San Juan Mountains Elopement Guide

Updated 1/4/23

What You’ll Find in This San Juan Mountains Elopement Wedding Guide

Why Have Your Elopement Wedding in the San Juan Mountains?

I instantly fell in love with the San Juan Mountains when I first visited over 15 years ago, so I might be a little biased. But honestly, it’s one of the best areas in Colorado to elope, and I would even say one of the most beautiful places in the world! So what makes the San Juan Mountains stand out as an ideal elopement destination

The scenery is incredible – gorgeous mountains in green, orange, and gray rise to impressive heights throughout the area. In the summer months, these mountains are covered in an array of wildflowers and are flowing with creeks and waterfalls. Lakes in this area are vibrant shades of blue and green. And the best part is, all this is relatively accessible – you don’t have to backpack for days to see these amazing sights. Plus, the cute little mountain towns are full of history, quaint streets, and cute little shops.

San Juan Mountains Elopement Wedding FAQs

Where are the San Juan Mountains?

The San Juan Mountains are in the southwestern corner of Colorado, and include the towns of Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. This beautiful mountain range is a part of the southern Rockies.

Can you get married in the San Juan Mountains?

Yes! In fact, the San Juan Mountains are one of the best places to get married in Colorado and all of the U.S. because of their amazing views and opportunity for adventure.

Where can I elope in the San Juan Mountains?

There are countless beautiful places to elope in the San Juan Mountains around Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Read about where to elope in the San Juan Mountains for more information!

How do I get married in Ouray Colorado?

I recommend having your ceremony on public land in the mountains, and then signing your marriage license to make things official! In Colorado, you can even self-unite, which means you don’t need an officiant or witnesses to legally sign the license. Read more about marriage licenses below!

When to Have Your Elopement in the San Juan Mountains

If you want the gorgeous green mountains and wildflowers that the San Juan Mountains are famous for, the answer is simple – elope in summer. However, this area is beautiful year-round!


Spring happens in May and early June, and you can expect most mountain roads (4×4 passes), trails, and campgrounds in the area to be closed. Average high temperatures are in the 50s in May and average below freezing at night. Because it’s still pretty cold, most of the grass and plants in the mountains haven’t greened up yet, so the scenery isn’t quite as pretty as it is in summer. Mid to late June is a bit more summery, but there can often still be some snow at the high elevations, especially if it’s been a particularly snowy year.

July and August are the best months for a summer elopement in the San Juan Mountains. July and early August tend to have the most wildflowers in the high elevations, and the melted snow has brought the mountains beautiful greenery. Both of these make for a stunning backdrop for your elopement! Be aware that July and August are also monsoon season, a time when you can expect rain and thunderstorms every afternoon. You’ll definitely want to take this into consideration and make sure you’re not stuck above the treeline when a storm rolls through. I usually recommend having your elopement ceremony at sunrise or early in the morning, then doing some adventures in the morning and planning to head back to town around lunch time. Around 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm it’s very likely you’ll see rain and possibly thunderstorms. You can have lunch, visit an indoor museum or shops, or cozy up together at your hotel or rental home until the rain finishes. Once the weather clears up, you can head back out for a sunset hike or some afternoon off-roading!

If you love fall, have your San Juan Mountains elopement in late September or early October! Autumn around Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride is absolutely spectacular and full of colorful views. Although there are many evergreen trees in the area, gorgeous aspen trees with yellow and orange leaves are dotted throughout the landscapes. Even in the high alpine areas without trees, fall coats the landscapes in a beautiful golden palette.


The peak of fall color happens at different places in the San Juan Mountains at different times, but you can pretty much expect the last week of September and first week of October to be ideal, with the week before and after still having a little color. An experienced elopement photographer who knows the area well (oh hey, that’s me!) can help you find the perfect location and the right time to get married there.

