Your Ultimate Mount Rainier Elopement Guide

February 5, 2024

If you want to spend your wedding day out exploring nature, a Mount Rainier Elopement may be for you. Mount Rainier National Park is host to some of the most gorgeous views in the Washington State. From lakes to mountain ranges to wildflower fields to forests, Mount Rainier has it all.

Whether you want to know where to stay, the best spots to say “I do,” or the legalities of getting hitched in this stunning location, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve put together this ultimate guide to eloping at Mount Rainier to help you avoid the planning scaries and get right to the fun stuff.

The images in this blog are from a couples photoshoot I shot at Mount Rainier back in October 2023.

A couple are centred in the image, touching noses and arms wrapped around each other. In the background is a large mountain, partially barren with rocks and patches of green pine trees scattered over the surface.

Best time of year for a Mount Rainier Elopement

When planning your Mount Rainier elopement, the time of year you choose will likely impact every part of your day!

Summer

If you’re dreaming of wildflowers, long days, and golden hours, summer is the best time for you to elope. The wildflowers begin popping up at the end of July to the beginning of August – but unfortunately, this means growing crowds. Summer is easily the busiest time of year to elope here. If you do opt for a summer elopement, prepare yourself for crowds and be flexible – consider getting married on a weekday or going at sunrise or sunset.

Fall

In my opinion this is the best time to have a mount rainier elopement! the colours are stunning, there are less crowds, and you can still get a full day’s worth of adventure time in the park (and the chance for golden hour photos!). Although it will be a bit colder during this time (snow can come quite early in the park), a bit of chill is worth waiting for the autumn months to elope here.

Spring

Many of the trails will still be closed, and the park will be covered in snow. this is when the weather is most unpredictable, but there will be the fewest crowds during this time. However, you can still come during spring to enjoy the snow and partake in winter activities such as snowshoeing and skiing!

Winter

If you love the snow, winter is the best time for you to elope! getting around the park will be a bit trickier during this time (you’ll need to make sure your car is safe to drive in the snow and that you’re equipped with tire chains), but if you’re able to manage it you won’t be disappointed! you can book a snowshoeing tour or going skiing during this time. winter doesn’t have to mean staying indoors!

Mount Rainier Elopement Permits and Fees

Planning a Mount Rainier elopement isn’t as simple as just showing up and saying “I do”. There are a few logistics to keep in mind when planning to have your special day here.

A special permit is necessary for your elopement here, as well as ensuring you pay the park entrance fee as well. While the park entry fee is easily purchased online, the special permit requires an application, approval, and application fee.

Here’s how to apply for a Mount Rainier wedding permit, directly from their website:

  1. Complete an application form and email it to mora_special_use@nps.gov.
  2. 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).
  3. Once your application is received by the Permit Coordinator, you will be given instructions on paying the non-refundable $175 application fee online. Application fees must be paid before the permit.
Marriage License

To get married here, you need a marriage license to ensure that your ceremony is legal. You can follow this link to apply for a license online. There is the option to pick it up in person, or have the document mailed to you. You must apply for your marriage license at least 3 days before your wedding, and no more than 60 for it to be valid.

Canadians eloping at Mount Rainier

Being Canadian is no obstacle to getting hitched in this gorgeous landscape. According to Canada’s official government site, “marriages that are legally performed in a foreign country are usually valid in Canada, and you do not need to register them in Canada.” See it directly from them here.

However, it is better to be safe than sorry! It’s a good idea to contact the embassy or consulate to ensure you know your rights and the laws. You may need additional documents in order to make it official.

Some documents you may be asked for include:

A black and white image of a couple sharing a slow dance among the forests of Mount Rainier Park. The camera is situated behind a tree, placing the branches in the foreground creating perfect framing for the dancing couple.

In-Park Locations

There are 4 different official entrances you can take to access Mount Rainier, and each of them host some of the most stunning views in the

Carbon River – Northwest Entrance

The Carbon River entrance is in the northwest and is open year round, but car access is closed down almost immediately – this area is only accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Carbon Civer entrance features the Tolmie Peak Hike, a difficult, but rewarding hike, that leads to one of four fire towers in the park. With 9 kilometres total and about a 3.5 hour trip, this hike will challenge you before bringing you to some of the best views in the park.

White River (sunrise) – northeast entrance

This entrance, located in the northeast corner of the park, is open only from July to October, but features some of the most popular hiking spots in the park.

The first of those being the Mt. Fremont lookout. This is another of the fire towers in the park that offers 360 degree views of the park and Mount Rainier itself. This is another hike that’s on the more difficult side, consisting of a 9km round trip, approximately 4 hours of hiking, and various terrain and scenery.

The second of those is the Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail.

