HOW TO Elope IN
glacier nationaL park
ELOPING IN GLACIER IS EASY, THANKS TO THE NPS PERMITTING DEPARTMENT, THE EASY LOCATION CHOICES, AND A LITTLE HELP FROM ME. HERE’S YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ELOPING IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK…
2022 GNP UPDATE
As of 12/2021, Glacier National Park will require reservations for GTTSR as well as Polebridge for May-September. These $2 reservation tickets typically sell out within minutes. If you want to avoid the crowds, but still want the same views, I highly suggest:
Spend the day connecting with your partner in a picturesque location…
The Rockies will deliver a Glacier National Park elopement that’s one for the record books. Rain or shine, you’re bound to see tons of wildlife, epic mountain peaks, and go on an adventure you won’t soon forget. Scroll down for inspiration and the basics of eloping in Glacier National Park!
Bring $53 with you or a credit card (although a transaction fee is not included in most places). No waiting periods or blood tests are required. They’re good for 180 days, and witnesses aren’t required. Neither are licensed officiants – you can pull a random Joe off the street to marry you! If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, I can refer several officiants who can conduct a ceremony. If you’re just wanting to read love letters, but have a licensed officiant sign it anyway, I’m a licensed officiant and can do that for you!
Location & Permitting
The great thing about GNP is the excellent locations from which you can choose. I’m here to help you choose the best site for you, depending on how long you want to hike, what views you want, and how close you want to be to lodging, dining options for after your ceremony, etc. Firstly, Glacier National Park permits department does a great job at expediting permits. They strive to have your permit approved and back to you within a couple of weeks (if not less). That isn’t the case with all national parks. From West Glacier to Two Medicine to Many Glacier, there are tons of backdrop options. Do you like large lakes? Great big horns and glacial aretes in the background? Maybe you want a waterfall or someplace where seeing a moose is likely. You’ve got me for various locations, and I can help you choose something that fits your personality and desires.
Main Elopement Location Areas
WEST SIDE – Polebridge, West Glacier, Lake McDonald
GOING TO THE SUN ROAD – Logan Pass, Rising Sun area
EAST SIDE – Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier
Inside Info: I know everyone loves Logan Pass, but permits are not issued for Hidden Lake Trail due to popularity and foot traffic.
I might as well start with a photographer. On top of being your photographer, I’ll help you select a location, refer you to amazing vendors, and be there to cheer you on during every step of your elopement (see more photo inspiration here and here). It’s SO important to have a relationship with your photographer. They’ll be there on your wedding day to capture your day, and also lend support, laugh and cry with you, be a Sherpa, and so much more. We’ll figure out and unpack what your ideal day would be together, so we can ensure that it’s uniquely you and what you want.
Mum’s Flowers is a great place to start for beautiful florals in the area. Also:
Conrad Floral is a smidge farther away, but their portfolio is stunning!
The Bungalow and the owner Jill is fab and she really takes care of her couples!
Alpine Designs is just south of Flathead Lake, but they deliver.
Hair and Makeup:
Ty Nikole is hands down your gal. She’s really the best and most well known in the area and does a great job!
Rare Beauty has great skills with unique hairstyles (she did Lauren’s orange mohawk in 2020, with her stunning makeup) and is based out of Kalispell.
Fleur Bake Shop does small batch creations that are yummy! A few restaurants cater, depending on the size of your party and where you’re staying.
Let’s face it, you can’t do better for a photographer than someone who used to be a park ranger and regularly visits Glacier National Park for elopements and for personal exploration. Give Sam Starns Adventure Elopements a perusal ;-).
Helicopter Tours – There are two businesses that operate near the park in West Glacier. Both coordinate with GNP for search and rescue and have been known to help when they need aerial fire spotting. For tours, as of a year or so ago, most are no longer allowed to fly directly over the park, but still provide breathtaking views (you can feel like you’re in the park when you technically aren’t). Kruger Helicopter Tours is the first one I’d recommend (I’ve called and confirmed they’re the only tour that is allowed to fly directly over), the other being Glacier Heli Tours. If you want to make them a priority, do so. Seeing something as magnificent from the air – there are no words.
Kayaking/Canoeing – This is pretty casual, especially if you want to just kayak a lake in the park. You can rent kayaks or canoes from West Glacier, Two Medicine and Many Glacier. Usually there’s no need to reserve them. Just go up when you want to rent one and pay.
Rafting – Want to try a more group-like sport? Glacier Rafting Co. is your place. You can raft the Flathead River, check out their outdoor store, and even go fishing.