San Juan Mountains Elopement Wedding Locations

While the San Juan Mountains cover a vast amount of land, it’s easiest to make one of the towns your base and go off adventuring from there. The quaint old mining towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride are full of history and charm. There are wedding venues in each town if you’re looking for something a little more traditional that still has a great mountain feel. Or if you’re wanting something a bit more wild, there are so many incredible locations for an elopement in the San Juan Mountains.
Where is the best place to elope? Well, that really depends on what’s best for you! With so many amazing locations to choose from, it can feel really overwhelming. Plus, how do you find the hidden gems that are both beautiful and private? I highly recommend hiring an elopement photographer and/or wedding planner (like Mountainesque) to help you figure out all the details. Someone who is knowledgeable in the San Juan Mountains will make all the difference in your planning and elopement experience. I love working with couples to discover what will fit them best – from scenery to accessibility to what kind of adventure they want – and then finding them the perfect spot to elope! Plus, I help with all the other logistics like planning a timeline, finding lodging, navigating permits, hiring wedding vendors, and anything else you need help with. If this sounds like exactly what you need for a stress-free and super fun elopement, check out the elopement packages I offer and then contact me!

Lakes // San Juan Mountains Elopement Locations

There are many small lakes in the San Juan Mountains that are perfect for an elopement ceremony! Some are easily accessible, which is great if you have guests or you want to be able to just drive up to the location. These tend to be less private since anyone can get to them, but they’re still beautiful. 

If you’re up for a little more of an adventure, there are some truly stunning alpine lakes that you can drive an offroad vehicle or hike to. These tend to be a little more private, and are often bright blue or green. Sometimes in the early summer, they even have icebergs floating in them or snow surrounding the banks. One of my favorite things for eloping couples to do is bring along a stand up paddle board or inflatable kayak and get out on the crystal clear water.

4×4 Roads // San Juan Mountains Elopement Locations

I can’t talk about San Juan Mountain elopements and not mention offroading on 4×4 roads! These mountains have some of the best offroading trails in the U.S. and Ouray is even called “the Jeep capital of the world”. The awesome thing about offroading to mountain passes is that you can get to spectacular views without having to hike for days. It really opens up your world and allows you to visit some of the best places in the San Juan Mountains. 

Offroading also makes it a lot easier to be deep in the mountains for a sunrise elopement ceremony without hiking in the dark. You’ll also have room for bringing whatever you need, like picnic supplies or adventure gear. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to get out on the roads and enjoy the scenery!

If you don’t have your own high clearance vehicle, you can rent Jeep Wranglers in Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Many of the rental companies will allow you to rent overnight so that you don’t have to bring the Jeep back by sunset. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, you can also hire drivers to take you around the mountain roads. Or, if you choose me as your elopement photographer and planner, I’ll take you in my Jeep Wrangler! I love showing couples around these beautiful mountains in Ruby, and she’s fully equipped for the majority of the 4×4 roads. My husband has been riding these trails for 25 years (15 years for me), and we’re both confident drivers.

Please note: Some of the 4×4 roads in the San Juan Mountains are pretty tough and should definitely not be attempted if you don’t have experience. Also, if you’re afraid of heights, many of the mountain passes may be out of your comfort zone. Always do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re well prepared. 💛

Ouray, Colorado Elopement Weddings

More information about Ouray elopements coming soon! 😉

Silverton, Colorado Elopement Weddings

Silverton, Colorado is an ideal elopement location because it’s right in the middle of all the beautiful mountains. You only need to look out your hotel or rental home window to see gorgeous mountains in every direction. You’re close to so many great locations from moderate/difficult hikes to adventurous 4×4 roads to amazing highway drives. There are a few waterfalls, many lakes, and plenty of mountains around that would be perfect for an elopement ceremony or a full day of adventuring for your wedding. If you’re wanting to have a few guests at your elopement, but you don’t want to rent a venue, Silverton is probably the best place for easily accessible ceremony locations.

