Teal blue lake waters, towering majestic mountain peaks, and wildlife galore. No wonder you want to know how to apply for a special use permit in Glacier National Park so you can elope there! It would be a wonderful place for your adventure elopement! If you are considering eloping here, you have come to the right place!
This blog will go over how to obtain a special use permit for your elopement in Glacier National Park, some information on locations in Glacier National Park, and some elopement tips from your fellow elopement photographer, me!
Glacier National Park is moving from larger wedding groups to smaller ones. The max number of guests including on-site vendors is 30, while most locations only allow 15. This is the plan for 2022 as well.
You can apply for a permit up to one year in advance, and no less than one month in advance before your requested date. It is best to apply sooner than later, because depending on the time of year, it can take longer to be processed. Please don't contact the permit office to check in on the status of your application. You will be contacted by phone or email.
You DO need a special use permit for all vow exchanging, ceremonies, elopements, and special events. It doesn't matter the size of the group, if there are vows being exchanged, or if an officiant is present or not. You will need to acquire a special use permit for these events.
You DON'T need a permit if you are entering with only a photographer and if there will be no signing of documents, vow exchanging, witnessing of a union, etc.
There are limited areas in the park for acquiring permits. Check the Glacier National Park website to see what's available. You'll want to click on the link entitled Wedding Area Capacity Guide. This guide also shows the limits on the number of people, number of vehicles, and equipment that can be used at each site.
If you received a permit for an area that is only accessible seasonally and it does not appear that the area will be open on the date of the permit, you must reach out to the Office of Special Park Uses in advance to request a location change. If the area for which you received a permit is inaccessible and you do not receive an approved location change directly from the Office of Special Park Uses in advance of the date on your permit, your permit is considered invalid and you may not hold your wedding inside the park at an alternate location.
When you are filling out the special use permit application, be very specific. Use exact times and locations, and be sure that all information is correct. They are unable to accommodate any changes to the permits besides a park closure. Include everyone even vendors, and the contact information of your photographer. List any equipment that you are bringing with you (i.e. speakers, cameras, chairs, etc.)
Photography Tip: Keep in mind the kind of light you might want for your photos! If you want nice, soft light for your ceremony, pick sunrise or sunset! Sunrise would likely mean you would beat the crowds, and get a lake that looks like glass. You can see where the sun will be at a specific time and date with the Sunseeker mobile app!
If you are wanting to change times, locations, or anything on your permit you will need to fill out a new one and pay another application fee.
The only reasons your location may be changed or rescheduled would be due to an emergency such as a fire or a park closure, or if your preferred location isn't available. You can't change your location based on the weather.
Photography Tip: When you choose to get married outdoors, well, it's the outdoors! You may have to risk some rain or other weather. But I can assure you we will still get stunning photos no matter what! It is part of the story of the day, and rainy photos can look beautiful. I have two clear umbrellas in my elopement kit in case of situations like this!
On the day of your elopement, make sure you bring your permit with you! Rangers may check to see if you have it on you.
The special use permit costs $125. You can send this in the form of a check or money order to:
Glacier National Park
Attn: Special Park Uses
PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936
You can also send a digital copy to the email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are emailing your permit or want to pay by credit card, include a note about it and they will reach out to you when it's ready to be processed.
*Important Note: You will receive a final permit in the mail or email. You will then need to sign and return the copy in order for your permit to be valid.*
When picking a location, what do you envision for your photos? A stunning lake with towering mountains surrounding it, or looking out at mountains that you can see for miles and wildflowers? In Glacier, there are so many types of scenery to choose from!
No permits will be written for Logan Pass. You are still able to visit and take photos. This pass is closed to all off-trail travel.
You don't get to reserve the location you picked, it is still open to other visitors.
Permits are generally written for one hour (some locations have a limit of 30 minutes). This time is to include getting into the area, performing the ceremony, and vacating everyone from the area afterwards. This time does not include time for pictures. You may go anywhere open to the general public for photos, and take as much time as you need.
Please be sure to practice LEAVE NO TRACE and STAY ON THE TRAILS! I am an LNT certified photographer, so we will stay on trails the entire time for photos. Click here to read more about how to leave no trace during your elopement!
My dream location to shoot at in Glacier is Avalanche Lake! It is a mountain paradise!
Some areas of Glacier are open in the winter, so that is an option if you want no crowds and a stunning snowy landscape.
Best Dates to Visit
Peak season for Glacier National Park is the second Friday in May through the second Sunday in October.
Most of the park is accessible Mid-July through Mid-September. Most roads in the park are closed and snow-covered from Mid-October through the end of May. You will want to check the current conditions on their website to keep updated.
Photography Tip: July-September are going to be the most popular times and best weather, so you will want to either be willing to get up early for sunrise, or be okay with seeing some people! Eloping on a weekday is also helpful for less people.
Pets are ONLY allowed in developed areas such as picnic areas, amphitheaters, and campgrounds. Pets MUST be on a leash. Pets are not allowed in buildings, the backcountry, on trails, or along most lakeshores/waterways. ADA certified service animals are always welcome.
Nothing may be spread, scattered, or released. This includes, but is not limited to: rice, birdseed, bubbles, flower petals (both real and fake), balloons, and butterflies.
Soft music is generally allowed, and there are noise regulations in place. If you plan on having music, put it on your permit application.
You cannot reserve parking as everything is a first-come, first-serve basis.
You will still need to pay an entrance fee, even if you have a special use permit.
Glacier National Park is very detailed with the permit process and other questions on the national park service website! This is super helpful for anyone wanting some info for eloping there. They answer a ton of questions and are very thorough about the permit process.
I only live 4 hours away from this amazing place, so if you are thinking about eloping there, do it! I would love nothing more than to document your adventure there! You can contact me directly through my contact form.
For more amazing places to elope in the Pacific Northwest, click here!
*Info as of September 2021*
Visit this website to get all the latest info: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/weddings.htm