How To Elope in Glacier National Park
This first thing you need to know about how to elope in glacier national park is that you have picked one of the most magnificent places on the face of the planet to get married!
Everywhere you go, there are awe-inspiring views that will take your breath away. Many of the places are accessible by car but many places take a short hike to a private spot filled with picturesque landscape and maybe even some rare wildlife. There are a ton of things to do in the park including hiking, boat rentals, zip lining, challenge courses, and so much more. There are also a ton of great airbnb’s and hotels/lodges with a lot of great restaurants.
I have curated a small list of my favorite things to do in the park, places to stay, and a couple of my favorite vendors in the area including, flowers, hair/makeup, cake/cupcakes, and anything else you may need!
How to elope in Glacier National Park Part 1: Pick your photographer!
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Kim and my husband is Jesse. We are a photo/video team who travels around the country in our van with out dog taking beautiful photos of beautiful people just like you. Glacier National Park is one of my favorite places to have a couple elope. We pride ourselves in creating the completely custom experience for your shoot.
Everything from the amount of hours you need to the locations you want to see, from the special activities like hiking, biking, sailing, kayaking, to pizza breaks or incorporating your pets with you on your big day. Almost everything is customizable. I repeat, you can do practically whatever you want and I am with you through the whole planning time to help! I get you in contact with other local vendors and give advice to make this the most STRESS FREE time possible.
Let me dive into that a little more. Planning a wedding or elopement can involve a lot of stress and anxiety. Well, with us, we believe the whole experience from the day you decide to book me to the day you get your photos should be stress free. We have had so many couples who are so grateful to have their worries and anxiety melt away when they realize we help them through the whole thing. So let’s do this! Let’s make it happen.
How to elope in Glacier National Park Part 2: Locations!
Where to start? There are so many crazy awesome spots in this park that it’s difficult to choose. But I’ve done that for you. I have photographed and visited so many spots in this park and I have decided to share you a few of my favorites. I have a lot more I can show you once you book though.
You can get to a lot of beautiful spots in the park by just driving there so let’s start there. Logan Pass is THE spot to go if you don’t have a lot of time for hiking or other activities. The views along the way and at the top are incredible and look like a post card you would send to your friends back home to make them jealous. Not that any of us would ever do that…
But anyways, follow the Going to the Sun Road up past Lake McDonald and up the crazy, curvy road that you wont want to open your eyes if you are afraid of heights. Along the way, you’ll see a ton of great pull-offs for places to take photos or just sit and relax and take in the views. I’ll tell you about a few of these hikes but for now we’ll just focus on the main road.
Just before the top, you’ll get some of the best views in the park, including a pull-off for some great hiking opportunities. Once you get to the visitors center at the very top, you can go inside and get some souveneirs or whatever else you need and then you can continue. About 20-30 minutes past the visitors center you will find Saint Mary Lake.
This is a very picturesque lake with mountain views in the background. You can keep going past this, or you can hike around here, or you can just play in the water for a while. There’s another part to the park that you can see by continuing on this road called Many Glaciers to Swiftcurrent Lake or Two Medicine Lake . However, currently this area is closed beyond the Glacier National Park border to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation due to Covid. Hopefully this will be opening up soon because is is an amazingly gorgeous spot.
The next place you have to see is Lake McDonald. You will drive past it or completely around it when you drive into the park, but you can go there and stay for a while. The lake is known for its clear blue water and extremely colorful stones found in it. There’s a lot of great trails on it but some of the best things can be seen from the Apgar area.
The Apgar Amphitheater is one of the most popular spots to have a ceremony done on the lake. This is also the spot where you rent kayaks or canoes but I’ll get to that later. The second spot (yes that was all one spot because it’s all along the same road. I know, crazy right?) is actually a hike.
It happens to be one of the most popular hikes in the park so it may not be as private and secluded as some of the next options. This is Avalanche Lake. This is kind of a twofer. You get to go through the gorgeous trail of the cedars and end up at a jaw-dropping lake. This one’s a bit of a hike but if you’re down, so am I! It’s a 6.7 mile hike with not a ton of elevation gain but completely worth the trek.
Thirdly, the Hidden Lake Overlook is also another very popular hike when it’s open (it gets closed a lot due to bear sitings). This is a relatively easy hike and faster than Avalanche Lake at only 2.9 miles and also has just a little bit of elevation gain. It’s possible to get to the actual lake but for the best photos, most people tend to stop at the overlook. Another awesome drive is to the west side of the park. This is one of the least traveled parts of the park but that’s mainly because most of the route there is on a dirt road. If you don’t mind that, you can visit the wonderful Polebridge mercantile store.