 
The town of Silverton is frozen in time with late 1800s and early 1900s buildings that now house hotels, restaurants, and shops. The Animas River flows through the town, and the old steam powered train from Durango comes into town daily in the summer. If you’re wanting to stay in Silverton, there are a few hotel options (The Wyman for modern luxury; The Grand Imperial for an old-timey experience; The Avon for an adventure-centered hotel & hostel) as well as some great rental homes on Airbnb and VRBO. There are also some nearby cabins, campgrounds, and dispersed camping outside of town that will give you a more secluded experience. For a great breakfast burrito in the morning, stop by Coffee Bear or grab a pastry and hot drink at Elevated Coffee Co.. Golden Block Brewing offers great beer and pizzas, and BBQ lovers will enjoy Thee Pitts Again. You’re also not far from Purgatory Resort, which offers skiing, tubing, and snowmobiling in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. (Read more about their wedding and elopement options below.)

Telluride, Colorado Elopement Weddings

More information about Telluride elopements coming soon! 😉

San Juan Mountains Wedding Venues

Although there are plenty of places to elope on public lands in the San Juan Mountains, sometimes a wedding venue is a better fit for your needs. If you’re planning to have more than 10 guests at your ceremony, you’re super worried about bad weather and want an indoor option, you need a reception space, you’re eloping in winter, or you need a very easily accessible location for some of your elderly or disabled guests, renting a wedding venue is ideal.

If you have a small number of guests attending your elopement or wedding, sometimes a rental home can be a good option for hosting your celebration. The Telluride area tends to have more large homes available to rent, but you can look throughout the San Juan Mountains for options. Caterers, private chefs, and other vendors are also more likely to be located in Telluride (or Durango), which can mean they have a travel fee for Ouray or Silverton weddings. 

Wedding venues in the Western Slope all feature the San Juan Mountains in some form and range from rustic and off-the-grid to high-end and elegant. Many venues can accommodate large weddings, but I personally think small weddings and elopements are the way to go. 😉 Whatever wedding venue or outdoor location fits your style, you’re sure to have a beautiful ceremony!

Ouray, Colorado Wedding Venues

Red Mountain Alpine Lodge Wedding Venue

Red Mountain Alpine Lodge, a little outside of Ouray, is the perfect all-in-one wedding venue for elopement or small ceremonies. You and your guests can stay at the lodge, you can have your ceremony on the deck, and the lodge can cater a dinner for you as well.

The Venue at CSB

The Venue at CSB is a rooftop venue in downtown Ouray with views of the town.

The Beaumont Hotel Wedding Venue

The Beaumont Hotel is a historic venue on the main street of Ouray with a garden courtyard or indoor ballroom for your elopement ceremony or wedding reception.

Silverton, Colorado Wedding Venues

Eureka Lodge Wedding Venue

Eureka Lodge is an old miner lodge that has a lovely remote feeling while being only 15 minutes from Silverton. It’s the perfect venue for small destination weddings – you can host your outdoor ceremony with mountain views, enjoy dinner and a reception under string lights and the Colorado sky, and then you and your guests can stay at the lodge. You’re welcome to bring in outside catering. The venue has views of nearby mountains, a forest of aspen and evergreen trees, and the Animas River runs past.

Purgatory Resort Wedding Venue

About a half an hour south of Silverton is Purgatory Resort, one of the best wedding venues in the San Juan Mountains. They can accommodate large weddings as well as elopements and intimate weddings. There are multiple ceremony location options that offer a variety of scenery and views including meadows, mountains, and forest (pictured below is the Boyce wedding ceremony site set up for an elopement/small wedding). For your wedding reception, there are also several indoor venue options. For your wedding reception or winter wedding, there are also several indoor venue options available year-round. If you want to stay nearby, there are plenty of condos for rent in the resort for you and your wedding guests.

View more photos from this elopement at Purgatory Resort.

Kendall Mountain Community Center Wedding Venue

The Kendall Mountain Community Center in Silverton is a great option for elopements and small to large weddings. Enjoy your ceremony outside with beautiful mountain views from a grassy meadow. A rustic lodge with beautiful wood floors and beams is a great indoor ceremony or reception venue option. You can also rent out the entire ski area for a really fun winter wedding!

