Ultimate Guide to Having a Wedding or Elopement in Glacier National Park

How to Have an Elopement in Glacier National Park

Originally published in October 2019 / Last updated in January 2024

So you’re considering getting married to one another by eloping in Glacier National Park?! You’ve come to the right place. As a photographer that specializes in capturing elopements throughout the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado – I can assure you that Glacier National Park is by far my favorite national park to work (and play) in! No matter where you are in the park, there is no shortage of views in every direction so don’t be surprised to find yourself stopping at every pull-off you find and racing to check off as many hikes as you can. I’m also always amazed at the variety of wildlife that I’ve seen from moose and grizzly bears in Many Glacier to bighorn sheep at Logan Pass.

Couple exchanging vows during their Glacier National Park elopement standing on rocky terrain with a mountainscape behind them and a cloudy sky.

Things to Think About as You Begin Planning Your Elopement

Although this step may seem silly to some, I highly recommend taking the time to think and be conscious about the answers to the following questions before starting the next steps of planning your Glacier National Park elopement. While the answers may feel super obvious to you, it helps so much to have thought more consciously about them – or even better, have written down these answers on paper or on the notes app on your phone. It will also help you stay grounded throughout the planning process and help you create an elopement day that’s true to you!

  • PWhat aspects of eloping make you feel most excited?
  • PWhat about a more traditional wedding didn’t feel true to the two of you and your relationship?
  • PWhat drew you in on choosing Glacier National Park as the location for your elopement?
  • PWhen you initially think of your Glacier National Park elopement day, what words come to mind? What do you picture the two of you doing? What kind of landscapes were you drawn to when researching this location online?
Answering these questions will help you enter the next steps of planning with a clear mindset of what led you to choose to elope in Glacier National Park and the values that the two of you have.
A couple smiling at eachother during their elopement in Grand Teton.

Tips and FAQs for Planning Your Trip to Glacier National Park

What airport should we fly into?

You’ll most likely fly into Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) located in Kalispell, Montana which is located about 40 minutes from the west entrance of Glacier National Park. It’s also pretty equidistant between the cities of Kalispell and Whitefish! The airlines that you’ll want to look into that fly into this airport are Alaska, Allegiant, United, Delta, Sun Country, and American.

What time of year should we elope in Glacier?

While the answer to this question greatly depends on the activities you two love and what experiences you’d like to have, I’ll try to break it down to make it easy to decide! Typically, I don’t recommend most spring months (March through early May) as it tends to be a mix of snow, slush, and mud and isn’t super ideal for any activity.

Summer in Glacier

Summer is the best time to visit if you really want to see as much of Glacier National Park as possible!

Late May through June
During June, although the entire Going to the Sun Road typically isn’t open to cars, you have the benefit of everything being lush and green and the temperatures being much more moderate. The main areas of the park that aren’t accessible at this time are Logan Pass (and higher elevation areas of the Going to the Sun Road) and higher elevation hikes that will still be covered in snow.

But if June feels best for you and you still want to experience the Going to the Sun Road, renting an e-bike and biking the road prior to the road opening is an exhilarating alternative. Glacier Outfitters is one of the locations that rents out these bikes and the trip up to the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center from Avalanche Campground works out to be around 33 miles! The Glacier Guides website has a fantastic article with FAQs about biking the Going to the Sun Road including how long it usually takes, elevation gain, and even tours they lead. During this time of year, it’s really important before taking this adventure to check for avalanche warnings on the Flathead Avalanche Center’s website and read up on Glacier National Park’s avalanche page.

Jesse and Joey’s West Glacier adventure elopement is the perfect example of the beauty that can be found even when the entire road isn’t open!

Mid-July to Mid-August

Around mid-July is when you can really expect for wildflowers to be showing off and for the entirety of the Going to the Sun Road to open for vehicle traffic!

Unfortunately there is no set date for the Going to the Sun Road to open and the park doesn’t usually announce the opening until the night before on their Twitter and Facebook pages. I’ll also link a PDF record of the road opening and closing dates here for reference! It’s also helpful to bookmark the trail status report page and the road status report page for the most up-to-date information for your adventures!

