About Lost Gulch Overlook in Boulder, CO
Where is it located?
Lost Gulch Overlook is a stunning craggy rock face at the top of Flagstaff Mountain that overlooks Boulder to the east, and the front range foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the west. It’s a popular tourist stop off point in Boulder as folks seek views and a great place to eat some take out food while watching the sun go down.
You get to Lost Gulch by driving on Baseline Road past the Chautauqua Trailhead, and up the side of Flagstaff Mountain. You’ll go past several overlooks and other stop off points like the Flagstaff House Restaurant, the Halfway House, and Realization Point. Realization Point seems like it’s the top of Flagstaff Mountain, but you need to drive about another mile on Flagstaff Road to reach the parking lot for Lost Gulch.
A warning to those not familiar with mountain driving: the road up to Lost Gulch is steep, winding, and narrow. You shouldn’t plan on heading up in the fall, winter, or early spring without snow tires and a 4WD car. A lot of the road is shady, so ice and snow stay present on the road well past any recent snowstorms. There are also a lot of bikers on the road in the summertime, and you’ll often see deer at the sides of the road near dawn or dusk, so drive around blind corners very carefully.
Do you need to pay for parking?
If your car is registered in Boulder County, you don’t need to pay for parking in any of the lots on Flagstaff Road. But, if your car is not registered in Boulder, or is a rental car, you’ll want to stop by the first overlook on Flagstaff on the right side of the road to pay for parking before getting to Lost Gulch Overlook.
How do you get to the overlook?
Once you get up to the parking lot, you’ll want to head to the right (north-ish) for the short trail out to the overlook. It’s less than a quarter mile to the rocks, and from there you’ll need to scramble through the first part of the rocky area to get to the edge of the overlook rock outcropping. Many folks like to climb down to the furthest west point, which is a little lower than the main rocky area, and to the south.
Engagement Photos at Lost Gulch Overlook
Can you take engagement photos at Lost Gulch Overlook?
The short answer is yes! You can absolutely do your engagement photos at Lost Gulch Overlook in Boulder. I’ve even included some photos that I’ve taken there before. It’s a great spot to get those panoramic views of the mountains and the “standing on a clifftop” look that is popular with adventure engagement photography right now. It’s one of the only areas near Boulder where you can get this kind of “surrounded by mountains” view, and you can see out to the higher peaks as well.
Do you need a permit to photograph at Lost Gulch?
Here’s the longer part of the answer above. Your photographer absolutely needs to have a permit with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks before they are allowed to take your engagement photos at Lost Gulch. To get the permit, you need to contact Boulder OSMP and follow the instructions for applying for a permit here. In order to get the permit, your photographer also needs to have liability insurance, and submit a certificate of insurance to OSMP when they are getting their permit.
Whats the best time of day to photograph at Lost Gulch?
Lost Gulch Overlook is gorgeous at sunrise and sunset, but as the rocks are exposed without much shade, it can be difficult to photograph people there during the rest of the day. Since you’re elevated above the normal skyline, you can trust Google’s estimated sunset time for the Boulder area when you are planning. Sunrise is beautiful, but the light comes up very quick and can get harsh and unflattering quite fast. In the winter, you get a little more leeway since the sun is at such a low angle even in the middle of the day.
In the photos below, the first couple (wearing the gray dress and red sweater) were photographed in the morning. We missed true sunrise, but took photos for an hour after that. Since it was winter, we still got some pretty backlight and flattering angles with the light.
The second couple was photographed in the morning as well, but on a cloudier day than the first couple, so the light was a little easier to work with! If you scroll down to look at the elopement images I included later on the page, those were both taken at golden hour/sunset time. You can see how gorgeous the sun looks setting over those far off peaks!
It is super busy on weekend evenings on the rocks, so if you are going for those sunset shots, it is better to plan for a weekday evening. Even then, you may have to wait your turn at the main overlook spot and negotiate with your fellow visitors to get a good shot of the view.
Getting Married at Lost Gulch Overlook
How could you see the location and not think, “man, I want to get married on top of the world.” Well, many others have thought the same, and it’s certainly a tempting spot to tie the knot.
Do you need a wedding permit to elope at Lost Gulch?
Like an engagement session, your photographer needs a commercial photography permit with Boulder OSMP to take any photos at Lost Gulch Overlook. Technically, OSMP does not issue separate wedding permits for Lost Gulch, and as such, you cannot have more than yourselves, a photographer, and an officiant with you. You also cannot “rent” the space for exclusive use, so other people are fully allowed to use the overlook while you are there. You can’t bring any decorations with you either–no chairs, arches, or floral decorations are allowed. You can only bring down what you can carry with you (like a bouquet, or vow books).
If you do choose to elope with just yourselves at Lost Gulch, you should definitely avoid the sunset crowds, and get married at sunrise on a weekday. Even sunrise at weekends has become popular for elopements and you may run into other couples with the same idea as you up there.
Can I have guests at my wedding at Lost Gulch?
Absolutely not. Any wedding with guests is not allowed at Lost Gulch, and OSMP guidelines state that you need to reserve one of the wedding sites if you would like guests to attend your elopement. There are a few ceremony sites available very close to Lost Gulch however, and you can always go to the overlook after you’ve done the wedding elsewhere. That’s what the two couples below did for their weddings! One of them rented the Sunrise Amphitheater, and the other used the Chautauqua Park area (NOT THE TRAILHEAD) as you can have a group of less than 10 there. If you want recommendations for other ceremony sites near Lost Gulch that you can use for a wedding with guests, check out my guide linked below!
Taking wedding photos at Lost Gulch Overlook
I definitely think the best approach for eloping near Lost Gulch is to use somewhere else for the ceremony and just head to Lost Gulch for your wedding photos afterwards. It is just too crowded and popular to make a great space for wedding ceremonies themselves, and as a photographer I would have having to dodge around the other people there while trying to get good ceremony photos.
If you’re willing to be a little flexible and patient, however, you can get some truly stunning portraits at Lost Gulch! Obviously, like engagement sessions, your photographer does need a permit in order to take wedding photos at Lost Gulch. If you’re thinking about stopping by the overlook for your wedding photos, check out the photos below for inspiration! I’m a Boulder local, and keep my OSMP permit up to date every year, so if you need a photographer who knows the ropes, hit me up!
Want to take some gorgeous photos like these at Lost Gulch? Let’s connect!