Today we’ll join Maddy & Shelby on this sunrise hiking elopement in Colorado. This is a hiking elopement styled shoot I organized to get out the good word on adventurous elopements and take you through the timeline of a hiking elopement wedding day! Maddy & Shelby are a real couple who actually got #enGAYged on this hike and it was ecstatic and joyful to be part of.
Elopements are an alternative to traditional weddings where 100% of the focus of the day is on you and your partner. Whether that’s just you two or you bring along a few of your favorite people on your adventure.
The biggest benefit of eloping is FREEDOM. Freedom to make your WHOLE wedding day as unique and adventurous as you!
It’s my belief that every couple deserves a wedding day that feels like a true expression of who they are. And sadly, the big traditional wedding party is NOT that, even though the $70b+ wedding industry will try to convince you it is!
This Berthoud Pass hike is one of my favorites in Colorado and an epic spot for a hiking elopement. If you prefer to be surrounded by trees and mountains than contained in walls and windows, you’ll definitely want to consider an adventurous elopement wedding!
Check out the timeline below to see how you can have elements of ceremony and tradition into your wedding day, while still having a totally fun, low-key, and unique elopement.
Wake up in a dispersed campsite near a creek in Berthoud Pass. We’re hiking up for sunrise. I woke up early in my hammock, around 2. The whole group was camping together. Me, the couple – Maddy & Shelby – and the videographers @backcountryvows.
We warm up the cars and caravan down to the 24/7 public bathroom in Empire to get ready in the heated antechamber. Time for hair and makeup.
Though there are hair and makeup artists that WILL get up before sunrise for your hiking elopement (surprise!), these two were low key and we decided to just DIY. Everyone’s a bit groggy and quiet while we get ready. The heat is glorious after the previous night’s frigid temps.
We make sure everything is packed up and ready to go and we hit the road! The trailhead is only a few miles down the road.
Geared up with loaded bags and headlamps, we hit the trail from Berthoud Pass parking lot. We are the only ones there. The world is dark and we can only see what our headlamps illuminated. Headlamps are key to making sunrise/sunset hikes do-able!
Around half a mile up, Maddy and Shelby started feeling slight altitude sickness. Another few hundred feet and it was worse, both feeling generally terrible and nauseous. We stopped immediately to give them some time to rest. We were at 11,480ft. Around 20 minutes later they felt a lot better, but not great.
Even though they felt better, it still wasn’t safe to go any higher. We wouldn’t be able to go to our planned ceremony location. We started discussing our backup options. (always need these!). As the sky lightened we saw an incredible view of mountains around us. It wasn’t the spot we had in mind, but it took our breath away anyways.
Since they were feeling *just* alright at this altitude, we decided to get some stunning photo & video here in their wedding outfits but delay the ceremony.
The beautiful thing about eloping is being able to roll with the plot twists. When something doesn’t go according to plan, change the plan! It’s pretty common for random and unpredictable events to happen while in the wild on a hiking elopement, especially in an intense environment like Colorado!
So the ceremony would happen at our beautiful campsite near the creek, where they would feel like their normal selves again at a lower altitude. And for now we’d enjoy the stunning scenery around us.
The alpenglow and sunrise are spectacular.
Maddy & Shelby look amazing in their wedding outfits – white dress, jumpsuit, and hiking boots.
Their bouquets, crafted by the videographer Backcountry Vows, are bright explosions of life. The air is fresh and frigid. Emphasis on the frigid. And a beautiful sunrise is unfolding in front of us over snow-capped mountains.
This morning didn’t go as planned and this view MORE than made up for it. It’s important to be aware of your limits and the risks you face on an adventurous elopement.
Climbing to 11,800ft in altitude is a lot different than saying your vows on the beach. They each have their own risks (and more than a banquet hall!), so it’s important to work with vendors who are familiar with the terrain you’ll be eloping in.
I’ve spent my whole life camping, hiking, and spending time in nature, and for the past year the state of Colorado. I’m also wilderness first aid certified, prepared for anything mother nature can throw at us!
Sometimes as an elopement photographer I’m the one other person with a couple, so I strive to be an uplifting force and do everything I can to make your elopement day a stress-free day! No matter what hurdles we experience.
This is it, the proposal!
Both Maddy AND Shelby reached out to me separately before this elopement styled shoot to say they wanted to propose to each other. I died. I was SO EXCITED for this moment. I gave them both the same cue – to propose after changing into their non-bridal clothes.
Maddy ended up being first, she got on one knee and Shelby was overjoyed. Then she proposed back to Maddy! It was awesome. These two have such a real connection, which their story really reflects. There was sooo much love and joy pouring out from both of them.
And let me tell you – after that proposal they we’re feeling a LOT better!
We soon packed up and headed back down the trail toward the cars. As we descended, Maddy & Shelby got to feeling their normal selves again. Going down when you have altitude sickness makes the biggest difference!
Back at our campsite. It’s time to rest and eat. We all have an appetite after a sunrise hike and heat up some yummy breakfast burritos on a camp stove.
After descending back to our campsite at 9,400ft, resting, eating, and drinking lots of coffee, Maddy & Shelby were feeling great again!
And after the cold of the early morning hike, we all relished the sunlight. Our campsite is beautiful with a mountain view to one side and a creek rushing by on another.
Though things didn’t go as planned, it is a beautiful day and we’re happy to pass the time in good company. One big thing for anyone considering eloping – It’s SO important to build space and time for rest into your elopement timeline.
Nobody likes feeling rushed, tired, or cranky, so padding travel times and being intentional about R&R makes a huge difference in how much you’ll be able to savor the day!
This might be your first time planning something like a hiking elopement wedding, so I’m here to help you craft the perfect elopement timeline with plenty of time for adventure, relaxation, and the optimal sunlight for epic photos!
Guess what we had instead of cake after the ceremony!
It’s finally time!
The ceremony that was originally planned for sunrise at 5am is now happening. Though the sunrise was spectacular, Maddy & Shelby weren’t feeling great at the high altitude, so we decided to hold off on the ceremony until they recovered at lower elevation.
After yummy breakfast burritos and plenty of rest, they were ready to wrap up this styled elopement with a ceremony and celebration!
Maddy & Shelby read love letters to each other and exchanged their new rings. We celebrated with a bottle of #pride bubbly and DONUTS 🍩. It was the best. We took a few minutes to take some final celebratory photos, though not too many. Everyone was tired after a 2am wakeup!
We packed our campsite and got ready to leave and sadly bc of coronavirus no hugs were exchanged.
What an INCREDIBLE morning and meeting these two. This day was perfect for showing that ‘things going wrong’ is all just part of the adventure! Being part of Maddy & Shelby’s adventure was really special. Their love is so authentic and accepting. Both for each other and for the outdoors!
Though the ceremony and photography is over for this elopement, it’s still early! If you elope at sunrise, it can feel like your day last foreeeever. Which is a great thing for a wedding day ;)</p>
After your hike, there are a ton of things you can do to keep on making this day super special and intentional. Here are some ideas:
Eloping is for those fun, adventurous couples who want to live outside the box. You MUST be willing to go with the flow and have a good time no matter what.
Documenting the stories of rebels and true soul is my jam. Let’s go find the perfect trail for your sunrise hiking elopement in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
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