This western style store is so amazing. It is literally over 100 years old. They have a bakery, cabins onsite, an awesome gift shop with and is a great place for photos. The last location I’m gonna tell you about is a lot more secluded and, though it’s not technically an official National Park trail, is very worth the hike out and back. Mount Oberlin Trail.
But really, the best part is that you probably wont see as many people on it so you can say your vows with the mountain peaks in the background. It’s a 3.5 mile or so hike with a moderate elevation gain. Check out that view! In my opinion, it’s totally worth it to have more privacy. That’s totally up to you. Which locations would you like to go to with me? All of them? Ok! We can do that for sure!
There’s so many more amazing spots to go but I don’t want to give it all away so let’s get together and plan this thing so we can make it happen!Two
How to elope in Glacier National Park Part 3: Other things to do while you’re there!
If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably into outdoor things. That’s why most of this next part will be some really awesome things to do outside. It’s worth noting that there’s a couple small towns close to the park main entrance and one relatively large town a little while away. West Glacier is just outside the park boundary and Columbia Falls is about a half hour outside there.
These two quaint little towns offer a few options for things to do with restaurants and places to stay. The town of Kalispell is about 15 minutes past Columbia Falls but is significantly larger and has many more options for lodging or restaurants. It is also closer to Flathead lake if you want to go fishing, boating or other water sports. Flathead lake is a very big lake to the south of the park but it is an hour away, but let’s get back to things to do inside the park.
I’m going to stick to things to do very close to the park. The first thing I recommend to people is kayaking or canoeing on Lake McDonald. This experience will change you. You will never want to go back.
There’s a couple options right near the lake. https://www.goglacieroutfitters.com/ & http://glacierparkboats.com/glacier-park-boat-rentals/apgar-rentals/ They are both pretty similar but call ahead to see what’s available because they tend to sell out very quickly during the busy season. Glacier Outfitters also has some group options where you can river raft down the Flathead River. Did I mention that there’s a couple places to go zip-lining? Yeah. That’s right. Here’s your options. https://www.glacierhighline.com/& https://glacier-ziplines.com/
If you’ve had a zip line experience, this is your place to do it. Both places have awesome zip lines that go way off the ground and through the woods. Glacier Highline goes further and has a challenge course. Check out their website if you don’t know what I’m talking about. They also have cabins on site that you can stay at during their season. Many places and activities around the area are only open during certain months of the year. I’ll talk more about this when I go over seasonal weather and availability.
How to Elope in Glacier National Park Part 4: Places to stay while you’re here.
I’ve talked about a couple places to stay inside and outside the park already. There’s a lot of places inside the park to stay but the places that I have selected have something extra special about them. First comes the airbnb’s.
These are the best of the best. They vary quite a bit in price so it totally depends on how much you want to spend, how close you want to be to the park, and how close you want to be to other people. The first one has such an amazing view. Number Two, Check out this quaint little cabin. Who wouldn’t want to stay here?! Number Three, Here’s another little cabin that has a killer view. Talk about best of both worlds, right?
There’s a lot of lodges inside the park and a lot of hotels in the neighboring towns but if you’re wanting to stay inside the park, check out here.
How to Elope in Glacier National Park Part 5: A Girl’s Gotta Eat, Right?
Here’s some of my favorite places to eat! If this is what you’ve been waiting for, you’re in for a treat. Seriously, no pun intended. I’ll give you a big variety of foods so you can pick whatever you want. You can stuff your face with a giant hamburger until the barbecue sauce drips from your beautiful face, or you can savor some Elk meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes that will make your mouth water just thinking about it.
Without further ado, here’s my crème de la crème of places to eat while you’re here. In no particular order, here you go: The Tupelo Grill in Whitefish is a little further away from the park but is such an awesome culinary adventure, this may be the only place you want to eat at once you’ve been there.
During the late spring and summer, you’ll probably want to make reservations as soon as possible because they are usually pretty busy. They also have a few great vegan and gluten free options. About 15 minutes south on Highway 2 is Glacier Grill & Pizza. This is one of those places that’s old school and doesn’t even have a website.
I’m gonna tell you what it’s all about though. They don’t need a website because they focus on the food. Everything from hand made shove that slice into your pie hole pizza to…oh yeah…pie. I mean peach huckleberry pie. Have you ever heard of such an amazing concoction. I didn’t think so. Neither had I until I saw this. Try it. Thank me later.
The last place I’m gonna tell you about is Eddie’s cafe. This mouth-watering menu is full of breakfast, lunch, and dinner specialties including my personal favorite, the biscuits and gravy. Don’t tell your grandma but these are better than hers. Oh and there’s a Bison burger that has huckleberry aioli on it that will make your eyes bulge out after the first bite. It’s that good. You can’t go wrong here.
