McLeod Lake Elopement, Mammoth Lakes, CA

February 14, 2020

Hiking to McLeod Lake

McLeod Lake Elopement, Mammoth Lakes, CA

I first made the short 1 mile hike up to McLeod Lake in the early summer of 2019 and discovered it’s true beauty. McLeod Lake is nestled perfectly in the mountains surrounding Mammoth Lakes, the place that I fortunately get to call home.

It more than inspired me, it sparked a deep passion.

I was sitting at the water’s edge, this gorgeous emerald blue water before me that you would only see in magazines or the internet, reflecting the sun. My eyes wandered up the majestic Mammoth Crest that so perfectly towers over the lake. You could hear wind rustling the tall pine branches and the birds singing. I could hear my heart beating in my chest from the short (but decently steep) hike up. In that moment I felt this rush of inspiration and my soul screamed; “YES, I wanna shoot someone’s elopement here”. However, no one was inquiring to get married at this very specific location so I figured I might as well set up a shoot and let my inspiration run wild.

McLeod Lake Trail Sign
View of McLeod Lake with Mammoth Crest above it
McLeod Lake looking up at Mammoth Crest

Planning the Elopement

So the planning began. When it came time for finding the perfect couple, it was a no brainer. Tyler and Haylee. I shot their intimate wedding earlier in the year and it was stunning, but also raining and freezing (which kind of puts a damper on photos when it’s an outdoor wedding). Needless to say we made the most of the day and spirits were high. However, because of the weather, their couple’s session got cut short. So after I started dreaming up the McLeod Lake elopement and I found out that Tyler and Haylee were going to be camping at June Lake area (which is about a 30 minute drive from Mammoth Lakes) I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have a little “redo” on their day. And of course, they were all about it.

girl and guy sitting in a truck in a mountain campsite

The Big Day

After much planning and some much needed help from the wonderful Elise Smith (who was a massive life saver and also a brilliant mastermind when it comes to anything styled) the day arrived.

The excitement was high and I couldn’t wait to start shooting. We all set up camp at the Silver Lake Campground. Elise and I did some flat lays of their insanely gorgeous wedding rings, bouquets and boutonnieres while Haylee got ready in the truck and Tyler dressed at the back. 

A bouquet of pink, white and orange flowers sit next to a wedding ring and boutonniere.
Haylee's emerald green wedding ring with little diamonds around it sits in a round ring box.
emerald green wedding ring next to a bouquet

First Look

They wanted to do a first look, so we made it happen. Tyler hopped in the front seat of my car while Haylee sat in the back. Tyler stood out at the end of the Silver Lake dock and Haylee walked out to him in the most stunning Lace and Liberty gown and some epic white Crocs.


Honestly, it’s your day. I’m a firm believer in doing what most represents you, especially on your wedding day. If you want to rock some Crocs at your first look then I will FULLY support you in that! 

Tyler and Haylee took a moment at the edge of the dock to soak each other in. There were quite a few onlookers who were soaking Tyler and Haylee’s moment in, as well.

Hiking to the Trailhead

We did a short drive up to Horseshoe Lake where the McLeod Lake Trailhead starts. We slipped on our hiking shoes and off we went. 

Haylee admires her emerald wedding ring as she links arms with Tyler on their adventurous elopement day.
Tyler and Haylee kiss sweetly as they hike to McLeod Lake.

You could feel the love radiating off of Tyler and Haylee. They were in their natural habitat. Love in the outdoors.

We then made the ascent to the lakeside and continued our adventure.

Tyler kisses Haylee gently on the cheek as the stand on the side of McLeod Lake.

The sun was setting behind the ridge creating that perfect soft light that just made them glow.

We cruised around the lake making sure to be mindful of nature and LNT principles. ALWAYS respect the earth. We only have one.

We goofed off.

Tyler swung from some trees.

They danced by the waters edge (and a little in the water too).

They whispered sweet nothings as they held each other close and kissed like it was the first time.

My heart exploded with joy. I don’t think I have ever felt more alive than in those moments.

Being humbled by the mountains above you, the vibrant colors of the water beside you and the love radiating in front of you.  

Tyler holds Haylee's face as he goes in for a gentle kiss while Haylee sits on a fallen tree next to McLeod Lake.
A brride and groom standing and hugging at the edge of McLeod Lake
Tyler and Haylee cross a creek on their hike from McLeod Lake in Mammoth.

We continued on.

As the sun got closer to fully setting we jetted back down to Horseshoe Lake and had some fun on the dead tree stumps that dotted the lake. The sky turned a soft pink that dusted everything around us. We soaked in the last few moments of brilliant color and then called it a successful day.

Tyler and Haylee stand on a dead stump next to Horseshoe Lake. Haylee holds her beautiful boquete by her side.
A Bride kisses the groom's forehead standing on a stump next to Horseshoe Lake.
Haylee stands on a stump holding her wedding dress up so you can see her hiking shoes at Horseshoe Lake.
Bride and groom wearing headlamps walking through the forest holding hands.

That’s a Wrap

So we headed back at Silver Lake Campground we cracked open a few Pacificos by the campfire and reminisced on the day and their few months as a married couple.

It’s like a whole door of opportunities opened to me on that day. Something deep inside me took a sigh of relief as if I had gotten home from a long day. Sparks flew. And for the first time, I realized I wasn’t fully exhausted after an entire day of shooting. My soul had found its purpose.


Elise Smith

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  4. Thanks for finally writing about > McLeod Lake Elopement, Mammoth Lakes,
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  5. Haley says:

    I absolutely adore this. How did you guys go about the wedding or photography permit? Was it a fairly empty trail? And I noticed you posted this in Feb– is this hike doable during those winter months?

    • Showit User says:

      Thank you!! You have to go through the forest service for permits 🙂 It’s a fairly well trafficked trail especially during the summer. If you have ski gear you can make it back there in the winter but the road that makes it accessible closes during the winter months!

  6. Jen says:

    Great post! Are you a photographer in the mammoth area interested in shooting another wedding? Also, what permits did you need? The forest service site is quite daunting.

    • Showit User says:

      Thank you! Yes, I am a full time elopement photographer based in Mammoth! I help all my couples with the permit process, it’s actually not as daunting as you would think 🙂 You can fill out my Contact page if you would like some more information.

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