Hands-down one of the most popular places in Colorado to elope is also one of its most iconic geological features: Garden of the Gods.
These red sandstone rock formations reach up from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs, offering a striking contrast to the views of Pikes Peak in the background. The combination of red rocks, mountain views, trees, weather, and wildlife makes it an amazing – yet easily accessible – elopement location.
We get asked so many questions about eloping in Garden of the Gods, so we decided to put together a comprehensive guide for you! Learn everything you need to know about how to elope at Garden of the Gods below.
Please note: there is a large-scale construction project currently in progress which started in early 2022 and continues through mid-2023. Be sure to plan extra time when visiting Garden of the Gods and look up detour routes in advance.
Top Reasons to Elope in Garden of the Gods
1. Scenery. This is pretty obvious, but the views at Garden of the Gods are some of the best in Colorado for elopements. The landscape is so unique and unlike anything you’d find in the Midwest or East Coast – a big draw for a lot of couples coming from out of state to elope.
2. Ease of access. Since the park is right in the town of Colorado Springs, you don’t have to drive very far at all to see the sights and find a spot for your elopement ceremony. There are some great ceremony sites with beautiful views that are also ADA accessible, which is helpful for ceremonies with guests who have limited mobility.
3. No permits or reservations. The park was donated to the city with the intent that it always be free for the public to enjoy. This means that currently there are no fees for entering the park, and no fees for having a small wedding at Garden of the Gods. The only downside: this also means that other weddings may also occur at the same time and place. It’s very helpful to be flexible on timing and be willing to share the space with others here in the park.
4. Plenty of activities to do! From hiking or riding horses in the park, exploring Manitou Springs, and visiting the best eateries and breweries in Colorado Springs, to driving up Pikes Peak nearby, there’s no shortage of things to do in the area.
5. It’s open year-round. Want a place with the most flexibility in scheduling your elopement date? Garden of the Gods is open 365 days a year!
6. Dog-friendly. Hoping to have your furry family members be a part of the celebration? Dogs are allowed in the park as long as they stay on a leash. Bonus: you can even have them sign with a paw-print on your Colorado marriage license! Head on over to our dog-friendly elopement guide to get some tips for involving your pet on the wedding day.
7. Suitable for groups. While we have more location options in the park for just-us-two elopements, couples also love the ability to bring their closest friends and family along for the adventure! There are six designated sites for ceremonies with groups (more on that in the next section below…), and several can easily accommodate groups of 20-30 people.
Where to Elope in Garden of the Gods
The park is large enough to accommodate several elopements happening all at once, but a handful of spots do tend to be busier than others.
We always recommend eloping with as small of a group as possible, since that gives us more location options to choose from. If you elope with just the two of you, we can even head out on the trails to find a hidden spot away from the crowds!
For those of you bringing guests, here are the six designated ceremony locations within Garden of the Gods:
Jaycee Plaza (AKA – Chuckwagon Pavilion)
Max Capacity: 50
While the official headcount limit at Jaycee (including wedding vendors like us) is 50, a group of 20-30 will be much more comfortable in this space. We highly recommend eloping on a weekday here, especially between May and October. Between the challenge of limited parking and the constant flux of foot traffic you’ll have walking by as you say your vows, it’s not the most ideal location for ceremonies but is doable.
Max Capacity: 25
Just a short walk farther down the path from Jaycee is Sentinel Plaza. It is another pretty busy area for other park visitors, so a weekday or weekend morning is best for this location. We typically recommend coming here for portraits rather than ceremonies of large groups.
Three Graces Plaza
Max Capacity: 25
Three Graces tends to be slightly less busy than the first two locations on this list, but the closest parking lot to the plaza is extremely small. You may still have to park at the larger lot closer to Jaycee Plaza and walk farther to get here.
High Point Overlook
Max Capacity: 50 (but we recommend no more than 15-20 here)
To be honest, we’re always shocked that the city has this location listed as accommodating to up to 50 people. Anyone who’s ever been to High Point will likely tell you the same thing: it’s beautiful, but the area can be a little more challenging for ceremonies of larger groups.
This is also one of the – if not the number one – busiest places in the entire park. You get this iconic view of the sides of the rock formations jutting out of the hillsides in the backdrop, making for some epic portraits. It’s truly stunning, especially at sunrise and sunset!
However, the parking lot can be very busy on weekends, there isn’t anywhere for guests to sit, and there is likely always other visitors walking around in the backdrops of your photos here. We do our best to utilize angles wherever we can, but it helps if our group size is small. Or we can always have this be our final stop in the park for your sunset elopement portraits!
Scotsman Picnic Area
Max Capacity: 25
This area is a comfortable, less busy location for elopement ceremonies with guests. If you have family members or friends who need to sit down while you say your vows, they can utilize the nearby picnic tables for seating. The setting is also surrounded by plenty of greenery, with tall grasses and trees that are beautiful from May through October. You also have access to a small footbridge that can make for some additional fun portraits nearby.
South Spring Canyon
Max Capacity: 50
South Spring Canyon is hardly ever used for ceremonies in the park, since the views here aren’t nearly as dramatic and unique as the rest of the park. It’s a nice green area in summer, and you still get views of Pikes Peak, so it may be a great spot for anyone wanting a larger guest count but with more privacy than the other plaza locations.
Garden of the Gods Wedding Rules + Regulations
As we mentioned previously, all ceremony sites are available on a first come, first served basis with no reservations available. Here are some of the other basic guidelines to follow:
- Wedding receptions are not allowed unless you are using the picnic areas at Scotsman or South Spring Canyon locations.
