how to elope in glacier national park elopement guide

While several other national parks tend to get all the attention for elopements (ahem: Yosemite and Rocky Mountain), we’re here to tell you why Glacier National Park should be near the top of your list for the big day. If you’re looking for a place that feels like a great combination of jagged mountain peaks, turquoise-colored lakes, and glaciers — but without having to go all the way to Alaska — this place is it.

So if you’ve been torn between places like the Last Frontier, Washington State, the Canadian Rockies, and Colorado, we believe you’ll fall in love with the idea of eloping in Glacier National Park. We’ve put together the most comprehensive elopement guide for GNP below, and are here to help you plan an epic adventure for your big day!

Reasons to Elope in Glacier National Park

  1. Fewer people than other top national parks for elopements. Granted, it’s total number of visitors brings it to #10 on the most visited national parks, its 2.9 million visitors is nothing like the 12.9 million of Great Smoky Mountains or the 4+ million visitors of Grand Canyon, Zion, or Rocky Mountain National Parks — each! And to be honest, we’re kind of big fans of the new timed reservation systems, which keeps the total number of visitors to a more manageable number of people in the park each day.
  2. The lakes. Over 100 of the 700+ lakes in this national park are named, and we just can’t get enough of them. And with the glacial history of these bodies of water, their teal blue color is something that feels out of this world. The best part? Several of them are perfect for water-centric elopements, where you can take a boat ride, paddle on a SUP or kayak, rent a canoe for an evening ride, or dive right in with your bathing suits (or wedding attire!) during your elopement adventure.
  3. It has a partnership with Waterton Lakes National Park on the Canadian side of the border, which means you could do an adventurous 2 or 3-day trip to visit both in one trip!
  4. The wildlife! From bears and moose, to mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pika, and a variety of birds, there are so many great opportunities to catch some unique animals living in the wild here.
  5. A variety of scenery to explore. It feels nearly endless! Lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, mountaintops, meadows, forests, wildflowers, rock formations…the list goes on! There’s something here for everyone.
  6. Over two dozen fantastic ceremony sites to choose from! Many other national parks are very selective about the locations they allow ceremonies to be held at. And while Glacier NP isn’t open ended for ceremonies anywhere in the park, there are nearly 30 stunning wedding location options for you to choose from.
eloping in glacier national park

FAQs About Eloping in Glacier National Park

Check out some answers to the top questions most couples ask about Glacier National Park weddings and elopements:

The cost of a wedding permit (Special Use permit) through Glacier National Park includes a $125 processing fee for the application, but does not include your entry fee, and depending on your group size, an additional monitoring fee of $50/hour may apply.

The great thing about Glacier National Park: there are a BUNCH of stunning options across the various sections of the park. Check out the next section below on all the details for some of our favorite pre-approved ceremony sites!

And for anyone wondering if you can get married on Logan Pass, the official answer from Glacier National Park is: “No. We do not write permits for Logan Pass. You may take pictures at Logan Pass.”

Yes! And in fact, as the current National Park Service website states (Aug 2023), if you are saying your vows someplace outside of the national park, you can even take portraits inside GNP without a Special Use Permit. This means we can explore many of the other trails, or do several other activities (think: boat rides, paddle boarding, swimming, etc.) in dozens of beautiful places within the park!

The sooner the better! Like many other national parks, the dates can fill up quickly, especially since Glacier NP has such a short season when the Going-to-the-Sun road is open (usually late May/early June through end of September/early October).

And since Glacier NP allows you to apply for a permit up to a year in advance of your requested date, we recommend requesting anywhere between 9-12 months of your dream wedding date, and keep in mind that weekends, holidays, and other fun “repetitive” dates like 8/8 (August 8) are always going to be snagged first.

The latest you should apply is one month (20 business days) in advance, since they can take up to a month (or more!) to process.

This is a great question! Glacier NP considers their peak season to be the second Friday in May through the second Sunday in October, which lines up with when the Going-to-the-Sun road over Logan Pass is open.

