder, making this location super easy to get to with a lot of lodging options close by! The road to Brainard Lake Recreation Area and all of the roads inside of BLRA are all paved, making this really accessible for all vehicles!

Brainard Lake Recreation Area Information

Before we dive into the goods about Lake Isabelle, there is some really important information that we need to go over about Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area requires a timed entry which you purchase online, you can do that here. Parking reservations go on sale at 8:00 am MT / 10:00 a.m. ET the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend and will be continually released on a 15-day rolling window. It is $16 to purchase a pass.

You must arrive on the entry date, at the entry time, and park in the parking lot indicated on your reservation. For the Lake Isabelle hike, you will need to purchase the Long Lake Trailhead Day Use pass. Once you are in the recreation area, you can stay for as long as you’d like. If you want to visit multiple areas, like Brainard Lake or Lake Mitchell, you will also need to purchase separate passes for those parking lots.

Once your reservation is validated at the welcome station – or scanned in your windshield if arriving outside of when the Welcome Station is staffed – your day use parking is good for the remainder of the day. Only one day use parking reservation is required for the vehicle and all occupants. 

Because you will not have any cell phone service up there, you have to print out your parking pass! This is so so so important! If you are there during the hours when the folks at the welcome station are there, they will scan your pass and write you a new pass for your windshield. If you are entering the recreation area outside of the hours where the welcome station is staffed (like sunrise) you will have to leave your printed pass in your windshield.

Do You Need A Permit to Elope at Lake Isabelle?

Nope! There is no permit required to elope at Lake Isabelle or anywhere in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. However, you do need to pay the $16 parking pass fee as mentioned above.

Even though there is not permit to elope at Lake Isabelle, this spot would not be a great location for more than you, the couple. The areas at Lake Isabelle for the ceremony are small, so it is best for just two people. If you want to include a small amount of family or friends, I recommend having your ceremony at Brainard Lake and then including a separate hike to Lake Isabelle for just the two of you.

We strive our best to follow the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace so that we keep our impact to the absolute minimum we can. This is why we suggest just two people, four tops, for a ceremony at Lake Isabelle. If you want to include more than 13 people in your ceremony, we wrote this blog about the best small venues in Colorado that you can reserve.

You cannot have chairs, arches, petals, seeds, speakers for music, etc. You can bring a bouquet and backpacks but any guests will have to stand for the ceremony.

Couple celebrates their marriage after they eloped at Lake Isabelle in Colorado

Eloping at Lake Isabelle

There are so many reasons we love the Lake Isabelle for elopements. We love that this recreation area is close to Boulder, Estes Park, and Denver. We love that is literally checks all of the boxes: forest, alpine lakes, tons of different hiking options for every skill level, gorgeous mountain views, insane amounts of wildflowers in the summer, and moose galore. Every time I have been up here, there have always been moose to watch! Be sure to respect the wildlife, though. We love to enjoy these beautiful creatures from a distance.

When Is The Best Time of Year To Elope at Lake Isabelle?

This is a great question! The road to the Long Lake parking lot (trailhead to Lake Isabelle) doesn’t open until July 1st, sometimes later depending on the snowpack. Lake Isabelle is also owned by a farmer, so it does get drained in late August. It isn’t fully drained, but the water level will quite a bit lower in late August through October. So the best time to elope if you want to have a full lake and tons of wildflowers is mid July – mid August.

Even though the water levels will be quite a bit lower late August through October doesn’t mean that it isn’t still gorgeous! I mean, the mountains that jut out of Lake Isabelle are absolutely gorgeous year-round.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area does close it’s gate to the upper parking lots at the welcome station mid-October (weather depending). You can still park at their winter lot right outside of the welcome station and walk/snowshoe in in the off-season. Though keep in mind that October – June means that the higher elevation areas, which includes BLRA, will still have a lot of snow. So it may be summer at lower elevations in June but the higher elevations will still have lots of snow. Even in July, depending on the snowpack from the winter, Lake Isabelle can still have snow.

Should We Elope at Sunrise or Sunset?

Lake Isabelle sits right below the treeline so you can elope at sunrise or sunset! Choosing to elope at sunrise will likely mean a more private ceremony as there will be very few, if any, people there at that time.

If sunrise is not your thing (I totally get it!) sunset is also a great option! Keep in mind that we can pretty much count on a thunderstorm almost every afternoon in Colorado in the summertime. You’ll definitely want to be prepared for all types of weather at any time of day in Colorado!

What Should We Pack for Our Elopement?

When you choose to elope in the great outdoors of Colorado, you should be prepared for anything. Even in the summertime, you should be prepared for rain, snow, hail, and lots of sunshine. Here is what I recommend couples pack for their summertime elopement at Lake Isabelle:

  • Printed out parking pass
  • Vow books
  • Rings
  • Bouquet(s)/boutonniere(s)
  • Warmer coat/layer (you can always shed if it gets too hot)
  • Wool socks/good hiking socks 
  • Waterproof hiking boots with good tread
  • Shoes to change into for ceremony (if you want)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Bug spray
  • Rain/wind coat or umbrella
  • Headlamp for each of you
  • Backpacks to carry things in
  • A water bottle for each of you (and your guests if you have any). And two more full water bottles in the car just in case 
  • Snacks
  • First aid kit
  • Any additional details for your specific elopement. Ex: Elopement signs for backpacks, blanket, etc.
  • This is a great article that talks about altitude sickness and what you can do to prevent it. Lake Isabelle sits above 10,000 ft in elevation, so it is really important to drink lots of water and prepare your body.

What Is The Hike Like?

The hike to Lake Isabelle is amazing! It is a 2.1 mile (4 miles round trip) with 375 feet of elevation gain with a few steep parts. There is also a couple of stream crossings so be prepared for your feet to get wet. Having waterproof hiking boots will really help with this!

I would consider this hike moderate, but if you haven’t spent a lot of time at higher elevations, if you have not hiked a lot, or if you are coming from a lower elevation it could be considered challenging. I recommend giving yourselves time to acclimate to the elevation by staying in Boulder, Denver, or Estes Park for a couple of days before your elopement and reading that article about altitude sickness as previously mentioned. We are firm believers in listening to our bodies so there is no rush to get there, we certainly take our time and enjoy the hike! It is so worth every step!

What Other Activities Can We Do Here?

Besides hiking, you can also rent a kayak or stand up paddle board from an outfitter in Boulder or Denver and do some fun water activities on Brainard Lake or plan for a picnic!

Wedding couple hikes over a stream crossing at sunrise for their Lake Isabelle elopement

Ready To Plan Your Lake Isabelle, Colorado Elopement?

We could not be more excited for you and your partner to kick off this next chapter of your lives together in one of the most gorgeous areas in Colorado! There is so much to love about the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Reach out to us to start planning your Colorado elopement!

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We're a husband and wife Colorado elopement photographer and videographer. We're two easy-going humans who love the outdoors and are passionate about Colorado adventure elopements. We wholeheartedly believe that saying your vows in the great outdoors is the best way to get married! Not only will we document your elopement, but we'll help you throughout the entire process to make sure that you have the most incredible wedding experience! 

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