Montana is one of the most underrated places in the continental US. The wide open skies, jaw-dropping mountains, and crystal clear lakes and rivers make it an absolute must-see adventure location. You know that as a wedding and elopement photographer, I love adventure elopements in beautiful places. In this guide, I want to highlight the beauty of Glacier National Park, and give you all the information you need in order to have an elopement in this park.
We’ll go over:
If you’re an adventure-seeker, there’s no reason not to choose to elope in Glacier National Park. There are 700 miles (you read that right — 700) of trails to be explored, as well as alpine meadows and glacial lakes, beautiful valleys and mountain peaks, and lots of interesting wildlife!
Specifically for national parks elopements, I always say that it’s worth it to turn the experience into a multi-day adventure. You could even bundle your elopement and honeymoon into one longer trip! Staying in the park for at least a few nights will give you the opportunity to explore, make some special memories with your new spouse, and spend time in one of the most gorgeous national parks.
Plus, the history of Glacier National Park, and its unique features, make it an extra special place to get married. Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road to sightsee and meander up the mountainsides is an iconic Glacier experience.
Have I convinced you yet?! Yes? Then let’s dive into all the nitty gritty details!
All national parks in the US require a special use permit for wedding ceremonies. For Glacier National Park, you’ll have to submit an application, which you can find here. The application has to be submitted at least 20 days before the date of your event. However, I recommend sending in your paperwork at least 30 days before your elopement date, just in case! The application will cost $125.
In 2022, the park also introduced a pilot program for vehicle reservations to reduce congestion on the famous Going-to-the-Sun road. The good news is, the special use permit counts as your vehicle reservation pass! You can head here to read more about the vehicle reservation system.
The special use permit does not count as your park entrance pass, so you’ll still need to get one of those to get into the park on the day of your elopement. You can find the fees & passes for regular entrance to the park here.
Lastly, keep in mind that the specific approved wedding locations inside Glacier National Park all have different restrictions on the size of your group. In total, 30 people will be the maximum number you are allowed to have at any location, though many of them will only have space for 15.
Are you ready for the best news ever?
You can have your elopement ANYTIME in Glacier National Park. Whether summer or winter is your vibe, Glacier will provide! Of course, every season has its perks and downsides, so let’s break each of them down here.
Summer is such a dreamy, perfect season to get married in Glacier! You have the entire park and all the approved ceremony locations at your disposal, nothing will be closed due to harsh weather, etc. The daylight lasts forever on summer days in Montana — the sun comes up early and sets late, which means you can really soak in the day!
The downside is that summer is Glacier’s peak season. It has always been the busiest time of year for this park, which means that you will absolutely be enjoying the park alongside hundreds and hundreds of other visitors. Glacier National Park also tends to try to mitigate the amount of traffic and visitation they see in the summer just to make sure the lands are being well-preserved. For the last few years, Glacier has created an additional ticketed entry system during the summer to control the crowds.
September and October can be equally beautiful for an elopement in Glacier! September is still technically considered part of the “summer” season, but things will likely be slightly less crowded, and you can still enjoy the summertime feeling of an elopement. Into October, it’s more likely to be rainy, overcast, or even snowy in the especially high places. I personally love the fall air, so I think this would make a great elopement day!
Okay, so technically, there is nothing stopping you from having a Glacier National Park elopement during the winter months. And let me tell you, you can have an absolutely stunning ceremony surrounded by fresh snowfall and the peaks in the distance!
However, I do want to make sure you’re fully prepared for what a winter elopement in Glacier will be like. First and foremost, the weather usually will never be above 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and can even drop into the negatives. If you opt for a winter elopement here, please make sure that you layer up with shawls, coats, thick socks, flannel leggings or long underwear, etc., and wear shoes that will keep you from slipping!
Second, there are many locations in the park that you will not be able to access because of the winter weather. This means that your choices for ceremony locations may be a bit more limited than usual, but don’t let this stop you! Winter elopements are gorgeous, and you can find ways to keep yourself warm and comfortable all day.
Spring is a beautiful time to visit Glacier National Park. It’s bound to be more quiet, since the busy season has not yet started. If you wait until later in the spring to elope, most of the park will be extra lush and green!
A lot of the park services may not be open yet after the winter, so if you choose to elope in the spring in Glacier, be prepared for both rain, and for fewer facilities available to you.
I mentioned earlier in the permitting section that Glacier has a pre-approved list of spots inside the park where you are allowed to get married. You won’t be able to just find a spot on your own, but fortunately, the list of spots the park approves has a wide variety! Be sure to check out the list here before you fill out your application.
I want to highlight a few spots here for you that I think are particularly amazing for an elopement.
Apgar Amphitheater is wheelchair accessible and pet-friendly! It’s open year-round, and has a great view of Lake McDonald behind the stage area. There’s a pergola you’re allowed to decorate and seating already built in for any guests. Sunrise or sunset elopements at Apgar Amphitheater would be especially pretty!
There are also several other lakeside locations in the Lake McDonald District you can check out on the list I linked above! Please note that several areas around Lake McDonald will be inaccessible from October 2022 to May 2023 as some construction work is done.
The Two Medicine District has five specific locations where you can get married. Any of them are great choices! This area is a gem inside Glacier, with lots of waterfalls, great mountain views near the lakes, and lots of hiking trails. There’s even boat tours you can take out on the water!
I have to recommend Lake Josephine to you for your elopement because the view from the shores of this lake is simply to die for! Watching the sunrise here is a particularly special experience. There’s another lake nearby called Swiftcurrent too, that may be worth checking out while you’re in the area.
You can access Lake Josephine by a 1.2 mile hike on the Grinnell Glacier Trail, or cut that distance down to 0.2 miles by taking a boat from the Many Glacier Hotel.
I say it all the time, but one of the most special things about choosing to elope is that you get to add in anything you want! You can implement fun activities that are unique to the area you’ve chosen to get married, and that makes your memories so much more vibrant! In Glacier National Park, depending on the season, you have lots of options. Here’s a few:
And that’s the lowdown on an elopement in Glacier National Park! Your experience is going to be so stunning, and I can’t wait to hear about it! Even though I’m based in Seattle, I offer an elopement photography package for anywhere in the United States that you can read about here. When you’re ready, contact me here for elopement photography!