Overnight Elopement at a Fire Lookout Tower in Montana

Are you ready to elope your life?

Let’s create a day for you that’s wild, bold, and full of fun in a dramatic landscape!

sam@samstarns.com @samstarns

I met Kristin on a trail in Glacier National Park back in 2018. We stopped and talked about overnighting at the nearby backcountry chalet, and joked about the fact that her friend, Sabrina, kept being called Samantha by Kristin’s dad (ICYMI: Sabrina and Samantha are both witches on TV). When we parted, Kristin’s dad yelled, “Bye, Sabrina!” to me. And I clearly haven’t forgotten it. Neither has Kristin’s dad.

We followed each other on social media and followed along with our respective lives unfolding, until Kristin reached out to see if I was up to photograph her and the love of her life when they eloped.

Say less. I’m there.

After talking over emails and Zoom chats, they wanted an elopement at a fire lookout in one of their favorite places – in the Flathead region of Montana.

DAY ONE – Glacier National Park & Polebridge

Kristin and her partner Jeff met while they were in San Diego Search and Rescue, and both love to fly fish. Jeff claims, “There’s a reason it’s called fishing and not catching” – but we wanted to give it an earnest attempt! So we met up at their cabin outside of Polebridge to gather their things and head down the bumpy dirt road to Bowman Lake.

K & J fly fished, then changed into their wedding duds for some portraits before we headed to Polebridge for one of their famous huckleberry bear claw pastries. Fun fact: Kristin and Jeff placed a sticker on the nearby holding tank at Polebridge, so we had to nab a photo of the sticker among the countless number of them on the tank.

Bear claws in hand, we drove another hour to the fire lookout trailhead, preparing for a short (less than a mile) but steep (over 800ft in elevation gain) climb to reach the lookout tower.

Their ceremony consisted of personal and touching vows, as well as a host of letters from their loved ones (including some from colleagues in the Search and Rescue organization where they initially met!). Tears alternated with laughter and I couldn’t help but join in with both!

We closed out the evening with dinner and chatting in our sleeping bags while my dog Mycroft took turns snuggling with everyone.

DAY TWO – Morning coffee and huckleberry foraging

Kristin and Jeff have a tradition of morning coffee, whether they’re together or apart. They set a time first thing in the morning to connect in person or over Zoom with their coffee, talking about plans for the day and checking in with each other. I’m constantly touched and inspired by the intention in their relationship.

We had a morning coffee session, before making our way down the mountain.

Kristin is a huckleberry connoisseur and couldn’t resist stopping to forage for “hucks” on the return hike. Did you know that huckleberries can’t be cultivated? That means they can’t be grown commercially on farms like their cousin the blueberry. Therefore, they’re sort of like morel mushrooms, in the way that foragers are protective over their huckleberry patches!


Fire lookouts can book up quickly and often have limitations on the time of year they’re open. You can find fire lookouts near you on Recreation.gov!


Kristin did her own makeup and hair (if you want to go this route but want some pro tips, reach out to elopement makeup specialist Meaghan Whalen!

Dress made by the bride’s mother