Historic Boat Rides (& Guided Walks) – Whether you want to cut some time off a hike, or just cruise around a lake to see the views, Glacier Park Boat Company has got you covered. I’ve had couples have their first dance on the bow of the boat, and fill up the reservations with their guests at Lake McDonald and spend an hour just cruising around. These boat tours take you across many of the lakes in Glacier (having two docking points on the lake, much like a ferry) and pick up/drop off hikers wanting to cut some distance off their hike, all while providing information about the surrounding area.
Horseback Riding – Swan Mountain Outfitters is the main choice for trail rides inside the park. They range from an hour to all-day excursions to some of the most beautiful lakes and mountains you’ve ever seen.
Red Bus Tours – You’ve probably seen them when you think about Glacier and Google it. Run by Xanterra (who runs the lodges and stuff in most all national parks), these Red Bus Tours take you around the park on an interpretive tour. They stop a few places that are an easy walk to, so you can get a great overall view of the park. Consider this a Cliff Notes version of the park without having to do much walking (if at all). Pricing and length of tours vary. So check them out!
Native American Museum – In Browning (about 30 minutes away from East Glacier) is The Museum of the Plains Indian. It’s a small but beautiful tribute to the local tribes and I’d highly recommend going. It has great history and a stunning selection of authentic tribal clothing, tools, pottery, weapons, etc. As an FYI, Browning is the largest town on the east side for miles (aside from the immediate park entrances like East Glacier). It’s where you go if you want fast food, a library, or any semblance of a grocery store with moderate prices.
I hate to mention it, but there’s a casino haha. – The Glacier Peaks Casino is in Browning, near the museum. If you’ve got guests (or you, yourself) who aren’t wanting to necessarily stay near East Glacier, this might be a good option for you.
West Glacier: West Glacier has more options when it comes to lodging outside the park. Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls have tons of options. This side of the park is more spendy, and if you’re wanting to elope on the east side of the park (Two Medicine and Many Glacier), it’s at least a 2-hour drive via Going to The Sun Road or Highway 2.
East Glacier: While the east side of the park has limited lodging options, it’s easier access to many more “epic” views (not that West Glacier isn’t badass!). Many Glacier has a few in-park options, and Babb is just outside of the Many Glacier entrance – it has a few more rustic selections (think tiny homes and basic amenities cabins). The nearest town is Browning, about a 30-minute car ride away on the Blackfeet reservation. Here is the link to the Many Glacier Lodge and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, which are both in-park and in high demand, but probably your best bet on the east side when it comes to bang for your buck.
PRO TIP: Lodging inside and outside the park books FAST. We’re talking up to a year in advance. Get on it ASAP!
Also consider the Izaak Walton Inn, on Highway 2, between West and East Glacier entrances. This area has very little cell service, so it allows you to relax and enjoy the remnants of Westward Expansion. Ever wanted to stay in a train car? Now’s your chance!
Inside Info: There is nearly no cell reception anywhere inside the park. It is particularly true on the east side in Many Glacier, where cell service only begins once you are entirely out of the park. West Glacier has spotty cell service in Apgar, and that’s about as good as it gets. The best carrier I’ve found for the park is Verizon (you’re able to get some LTE service on Going to the Sun Road near the eastern St. Mary entrance – but keep in mind you’re here to enjoy the sights, not surf the web!)
“Deciding to elope and working with Sam was one of the best decisions we’ve made. You have someone truly interested in a relationship with you and your partner, so together you can craft a day that’s totally ‘you.’ “
BRITTANY & BRIAN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
“She was our unofficial guide about the park, sharing knowledge and tidbits along the way. She has such an eye for beauty and light, and was able to capture our special memories in the most beautiful way.”
SHAN & KEITH GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
“Do yourself a solid and cancel your wedding, hire Sam as your adventure elopement photographer, and run away and marry your sweetie like you really want to!”
KENDAL & MIKE GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
I’M SAM. AND I REGRET MY WEDDING.
I cried on my wedding day. They weren’t happy tears, either. Let me tell you my story. I had a day that wasn’t really about the connection I had with my husband. It wasn’t about who we were as people and about the things we loved.
It wasn’t “us”. Imagine having an adventure elopement day that includes whatever floats your boat. Whether it’s adrenaline packed, laughter-filled, chill vibes, or a combo of all of the above.
Then add in a kickass connection between you and your partner that’s enabled by dedicating that day TO YOU.
I help fun & free spirited couples create bold wedding days in dramatic places like the Oregon Coast, Redwoods, Alaska, Glacier National Park, Hawaii, Scotland, Greece and beyond. Then my couples use that empowerment to transform the rest of their lives.