Colorado National Monument Photographer
I’m Lucy, a Colorado National Monument Photographer specializing in elopement and intimate weddings in the great outdoors. In this guide, I’ll detail why Colorado National Monument is such a great place to elope, as well as show you how to do it. If the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park had a baby- this would be it! The red canyon walls make a stunning backdrop. The spires of rock left standing after years of erosion dot the valleys and add dramatic focal points. There are easy to access viewpoints and long remote hikes, so couples of every adventure-level can pick their perfect spot. Best of all, intimate elopements here are easy to plan without any paperwork, and because you’re still in Colorado, you can self-solemnize without an officiant.
Where is Colorado National Monument?
This desert landscape is just outside of Grand Junction, Colorado. This area is also known as the Western Slope, and it’s an underrated gem for the adventurous couple! The monument is located about 5 hours’ drive west of Denver on the scenic 1-70 highway. It’s also about 5 hours drive Southeast from Salt Lake City, Utah. That makes this a great road trip destination! While this isn’t a National Park (yet), you absolutely should check it out and you’ll need your national park pass to get in.
Colorado National Monument is accessed by a 22 mile road that hugs the rim high up on the cliff. There are many amazing viewpoints so you can start exploring and stop when you find a location that suits you! Keep in mind that this is Ute Land. The Utes are the longest continuous residents of Colorado. Consider making a donation, reading about their history, and attending a cultural celebration or fair.
When to Elope at Colorado National Monument
Because of it’s position on the drier western half of Colorado, temperatures are generally hotter here than the high peaks of central Colorado. This makes it a great off-season or shoulder season elopement location! Consider eloping in March, April, & May or October and November for the most comfortable daytime temperatures. If you’re planning a summer elopement, aim for a sunrise, early morning or an evening ceremony here. As always, weekdays are better than weekends, for privacy and ease of access & parking.
Colorado National Monument’s best time of day for photos
Because most of the viewpoints face north, this isn’t the best place for sunrise photography. You won’t see the first light of dawn here, though early mornings just after sunrise is the best time to see wildlife. Similarly, the canyon walls block the sunset a bit, so plan to shoot Golden Hour earlier than true sunset. Daytime is a great time on a clear day, with the most color and contrast in the canyon. Be careful- In the summer, it can be dangerous to hike in the midday heat! Make sure to pack more water than you could need.
How to Elope at Colorado National Monument
I have GREAT news! Eloping in Colorado National Monument is easy, stress free, and doesn’t require advance notice or permits. So long as you follow Leave No Trace principles, and don’t misuse the land, it is free to have your elopement or microwedding at Colorado National Monument. There is no permit for ceremonies and you don’t need to ask permission.
Photographers note: A permit is required for styled shoots and photography workshops
How to Leave No Trace while eloping
Colorado National Monument recognizes that having a simple marriage ceremony won’t have any impact above that of a regular visitor. Let’s make sure that’s correct! Don’t litter with confetti, flower petals, streamers, firecrackers, smoke bombs, or anything left behind. Don’t feed the wildlife, attach anything to the vegetation or rocks, erect a tent, or set up an arch. Chairs may be permitted for those that need them. No amplified music will keep your ceremony from disturbing other guests, who have just as much right to be there as you. Lastly, you can’t bar anyone from any area when you elope.
Step by Step Guide of how to elope at Colorado National Monument
Here is my outline of how to plan a great elopement in Colorado National Monument.
1. Select a date range that you works for your schedules. Get excited!!
2. Book a way to get there, whether by plane & rental car, or driving yourself.
3. Hire a Colorado National Monument photographer with experience in the park.
4. Coordinate with your photographer to select an exact ceremony location, time, and outline for your day’s adventures.
5. Hire any additional vendors, such as a helicopter, private chef, florist or jeep. Pick out your garments & book accommodation.
6. Pick up your CO marriage license and you’re ready to elope!
Do I need an officiant to elope at Colorado National Monument?
You do NOT need to hire an officiant to elope here, as Colorado is a self-solemnization state! That means that Colorado recognizes your power to declare yourselves married without any authority. You can still choose to have an officiant to conduct and create a ceremony for you (Your photographer, a hired professional or a friend) but it isn’t legally required. I self solemnized my marriage in Colorado and I can show you the ropes!
