Magic always seems to happen at Sprague Lake weddings. If you’ve ever been to Rocky Mountain National park, you’ll know that it’s the second most popular national park for a reason. It’s undeniably beautiful. It’s not just, “Oh, that’s a pretty flower,” but more like, “Holy smokes, I can’t believe this is real! This place is going to take your breath away—for realzies. I mean this literally too, the high altitude might wind you before the absolute majesty of the place knocks you off your feet. Wink Wink.
Hey, I’m Emmy, one of the Oregon and Colorado elopement photographers and guides here at Celebrate Again. Here we believe that the wedding of your dreams is more attainable than you ever thought possible. For example, the wedding where you get married someplace epic like Sprague Lake AND you have that killer dance party you’ve always wanted to do. We believe you can have both.
Ok, back to Sprague Lake weddings: it’s crazy beautiful, check. How the heck do you have your wedding here, how do you get there and what should you expect having your wedding in this wildly astonishing place? Don’t worry, friend, I got you, we’ll cover all of that and more.
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Sprague Lake Wedding Colorado: How to
Table of Contents
- 1 Sprague Lake Wedding Colorado: How to
- 2 How to Get Legal
- 3 When To Have A Sprague Lake Wedding
- 4 What You’ll Need For Your Sprague Lake Wedding
- 5 DOWNLOAD OUR FREE ELOPEMENT PLANNING GUIDE
- 6 Extra Pro Tips
You’ve done your research, and you found Sprague Lake, your jaw dropped and you said “honey bunny, (or whatever cutesy nickname you use for your partner) let’s get married here!” Now what? First things first, you need to know the rules and all the details on how to make your dream come true!
Sprague Lake Wedding Permit
To have a Sprague Lake Wedding, you need to file a Special Use Application (see resource links) with Rocky Mountain National Park. The permit is $250 (subject to change, check with RMNP for the most up to date info). Make sure to read up on the RMNP website so you understand the current permit rules for the area as they can change from time to time. But don’t fret, you’ll be informed if any rules change before your wedding day by the Rangers.
Your site is not an exclusive permit, meaning you cannot kick other people who aren’t a part of your wedding out of the area.
You’ll have a two hour max reservation for your wedding at your site before another wedding will be scheduled there. So it is important to stay on time.
Sprague Lake Wedding Rules
Since you are on national park lands, you’ll need to make sure you follow the rules for using the space. Generally, you’ll want to practice Leave No Trace principles, meaning you leave the environment how you found it and do your research to protect the area well with things like what flowers you bring into the park. (Note: your florist can help you here or consider silk florals!)
Some other tidbits that are helpful to know:
- You cannot use restrooms to get ready in, plan to arrive fully dressed or come prepared to get dressed in your car. You could get really creative with a pop-up dressing tent if you need to. Do keep in mind, it’s a busy area so there will be people around in the parking lot.
- Picnic sites cannot be used for your reception or wedding event.
- In the summer, the max amount of people that can be at Sprague Lake (including yourselves and your photographer/videographers) is 15 people. In the winter, you can have up to 30 people.
- As lovely as floral arranged arches, rugs and other decorative items are, they cannot be used in this area.
- Throwing rice, confetti or pretty much anything else is not allowed.
- Sadly, your dog is not allowed to come to your Sprague Lake Wedding.
To sum up the rules: Sprague Lake Weddings can include yourselves, your attire, a bouquet and boutonniere that you hold and a limited amount of your guests. If you aren’t sure about other items, ask the park ranger when you fill out your application.
How To Access Sprague Lake & Where To Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is so huge that there are multiple entrances. Usually, you’ll drive through Estes Park and enter through Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.
You can estimate it will take you about 20 – 30 minutes to get to the lake from the visitor center. The road is a two lane road. Wildlife crossings and others enjoying the park may drive very slowly through these roads (they’re trying to take in all the amazing scenery!). Plan to be patient and give yourself plenty of time!
Pro tip: Cell phone service is spotty throughout the park so make sure to grab a map or take a screenshot of Sprague Lake directions while you still have service in Estes Park so you don’t get lost.
Driving Directions to Sprague Lake
From Beaver Meadows Visitor Center:
- Turn left on Bear Lake Road
- Drive 5.8 miles
- Turn left on Sprague Lake Road
- Turn right at the fork to stay on Sprague Lake Road.
