How to Elope at Steamboat Lake State Park
Updated: Jan 20
Sitting at 8,037 feet above sea level, you'll find one of my favorite colorado locations to elope, Steamboat Lake State Park. Steamboat Lake is surrounded by panoramic views that include the well known Hanh's peak. If you're looking for a lovely Colorado elopement destination location, Steamboat Lake's fields of gold wildflowers, scenic mountain views, and the 1,055-acre lake make it a beautiful backdrop, and it includes some fun yet mellow adventures in the great outdoors!
Steamboat Lake is in Clark, Colorado, 26 miles away from Steamboat Springs. It's a little confusing, but it's not actually in Steamboat Springs. Clark is a small town with a few places for visitors to stop, make sure you take everything you need with you because the 30-minute trek back to town feels long and far! I do advise spending some time in Steamboat Springs as well; it has that usual mountain town charm with cute boutique stores and restaurants.
Steamboat Lake is best known for its famous Hahn's peak; however, this location is unique because of its spectacular 360 views with Sand Mountain, Meaden Peak, Diamond Peak, and Cap Smith Hill, and a few smaller mountains. The rest of the landscape is relatively diverse, with open spaces, forests, and agriculture. You'll see plenty of mule dear around dusk, white sandhill crane flying in the distance, and if you're into it, Steamboat Lake is an excellent location for bird watching.
My favorite part of Steamboat Lake is probably the wildflowers. Each July, the
meadows glow yellow with a particular flower called mule's ear. This state park is known for its lush summer wildflowers, including purple Lupine, Columbine, red Indian Paintbrush, pink Wild Rose, Larkspur, Glacier lilies, Harbel, and Aster. People from all over travel to Steamboat Lake during the summer to see the flowers!
Steamboat Lake Elopement Ceremony Locations:
There are plenty of excellent views on hillsides, valleys, and lakeside to pick from at Steamboat Lake. I advise taking some time once your there to find the view that speaks to you. If you're planning more of an intimate wedding or want something more formal, there is a small amphitheater onsite that you can use to exchange vows. The amphitheater has several benches for guests, a wooden backdrop you can lightly decorate, and unobstructed views of Hahn's peak. If you want to walk down the aisle, it has that too! Here are a few pictures of the amphitheater taken in early June of 2020.
Steamboat Lake Elopement Activities:
When you go to select your elopement destination location, you'll not only want to pick a place that has fantastic views but activities you know you want to partake in! The activities are part of what makes your day so unique - so make sure they fit you! On my personal adventure and recreational scale, I would rate Steamboat Lakes activities and somewhat mild, but still fun! This location is best for someone who has a deep appreciation for the great outdoors and wants to have a relaxed elopement with excellent views. The great news is that this location is also open year-round!
There are designated areas that you can kayak, canoe, and paddleboard on the lake. If you're skilled enough, why not give it a shot in your wedding attire? Or you can slip into something more practical.
The hiking at Steamboat Lake State Park is much more like a nature walk. The primary trail is Willow Creek Trail, which is very flat and smooth, covering 3.8 miles in total length. It connects to the marina, campgrounds, and the visitor center. While this hike is easy, it does get scorching during the summer due to a lack of shade from tree coverage in certain areas. Will Creek Trail connects to Tombstone Nature Walk, a 1.1-mile loop that takes you the highest viewpoint on your "hike" and is primarily covered by trees and shade. Although Tombstone isn't flat, it's still an easy-mild trail.
You can either bring your own or rent a boat at the marina! I don't know about you, but I think boating in the middle of a large lake with panoramic views would make adorable elopement photos! Boating starts on May 1st and ends in the fall.
I come from a family of anglers, so if that's what your thing too, cool! The only reivers for fishing near Steamboat Lake are the Elk River and the Yampa River. However, if you are a belly boater, Steamboat Lake is a great option. I would love to capture an angler couple flyfishing on their wedding day, how cute!
As a kid, I spent my summers camping at Steamboat Lake, and horseback riding was a highlight of my adventure. Unfortunately, the horseback riding ranch that was right across from the state park was sold a few years back, but there are still a few impressive ranches nearby in Clark that offer a great experience! They're also available year-round and would make for the best western-themed elopement photos you've ever seen. Check out Del's Triangle 3 Ranch, Hanh's Peak Roadhouse, and Elk River Guest Ranch for guided horseback riding tours near Steamboat Lake State Park.
Steamboat has a designated swim beach near the marina and campsites if you're into swimming in open water.
Stargazing is pretty epic, even in the campgrounds at Steamboat Lake State Park. I advise checking for a new moon before you elope so you can get some epic photos of you two under the stars (that's what adventure elopements are all about, right?). Campground quiet hours are at 10 pm, but if you can sneak away to an open area across the lake, you won't be disappointed. Here are a few astrophotography shots I took at my campsite while camping there this summer.
Did you know steamboat lake gets a generous 300 inches of snowfall annually? It is a winter wonderland! While the ski and snowboarding slopes are back in steamboat springs 26 miles away there are still awesome winter elopement activities at the lake:
Steamboat has 6.8 miles of backcountry skiing trails that range from easy to moderate.
Snowshoeing is also popular and makes for great elopement photos! You'll find 10,000 feet of groomed trails for snowshoeing.
Ice fishing and snowmobiling are also popular activities on and around the lake during winter!
Camping and Cabins at Steamboat Lake State Park
Camping is open year-round at Steamboat Lake State Park, as well as the cabins. However, the public spaces become more limited during the winter. Since this is an accessible location, make your reservations six months in advance. Your stay per month is limited to 14 days, which is more than long enough.
If you're trying to pick which campground to stay at, my family loves Yarrow in Sunrise Vista campground. There's generally less activity; however, it's far from remote. This specific section has electrical hookups. Basic campsites start at $24, and electrical are $32 during the summer. Don't forget daily vehicle passes are $9.
I also love wheeler loop in Dutch Hil Campground; however, it's usually packed with busy families during the summer month since it's closer to the marina. Stay in spot #120 during July, and you'll have epic views of fields of mule's ear (*the yellow wildflower that grows out of control there) topped off by Hahn's peak.
If you'd like to opt for a cabin rental instead, they start at $109 per night and can house 406 people depending on the unit.
Do You Need an Officiant?
The coolest part of getting married in Colorado is that you can self-solemnize! Meaning you don't need an officiant or a witness. However, I am both an ordained minister and a photographer, so if you want, I'm happy to sign your papers.
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