That said, “hedge” season months like May, early June, or the month of October can be more risky weather-wise for surprise storms as the seasons change.

June is a great month for those wanting warmer weather and still with higher chances of seeing more snow on the mountain peaks. July and early August is a beautiful time of year for wildflowers and tons of greenery around. September is a top choice for fall colors when the aspens change, and a much slower time of the year with fewer visitors.

And while it’s not everyone’s top choice, there are some great winter spots available year-round in the park. We’ve listed which locations are open year-round in our ceremony list below.

Generally, dogs are only allowed on very developed areas in the park (think: pavement). So they aren’t allowed on any of the trails or near the lakes.

However, there are several pre-approved ceremony locations that are dog-friendly, so depending on where you’re wanting to get married, they may be able to join you for the special day!

Glacier National Park is one of the most popular national parks for wildlife sightings, especially larger animals like grizzly and black bears, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats.

Grizzlies in particular have been known to be very aggressive, so it’s best to always view them from a large distance away, carry bells or other noise-making devices when hiking, and bring bear spray with you. The best way to stay safe is to come prepared!

Have more FAQs not answered here? Check out even more detailed info on the Glacier National Park’s website for Wedding FAQs!

Where to Elope in Glacier National Park: Best Places to Elope in GNP

Below is a list of the pre-approved ceremony locations available for reservations inside Glacier National Park and we’ve scouted out nearly half of the complete list in advance for you!

Please note that all vow readings of any kind and size require a Special Use Permit through the National Park Service in advance of your date. Additionally, they list the following rules/restrictions on their website:

  • There is a limit of two permits per location per day.
  • Time limit is two hours for all locations.
  • Your permit does not grant access during road closures.
  • A permit monitor may be required for events over 20 people.
  • At all picnic areas: tables remain first-come, first-served and tables may not be saved/reserved or moved.

St. Mary District

Located on the east side of the park, the St. Mary region has some truly wonderful designated ceremony sites to choose from:

Sun Point

This is probably our personal favorite ceremony location in the entire park. Easy enough to access via a very short trail, you end up on this beautiful rock face with a wide open vista of lake and mountain views around you.

Capacity: 20 people

Dates of Access: Last week of May–Mid October

Site Details: No tables/chairs/décor; snacks allowed. According to the NPS, seasonal road closures could require you to ski/snowshoe/hike to location.

rising sun shoreline wedding ceremony glacier national park

Rising Sun Picnic Area Shoreline

For some great mountain views with another very easy to access location, consider getting married here!

Capacity: 15 people during peak season, 20 during non-peak season

Dates of Access: Early May–Late October

Site Details: No tables/décor; up to 4 chairs permitted on durable surface; snacks allowed. According to the NPS, the area is frequently restricted due to wildlife activity, which could mean you might need to change to a different location.

glacier national park ceremony locations

Rising Sun Amphitheater

If you have a slightly larger group, the amphitheater at Rising Sun is just a short walk away from the beach. Between the seats and wheelchair accessibility, this makes for a great compromise location where you can follow up your ceremony with portraits on the lakeshore.

Capacity: 30 people

Dates of Access: Early May–Late October

Site Details: Closed to events during evening programs. No tables/chairs/décor; snacks allowed. Pets allowed and wheelchair accessible.

1913 Ranger Station

For anyone who’s looking for something available year-round, the historic 1913 Ranger Station is a solid option. Even during summer and fall, this is a beautiful spot that even features an aspen grove.

Capacity: 20 people

Dates of Access: Year-round

Site Details: No facilities/restrooms at this location. No tables/décor allowed; up to 4 chairs permitted on durable surface; snacks allowed.

st mary glacier national park wedding ceremony location

St. Mary Amphitheater

This location is another great year-round option, with some forest and mountain views in the distance. Also a convenient location for anyone who’s also lucky enough to snag a reservation in the same campground!

Capacity: 50 people during peak season, 75 during non-peak season

Dates of Access: Year-round

Site Details: Closed to events during evening programs. No tables/décor allowed; up to 4 chairs permitted on durable surface; snacks allowed. Pets allowed and wheelchair accessible.

