One of the things I really love about my work is creating styled shoots with fun couples. They’re a great way to showcase how your elopement, engagement shoot, or adventure session can incorporate your passions and hobbies—even your favorite sports teams. Plus, hanging out with awesome people in some of Colorado’s most beautiful places is a huge win in my book.
Maki and Tucker really brought the fun to this Indian Peaks Wilderness elopement styled shoot in July 2020. We laughed, we popped champagne, we bonded over a mutual love of the obscure movie I Heart Huckabees. The couple met when they both moved to Denver separately and, being the badass athletes that they are, joined a running club. Their shoot was tailor-made to them as a couple and incorporated their love of sports and exercise, plus their amazing sense of adventure. They even did their first sunrise hike for our shoot, and they totally killed it!
The day started at 2:30am on a Sunday morning—the first indicator that these two are up for anything. Our goal, other than having a rad adventure, was to reach our lakeside destination in time to see the alpenglow. This is when the rising sun would hit the snow-dusted mountains perfectly and they’d glow bright orange. So, I met Maki and Tucker at a pitch-black trailhead in Indian Peaks Wilderness, we put on our headlamps, and we hit the trail.
It was a four-mile hike in, so we had plenty of time to talk and laugh and get to know each other. We had the trail all to ourselves and it was so peaceful. Every now and then we’d catch glimpses of animal eyes glowing in the fields from the moonlight or our headlamps. Eventually, in the darkness, we started to hear a rushing waterfall and knew we were getting close. And then finally, as it was just becoming first light, we could see the outline of a lake and knew we’d made it.
Eventually, we decided to get a little steamier with the photos, and of course they were totally down to try something out of their comfort zone. And since they’re such avid runners and sports fans, they also incorporated this in the shoot by switching into clothing to rep their favorite sports teams. They even posed in their running clothes and gear, having fun with a shoot that completely represented them.
From the 2:30am start to feeling comfortable having their photos taken, it was all about doing something new and exciting and adventurous. Maki and Tucker were so down and so much fun to work with. As a photographer, you really can’t ask for much more than incredible views, great weather, and a hell of a good time with a super rad couple.
Indian Peaks Wilderness is a massive area spanning over 76,000 acres in North Central Colorado. Its close proximity to Boulder (about an hour drive away) and stunning beauty make this a popular destination. With 133 miles of hiking trails and 7 peaks over 13,000 feet, there is plenty of terrain to explore.
My favorite place for elopements is the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, known as the “Gateway to the Indian Peaks.” The beautiful spot offers jaw-dropping views of the lakes and surrounding high peaks along the Continental divide. Early risers will be rewarded with alpenglow views of mountains illuminated in orange and red along the lake. You might also catch a view of an Elk, Moose, or Bighorn Sheep!
Brainard Lake is the most well-known and most accessible spot in the area. You can access the lake by car from late-June through early-October, and there are incredible views of the surrounding mountain peaks. This is a great option if accessibility is a concern for you or your guests, or if you just want an amazing mountain backdrop without going on a hike.
The views from Lake Isabelle (where many of these photos were taken) are well worth the trek. It’s about a 4 mile hike from the trailhead at Brainard Lake, and your efforts will be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains with fewer crowds. There are multiple amazing spots all around the lake for your elopement ceremony and photos.
Due to its high elevation, trails in the Brainard area can remain covered in deep snow until late June or July. Brainard Lake Road typically opens in late June and closes by mid-October. In the off-season, you can access the area on foot from the Gateway Trailhead.
Lake Isabelle is drained each year in late July or early August. Check with the Boulder Ranger district to make sure the lake will be full for your elopement.
You do not need a permit to have an elopement in the Brainard Lake Area if you have a small group and do not use any chairs or props. Be sure to double-check permit requirements or work with an experienced Colorado elopement photographer as requirements sometimes change.
Like all of the best places to elope in Colorado, the Indian Peaks Wilderness has something for just about everyone. Do you crave a thrilling backcountry hiking adventure? Or do you want a gorgeous lakeside ceremony that is accessible enough for your grandparents to attend? Either way, you’ll find it here. To learn more about other ideal sites for your Colorado elopement, check out these 7 Best Elopement Locations in Colorado.
If you have questions about the logistics of planning a Colorado elopement, you’ll want to read our post on How to Get Married in Colorado.
Hi there! I’m Adam. If you’re planning an elopement and want to learn more about elopement packages and find the best Colorado elopement photographer for you, I’d love to talk! Reach out for a free consultation. I can’t wait to start planning the day of your dreams!