  • open july-october
  • sunrise has highest elevation and is accessible by car
  • burroughs mountain loop (total of 5.5hrs – only go to 2nd burrough)

Stevens Canyon (chinook) – southeast entrance

This entrance is open from May to October, and once again, features amazing views of Rainier. The Naches Peak Loop is a bit shorter, coming in at around 5.5km’s taking close to 2 hours to complete. This loop is family friendly, so perfect if you’re having guests attend your elopement, or are just looking for an easier hike.

This entrance also features Tipsoo Lake, an extremely easy hike that offers a view of Rainier and on a nice day will give you a gorgeous reflection in the lake. The loop around the lake takes only about 15 minutes to complete, so if you want minimal hiking this is the trail for you!

Nisqually (paradise) – southwest entrance

Last, but not least, is the Nisqually entrance in the southwest corner of the park. This entrance is open year round, so keep it on your radar if you’re wanting a winter elopement here. This is also a great spot to see the wildflowers during the summer season!

The first trail to check out here heads to Reflection Lake. Perfect for a snowy adventure, this trail is a 5.6km out and back, taking around 2 hours to complete. This trail is giving mountains, forests, and waterfalls all the way through – views you don’t want to miss.

Another great trail at this entrance is Panorama Point via Skyline Trail. Very popular for skiing and snowshoeing, it’s also a perfect winter elopement trail. It’s 6.1km and 2.5 hours to complete, however in the winter the trailhead will likely close, so prepare for a bit of a longer trek to the trail.

Finally, we have The Wonderland Trail. This trail goes all the way around Mount Rainier and is a multi-day backpacking trail. Worry not – you don’t need to hike the entire thing to get the rewards of the views. The Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground section of the trail is perfect if you’re looking for a fairly easy, family friendly hike for your elopement. About 5.3km and 1.5 hour total hike, you don’t want to miss this one

Mount Rainier Elopement Ceremonies

When have a small elopement, you have much more flexibility within the park to where you can say your vows. However, for weddings that involve a larger number of guests, there are designated campground amphitheatres for this purpose.

According the official Mount Rainier website, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering your ceremony here. The first is that if your party size is over 12, weddings at Paradise, Sunrise, and Tipsoo Lake may not take place between the hours of 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm on weekends due to congestion.

The second is that ceremonies may not impede the activities of other visitors. Outdoor areas will not be closed off during ceremonies and parking may not be reserved. Throwing of rice, confetti, etc. is not allowed. Modest decorations are permitted. Setting up chairs or erecting tents or awnings in roadside pullouts or parking areas or on trails is not permitted.

Lodging

There’s no lack of options when it comes to booking your lodging for your elopement! From camping to 5-star hotels, finding accommodations should be the least of your worries.

Inside the park, there are a few places you can choose to stay. If you’re going for a more outdoorsy route, you can opt to camp at one of the 4 campgrounds in the park. Keep in mind what time of year you’re eloping if planning to camp. Within park boundaries are two inns available for booking – the National Park Inn and Paradise Inn.

Outside of the park, there’s tons more for you to choose from. Staying outside the park gives you a few less restrictions and a bit more freedom (and isn’t that exactly why you’re eloping?). Popular options outside of the park include Wellspring Spa, Stormking Cabins, and hotels such as Copper Creek Inn and Stone Creek Lodge. Following this link will take you to Mt. Rainier’s official tourism website, where many more options are listed.

Finally, for the ultimate Mount Rainier elopement experience, you can rent an A-frame to stay in to get those PNW vibes (and if you’re lucky, there will be a hot tub to end off the day in):

Activities

If you’re having a Mount Rainier elopement you aren’t just limited to staying inside the park. Maybe you want to say your vows and get some photos in front of the mountain, but you don’t want to spend your entire day hiking around. Worry not! Here’s a list of ideas you can do that involve no hiking, but will make for an epic elopement.

  • Go for a hot air balloon ride! You can book a private flight at either sunrise or sunset that will give you beautiful views of Rainier and Mount Saint Hellens, and you can even opt to greeted by a bottle of champagne upon landing. This is basically a must do! Get more info here.
  • Enjoy a sailboat sunset tour. You’ll get to take in views of the Olympic mountain range and downtown Seattle skyline as the sun sets. Check it out here.

Bringing a pet

As a fellow fur mother, I know the importance of including your animals on your wedding day. Unfortunately, Mount Rainier does have rules around bringing your dogs to the park, which include:

  • They must be on a 6ft or less leash at all times.
  • Must be with you at all times. This means no tying them up while you go off for photos.
  • Dogs are not allowed on trails inside the park.

I am more than happy to work with you on making sure that your pets can be apart of your elopement! Whether this includes finding a trail outside the park that still has views of Rainier, heading back early to your accommodations for some quality pet time, or just stopping along the side of the road to snag a few photos, I am ready to make this happen for you.

For more information on pets and Mount Rainier, check out their official site here.

More Resources

Overwhelmed with elopement planning? Check out my blog breaking down your elopement process into 5 stages.

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amanda reed is an elopement photographer based in vancouver, british  columbia capturing authentic love stories for the couples who don't take themselves too seriously.