Looking for tips on how to elope in Mount Rainier National Park? Then you are in the right place, keep reading!
Mt. Rainier National Park is one of my favorite places to help couples have an adventurous, hiking elopement day! There is a never ending list of beautiful locations to say your private vows and have your photos taken to remember those moments forever. National Parks are actually one of my absolute favorite “venues” for couples to elope and after reading through this blog, you’ll understand why!
If you’re looking for the best weather, beautiful wildflowers, and minimal snow, the best time of year to elope in Mt. Rainier is in late July to early September. The wildflowers are the most in peak during late July and August though! Late September to early July tends to be more cloudy/rainy and even snowy. During those times, a lot of roads tend to be closed for the season so be sure to always check the latest NPS alerts and park conditions to figure out what is open/closed if you’re going in a shoulder season month.
While July in most places is full of warm sunny days, in early July Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington still has snow in a lot of places! At least 40% of the trail we hiked for this elopement still had FEET of snow covering it. We used my favorite hiking navigational app, Alltrails, to assist us in finding the way in the dark and over snow ground.
When learning how to elope in Mount Rainier, it’s very important to talk about permitting. Mt. Rainier National Park requires a permit to elope. You can apply for a Special Use permit on the NPS website. This fee is in addition to the entrance fee. A permit is required for all weddings/elopements that take place within the park. Please note that weddings/elopements may only be allowed in specific areas, especially depending on the guest size. The NPS Rangers always have the most up to date information about this as it can change due to certain areas becoming more popular and now protected due to revegetation.
Here are the steps for how to apply for a Special Use Permit [directly from Mt. Rainier’s NPS website]:
– Complete an application form and email it to email@example.com.
– Applications must be submitted at least four weeks before the requested date. Please contact the Permit Coordinator via email if expediting of your application is requested (less than four weeks advance submission).
– Once your application is received by the Permit Coordinator, you will be given instructions on paying the non-refundable $60 application fee online.
– Application fees must be paid before the permit
Not only is it required, but permits/reservations help give Rangers a heads up to where and when activities take place so they can plan accordingly. The fees go to help maintain the Park and provide resources so that people can continue to get married in National Parks. This is one of the most important steps you will take in your elopement planning process!
PLEASE comply with all LNT principles and any additional guidelines set by the Rangers. As inviting as that field of wildflowers is for photos, do NOT run into it or pick any of the flowers. It kills the flowers and causes permanent damage to the ecosystem. Stay on the marked trails, even for taking photos. Photographers can get creative with angles to ensure you still get those dreamy photos without causing erosion by going off the marked trails. We want to take care of our National Parks so that we can all still enjoy them for many, many years to come!
For this couples elopement, they wanted to have their mountain top ceremony AT sunrise which mean we had to start this adventure in the very early hours of the morning. When planning a sunrise elopement, you need to make sure to plan enough time to get to the trail head, hike up to the ceremony spot, and include a little wiggle room before the sun rises.
*based on a 5:21am sunrise time and a 4 mile round trip trail
2:30am | Leave Airbnb – we stayed in Ashford, about 45 minutes from the trailhead! You would need to adjust this time depending on if you were further or closer to your desired trailhead!
3:15am | Arrive at the trailhead
3:30am | Start hike – there is a gap in the timing, that’s because it takes a few minutes for everyone to get out, put on their layers, and gather their gear!
5:00am | Arrive at elopement location + change into wedding attire
5:15am | First look
5:21am | Sunrise
5:30am | Ceremony
5:45am | Couple Photos
8:00am | Begin hike down – you can of course start hiking back down whenever you’re done with photos or the lighting starts to get too harsh! We had a lot of locations on the trail they wanted to go for photos so this timing gave us to capture all those moments!
9:00am | Arrive at trailhead parking lot
Another thing you want to think about how to elope in Mount Rainier is making sure you have all the proper gear! You always want to be over prepared for anything that could happen. Especially when it’s someones wedding day!
Below are a few of the items/gear I’d recommend wearing or packing for a hiking elopement:
– Hiking boots – my favorite are these Keen Boots!
– Head lamp – this one is a MUST for any elopements that require any hiking in the dark. It’s a lot easier and safer than holding a flash lights so your hands are free!
– Backpack – I use this Osprey Talon 22 from REI and I love it!
– Navigation – my go to is Alltrails that using GPS while hiking! But I also have a compass in my backpack and a trail map too just incase!
– First Aid Kit – this could be a prepackaged thing or something you create on your own! Included in this I would also say bug spray, sunblock, a knife, and matches to start a fire!
– Layers – this could be anything from a light jacket to gloves and a beanie. The weather can change quickly in the mountains so properly prepare!
– Lots of Water – this is probably one of the most important things that people often down play the importance of. You want to me sure you, as a vendor, and the couple stays hydrated!
– Snacks – when hiking back down, most of the adrenaline is gone, and the hunger hits. This just helps motivate everyone on the way down. :)
Some additional items that might be necessary depending on the length of the hike, location, climate, and elevation are crampons, ice axe, oxygen supplement, bear spray, hiking poles, shelter [like reflective tent or thermal blanket].
Pro Tip: The weather on the mountain is VERY different than at base level, even during the summer. It can also change very quickly when the clouds, fog, and wind roll in.
This morning was extremely windy, like truly some of the craziest wind I’ve experienced. The rocks on the ground were being picked up and hitting us!! So instead of doing the ceremony at the peak, we ended up going back down the trail a few yards and found a quieter corner with virtually no wind!
Below: After I helped the bride get into her dress, I immediately put her beautiful, long hair into a pony tail to keep it from getting a total mess [she really had the wind blown look in the best way]. Then was literally holding her trying to warm her up before the ceremony!
One of the biggest decision when it comes to how to elope in Mount Rainier is your ceremony location! Mt. Rainier National Park truly has an endless amount of stunning views from the trails, marked view points, and even some pull outs! Choosing where to elope in the park is honestly probably going to be one your toughest decisions. Factors to considering where to have your ceremony are accessibility, how far you want to hike, how strenuous of a hike, what time of day is best there, and of course what the view looks like!
Once you’ve decided on a trail [or another location in the park that doesn’t require hiking], find a spot that won’t block the trail. Everything is public land [even when you apply for a special use permit] so there is a high chance other hikers may pass by during the ceremony or photos. One of the main reasons I highly recommend weekday, sunrise elopements is less likely it will be busy or even that you will encounter another person. It wasn’t until we were mid way down the trail and about 8am that we even started to see other people!
One more thing, please be mindful that the spot you choose isn’t on a terrain that would cause damage to the natural landscape [ie wildflowers]. Below, you’ll see the location we chose! The exact ceremony spot was on a curve on the trail so that people could still walk on the path but we weren’t breaking any LNT principles. #rocksareokay
Videographers: Happy Camper Films, @happycamperfilms
Florist: Goldenrod Floral Design, @goldenrodfloral