Lake McDonald District

Located on the west side of Glacier National Park, most of these locations are scattered around the shoreline of Lake McDonald, as well as a few other great gems. Here are some you might like:

lake mcdonald lodge elopement wedding location

Lake McDonald Lodge Beach

A beautiful, yet busy, lakeside location and conveniently located right by the Lodge.

Capacity: 15 people during peak season, 30 during non-peak season

Dates of Access: Year-round

Site Details: Those with a wedding reservation must notify Lake McDonald Lodge prior to the event. No tables/décor allowed; up to 4 chairs permitted on durable surface; snacks allowed. Pets allowed.

big bend wedding elopement ceremony location glacier national park

Big Bend

This is the only true “mountaintop” location located close to the top of Logan Pass. It has beautiful views, but keep in mind that the proximity to the road may be distracting or less than ideal if noise and/or seclusion is important to you.

Capacity: 10 people

Dates of Access: Early July–Mid September (short season!)

Site Details: No tables/chairs/décor allowed; snacks allowed. Events are only allowed on the developed gravel area adjacent to the roadside parking; no events allowed on areas below the gravel viewpoint.

avalanche amphitheater elopement wedding ceremony glacier national park

Avalanche Amphitheater

Want to be surrounded by forest for your ceremony? This location accommodates up to 100 people and features a backdrop of tall cedar trees.

Capacity: 100 people

Dates of Access: Early May–Mid October

Site Details: No tables/chairs/décor allowed; snacks allowed. Pets allowed and wheelchair accessible. Parking is extremely limited at Avalanche Creek, so weekdays in the hedge seasons are likely best for this location.

Other locations in this district include:

  1. Avalanche Picnic Area Shoreline: Along the shore of Avalanche Creek; 15 people in peak season, 20 in non-peak season, pet-friendly, short walk required.
  2. Sprague Picnic Area Shoreline: along the shore of Lake McDonald; 15 people in peak season, 20 in non-peak season, pet-friendly.
  3. Apgar Amphitheater: seats the largest group size of any reservable location in the park (250!); available year-round; wheelchair accessible and pet-friendly.
  4. Apgar Picnic Area Shoreline: along the shore of Lake McDonald; 15 people in peak season, 20 in non-peak season, available year-round, pet-friendly.
  5. Ryan Beach: along the shore of Lake McDonald; 15 people in peak season, 20 in non-peak season, available year-round.
  6. Fish Creek Picnic Area Shoreline: up to 20 in peak season, 25 in non-peak season; late April-late December, pets allowed.
  7. Fish Creek Amphitheater: up to 200 people; late May to early September; wheelchair accessible and pets allowed.
  8. 7-Mile Pullout (Sandy Point): 15 peak season, 20 non-peak season, year-round.
  9. 10-Mile Pullout (Jackson Bay): 15 peak season, 20 non-peak season, year-round.

Many Glacier District

About 30 minutes north of the St. Mary area, the Many Glacier entrance has its own set of lakes and mountains to explore. We scouted out all of the ceremony locations here:

Lake Josephine Shoreline

One of the only ceremony locations you’d have to hike to, but well worth it! There are two beaches by the boat docks, but a third hidden gem we know about is just as beautiful – yet more secluded.

Capacity: 15 people

Dates of Access: last week of May to mid-October

Site Details: No vehicle access, requires a 1-2 mile hike each way.

Many Glacier Hotel Southwest Beach

The first of two spots by the historic Many Glacier Hotel, this small beach has some pretty amazing views.

Capacity: 15 people

Dates of Access: Last week of May–Mid October

Site Details: No tables/décor allowed; up to 4 chairs permitted on durable surface.

Many Glacier Hotel Green

Want something super easy to access? The lawn right outside of the Many Glacier Hotel is a great option with views of Swiftcurrent Lake.

Capacity: 15 people

Dates of Access: Last week of May–Mid October

Site Details: No tables/chairs/décor allowed; permittee must notify Many Glacier Hotel prior to event.