- Then you’ll arrive at the parking lot.
Accessing Sprague Lake
The trailhead is at the beginning of the parking lot on the south side of the lot. You’ll see signs for the trailhead and cross a walking bridge to get to the lake. You can go right on the trail to get into the trees or go left, which is south on the trail to get to the famous dock where many Sprague Lake weddings have been held.
The trail is wheelchair accessible but is not paved. If you have any wheelchair or handicapped guests, you’ll want to make sure they have all-terrain wheels or if necessary, help traversing the mostly flat dirt trail, uneven surfaces, rocks and tree roots.
- The trail around the whole lake is only 0.9 miles with an elevation gain of 10 feet.
- Do keep in mind the elevation is 8700 feet, so if you are feeling any altitude sickness (headache, lightheadedness, dizziness) in Denver or Estes Park, please be sure to stay hydrated by drinking even more water than usual, with added electrolytes if possible (squeezing a lime is our favorite way to do this) and keep an eye on your symptoms before you head up to the lake.
- Oxygen bars may also be a fun way to help you if you’re really feeling the altitude.
Bathrooms are located in the parking lot. Picnic tables are in the area, but according to the parks rules you cannot have your reception at the picnic tables.
Camping is available here too! Sprague Lake is one of the designated campsites in Rocky Mountain National Park. Make sure you make a camping reservation with the Backcountry Office first. There are no hookups or services at these sites, so make sure to pack all your supplies. However, there is a fire grate and a charcoal grill. Wildlife is very prominent in the park so please be wise and respectful with cleaning up your trash and food.
If Sprague Lake isn’t the spot for you, keep in mind there are only a few places within Rocky Mountain National Park that you can get married at. You can of course take photos elsewhere in the park with a portrait permit or your photographer may have an annual pass.
Here is a list of other approved places to have a wedding ceremony (including two person elopements) according to RMNP. Note: please check their website for updates on these areas. During different seasons or if construction is happening some of these sites may not be available during certain times or seasons:
- 3M Curve Wedding
- Alluvial Fan Bridge Wedding
- Bear Lake Nature Trail Wedding
- Copeland Lake (Wild Basin Area)
- Harbison Meadow Wedding
- Hidden Valley Wedding
- Lily Lake Dock
- Lily Lake Trail Wedding
- Lily Lake Southside Picnic Area
- Moraine Park Amphitheater Wedding (See photos we took here at Moraine Meadows with another couple!)
- Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater
- Upper Beaver Meadows Elopement or Wedding
While we wish Dream Lake weddings were an option, you cannot have your ceremony or exchange your vows at Dream Lake, but you can have your photos taken there!
Another helpful tidbit to know is that dogs are not allowed at these ceremony sites: Sprague Lake, Lily Lake, Alluvial Fan, Bear Lake, and Hidden Valley. Be sure to check with the park and mention this on your application if you do plan to bring your dog to your Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding.
Parking & Guest Size
How to Get Legal
You’ll want to make sure to get your marriage license from the local county and clerks office before your wedding day. Most have online forms to do this a week or few days before your wedding. Many couples do this when they fly into Denver or the city they are staying in.
In the state of Colorado you can sign your license yourselves without an officiant performing your ceremony, though you still could have one! You also don’t need witnesses.
This makes Sprague Lake elopements a perfect option too. Although elopements can include guests and an officiant if you want too. Learn more about what is an elopement here!
When To Have A Sprague Lake Wedding
Sprague Lake weddings can happen anytime of the year! Do keep in mind that winter in the park can be very intense. We’re talking below freezing degrees and legit blizzards. So it’s always good to have a backup plan if the weather isn’t safe to be in.