Telluride, Colorado Wedding Venues

Alta Lakes Observatory Wedding Venue

If you want a really amazing wedding experience for you and your guests, Alta Lakes Observatory is a great venue option! This beautiful stone and wood lodge is situated down a dirt road and next to a beautiful mountain lake. You and up to 10 wedding guests can stay at the lodge and cozy up by the fire or relax in the hot tub. Get married by the lake, and then enjoy dinner under the endless starry sky. The venue is right by a ghost town, and there are plenty of hiking trails in the area to explore. Although it’s a little outside of Telluride, it’s totally worth it to get married at such a unique location.

Schmid Ranch Wedding Venue

If you love grassy hills with mountain views, Schmid Ranch might be the Telluride wedding venue for you. Get married under the aspen trees or looking out on views of Wilson Peak (a 14er), then have your reception outdoors with the option for a tent. The rustic, off-grid cabins on the property are the perfect place for you and up to 10 guests to stay overnight.

Telluride Ski Resort Wedding Venues

Telluride Ski Resort is a great choice for your wedding or elopement with it’s variety of amazing views and indoor venue spaces. San Sophia Overlook has a truly stunning mountain view that would be the perfect backdrop for your ceremony. Gorrono Ranch is a great option if you want your ceremony and reception all in one beautiful location with historic buildings, cozy fireplaces, and fantastic views. For an elevated dinner experience, host your reception at Alred’s where you can look down on the town of Telluride from a cozy but elegant dining venue (and take the free gondola to get there!). If you’re planning a small winter wedding, have your ceremony and reception at Alpino Vino, an Italian restaurant housed in a cute little chalet that will make you think you’ve eloped in Europe.

Things to Do for your San Juan Mountains Elopement Wedding

Your elopement absolutely deserves to be celebrated in a big way, whatever that looks like for you. Whether that’s with adventurous activities, relaxing moments, or a bit of both, there’s so much to do for a San Juan Mountains elopement. When I’m helping you plan your day, I love to suggest custom activity ideas that make your elopement day unforgettable and totally tailored to you. If you’re wondering what that can look like, here are some general ideas of what to do on your elopement day:

🏛️ Stroll the streets of historic Ouray, Silverton, or Telluride

🧺 Graze on a picnic of delicious snacks or takeout

🛞 Ride or drive the 4×4 roads in my Jeep Wrangler or a rental off-road vehicle

🌄 See each other on your wedding day for the first time with a sunrise “First Look”

🥾 Hike though the amazing scenery of the San Juan Mountains

🛶 Kayak, canoe, or SUP on a mountain lake

🎣 Fish in a stream or lake

🌌Gaze at the milky way and constellations

👻 Explore the abandoned buildings of a ghost town and wonder what life was like over 100 years ago

🌼 View colorful wildflowers in July and August

🚡 Cruise over the mountains in a gondola at Purgatory or in Telluride

🏕️ Sleep under the stars at a campground or dispersed campsite

🚂 Wind through the mountains on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad  

💤 Relax in a hammock among aspen trees

♨️ Soak in geothermal mineral springs at a hot springs resort

❄️ Zip across the snowy hills on a snowmobile

Ready to elope in the San Juan Mountains?

The San Juan Mountains truly are an incredible place for a scenic and adventurous mountain elopement! If you’re interested in getting married around Ouray, Silverton, or Telluride and are looking for someone to guide you through the planning process, I’d love to help you! After visiting these mountains for over 15 years, I know all the best spots to elope and can share my best tips for an amazing experience. And as an experienced adventure elopement photographer, I can get the best shots of your day while keeping your experience relaxed and enjoyable!

Find out more about my San Juan Mountains elopement packages or contact me below!

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Julie Haider is an adventure elopement photographer + planner based in New Mexico and photographing destination elopements worldwide.

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