There is something about the rugged wilderness of the Colorado mountains that just screams romance. Maybe it’s the elevation that makes you feel on top of the world or the vast expanses of unobstructed blue sky. Perhaps it’s the rolling terrain covered in evergreen trees and dense forests teeming with hidden life. Or it could be the untouched mountainscapes that feel truly isolated from the busyness of everyday life. Whatever it is, it’s easy to see why couples escape to the mountains for intimate, secluded, effortlessly romantic elopements. One ideal site for a Colorado elopement is Cottonwood Pass, just outside of Buena Vista.
Cottonwood Pass is the perfect spot for couples who may want the wild mountaintop experience but without the rugged hike. It’s the highest paved mountain pass over the Continental Divide, so you can drive up the mountain and find the perfect picturesque spot pretty close to the road. This is ideal for couples who plan to include friends or family members who may not be as mobile. If you prefer an adventurous hike before saying “I do,” this is still a great spot to lace up your boots and stray from the pavement.
Because of its extraordinary elevation (over 12,000 feet above sea level), Cottonwood Pass sees its fair share of snow and extreme weather. In fact, the roads close for the winter, typically around the beginning of November, and stay closed through late May. So, it should go without saying that your wedding date will need to be sometime between June and October (though their open and close dates are totally dependent on the weather.)
Even though June usually signals a burst of warmer weather and the transition of spring into summer, at Cottonwood Pass, you’ll likely still come across lots of snow. In fact, you likely won’t be able to hike to points above the treeline because of snow banks and ice. A lot of the area’s major thaws happen in June, so expect lots of mud and bugs. Typically speaking, you should have full accessibility to the area by mid-July.
If you envision a lush, wildflower-rich setting for your elopement, July is the perfect time to visit. It’s the true peak of the green season, where everything looks vibrant and lively. It’s a short window, but well worth it if you can time your elopement just right. You may still catch some snow views, but for the most part, July is one of the best months for a Cottonwood Pass wedding.
Typically, the leaves start changing in September, delivering some spectacular autumn colors as they peak in the last week of the month. The temperatures will already have begun to drop, but some pretty incredible views will surround you. That said, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the forecast, as Mother Nature sometimes has other plans.
Being one of the largest paved mountain paths in the area, Cottonwood Pass is a popular recreational site in the summer. You may consider eloping on a weekday to avoid potential crowds for a truly intimate experience.
Cottonwood Pass has a plethora of gorgeous locations that are perfect for a breathtaking elopement. The Pass itself summits at the Continental Divide, marked with a great sign for a photo op. Not too far from the paved path, you’ll find incredible vistas of mountaintops covered in trees with a few clearings ideal for a vow exchange. If you intend to invite a small number of guests, plan for a standing ceremony, as there are no spots with benches in the area.
If you’re up for some hiking, Cottonwood Lake is a tranquil, small body of water that shows off some incredible reflections of the surrounding trees and mountain peaks. This spot makes for some incredible photos and an even more secluded space to exchange your vows.
Getting married in Colorado is a fairly simple process. You’ll need to go to a Colorado county clerk’s office, though you don’t have to go to the one in the county where you intend to marry, which is good because Cottonwood Pass straddles two different counties. It’s always a good idea to make an appointment ahead of time to avoid lines and check to see which documentation you’ll need to get your license.
One of the best parts about getting married in Colorado is that you don’t need a witness or officiant! It can literally just be you and your partner escaping to the mountains for an extra private vow exchange. There’s also no waiting period, so you can pick up your license and get married that same day. Colorado is also one of the only states that will allow your dog or cat to sign with their paw print as your witness!
Layering is one of the biggest things to remember when it comes to your Cottonwood Pass Elopement. At such a high altitude, you’ll likely encounter cooler temperatures, and you’ll be grateful to have a jacket or coat to keep you warm, even if just in between photos.
Take your footwear into consideration, too; if you plan on hiking off the path, heels or flimsy flats are not the best choice. However, you can always hike in boots and change into more aesthetic shoes once we reach your elopement destination!
A Cottonwood Pass Elopement is a relatively low-cost event. You’ll need to pay the fee for your marriage license, though that is usually under $40. You and your partner will want to consider any travel costs to get you to Cottonwood Pass and any accommodations you may need. Take into account your attire costs and any details you may want to include, like a bouquet and boutonniere or hair and makeup.
And, of course, don’t forget to budget for an elopement photographer. Regardless of how intimate you want your day to feel, you’ll never regret having an album of photos of your incredible day that you’ll be able to treasure forever.
Additionally, don’t forget to celebrate! Whether it’s a romantic night, a getaway at a nearby ski lodge, or an intimate dinner for two at a high-end restaurant, your elopement deserves to be recognized with a celebration. Go as grand or as small as you want – just treat yourselves!!
You’ve put a lot of thought and effort into planning the perfect Cottonwood Pass elopement, so don’t forget to consider an important detail: your photographer! As a Colorado wedding and elopement photographer, I love few things more than a good love story and an adventure. I’ll capture every authentic detail of your unforgettable elopement with heart and artistry, so you’ll always have stunning portraits and photos to look back on.
A Cottonwood Pass elopement is a great way to begin the next chapter of your love story. If you’re still weighing your options, I’d happily discuss it with you! I promise we’ll find the perfect place for an elopement you’ll never forget.