Getting a Colorado Marriage License
Obtaining your Colorado Marriage License isn’t hard! You can make an appointment at ANY county courthouse in the state – no matter which county you’ll be marrying in. Colorado National Monument is in Mesa County, and the Mesa county courthouse is close to the park. It’s the most conveniently located, at 125 N Spruce St, Grand Junction, CO 81501. You’ll need to both be present and show a photo ID before your marriage license is issued. Your license costs just $30 and is valid for 63 days from the day you pick it up.
Colorado National Monument Vow Renewal
Andrea and Russell planned their ten year anniversary Vow renewal at Colorado National Monument in April. They enjoyed the warm afternoon light as they glowed at each other. Andrea wore a white floral dress and Russell looked casual and dressed up at the same time with a light tie and slacks. See their beautiful vow renewal at Colorado National Monument here.
Where to elope at Colorado National Monument?
While this isn’t a large park, the abundance of viewpoints and short and long hikes means there are a lot of location options! But, a several of the viewpoints are so close to the road that they don’t make good sites for a ceremony. Consider a short hike on a nature trail to get you to the best spots. On the rim drive:
Upper Ute Canyon view: Big canyon views and no crowds
Coke Ovens: Ignore the name, this viewpoint includes a short downhill hike to a viewpoint over the unusual domes
Grand view: A short easy hike leads to a viewpoint of the canyon and spires with a fenced overlook
Otto’s: My favorite because its undeveloped and gorgeous
Book Cliffs: The busiest spot in the park, with options for fenced overlooks and undeveloped spots along the rim
Window Rock: A short hike that can be windy. Great views.
Some places I don’t recommend:
I’d advise you not to plan an elopement at balanced rock, artist point, fruita view, Monument canyon overlook, Ute Canyon, Red canyon, highland or grand valley. These places are just not far enough from the road to offer the serenity you’d hope for when eloping in the great outdoors. And the views aren’t as good.
What are the best hikes in Colorado National Monument?
Several long inter-canyon hikes are legendary here. To truly immerse yourself, consider the Monument Canyon hike. On the easier side, Coke Ovens, the kitchen, and the alcove are beautiful. You could spend hours exploring the rock spire formations, big canyon views, and layers of hidey holes and foliage. There are so many options here if you are just eloping the two of you!
Elopement Locations near Grand Junction
As with most parks, there are tons of hidden gems just outside the borders! One of my adventure days took us out to a remote set of arches that were mind-blowingly cool. You need a high clearance jeep to get here, but then it’s an easy hike to this unique landscape. I’ve also never been so peacefully alone. Now, can you imagine standing on this massive arch to say your vows at sunrise? Heckkkkkk yess!
Western Colorado Elopement Locations
There are so many cool places in western Colorado! The most dramatic waterfall on the western slope is Rifle Falls. The three big falls tumble parallel into a pool. Rifle Falls is located in a state park which means a straightforward permit process to have your ceremony at its base. Other waterfalls in the area fall along rivers that cut deep into their canyons. There are so many options to explore here! Not far to the east, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers those big canyon views without the desert temperatures.
Here is my Colorado National Monument Elopement locations map:
So where are all these places? I’ve got you. I’ve created a map with all the viewpoints and trails. It even includes additional locations outside the park with color photos I’ve taken of each place. So you can see all the great spots without leaving your living room. If you’re planning from afar, this is a visual key to picking out the elopement spot that works for you. To get this map in your eyeballs, make me your Colorado National Monument photographer. Details like what seasons and time of day are best for each location are included. It will help you plan your activities, accommodations, and your day’s itinerary. Lastly, it’s easy to have a great backup location picked out with this map in front of you. Having that Plan B in your back pocket will keep your planning stress-free!
About Lucy – Colorado National Monument Photographer
I’m a nomadic and colorful Colorado National Monument photographer with an obsession for mountains, hiking, and my cats. My photography style emphasizes the epic landscape of your dreams and the authentic moments that make you two.. well, you two! I love my job and my nature-loving clients. Colorado National Monument is an underrated desert-like paradise. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Where to stay to visit Colorado National Monument?