Check out Cami and Drew’s stunning mid-summer elopement that was split between two days in Many Glacier and Saint Mary for some summer inspiration! Also don’t miss Lauren and CJ’s Ryan Beach Wedding with family to see a glimpse of what a full day of celebration can look like!

During this time is also when you can take full advantage of the activities in and around the park including:

  • Zip lining at Glacier Zipline and ziplining and ropes courses at Glacier Highline
  • Scening lift rides, zip line tours, mountain biking, alpine slides, and an aerial adventure park at Whitefish Mountain Resort
  • Boat tours at Two Medicine Lake, Saint Mary Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake, and Lake McDonald with Glacier Park Boat Company
  • Renting kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and motorboats through Glacier Park Boat Company and Glacier Outfitters
  • Hiking along one of the 153 trails totalling over 700 miles throughout the park
    • If you are going to be hiking (or leaving the road) anywhere in Glacier National Park or Montana, I highly recommend either purchasing or renting bear spray for your trip. It can’t be transported on airplanes, so renting tends to be a better option and the few dollars is well worth the peace of mind! Bear spray can be purchased at many stores in the area including REI and Costco and you can rent from Glacier Outfitters for the duration of your trip.
    • Don’t forget to read up on how to use bear spray and watch a video or two before hitting the trails, no matter how self-explanatory it looks.
      Horseback riding in the Apgar, Lake McDonald, and Many Glacier areas with Swan Mountain Outfitters

Mid-August to Mid-September

I tend to stay away from recommending couples visit during this time. Not only is it some of the hottest times in Glacier National Park, it can also be painfully dry! Oftentimes, Montana and other western states will experience wildfires or smoke from nearby fires making being outdoors miserable and sometimes unhealthy. Of course, there is no way to predict the severity of fire season and when it will start or end, so if you end up having a smokey forecast for your wedding, check out my Smokey Elopement Day information blog post about navigating it confidently!

Fall in Glacier

Hands down my favorite time to visit Glacier National Park is from late September to mid-October because of how vibrant all of the fall leaves. The crisp cool nights (and most days) are beyond refreshing after the summer heat! Although, fall in the mountains can bring unpredictable weather, I’m a sucker for moody photos that this time of year can bring! Oftentimes I’ll have a 50/50 split of elopements with unusually warm weather and the expected fall weather!

Check out Tyler and Rahul’s Eclectic Logan Pass Elopement to get a glimpse at what a sunrise fall elopement could look like in the park!

Winter in Glacier

If you’re both really into winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling – then winter is definitely the time for you to visit and thrive. Skiing and snowboarding Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort and ending your day exploring downtown Whitefish or soaking in the lakeside hot tub at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is an experience straight out of a hallmark movie!

Typically only a limited amount of the park in the Apgar and Lake McDonald areas are accessible by car, but that doesn’t mean that beautiful views are out of reach. Grabbing a pair of cross country skis and exploring in the winter wonderland of the park and local areas is such a special way to experience the park in a way that most people never get to!

Be advised that it’s not unusual for there to be stretches of days in the negative temperatures in Montana with relentless wind so be sure to come prepared with warm jackets, gloves, etc.

Where should we stay near Glacier National Park?

Places to Stay in Glacier National Park

Campgrounds in Glacier
Although you can’t really go wrong with choosing a campground in Glacier, I’ve always loved staying at Apgar Campground. Although it’s one of the biggest and busiest campgrounds in the park, I love that It’s within walking distance Lake McDonald as well as the shops and restaurants in Apgar! You simply can’t beat unwinding after a day of adventures with an evening walk to grab some huckleberry icecream at Eddie’s Cafe and watch the sunset!

Even though I’ve never been able to snag a spot there, the proximity of the Many Glacier campground to countless trailheads in that area can’t be beaten. You’re also still located close to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn which has a restaurant and store to purchase food and souvenirs in!

If you’re looking to stay in a quieter area of the park that’s a bit more off the beaten path, consider camping at Bowman Lake! There won’t be many amenities except for pit toilets but you’ll be just steps away from Bowman Lake itself which is another favorite place of mine to enjoy sunrises and sunsets. You’ll be about a 30 minute drive along a gravel road from the store in Polebridge, so be sure to make a pit-stop there for anything you need!