- No alcohol is allowed anywhere in the park.
- Ceremonies must be small and brief, so anything longer than 15-20 minutes may be better suited at another venue.
- Chairs are generally not allowed unless you are bringing them for the elderly or disabled.
- No tables, tends, arches, etc. are allowed. If you are hoping for a setup of this kind, we recommend finding a separate venue for this kind of ceremony setup.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles. This includes no releasing of birds/butterflies/balloons, no throwing of rice/confetti/flower petals, and staying on designated trails to avoid disturbing vegetation and wildlife.
How to Elope in Garden of the Gods
Here is a step-by-step guide to making your Garden of the Gods elopement dreams come to life:
1. Select a date.
One of the best parts about eloping here is that you can literally choose any day of the year. That said, the park’s busiest season is summer and fall, which means more crowds and onlookers during your ceremony are likely.
We recommend weekdays pretty much year-round to avoid issues with parking and crowds, but there are some general timeframes to keep in mind for certain types of weather and scenery:
December – April: best chances for snow are often in February and March, but never guaranteed. Could be heavy with snow one day, and sunny with warm temps the next.
May – June: our typical “springtime” weather, with longer and warmer days, although still a chance for fluke snow storms to come through one last time.
July – August: lots of sunshine, lots of visitors in the park, and afternoon thunderstorms possible. Lots of greenery around, and chances to see wildlife, like bighorn sheep and bobcats (although rare).
September – November: this is often one of the “safest” times of year to elope in terms of weather. Fewer storms, mild temperatures (not too hot, not too cold), and some autumn color on the trees around October.
2. Find your vendors.
Luckily, Colorado Springs has hundreds of amazing wedding vendors to choose from. Our photography and videography team works at Garden of the Gods often, and has several recommendations for other nearby vendors as well.
Whether it ends up being us or someone else, we believe you deserve to work with a vendor team you feel comfortable with. Be sure to check reviews for reliable companies to hire, and lock in the most important vendors as soon as you have a date. Many of us book up 6-12 months in advance.
Here is a short list of some of the types of vendors you may want to book:
- Hair/Makeup Artist
- Personal chef / picnic company / bakery
3. Make your guest list.
…Or choose a “just-us” elopement experience! Some of our pro-tips when it comes to deciding who to invite:
- Close your eyes. When you picture your wedding day, who are the people you absolutely cannot imagine not having there with you?
- If you had to name the top 5-10 people who have always been there for you and your partner, who spark the most joy, who support you in more ways than one, which people come to mind?
- The opposite is also true: who are the people that would hinder your elopement experience, the ones who may only cause drama, pressure you, belittle you, etc.? This is your wedding day, and we’re here to give you the permission you need to only invite the people you actually want to be there.
Also keep in mind some compromises: maybe you elope just the two of you and celebrate with a reception later, maybe you cut back your guest count to immediate family only, or maybe something else entirely. There are also some great ways to involve guests who can’t or won’t be at your wedding.
4. Book your lodging + other reservations.
Now that you’ve got all the other details figured out, it’s time to figure out other important plans like where you’ll stay, where you’ll eat/drink the night of your elopement day, and transportation such as a rental car (or riding on horseback at Garden of the Gods!). Check out some great local VRBO listings on our list here.
5. Get your marriage license.
Although you can get the legal paperwork done in your home state prior to eloping to Colorado, it can also be fun to have an official Colorado marriage certificate. In Colorado, you don’t need any witnesses or even an officiant to sign on your marriage license at all.
The closest county clerk’s office to Garden of the Gods is here in El Paso County. You may need to make an appointment in advance, and the office is only open Mondays-Fridays, so be sure to reach out to them about 30 days out from your big day for the most up to date information and requirements.
6. Plan your activities.
Think of your elopement experience as the best day (or entire trip) you could ever imagine. What would that look like? Get creative and brainstorm all the other fun ideas you’d like to incorporate into your celebration. Nothing’s off limits! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Hike to other areas of Garden of the Gods, like the Siamese Twins trail.
- Travel out to other unique geological features in Colorado, like the Great Sand Dunes National Park or the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.
- Watch the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a world famous race to the summit of Pikes Peak which happens once a year.
- Visit the nearby towns of Manitou Springs and Woodland Park for local shops, bars, and restaurants.
- Take the train out into the Royal Gorge, a deep canyon with a river 1000 feet below the rim above.
- Kayak or SUP in the Catamount Reservoirs at Pikes Peak.
Best Places to Stay for a Garden of the Gods Elopement
Here’s our list of some great overnight lodging options within 30-45 minutes of the park:
Garden of the Gods Resort – the closest option with epic red rock + mountain views
The Broadmoor – a famous high-end, luxurious resort in Colorado Springs
Where to Celebrate with Guests After Your Elopement
Whether you’re looking for a nice place for cocktail hour with a handful of guests, or a larger reception at a traditional venue, here are some of the best places to celebrate well into the night with your loved ones:
Garden of the Gods Elopement Photos + Videos
We’re put together a few samples of work below for you to see just how beautiful an elopement in Garden of the Gods can be:
Contact an Elopement Photography + Videography Team in Colorado Springs
Skyewater Photo + Film is an adventure elopement and destination wedding photo and video team based in Colorado. We help couples plan elopements all over the US, and offer insight for more than just photography: from planning assistance, finding and booking locations, vendor references and more! Reach out to our elopement photography and videography team today to get more info!