We’re personally fans of VRBO, Turnkey or Airbnb rentals to have as a backup plan with epic views. Check out locations in Estes Park or if you’re planning on a summer wedding check out Grand Lake for less crowded areas too! (The drive in from Grand Lake is a lot longer but crazy beautiful!)
|Hotel Pros||Hotel Cons|
|24/7 service||Lots of neighbors close by|
|Daily Cleaning||Not as homey|
|May have gym, pool, spa and other amenities||May be near busy beach areas|
|Staff on sight to help you with anything you may need||Stay feels more like a tourist stay|
|May not have your own kitchen|
|Home Stays Like VRBO Pros||Home Stays Like VRBO Cons|
|A private place to yourself: if you select this||Weekly Cleaning|
|Supporting local homeowners||Have to make your own bed|
|May have a very curated guidebook to the area||Staff isn’t usually on site|
|Usually has kitchen||Owners may not be reachable 24/7|
|Feels more like home|
|More affordable for needing more than one room|
|More remote locations|
|Having a local stay feel|
Summer Sprague Lake Elopements & Weddings
Summer really doesn’t arrive in Rocky Mountain National Park until mid June and sometimes not until July. Estes Park and Denver may reach the 80s and even into the 100s during the summer, but inside the park, especially at Sprague Lake, it will probably not get warmer than the high 70s and can be as cool as 30 or 40 degrees in the evenings.
Weather is very unpredictable inside the park so make sure to plan accordingly and have a Plan B for your wedding. You don’t want to be at Sprague Lake with severe thunderstorms warnings.
Mornings in the mountains tend to be calmer, so if you are concerned about the weather, earlier in the day is your best bet!
Fall Sprague Lake Elopements & Weddings
Rock Mountain National Park weather is a bit unpredictable in the fall. While I really wish I could give you the complete insider’s guide to the exact date of when to find the magical changing leaves of Fall, the reality is that no one really knows until about late August.
Then you can usually Google “colorado peak colors” and find a map for when that will hit RMNP (which is just north and slightly west of Denver/Boulder area on a map)
To all the Marissa’s in the world, you may be able to get more info from a park ranger about when the colors will peak and where to find the best ones. Who the heck is Marissa? Story time!
Dining out at a local brewery, our dear friend Marissa started to talk to the table behind us while we were waiting for our food. She struck up an amazing conversation and within the hour, she scored us free drinks and a private tour of the brewery because her newfound friends knew one of the owners. So, if you’re like Marissa, try talking to one of the rangers to find those super insider secrets!
Winter Sprague Lake Elopements & Weddings
Winters here in Colorado are fickle. Seriously, if you were dating winter here in Colorado, you’d feel like you were in the most dramatic, bipolar relationship of your life.
In Denver, it can be 70 degrees mid winter and about 50 degrees within the park. With the sun out you’d hardly notice that it’s winter, let alone need a jacket. Heck, bring out the sunscreen and hat because the heat is on! Ok but really, you should still wear sunscreen especially in the winter, snow reflects the sun which equals sunburns way faster than you thought possible.
My point being, prepare as if you’re going to meet the nastiest blizzard you’ve ever seen but pack layers because it could also be freaking amazing.
On the other hand, if you’re a snow bunny and imagine a winter wonderland, then late January, February and early March are your best chance to catch some beautiful snowfall in the park.
Don’t forget your crampons for icy patches or snowshoes so you don’t sink deep into the snow if it’s recently snowed a lot. I promise they will both be worth having!
Check out our Colorado Packing List for some of our favorites and other helpful winter gear to have.
Spring Sprague Lake Elopements & Weddings
Spring, flowers bloom, tulips, allergies, grass and all the greenness. Well friend, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Spring in RMNP is really just winter. May is usually when things start to bloom and come alive, but it can still be full of blizzards into May and sometimes June. If you want to hit up Trail Ridge Road, make sure you wait until late June or July as the road sometimes doesn’t even open until then.
Pro tip: Since the weather is so fickle in spring, it’s one of the best times to elope in the park! You’ll find way less crowds than in summer and early fall! Make sure to have your four wheel drive car and gear for winter travel just to be safe!
What You’ll Need For Your Sprague Lake Wedding
You’ll want to have your own car to get to Sprague Lake, an Uber or other car service could become very expensive especially if you’re coming from Denver and you may need to arrange a pick up time since you may not have cell service out there.
You don’t need a four wheel drive car unless you plan to have your wedding after late September when snow storms are possible within the park.
If you’re coming during snow season (October – May), you’ll want to have a four wheel drive car and possibly chains to get through the mountain passes up to Estes Park and into the park. An emergency blizzard kit in your car is also a very wise idea (flashlight, water bottles, warm blankets, an extra set of clothes, dry food, snow shovel, winter snow gloves, etc.)