Lodging in Glacier
If you’re able to plan enough in advance to snag lodging within the park, staying in the park can be a one-of-a-kind experience. Nearly all of the options in the park are historic lodges that have been around for generations and even though you might have to navigate close quarters, it can be well worth it to stay so close to all the park has to offer.

My favorite places that I’ve gotten to stay in within the park are the Rising Sun Motor Inn in the Saint Mary area of Glacier National Park and the Lake McDonald Lodge Cabins that are located within walking distance from Lake McDonald itself! They’re not the most glamorous places but with Glacier National Park right outside my room, I had no complaints.

Some of the other lodging options inside the park are Village Inn at Apgar, Many Glacier Hotel, and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier is technically outside of park boundaries but is only 15 minutes from the Two Medicine Entrance. Similarly, St. Mary Villiage is located just outside of the park entrance so you still get the park proximity benefit!

Lodging near Glacier National Park

Historic Stays near Glacier National Park
Although Glacier National Park has a variety of historic lodges and chalets, there are also great options outside of the park to immerse yourself in the history of Northwest Montana. Two notable options are Belton Chalet in West Glacier and Izaak Walton Inn in Essex.

Belton Chalet was the first iconic lodge built by the Great Northern Railroad and is located just minutes from the west entrance of Glacier National Park in West Glacier. It also features a restaurant and taphouse with locally-sourced mouthwatering dishes!

Izaak Walton Inn is nestled equally in between the West Glacier and Two Medicine entrances of Glacier National Park in Essex. This family-owned lodge also features a unique experience – luxury lodging in repurposed train cars! In the winter, there are “over 30 kilometers of maintained Nordic ski trails, making it a world-class cross country skiing destination.”

Hotels and Resorts near Glacier National Park
Summit Mountain Lodge in Essex is conveniently nestled along Highway 2 about 15 minutes from East Glacier Park Village and 45 minutes from West Glacier. Featuring cozy cabins, breathtaking views, and regular moose sightings, this is the perfect place to stay whether it’s just the two of you or a group of loved ones are joining. The on-site steakhouse also has some of the best food I have ever had and an outside deck with the best views of the mountains and passing trains.

If you love to stay in downtown areas within walking distance from shops, restaurants, and cafes – look no further than The Firebrand Hotel in downtown Whitefish. Amenities include a rooftop hot tub (with mountain views), outdoor yoga classes, and an on-site bar and restaurant!

For a bit more luxurious stay, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake checks off all of the boxes to help your trip be not only adventurous but rejuvinating too. Here you can get a couples massage at the on-site spa, enjoy live music at the bar, relax in the lakefront pool and hot tub, and even take a private boat ride or charter fishing tour on Whitefish Lake.

If you love the idea of staying at Whitefish Mountain Resort (whether it’s to hit the slopes or to enjoy the countless summer activities), you can either book lodging through their website or check out homes and condos to rent on Big Mountain through VRBO and Airbnb. There are so many great options for large groups of people, too, which is great if you want to stay in one place with friends and family!

Noteworthy Airbnbs near Glacier National Park
Whalebone Cottage and Basin Haus are two favorite Airbnbs to recommend couples to stay. Both sit on multiple acres of property to truly give you the experience of what if feels like to escape from the rest of the world in Montana! As an added bonus, the architecture and design of both of these locations make for the perfect getting ready photo setting.

If you’re traveling to Montana with another couple, the Kintla Cabins at Glacier Retreats offer the perfect opportunity for you two both have your own private spaces to stay on the same property with plenty of shared common space outside including a jacuzzi and fire pit. If you prefer to stay with them in the heart of downtown Whitefish, this Upscale Penthouse features a hot tub, grill, fire pit, and area for corn hole!

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to stay in a grain bin?! Probably not, but if it peaks your interest, Clark Farm Silos offers a truly unique Montana experience to make your elopement trip all the more memorable.

Last, but certainly not least, Montana Treehouse Retreat (featured on DIY network) is the perfect getaway with two options to stay in – The Meadowlark Treehouse and The Raven’s Nest Treehouse (that you might recognize from Kristen and Alex’s spring elopement).

A couple running hand-in-hand through an open field after having their wedding in Grand Teton National Park.

Planning Your Wedding or Elopement in Glacier

How much does it cost to get married at Glacier National Park?