You’re in luck! Grand Junction, Colorado is an affordable city for accommodation. There are some hotels, but don’t confine yourself to a bland white box for your elopement. My #1 tip to make your elopement feel extra special is to stay somewhere rad. There are so many options, I encourage you to look over my list of amazing and unique airbnbs near Colorado National Monument. There are farm stays, animal sanctuaries, chic cottages, cabins, converted barns, tiny homes, vineyards, historic homes, and desert mansions. If one of those doesn’t float your boat, I don’t know what will! Alternatively, there are two campgrounds within the park if you’re game for an outdoors sleepover.
How much time to spend at Colorado National Monument?
This is a rare occasion where I’ll say you can see most of the park in a half day. The main park road is just 22 miles long, so you can access many of the viewpoints quickly and without much hiking. However, it would be a disservice to spend any less than 4 hours for your elopement. One of the biggest benefits of eloping is not having to conform to anyone else’s schedules or time limits. So when you spot a herd of Desert Bighorn, you can take your time and appreciate the sighting. The sky is the limit – it would be easy to enjoy a full day or even a two day elopement here.
Here is a sample timeline for a full day elopement at Colorado National Monument:
8:00 Feed the goats at your Airbnb and have breakfast
9:00 Get ready together & pack a picnic lunch
10:00 Hit a short trail and get your shoes dirty. It’s time for an adventure. Spend an hour exploring the rock formations together.
11:30 Picnic lunch at a scenic overlook.
12:30 Meet up with friends at the Book Cliffs view. Hugs and hellos.
1:30 Pick a ceremony spot that works for your group and get freaking married!
2:00 Group photos, cake & champagne
4:00 Hit up a trail for golden hour portraits
5:00 Meet back up with your friends for dinner at a restuarant or a private chef at a winery
Sleep in on your first morning as newlyweds!
10:00 Helicopter scenic flight of the Western Slope
12:00 Get pizza for lunch
2:00 Take a jeep tour into the deep off road canyons and explore the arches
5:00 Sunset photos at a viewpoint
7:00 Stargazing and epic night photos at Colorado National Monument
How much does it cost to elope at Colorado National Monument?
Of course the answer is: it depends! How much of an all-out splurge is this day going to be for you? Maybe you want to take that “wedding budget” and throw it towards a weekend of all your favorite things. Or perhaps you want to save up and have an amazing day so you can put the rest of that money towards a home. It’s flexible, so let’s break down a hypothetical budget for a 2 person elopement at Colorado National Monument. When it comes to the big range of accommodation costs, think of this as your “venue” expense from your wedding budget. (Except $2500 gets you a lot further for 3 to 4 days than it would for a 6 hour rental for a wedding!)
Colorado National Monument Elopement Budget
$30 Colorado Marriage License
$500 to $5000 elopement clothes and accessories
$300 to $3000 Accommodations in Grand Junction
$5000 to $8000 Colorado National Monument elopement photographer
$300 to $1000 food for a weekend or longer
$500 to $2500 Optional jeep tour or helicopter sightseeing flight
$500 to $2000 Hair, makeup, officiant or floral services
= 7,030 to 22,000 Depending on your personal preference.
Grand Junction Elopement Photography Packages
I offer both Grand Junction elopement photography packages, or All inclusive elopements for a one stop shop option. There are no travel fees, download fees, watermarks or other hidden fees. These prices are for 2024.
2 Days of your Colorado National Monument photographer – $9900
1.5 Days of Colorado National Monument elopement photography – $7900
1 Full day Colorado National Monument adventure elopement – $6900
Up to 4 hours Colorado National Monument elopement photography – $5500 **Only available on select dates**
I offer full day, 1.5 day and 2 day elopement photography in Colorado National Monument and the wild lands outside of it. See my pricing and package details here. I would love to chat with you and help see if an elopement with me is what you’ve been dreaming of. Get in touch below!
Explore my other Colorado Elopement Guides:
–Black Canyon of the Gunnison Elopement Guide
–Great Sand Dunes Elopement Guide
–Telluride Elopement Guide
–Boulder, CO Elopement Guide
–Ouray Elopement Guide
–Aspen Elopement Guide
–Mt Evans Elopement Guide
–Summit County Elopement Guide
–Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement Guide
–Maroon Bells Elopement Guide