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  • Writer's pictureChristina Adele Hon

Sunrise Hiking Elopement at Josephine Lake in Glacier National Park | Christina Adele Photo

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

(Photo collages in blog optimized for desktop viewing)

-Alexis and Brian met in their local outdoor club, and when they came to me, they had a very specific vision for their elopement. They wanted to hike to a beautiful location where they could exchange vows privately, spend the rest of the day hiking and then celebrate back at their campsite.

With the restrictions that Glacier has on locations where ceremonies can be performed inside the park, there was really only one option for a location that they could hike to and then have the ceremony -Josephine Lake. However, I didn't to force them to that one location, so I gave them the option of several other beautiful hikes outside of the park that they could do as well as several hikes that depart from Josephine Lake itself. After reviewing multiple options, we all decided that Josephine Lake and the Grinnell Lake Overlook Trail would be the best options for achieving their vision. However with this being an extremely popular trail to have vows be as private as they desired, we would have to have a sunrise ceremony. No problem-sunrise has some of the most beautiful light of the day and we were all game.

The next challenge to figure out was scoring at campsite at the extremely popular Many Glacier campground. Alexis and Brian had built their relationship over spending the course of over 100 nights in a tent together. They didn't want their wedding trip to be any different. With it being a sunrise elopement, driving from a different area of the park didn't necessarily sound like the most desirable option. But with hundreds of people all trying to book a campsite at the same time, nabbing a reservation would be extremely difficult. While I had a few tricks up my sleeve that I was fairly certain would them get a site, I am also a big fan of back up plans. I recommended a few campgrounds only about a 20 minute drive away that I knew would have availability. They booked a site at Divide Creek Campground as a back up plan. I told them about one of my favorite websites that send text message alerts anytime there is a cancellation at the campground at your choice. My trick worked and they were eventually able to make reservations at Many Glacier when the original reservation holder canceled.

When the morning of their elopement arrived we met at the parking lot about an hour before sunrise. We took a few portraits in the parking lot while their friend loaded up their backpacks and then we were off for the one mile hike to Josephine Lake for their ceremony -of course stopping for photos along the way.

We arrived at Josephine Lake just as the sun began to light up the mountains. We took our packs off and rested for a bit while Alexis's friends placed flowers (that were packed in of course -not picked) in her hair and prepped her for the ceremony.

Then it was time for the ceremony. They packed in (and packed out) rocks which they stacked into a cairn at the beginning of their ceremony, with each person present adding in their rock. Following the cairn building ceremony, the couple read their emotional vows to each other and exchanged rings.

They ended their ceremony with a traditional kiss and afterwards we hung out at Josephine Lake to take in the view for a bit, take some photos, and watch as a black bear fed on berries on the hillside above the lake. It was here that I did the traditional "detail shots". Alexis was so intentional about every little detail for their elopement and I wanted to make sure I captured it all. Some of my favorite details included his tie which was a topo map of Josephine Lake, the custom vow books, their "We Eloped" sign, the on-theme wedding announcements, and of course their rings.

From here we started our hike to overlook Grinnell Lake from the Grinnell Glacier trail. It was two and a half miles from the ceremony location to our destination and the hike was gorgeous, taking us along Josephine Lake, through fields of wildflowers and next babbling brooks-with stops to take in the view and enjoy snacks of course. As the sun crept over the mountains the shaded, cold hike quickly became quite warm and stops to apply sunscreen were necessary.

As we arrived at the spot in the trail where we would take photos before turning around, we started to see the first of the infamous crowds on the trail. Many people opt to cut four miles off of their hike to Grinnell Glacier and take the boats across both Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes. The first of these boats in the morning had dropped off their load of passengers and they began to catch up to us on trail. No big deal, we were expecting crowds at some point and we had had the trail to ourselves for hours by then. As we took photos above the lake, many people were delighted to see a bride and groom up that far and passed along their congratulations.

As we began the hike back, we chatted about the possibility of taking a boat back instead of doing the entire 3.5 mile hike back to the parking lot. In the past, you had been able to book a one way ticket at the boat dock, but due to high demand the Glacier Park Boat Co. now required reservations. We had planned on hiking both ways and did not have said reservations, but as we saw the boat cross the lake and realized we would passing the dock right as it got there, we figured it couldn't hurt to ask. We were in luck! It was the last day the boats were running for the season and since it was so early in the day, they had plenty of space to take us back as the boat was practically empty. Usually these boats are pack to the gills, so having space to spread out and take photos was luck on top of luck. We would have been happy to just save our legs the 3.5 miles, but instead we got to save ourselves the hike AND have a beautiful boat to take photos on, luck upon luck.

We saw two more black bears from the boat and then in conveniently dropped us right back off at the hotel where we had started in the morning. From there we drove back to the campsite where they celebrated with smores, exchanging gifts, and then bride prepared french toast for everyone while still in her wedding dress. My kind of elopement for sure! Elopements with Christina Adele Photo start at $2500 for 6 hours, Inquire here if interested.

Tips from Alexis and Brian's elopement for future eloping couples

-The only place you can legally hike to and elope within Glacier National Park is Josephine Lake. If you want to hike on your elopement day to a different area of the park you will need to have the ceremony first elsewhere and then hike.

-You can plan around crowds and have even the most popular trails in the park to yourself, the time of day that you have your ceremony is extremely important.

-You can do whatever you want on your wedding day -even if it means getting ready in a tent, hiking 7 mikes, and making french toast back at the campsite afterwards.

-You can wear whatever you want for your elopement day. Alexis chose a simple linen dress she found on Etsy, Brian wore hiking pants and a button up shirt and they both wore hiking boots.

-If you want something that seems impossible to get (IE Many Glacier reservations) let an expert help you!


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