A Complete Guide to Eloping in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest
Tali July 5, 2021
If you are looking for the perfect dog friendly elopement in Wyoming or a stunning spot to beat the crowds and have a truly intimate wedding, look no further than the Bighorn National Forest!
We recently scouted Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming to see if it would make a good elopement location for our couples and we are happy to report that it passed with flying colors. Keep reading for all the details on why we think this is such a stellar adventure elopement location, all the details you need for planning your wedding in the Bighorn National Forest, and some stories of our adventures here.
Bighorn National Forest is located in north-central Wyoming and contains the Bighorn Mountains, which are a sister range of the Rocky Mountains. This beautiful area contains a variety of sceneries, from alpine meadows and lakes to glacially-carved valleys and grasslands. There really is something for everyone here. Whether you are looking for a sheer mountain cliff backdrop for your elopement or some quaint rolling hills, you are sure to find it in the Bighorn National Forest.
One of the oldest government-protected lands in the United States, the Bighorn National Forest became a US Forest Reserve in 1897. This beautiful area encompasses over 1.1 million acres of wild lands including the almost 190,00 acres of the Cloud Peak Wilderness.
Why it’s Perfect
The Bighorn National Forest has a lot of things going for it, apart from its absolutely jaw dropping scenery, the Bighorn National Forest offers a lot of perks that make it a great alternative to a national park.
- Dog friendly! Your pup (or pups) can join in the fun and be a part of your wedding day. Dogs are allowed throughout the Bighorn National Forest, this includes out on the hiking trails and backpacking too! We brought Lily Pad on an overnight backpacking trip here and can verify that this location is 100% Lily Pad approved.
- No permits! According to the USDA Forest Service Website on Bighorn National Forest when this article was written, elopements with less than 75 participants do not require a permit.
- “Special use authorizations (permits) are required for activities on NFS land that involves individuals or organizations with 75 or more participants and spectators where there is no fee involved. This includes weddings, family reunions, church retreats, group campouts, organization rallies, etc. If you or your organization or group is considering holding such an event on the Bighorn, you must contact the ranger district office of where the event will occur to determine whether a permit is available. There is no deadline for application but time is needed to process permits, so submit your application as soon as possible.”
- Backpacking doesn’t require advanced permits/reservations aren’t required. Simply fill out the free permit at the trailhead and start your adventure (at the time this article was written, always check the latest rules and regulations before starting out on your adventure). This was a huge plus for us as it allowed us to make a spontaneous decision to take a trip here and also allows for flexibility in plans if the conditions aren’t right for a particular hike.
- There is no entry fee for the Bighorn National Forest (Woot woot for saving money! There are donation boxes at a lot of the trailheads which is a great way to help support the national forests if you are financially able.)
- There are tons of camping options. Whether you are looking for a place to park your RV, a car camping spot with room for your tent, a backpacking adventure, or a cabin in the woods, you can find it here and don’t have to worry about competing with the approximately 3834585093494 people who want the same spot at a national park.
You’re there, Now What?
We are strong believers in making your wedding a one-of-a-kind adventure. Your wedding day should be fun, exciting, and, in short, the best adventure of your life. An elopement in Bighorn National Forest offers plenty of activities to create an adventure-packed agenda for your wedding day (days? Why limit the celebration to one day?!) that can be tailored to your wishes.
- There are 1,200 miles of trails covering a variety of landscapes in the Bighorn National Forest. If hiking is your thing, you are sure to find a trail you will love! We hiked into the Cloud Peak Wilderness and were stunned by the variety and beauty of our hike. We traversed through pine forests, grasslands, alpine meadows, and rocky slopes. We even navigated our way through a shallow stream crossing, which really amped up the adventure level. If you are hoping for jaw dropping hiking images during your wedding, eloping in the Bighorn National Forest is the way to go!
- Horseback Riding
- Have you pictured yourself riding off into the sunset on your wedding day? This can totally be a reality here, even if you don’t own your own horses. There are tons of horse-friendly trails and a variety of rental options for horses. Lodges of the Bighorns offers guided tours with two and four-hour (the four-hour option includes lunch!) horseback riding trips and even offers fully-outfitted overnight horse camping adventures!
