A bride and groom walk hand in hand along a trail after eloping in Glacier National Park.

The #1 Guide to Eloping in Glacier National Park

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Introduction

If you’re considering eloping in Glacier National Park, then this is the blog for you! We’ll cover everything you need to know from elopement permits to our favorite insider locations, adventure activities to include in your day, and elopement photography packages to help you plan your special day! Eloping in Glacier National Park might feel overwhelming with the changing rules and reservation systems, but we’re here to help break it down and provide you with all the info you need!

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Where is Glacier National Park?

Before we dive into eloping in Glacier National Park, let’s start with where it is and how to get to it! Glacier is in northern Montana and it’s so far north that there are sections of the park that are in Canada. The parts of Glacier that are in the United States are split into 6 different areas: Lake McDonald, Logan Pass, Many Glacier, Two Medicine, St. Mary’s, and Polebridge. The two busiest parts of the park are Lake McDonald and Logan Pass, but our favorite area is Many Glacier (more on that later!).

Closest Major Cities/Towns:

There are several cities and towns that surround the park, depending on which area you are in. Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls are the biggest cities on the west side of Glacier. Babb and Browning are the bigger towns on the east side but they are much smaller than the cities on the west side. 

How to Get to Glacier National Park

Closest Major Airports:

The two major airports to fly into are Kalispell and Missoula. If you are short on time, we would recommend flying into Kalispell as it’s only an hour’s drive from West Glacier. If you have more time and want to explore more of Montana during your elopement, we would recommend flying into Missoula and exploring the city for a day or two. Missoula is a fun college town with great breweries, restaurants, hiking trails, and river access. From Missoula, west Glacier is a 2.5 hour drive which is absolutely beautiful!

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Why Should You Consider Eloping in Glacier National Park?

If you’re here reading this it’s probably because somehow you’ve got Glacier on your radar. Maybe you saw a picture of the Going-to-the-sun road or maybe you read an article about grizzlies in the park. Either way, here are a few reasons why you should consider eloping in Glacier.

  1. The scenery. As destination elopement photographers, we’ve traveled and seen a lot of the world. But the landscape in Glacier National Park is hard to beat. With jagged mountain peaks, fields of wildflowers, glacier lakes (and glaciers!), and forests full of big trees, it’s hard to find something in Glacier that you won’t like!
  2. The wildlife. Maybe we’re just lucky (Becky is an excellent bear spotter) but every time we visit Glacier, we see wildlife! Grizzlies, eagles, black bears, moose, deer, elk, you name it! 
  3. Even if you’re in the heart of the park it’s easy to find pockets of privacy. It’s one of the reasons we love it when couples are eloping in Glacier National Park. 
  4. There’s something for everyone. If you want to go on a long hike, there are plenty of trails to choose from. If you are more of a water person, there are tons of lakes and rivers close by. And if you prefer something super easy to get to, the views are everywhere.

FAQ’s About Eloping in Glacier National Park

We get a lot of questions about eloping in Glacier National Park so we’re going to answer some of our top questions here!

  • How much does it cost to elope in Glacier National Park?
    • This cost will vary depending on accommodations, vendors, etc. but the cost of the wedding permit is $125.
  • Do you need a permit when eloping in Glacier National Park?
    • Yes. If you plan on having a ceremony and exchanging vows inside of the park, you will need a permit. If you are just taking wedding photos and no ceremony is taking place, you don’t need a permit.
  • Where can I elope in Glacier National Park?
    • The park has designated locations for your elopement ceremony throughout the park. You can find more information on that here, at this website, and keep reading to hear some of our favorite ceremony spots!
  • Can I have my dog at my elopement ceremony in Glacier National Park?
    • Yes, but it will limit your options for where your ceremony can take place. Like most national parks, Glacier allows dogs but only in developed areas such as amphitheaters, picnic areas, and campgrounds. We always tell people to think “paws on pavement”. Dogs aren’t allowed on trails, in the backcountry, or along most lakes/rivers. 
A bride and groom dance on a rock after eloping in Glacier national park.

Ready to plan your elopement in Glacier NP? Let’s do it! Scenic Vows can help you every step of the way!

Glacier National Park Wedding & Elopement Permits

Wedding permits vary from park to park and they do change over time. As your Glacier National Park elopement photographers, we’ll keep up-to-date on these changes so that you don’t have to think about them! Some people feel stressed or anxious about the wedding permit process but it’s pretty straightforward when you have all the info!

Glacier Wedding Special Use Permit

We’re going to spell it out for you here so that when you’re eloping in Glacier National Park, you have all the information at your fingertips.

  • The permit allows any and all vow exchanges, elopements, ceremonies, weddings, or special events to take place in the park.
  • You can apply for a Glacier Wedding permit up to one year in advance and no less than one month (20 business days) before your wedding.
  • The wedding permit costs $125. You will need to fill out a form (click here to view it) and then the park will contact you by phone to collect your payment via credit card.
  • There are 29 designated ceremony locations for eloping in Glacier National Park. The park has created a very detailed list of the locations based on the area that you can look at here.
  • Every location has a different number of participants that are allowed. The amphitheaters allow the most people with a limit as high as 250, while some of the other more intimate locations have a limit of 10-20 people.
  • You and your guests will still need to obtain a park pass for your elopement day. If you are someone who visits national parks often, we would recommend getting an America the Beautiful pass for $80 (per year) which will get you into any park! If you only want to get into Glacier, then you and your guests will have to pay $35 for a week-long pass into the park.

Glacier Entry Fees & Vehicle Reservation Passes

This has been a hot topic over the last few years since Glacier implemented a vehicle reservation requirement during the summer months. So here’s what you’ll need when eloping in Glacier National Park.

  1. Wedding Permit: as we mentioned, you’ll need to apply for your wedding permit up to a year in advance but no less than one month before your wedding date. That permit costs $125 and allows you to have your wedding ceremony in the park.
  2. Park Pass: this is a universal pass that each park requires their guests to obtain. There are two ways to get a park pass. The first is to purchase an annual pass to all national parks called the America the Beautiful Pass. It is $80. The second option is to pay for a 7-day park pass which is $35 and allows you into the one park that you purchase it from. 
  3. Vehicle Reservation: for Glacier, a vehicle reservation is also required from May 26th – September 10th. Each different area of the park has a different vehicle reservation that you need to obtain if you want to visit that area. These vehicle reservations are released at different times throughout the summer always at 8 am MT on the recreation.gov website. You can enter the park before 6 am and after 3 pm without a vehicle reservation. And if you have a wedding permit that will act as your vehicle reservation for the day of your wedding. If you are planning to explore the park before or after your wedding day, you will need to get a vehicle reservation for those days. This website has all the vehicle reservation information listed in more detail for you to check out! If you have more questions, feel free to send us a message!

Our Top 5 Locations for Your Glacier National Park Elopement

Ok, let’s dive into the fun stuff, our favorite locations for eloping in Glacier National Park! As we mentioned, the park has designated locations for your ceremony BUT you are allowed to take photos anywhere in the park! Listed below are our 5 favorite ceremony locations. 

1. Sun Point

Sun Point is one of our favorite ceremony locations for eloping in Glacier National Park. The views from this point are unreal and it’s relatively easy to get to. If you’re looking for a combo of mountains and lakes, this spot would be perfect for you!

Location info:

  • Short, easy hike that’s about 0.1 miles roundtrip.
  • Maybe 100 feet of elevation gain.
  • Very easy hike out to the point. 
  • The trail starts from the large Sun Point Parking Lot.
  • This location is not dog-friendly.
  • While the trail is easy to walk up, this location is not wheelchair accessible and if you have guests who have difficulty walking, the end of this trail is a little steep.
  • Available last week of May – Mid-October
  • 20 people max (that includes you two and your photographer/officiant)
Two brides stand hand in hand on a rocky point overlooking the mountains after eloping in Glacier National Park.

2. Lake Josephine Shoreline

Lake Josephine is one of those locations that blows our minds every time we go back. This location requires a short hike through the woods and along the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. There’s also an option to take the ferry across the lake, shortening the length of the hike. .Once you arrive at the lake, the views are breathtaking. This location is often very quiet and private UNLESS a ferry is arriving or departing which makes for a fun addition to your eloping in Glacier National Park story.

Location info:

  • There are two options to get to the lake. One is to hike from the Grinnell Glacier trailhead which is a 1.6-mile round-trip hike. The other option is to take the ferry from the Many Glacier hotel to the end of Swiftcurrent Lake. From there the hike is only 0.2 miles (one-way). 
  • Maybe 100 feet of elevation gain.
  • Easy hike out to the lake with a slight uphill bit on the way.
  • The trail starts from the Grinnell Glacier trailhead parking area. There is room for maybe 15-20 vehicles and can fill up depending on the time of day.
  • This location is not dog-friendly.
  • While the trail is easy to walk up, this location is not wheelchair accessible and if you have guests who have difficulty walking, the end of this trail is a little steep.
  • Available last week of May – Mid-October
  • 15 people max
A bride and groom kiss on the shore of Lake Josephine after eloping in Glacier national park.

3. Pray Lake

Pray Lake is a beautiful ceremony location with mountains and lake views and is very easy to access which is great if you have guests who might have a difficult time walking. We highly recommend considering it if eloping in Glacier National Park. 

Location info:

  • No hike required. 
  • Very easy from the parking area to the edge of the lake. 
  • There is a dirt path from the parking lot to the lake.
  • This location is not dog-friendly.
  • While the trail is easy to walk up, this location is not wheelchair accessible.
  • Available last week of May – Mid-October
  • 30 people max
A couple walk along the shore of a lake with their arms around each others waist after eloping in Glacier national park.

4. Ryan Beach

Ryan Beach is on our favorite list and is one of the most private ceremony locations we’ve come across while photographing couples eloping in Glacier National Park. It sits on the edge of Lake McDonald and is difficult to find on Google Maps which helps keep it hidden and private.

Location info:

  • A very short walk through some trees is required to get to the beach. 
  • There is no elevation gain or incline.
  • There is a very small parking area (only 2-3 vehicles can fit here) where the trail leads to the beach.
  • This location is not dog-friendly.
  • While the trail is easy to walk up, this location is not wheelchair accessible.
  • 15 people max during peak season (Peak season is considered the second Friday in May through the second Sunday in October) and 20 people max during non-peak season.
  • Ryan Beach is available all year round.
A bride and groom hold their hands in the air in celebration after eloping in Glacier national park.

5. Bowman Lake

Bowman Lake is a breathtaking location that we feel gets overlooked quite a bit, simply because it’s a bit more difficult to get to than some of the other ceremony locations. However, don’t let that sway your decision! Being more remote means fewer people which is always great when eloping in Glacier National Park.

Location info:

  • Getting to Bowman Lake requires a bit of driving. From Apgar Village, you’ll drive 32 miles down a dirt road that has quite a reputation for being rough and dusty. Once you pass Polebridge it’s another 6 miles to the Bowman Lake Day Use area.
  • There is no elevation gain or incline to get to the lake.
  • There is a small parking area and depending on the time of year, it can fill quickly. Having the vehicle reservations in place has cut down on overcrowding significantly.
  • This location is not dog-friendly.
  • While the trail is easy to walk up, this location is not wheelchair accessible.
  • 15 people max during peak season (Peak season is considered the second Friday in May through the second Sunday in October) and 24 people max during non-peak season
  • Available mid-May through mid-October.
A bride and groom stand on a wooden platform overlooking a river in glacier national park.

The Best Time of Year to Elope at Glacier National Park

There are a few really important factors to consider when eloping in Glacier National Park that we’re going to dive into now. 

  • Time of year
  • The weather you’d like for your elopement day
  • Crowds
  • Wildfires

Time of Year & Weather

If you’re looking for the perfect time to elope in Glacier National Park, you have to consider the time of year and the weather. 

  • November – April: Winter lasts a bit longer in Montana (snow could fall as early as late September) so if you are looking for a snowy winter wonderland, these are the months you want to consider. Imagine a frozen Lake McDonald, snowshoeing through the forest, and cuddling up in a cabin with a roaring fire. 
  • April – June: There isn’t much of a “typical” spring in Glacier. Usually, it’s pretty wet and rainy from April to June with most things just starting to come back to life after the winter months. The visitor centers and park lodges start to open around mid-May and by June things are getting back to normal.
  • Late June – mid-September: Summer in Glacier National Park is a pretty special time. The wildflowers are out, the lakes and rivers are cool to swim in, and the temperatures are hot! Keep in mind that everyone else is also visiting the park during the summer months, meaning it will be crowded!
  • Mid-September – November: This is our favorite time to visit Glacier National Park! If you are looking for beautiful fall colors, fewer crowds, cooler temperatures, and not quite winter yet, we recommend eloping in Glacier National Park between mid-September to late October. 

Crowds & Wildfires

With the summer months come the crowds and the wildfires. The park definitely sees an influx in visitors during July and August so if you are planning on eloping in Glacier National Park during those months, make sure to plan ahead and come prepared. That being said, working with Glacier National Park elopement photographers such as ourselves, we have scouted out incredible “off-the-beaten-path” locations that will provide you with privacy and intimacy on your elopement day. 

August in Montana usually means wildfire season and sometimes that can roll into both July and September, depending on how dry of a year it is. If you are sensitive to smoke, we would recommend choosing a different month to visit as it can get really bad and be hazardous to be around. 

