Overnight Backpacking Glacier National Park Elopement
When it comes to elopements, there’s nothing quite like a backpacking Glacier National Park elopement adventure. I mean, for folks who genuinely want an outdoor experience, packing up your belongings, hiking in wedding garb, and roughing it is about as unique as it gets. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone, but it happened to be the perfect choice for Hillary and Lance. This couple hails from Baltimore, and they found me in the most extraordinary way—through Instagram! They wanted to get married at Glacier National Park, so I gave them ideas about what to do while they were there. And before we all knew it, they were on their way to a two-day elopement adventure in Montana.
Because they wanted to backpack, we backpacked and stayed overnight at Granite Park Chalet. Booking there is a bit of a challenge, and it’s literally like getting concert tickets (hitting refresh constantly, anyone?). So I stayed up and set my alarm early in the morning so that when reservations went on sale, I’d be able to grab them right away. Thankfully, I grabbed some, and our home base for their elopement was settled.
The first look took place at Lake McDonald, and we secured a permit for a ceremony at Big Bend. It was just the three of us—me serving as photographer, guide, and officiant. Our day was filled with activity. We hiked the Highline Trail, which is 7.5 miles one way. Hillary did it in her wedding dress—with her bouquet in her backpack, so adorable!—and Lance wore his wedding attire the whole time. Quite a feat!
People were offering congratulations along the way, and I snuck a few mountain goats and bighorn sheep into their images. We also went over what’s called The Ledge, which is about ½ mile down the trail. You need to hold on to a cable because it’s literally on the cliff edge (hence the name, The Ledge). It was so cool—and wild, too!
We hiked and hiked and stopped to have lunch at Haystack Butte. The funny thing is that I got recognized on the trails. Someone was like…Sam Starns! I can only assume it’s through my Instagram account because I show my face there all the time. Although, Hillary and Lance were the true stars of the day.
People were so excited to have them at Granite Park Chalet that they peeked out of the chalet windows as Lance and Hillary read sweet letters to each other at sunset. Afterward, we had dinner, stayed overnight, and generally just chilled at the backpacker’s paradise. Honestly, I love it there. It can be painful and unforgettable to get there, but it is so magical. It feels like you’re out in the middle of the wilderness, and all of a sudden, you see this big stone-built chalet. It’s a relief to finally find civilization! One of the best things is that people aren’t attached to technology while they’re there.
You can only get a few bars of service (if any). People may use their phones to take photos, but otherwise, folks talk and get to know each other. They have good conversations—not the shallow kind—but deep talks with like-minded people. Going there is such an experience while roughing it with stoves, bunk beds, and filtered water stations. It IS an authentic backpacker lodge, after all.
The following day, we had a fabulous breakfast. We met a couple, Pam and Doug, and we inspired them to hike the loop and then hitchhike back. It may seem odd, but at Glacier National Park, hitchhiking and picking up hitchhikers is just something you do as folks are constantly going from one trailhead to another. Anyway, Pam and Doug even made a “we’re fully vaccinated, to Logan Pass, please” sign to prep for their hitchhiking.
It’s also incredible how much of our experience was kismet. So many things “happened” to occur, and we kept running into the same people over and over again. On the second day, we chanced it and hiked the four-mile Loop, and hitchhiked back. We saw a couple we chatted with at the chalet—Tristan and his wife—who were hiking. They took the Highline Trail (the longer loop we took the first day) while we took the shorter Loop Trail down the road and then hitchhiked back to Logan Pass. We didn’t expect to run into them again because they took the longer trail, but we did! We literally ended up parking almost next to each other in a large lot near the trails. It was such a coincidence that we reconnected again!
As fate would have it, we also ran into Pam and Doug again. We crossed them on the trail, and when it came time for us to hitchhike back, Hillary and I ended up hitching the same ride as them. The type of people we met along the way don’t come by often. Deep conversations connected Hillary, Lance, and me with beautiful humans we wouldn’t have met otherwise.
It was absolutely cool. Hillary and Lance brought their Pendleton blanket, and they love sports, so they had a pennant made with their new last name on it. Although I had to leave, they stayed another couple of days to kick off their honeymoon and life together. I’m just continually humbled and grateful to experience these amazingly memorable days together with clients like these.