Many Glacier Amphitheater

This amphitheater is close to the campground as well as the

Capacity: 100 people

Dates of Access: Last week of May–Mid October

Site Details: No tables/décor allowed; wheelchair accessible; pets allowed.

Two Medicine District

Although this region wasn’t high on our list of places to visit in the park, we’re so glad we did! Paddling out on the water here is simply amazing. Here are a few of the ceremony locations in the Two Medicine area:

Pray Lake Shoreline

Our top choice for ceremonies, with enough distance from nearby campers, no motorized boats nearby, and tons of space on the shoreline.

Capacity: 30 people

Dates of Access: Last week of May–Mid October

Site Details: No tables/décor allowed; up to 4 chairs permitted on durable surface.

Running Eagle Falls

This is listed as the only waterfall site for ceremonies. However, the wheelchair accessible location approved for this spot is farther away from the waterfall than you might want.

Capacity: 15 people

Dates of Access: Last week of May–Mid October

Site Details: No tables/chairs/décor allowed.

Two Medicine Picnic Area Shoreline

The larger lake here is beautiful, with easy access to the boat and kayak rentals, but definitely busier than at Pray Lake.

Capacity: 15 people in peak season, 20 people in non-peak season

Dates of Access: Last week of May–Mid October

Site Details: No tables/chairs/décor allowed; pets allowed.

North Fork

Due to construction in 2023, we were unable to visit this area to include in this guide. We’ll be sure to update it in the future as we get more insight! Here’s the short list of locations GNP has listed for ceremonies in this area:

  1. Juniper River Access: up to 12 people; normally accessible from mid-May to mid-October.
  2. Bowman Lake Day Use Area: up to 15 in peak season, or 24 people in non-peak season; mid-May to mid-October.
  3. Kintla Lake Day Use Area: up to 8 people; mid-May to mid-October.

How to Elope in Glacier National Park Step-by-Step

Not sure where to begin? Here are some of the basic steps you need to take in order to elope in Glacier National Park.

1. Choose a Date/Season for Your Elopement

One of the first and most important things you’ll need to do first is determine a date. Note that the season in GNP is extremely short for great “summer” weather, and that in several areas of the park it can snow nearly any time of the year.

We highly recommend eloping on a weekday here to avoid crowds, and sunrise is even better! Be sure to start thinking about the types of weather you are hoping for, seasonal colors/backdrops (ex: summer thunderstorms and wildflowers vs. fall colors vs. wintertime snow), and your tolerance for busy traffic / people around.

2. Hire Your Elopement Vendor Team

At Skyewater Photo + Film, we’re more than just a photo and video team. We help you plan your elopement day(s) to be as unique as you are! With unlimited planning assistance, many of our couples feel far less stressed and more excited knowing they have our support from start to finish.

Other vendors you’ll want to consider adding on to your wedding or elopement experience: an officiant, hair and makeup artist, florist, activity companies (think: boat rides!), etc.

3. Obtain Your Glacier National Park Wedding Permit / Reservation

With a date selected and your top few ceremony locations in mind, you’ll want to start filling out the permit to reserve your location as soon as possible. The park allows you to apply up to a year in advance of your dream wedding date, and popular dates do fill up fast, so the sooner the better!

4. Reserve Your Lodging Near Glacier National Park

Lodging is crucial, especially if you plan to bring along a dog (or two!) and/or any other guests with you. There are several top lodging options both near and inside the national park, as well as several campgrounds (although these do fill up SUPER fast, especially ones inside the national park). We’ll drop some of our top recommendations in another section down below for you.

5. Plan Your Activities

The activity options for your wedding or elopement trip to Glacier National Park are nearly endless. Here are some of our favorite ideas to make your wedding day tailored to what you enjoy most:

6. Get Your Marriage License

The park is split across two counties in Montana: Flathead County on the west side and Glacier County on the east side. Depending on where you’re staying during your trip, you’ll want to contact the county clerk’s office directly for the one closest to your destination.