Absolutely great question! Aside from the cost of your marriage license and special use permit, there are a lot of different things that may factor into your budget as a whole for your elopement or wedding in Glacier. I wrote a whole blog post (linked here) detailing the cost of eloping and I think it will be really helpful for you!

Tips for Choosing a Glacier elopement photographer

When planning your elopement day in Glacier National Park, I cannot emphasize enough how much of a game-changer it is to find an experienced photographer who has several Glacier weddings under their belt! Navigating the rules and regulations surrounding weddings in the park can feel overwhelming and it’s worth finding someone who is an expert to guide you through.

It’s also so important that you connect with your elopement photographer on a personal level as well. Think about it – they’re not just isn’t another vendor at your wedding where 100+ other people will be in attendance. They’re essentially third-wheeling one of the most important days of your life, helping you plan an experience that dreams are made of, and capturing it all for you to treasure for years to come.

A little about this Glacier elopement photographer (and videographer)… When helping couples plan their elopement in Glacier National Park (or anywhere I travel), it’s really important for me to get on the phone with them from the start so that they understand who I am, what I offer, and how I am here to serve them on such a special and intimate day. It also really means a lot for me to ask them questions and better understand what they envision for their elopement day to create something that’s unique to who they are as a couple, rather than a cookie-cutter day that could be anyone’s!

What are your Glacier elopement packages?

You can learn more about the experience of working with me and my Glacier National Park elopement packages on my experience and pricing page. Please feel free to contact me and I’ll send over a more detailed pricing guide and give you all of the details about how I can help you craft the elopement of your dreams.

Where can we have our ceremony in Glacier and how do we obtain a permit?

As I’m updating this post in January of 2024, there are currently 32 approved ceremony sites (linked here) in Glacier National Park. For a visual overview of the different areas of the park, visit my Where to Elope in Glacier National Park page.

A special use permit is required for anyone looking to have their wedding or elopement ceremony in Glacier National Park. At only $125, obtaining your permit is inexpensive and a super-easy process overall! The people at the permit office are always so friendly and willing to help answer any and all questions you might have about the permitting process. Although the process is fairly straightforward, I reccomend submiting your permit as early as possible to get one of your preferred ceremony locations due to the increasing popularity of weddings in Glacier.

Follow this link to visit the park’s website page that contains more information about obtaining a permit in Glacier National Park as well as the form you need to fill out and mail in.

How many guests can we have at our ceremony?

The answer to this question depends on the approved ceremony site you choose, but the maximum number of guests averages 15-30. Some sites though, like amphitheaters, allow for more than 30 guests.

My recommendation is that if you’re looking to have more than 20-30 guests, finding a venue outside Glacier National Park will be your best option! It will be much more effortless for guest access and considerations like parking. A permit monitor may also be required if you are going to have more than 20 guests present.

Do we need an ordained minister for our ceremony? What about witnesses?

In the state of Montana, you do not need to be ordained to perform a marriage ceremony for two people. This means that you’re completely open to hiring a local celebrant to officiate your ceremony or asking a friend or family member to do the honors. If they want to get ordained for fun, it’s completely free to do online through Universal Life Church.

I actually got ordained in early 2021 so I’ve also had numerous couples throughout the past two elopement seasons opt out of formally hiring an officiant or having a friend perform the ceremony and just have me formally pronounce their marriage! I don’t perform any sort of ceremony and essentially couples will just exchange their vows and rings followed by me making the pronouncement.

There are also a great selection of local officiants on My Montana Wedding’s vendor directory!

No witnesses are required in Montana but up to two witnesses can sign on the marriage certificate if you chose to have loved ones present.

How do we get our Montana marriage license?

You will obtain your marriage license for your Glacier National Park wedding at the Flathead County Clerk of Court. Be sure to call beforehand to make sure that you don’t need to set up an appointment as rules and how they issue licenses is ever changing. Some couples I’ve worked with also opt out of the legalities all together and will formalize their marriage either before or after their day back home. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to making it official!

Let’s Plan Your Glacier Elopement

I would love to be the photographer and right-hand-woman to help you have the elopement of your dreams in Glacier National Park. Please reach out via my contact page and check out my experience page for more information!