How to Elope in Glacier National Park Part 6: Coming All Together
The last and most important part…this is the section of my favorite vendors that you may need during your wedding. This is the nitty gritty part. You definitely want to pay attention for this part. Or you can just click the links and trust me. That works too.
Let them eat cake! Or should I say, have your cake and eat it too? I’m not sure. Either way, cupcakes, fondant covered extravagance-loaded masterpieces, or whatever your mind can imagine, you can have what you want. Cakes by Debi makes some mouth-watering cakes, cupcakes, cake pops and other goodies you have to check out if you love eating moistness with flavoring.
Can you tell I love cake? The Fleur Bakeshop in Whitefish is a very artistic talent for sure. They also make beautiful cakes and cupcakes for weddings or elopements or for just-because moments when you need an extra sweet delicacy to stuff in your cake hole. Nom nom nom.
Flowers! Whether you’re wanting to elope or have an intimate wedding, you’re probably gonna need some flowers. You can get any size bouquet you want, corsages and boutonnieres, or anything under the sun you could ever imagine. Here’s a couple local options to pick from. Keep in mind that for the most part, availability of types of flowers will depend on the season.
Flathead Farmworks is a local florist who sources all of the flowers locally, year round. They even offer dried floral arrangements during the winter months! How cool is that? They tailor every piece to match your style and desires, pending availability. You’ll love the many different looks on the website.
Mums Weddings has a ton of options to choose from. They range from traditional bouquets to completely custom options. They also do larger wedding styles as well as a la carte options if you prefer smaller but still beautiful arrangements. Check out the website for more details.
Next up is the Hair and Makeup! I have heard nothing but good things about these fabulous hair and makeup ladies and gents! You can stop searching! They will make you look flawless and feel your absolute best! Ty Nykole, RAJ Hair and Salon, Rachel Ness, & a few others!
Can I buy a vow? I mean, time to choose who you want to perform the ceremony if you want one. And that’s about it right? In no particular order..
Tom Paris 307-413-5609
Jesse Lamberson 406-260-0162
Reid Copeland firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, that’s it for the vendors and other fun stuff to do while you’re there. But there’s a little more. Next up is the fun stuff..or something like that.
How to Elope in Glacier National Park Part 7: The Details
I know this isn’t the part that people love to talk about but it’s necessary. This is the legal stuff and the other things you need to know about the park that we haven’t already talked about. First off is getting the permit.
There’s a lot of information on there but basically, fill out the form at least 20 days in advance, pay the $125 fee, pick from their approved list if you’re going to be having a wedding party (if you’re just eloping with the 3 or 4 of us, we can pretty much do it anywhere), and we’ll be set. I mean there’s a little more to it than that but you can read through that site and find out the exact details.
You will also need to go into the Kalispell Courthouse and obtain a wedding permit. Go there, fill out the application. Pay the $53 fee plus any copies, extra fees and show up at the Clerk of Court before your ceremony and sign the license. You’ll need either your birth certificate or your drivers license. You will need some family information such as your mother’s maiden name and place of birth and all that but you’ll find all that information on the form so go check it out.
Whether or not weather is a concern is up to you. Most people get married between June and August, which just happens to be the main times when most of the park is open. The weather tends to be between 60-70 during those times so it can be a lot more comfortable. If you’re wanting off season, you may be able to save some coin booking your places to stay but you probably wont be able to see a lot of the park.
Going to the sun road closes usually some time in early October depending on the conditions and opens late June to mid July. Sometimes, the park will open up small sections of the road first but that’s never a guarantee. If there’s not a ton of snow on the roads, you may be able to get to Lake McDonald to get some amazing winter photos. If that’s your jam, let’s make it happen!
One last thing that I love to include in sessions is pets. No I’m not talking about your Husband to be or your children. I’m talking about dogs, cats, hedgehogs, pigs, whatever form your fancy little friends come in. They are part of the family too.
Unfortunately, in Glacier National Park, there’s a lot of places they aren’t allowed to go. They are allowed at Bowman Lake though(just not in the water)! That’s a lot of what you need to know about how to elope in Glacier National Park. That’s a lot of information to throw at you all at once but if you trust me, we can make this process a lot easier!
Below is a real elopement that happened in October 2020. Some of the spots are ones I didn’t mention above, but can share once you’re on board. 😉 They also did ALLL DAY (12 hours!) so we could go on a few short hikes, but mainly to that amazing waterfall! Anyway, please let me know if you have any questions. Or better yet, you’re ready to make your dream of eloping in Glacier National Park a reality, let’s connect!