The closest office in Flathead County to the western entrance of the park is in Kalispell, about 50 minutes from West Glacier: 920 South Main, Suite 300, Kalispell, MT 59901, 406-758-5870.

The closest office in Glacier County to the eastern entrances is in Cut Bank, an hour east of St. Mary: Glacier County Courthouse, 512 East Main, Suite 3, Cut Bank, MT 59427, 406-873-3619.

Alternatively, like many of our couples, you can opt for doing all the legal paperwork in your hometown so that the trip to Glacier is more focused on your adventure, vows, and experience.

glacier national park

Sample Timeline for Elopements in Glacier National Park

We get it: trying to picture how an elopement day or wedding weekend would look in Glacier might not be easy to imagine. While we customize every timeline to each individual couple’s vision, activities, and more, here are a couple timeline examples to give you some ideas.

An Epic 2-Day Timeline for a Glacier National Park Wedding

Day one:
– an afternoon hike to some of the best views GNP has to offer
– followed by a sunset welcome party near the park with your guests, including some outdoorsy water-based activities, like kayaking or paddle boarding
– stargazing into the night by the campfire

Day two:
12pm – get ready with your loved ones at one of the park’s lodges or campgrounds
2 – everyone departs for a lakeside ceremony location
2:30 – meet your officiant at your ceremony location
3 – read your vows and celebrate with a unique unity ceremony
3:30 – family + couples portraits
4 – picnic with your friends and family on the shore
5:30 – a few toasts from those who know you best
6 – we depart for a second location for more exploring
7 – we arrive to a trailhead, hike out for sunset portraits
9 – photo/video coverage ends

A Full Day Elopement Timeline Example for GNP

8:30 am – photo + video team arrives at the Many Glacier Hotel, a quick breakfast in your room together as you finish getting dressed and handwriting your vows
9:30 – we depart on a guided boat tour from the dock
11 – we land on the other side of a nearby lake, and walk to your ceremony location
12pm – you say your vows by the shore of a lake with mountains and glaciers in the backdrop
12:30 – we hike up some more for epic views of teal glacial lakes and wooded forests
open ended time for wildlife watching, dipping our toes in the cold waters, or relaxing by an alpine lake
2 – we begin our hike back down, followed by another boat ride back to the hotel
4 – a break to freshen up and eat
5 – we all depart for another second location for sunset portraits
6 – golden hour overlooking more mountain peaks and lakes
8:30 – photo/video coverage ends

Top VRBO Rentals near Glacier National Park

A scenic home near West Glacier

Log cabin with lake view

West Glacier Adobe house

Two bedroom lodge with hot tub

Boathouse on Lake McDonald

A cozy A-frame

2-Story Glacier Valley home

Hotels + Lodges Near Glacier National Park

First up: a few located inside the park boundaries!

Many Glacier Hotel

Lake McDonald Lodge

Rising Sun Motor Inn

Village Inn at Apgar

Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

And here are a few others in the surrounding areas:

Glacier Park Lodge

St. Mary Village


Meadow Lake Resort

Campgrounds + RV Parks Near Glacier National Park

Camping options inside Glacier National Park

St. Mary KOA

West Glacier KOA

West Glacier RV Park

Mountain Meadow RV Park & Cabins

Wedding Venues Near Glacier National Park

Looking for a great venue to host a reception after your ceremony inside the park? Or looking for somewhere close for the full day event but still hoping to have portraits in Glacier? Here are some great options for you:

Mountainside Weddings

Glacier Outdoor

Grouse Mountain Lodge

Haymoon Resort

Triple B Ranch

Green Valley Ranch

Diamond B

glacier national park elopement photographer

Glacier National Park Elopement Photo + Video Packages

The Skyewater Photo + Film team is based in the Pacific Northwest and specializes in adventure elopements and destination weddings all over the US. We love National Park elopements and can even help you plan, book your dream location, and find the perfect vendors for you. Let’s make your elopement day the best one ever.

Reach out to our elopement photography and videography team today to get more info!

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