Don’t forget your dress/suit! Or well, whatever it is you want to wear, it’s your wedding!
The Right Weather Gear
Make sure to bring some warm layers in case the weather turns. Rain jackets, snow jackets, skin toned leggings, hats, mittens, proper snow gloves and hand warmers are always a good idea to have, no matter the season.
- Even if you think you wont need these things in the summer, trust me, you will want to bring them if your wedding day includes heading up to trail ridge road. It can be extremely cold with the wind chill up there, and you may want those snow gloves, pants and hand warmers real quick.
Other Personal Items To Bring
We personally love blankets that you can wrap around each other to keep each other warm in!
Don’t forget your sunscreen Sunbum (here: sunscreen is our favorite!), you’re closer to the sun out here.
Remember your bug spray too! While bugs aren’t as bad out here as more humid locations like the South or Midwest, they will still get to you if you go into other parts of the park like Moraine Meadows (Check out these Moraine Meadows Wedding Photos for some inspiration!). Keep in mind that wearing perfume may attract some extra critters too.
Hair and makeup fixes are also helpful to bring with.
For a more detailed list of what to bring on your Colorado trip, check out our Colorado Packing List that can help you make sure you have everything you need!
We are particularly in love with this idea of a love letter blanket. Write your vows on this as a unique way to keep them and stay warm!
If you have some amazing high heels or wedges you want to wear, make sure to bring other shoes to walk in. While the trail to Sprague Lake is flat, it could be muddy or generally unpleasant in those fabulous shoes. I promise you, your feet will thank me later. Always got you covered here, friend.
If you’re planning to adventure elsewhere in the park later, such as taking a hike in another area, please bring proper hiking shoes. Mud and tennies aren’t fun, just saying, and snow… yes snow can stick around year round on the trails.
Crampons are also a good idea for extra adventuring.
Officiant & Guests (optional)
Photographer and/or Videographer
We’d absolutely adore coming alongside you to document your Colorado wedding day and help you navigate all the logistics of an outdoor adventurous wedding. We believe it’s worth capturing and experiencing a wedding day that fits your personalities and great love for beautiful places like Sprague Lake.
NEED HELP PLANNING YOUR ELOPEMENT?
DOWNLOAD OUR FREE ELOPEMENT PLANNING GUIDE
Ready to make wedding planning easier? Download our free planning tool kit!
Extra Pro Tips
You’ll be at between 7000 – 8000 feet during your time, so keep in mind whether you’re staying in Estes Park or Grand Lake, alcoholic drinks will hit you twice as fast, haha. See how you feel before you hop in that car, friend—you may suddenly be more tipsy than you meant to get. Sincerely, your surrogate mama, Emmy.
At Sprague Lake, the elevation is 8700 feet, so if you are feeling any altitude sickness (headache, lightheadedness, dizziness) in Denver or Estes Park, please drink a lot more water with electrolytes (adding a lime is our favorite way to do this) and keep an eye on your symptoms before you head up to the lake.
In the summertime, if you’re an experienced 4×4 driver, you can add a fun Jeep tour to your wedding day. Just off Sprague Lake is a Jeep trail! Talk to the rangers about what other Jeep trails you can access within the park or look into a touring company to take you.
Hiring a Jeep Tour is a great idea for getting some amazing views off the beaten path when you’re getting married in the summertime and want to escape the crowds but don’t want to hike a lot around the park. Bring your photographer and or videographer along for the ride and you’re set for some amazing photos!
Make a camping trip of your wedding experience! There are some amazing places to camp within the park. Do keep in mind that you’ll need reservations for this too. But it’s very affordable, around $20 for one night. There aren’t any RV hook-ups and there aren’t always facilities nearby, so do your research for where to go!
Hire A Wedding Guide
Hire an elopement wedding photographer and guide to help you navigate your wedding day timeline and find off the beaten path locations for you! (Shameless plug for Brittany and I!) We’d absolutely adore helping you understand the lighting in the area to capture some amazing photos while in the park. We can help you know when and where the sun will set and find amazing spots for wedding photos around the park! As well as help you navigate making sure you have everything you need to have a successful wedding day.