Glacier National Park Elopement Activity Ideas

If you are eloping in Glacier National Park during the summer and fall months, here are some fun elopement activities to include in your day. If you need more ideas, check out this ultimate list of Elopement Activity suggestions!

  • Kayaking
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Backpacking
  • Picnicking
  • Bike riding
  • Scenic Helicopter ride
  • Zip lining
  • Rafting
  • Horseback riding

If a winter wonderland elopement is more your vibe some activities to include are cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, or just hitting up the spa for some relaxation! 

A couple sit in a kayak together on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park Elopement Photographers

We first visited Glacier National Park together in 2020 (Becky’s first time there) and ever since, we’ve been spending our summers there, exploring, adventuring, and photographing beautiful elopements. It’s one of those places that is breathtaking, and wild, and we always seem to find a new spot each time we return. 

If you’re planning on eloping in Glacier National Park, we highly recommend hiring an elopement photographer (or two, like us!) who has experience working in the park. There are new rules and permits changing each year so it’s important to have someone helping you to navigate that. As we mentioned, we love finding new hidden spots for our eloping couples to enjoy on their elopement day!

Glacier National Park Elopement Packages

At Scenic Vows, we offer a handful of different elopement packages and we’ll work together to figure out which one is right for you and your wedding dreams! Eloping in Glacier National Park is such an incredible experience and we want to make sure your day is documented from start to finish! 

Our starting package is our 4-hour package which is great if you’re planning on eloping in Glacier National Park in the winter since the days are shorter. However, if you are eloping in the summer or fall months, we would recommend adding some extra time and considering our 6 or 8-hour package instead. Glacier is a huge park and if you want to explore a lot on your wedding day, you’re definitely going to want more time!

If you start feeling like one day isn’t enough (and trust us, it really isn’t), we also offer a multi-day package that covers 12-14 hours of photography coverage over 2 days. Perfect for those of you who are interested in a more remote elopement day with some hiking or backpacking! 

Since we live in our converted Sprinter Van and are always on the move, there are no extra travel fees added to our packages. What you see is what you get! We have a bit of a travel schedule so we’re not driving too much so feel free to check that out here. If you don’t see your location on the list don’t hesitate to reach out as we’re always excited to add a new place!

Here’s a peek at what a 6-hour elopement day in Glacier National Park could look like:

6-Hour Timeline

2:30 pm – Meet up for a first look!

3:00 pm – Drive to town for a short excursion (like side by sides or kayaking)

5:00 pm – Return rentals (if applicable)

5:30 pm –  Stop at a local food truck for dinner

6:00 pm –  Drive to the trailhead

6:30 pm – Hike out and elope!

7:00 pm – Celebrate as the sunsets

8:30 pm – Finish up for the night!

And here’s a look at what a multi-day elopement in Glacier National Park could look like:

Day 1

10:00 am – Enjoy some alone time & slowly start getting ready

11:00 am – We’ll meet you at an Airbnb or getting ready location to start taking photos

12:00 pm – Begin the one-hour drive to the trailhead

1:00 pm  – Hike out to the ceremony location

2:00 pm  – Elope (ceremony, champagne, photos)

3:00 pm  – Drive to meet the helicopter

4:00 pm  – Fly out to all the best spots

6:30 pm  – Land back at the helicopter pad

7:00 pm  – Toast with cocktails or eat dinner

8:00 pm  – Finish up photography coverage for the day

8:30 pm  – Head back to where you’re staying to watch the sunset

9:00 pm  – Soak up the sunset!

Day 2

10:00 am – Sleep in and then we’ll meet at the Airbnb

10:15 am – We’ll take some simple morning-hour photos to capture the way you interact

10:45 am – Get ready

11:30 am – Read your vows in the afternoon light just outside

12:00 pm – Pop more champagne perhaps

1:00 pm  – Get changed and drive to a trailhead

1:30 pm – Hike (& take photos)

3:00 pm  – Drive to a local brewery & eat a quick bite

5:00 pm  – Wrap up for the day

6:00 pm – Go enjoy dinner together

Two brides stand holding hands on the shoreline of Lake Josephine in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park Elopement Inspiration 

Hopefully, you found this blog helpful if you’re eloping in Glacier National Park! If you love the idea of eloping in Montana but aren’t set on Glacier, check out this blog we wrote filled with other Montana elopement locations. And if you want some Glacier inspo, head over to this Many Glacier Elopement we photographed last spring.

Does all of this sound perfect for your elopement? We’d be honored to help make it happen and capture every moment!

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