- If you had a little different picture of riding off into the sunset in mind, an AVT excursion might be more up your alley! Whether you are bringing your own rig or looking to rent one, there are plenty of options for ATV adventures in the Bighorn National Forest. Many lodges in the area offer ATV rentals and specialized outfitters such as Ultimate Outdoor Adventures can get you set up with the gear you need.
- Kayaking, Paddleboarding, and Canoeing
- There are several lakes and streams in the Bighorn National Forest for you to enjoy. Paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing is a great way to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery around you. If you don’t have your own equipment, rentals are available at a number of locations such as Meadowlark Lake Lodge.
- Fishing opportunities are plentiful here! Whether you are looking to drop a line in a lake or pond or try your hand at fly fishing in a stream or river, you are sure to find the perfect fishing spot in the Bighorn National Forest.
- Scenic Drives
- Need a break from all that exercise? There are three different scenic byways that run through the Bighorn National Forest that will offer you two the opportunity to relax and spend some time alone while still taking in all of the sights. Plus, there are plenty of beautiful spots to stop and take in the views during your elopement.
- Pack a Picnic
- Don’t forget about the food! Whether you are settling down in one of this National Forest’s 10 different picnic areas or finding your own perfect spot on the trail or the shore of a lake perfectly framed by mountains, you can be sure the views for your wedding meal will be 10/10.
- Winter Activities
- If you pictured your elopement surrounded by snowy peaks, activities such as snowshoeing, skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling are plentiful in the area!
Where should you stay?
This is definitely a place that you are going to want to spend a few days, so a good lodging option is a must! Luckily, the options for a place to spend a night while eloping in the Bighorn National Forest are numerous. Lodge, cabin, RV, car camping, backpacking, horse camping… there is sure to be something to fit your needs.
- There are numerous options for lodges that offer a step up in luxury from a camping experience (although there are some pretty sweet glamping options out there!). Lodges of the Bighorns has multiple locations in different areas of the forest and even offers equipment rentals for a number of different activities. They have a restaurant and bar that offers homemade cuisine such as fish tacos, salads, jumbo cinnamon rolls, and more! Lodges of the Bighorns is open 7 days a week during the summer season and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the winter season. They even have pet-friendly cabin rentals!
- There are three historic structures available for rental through the USDA Forest Service, if you are looking for a truly unique (and affordable) experience. Sheep Mountain Lookout was occupied as a fire lookout until the early 1970s and has incredible views! Muddy Guard Cabin and Pole Creek Cabin are also available for rental. These cabins do not have running water.
- If you are looking for something that still has the rustic charm, but is a bit less primitive, there are a number of commercial cabins for rent in the area. Lodges of the Bighorn has pet-friendly cabin rentals and there are a number of superb AirBnBs in the area such as Big Horn Hideaway: 4 bedroom cabin, 100-mile view, which sleeps up to 10 guests. Perfect if you have family joining for the celebration. Plus, it’s dog-friendly!! (And the views are stunning.)
- RV/Car Camping
- There are options for both first-come, first-served and reservable campgrounds in the Bighorn National Forest. There is also dispersed camping throughout much of the forest. Per the USDA Forest Service site for Bighorn National Forest, “You are allowed to drive up to 300 feet off of an open road to set up camp, providing it will not result in damage to the land, is in an area that is not signed otherwise, or if restrictions are in place prohibiting that use.”
- Backpacking adventures are aplenty in the Bighorn National Forest and advanced permits/reservations aren’t required. Simply fill out the free permit at the trailhead and start your adventure.
- Horse Camping
- If a fully outfitted horse camping excursion is up your alley, Lodges of the Bighorns has just what you are looking for.
If you were thinking about eloping in a mountainous national park but you are worried about the crowds, want a pet friendly elopement, or don’t want to deal with permits, an elopement in Bighorn National Forest is the perfect option (or even if you weren’t considering a national park, we still think it is the perfect choice!). With mountains up to 13,166 feet, wildlife that is truly wild, and more trails than one could hope to hike, Bighorn National Forest is the perfect adventure wedding destination.
p.s. We know two rad adventure elopement photographers who know their way around the Bighorn National Forest and would love to help you plan and capture your special day! Hit us up on our contact us page!
Looking for more inspiration for your elopement in Bighorn National Forest? Check out our “Backpacking in Bighorn National Forest” blog for the story of one of our adventures in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest!