How to Get Married at a Fire Tower
Your guide to eloping at a fire lookout in Washington
What is a Fire tower lookout and why would I want to elope at one?
A fire tower is housing for folks who are looking over the lands to make sure no fires have started. Some fire towers are still active, meaning park rangers still stay in them. Some are no longer active and you can visit the inside or even camp inside!
Eloping at a Fire tower is great because of the 360 degree sweeping views they offer and they offer a fun a place to get ready if it is one you can go into and reserve for privacy! Not to mention Fire lookouts offer a unique elopement experience and location! They are also stunning places to see the the sunrise and/or sunset. Often times you will catch unreal cloud conversion between yourself at the fire tower and the mountains below, a unforgettable experience. Fire towers differ, but some have a lot less trail traffic as well since some require a 4×4 to get to or a permit. Did I mention you could camp at some of these?! Welp, you can! What an epic way to elope, hike to a stunning place, have killer views of the stars all night and wake up to a mountain!
Fire towers are also great locations for your adventurous engagement session, vow renewal or anniversary session <3
Which Fire Towers can I elope at?
There are fire towers all of the United States over 8000 to be exact, in this blog I am going to focus on the ones in Washington. There are currently 93 fire towers in Washington state, so let’s break this down a little better for which ones are best for an elopement.
Fire Towers in Mount Rainier National Park
In Mount Rainier there are four fire towers. The most popular being Fremount Lookout, then Tolmie, Shriner Peak and Gobbler’s Knob. While Mount Rainier has restrictions on where you can hold a ceremony in the park you take your portraits almost anywhere. The fire tower lookouts are great options for epic views of the mountain, a good hike and a nice place to hang out. Fremont is about a 5.6 mile hike coming from Sunrise Visitor center, it sees lots of visitors and for good reason! It is one of the best places to see a sunrise, sunset or cloud conversion in the park! It is a staple in the park, so you have for sure seen photos of it on social media, websites and more!
Tolmie is literally my blow your socks of hike, I have never been so moved by the view in front of me at sunrise than on this trail. It is less crowded, partially because it’s trail access is not central in the park and is down along dirt road. This doesn’t mean it still doesn’t get a good amount of visitors though. On a hot day you may find people jumping in the lake for a swim during their hike. The trailhead is also close to Mowich lake, which is the only lake in the park you can canoe in or kayak in.
Shriner peak is a harder, longer trail in the park, but with the same epic views of Mount Rainier. Gobbler’s Knob is a bit out there too, on the most West side of the National Park. It is also a longer hiker, making it hopefully pretty secluded for a place to spend your wedding day!
Fire Lookouts outside of Mount Rainier National Park, but same great views:
You may not want to deal with National Park traffic or entrance fees on your elopement day, but may want the same view of Mount Rainier’s beauty. Do not worry! There are several Fire Towers that showcase Mount Rainier’s beauty from outside of the park with even shorter hikes! There are two Fire Towers just outside of the park off of long winding dirt roads with 1-3.5 miles of hiking to get to them. High Rock Lookout is best for sunrise and you must have no fear when it comes to heights and cliff edges and the other is super family friendly and best at sunset. Since these are shorter hikes you are bound to have some folks at them, so it is important to set the expectation that you may not be alone! The third one outside of the park, but with the same views is a bit further from the park and off of a longer dirt road, but incredible! You can also camp along the road so if you’re getting there for sunrise you can be closer!
A benefit to doing one outside of the park is that they are dog friendly where as the national park is not! None of these allowing camping in or outside of the park. The ones outside of the park may also be less busy!
North Cascades/Mt Baker Fire Towers
Evergreen Fire Lookout – This is just a bit over a three mile hike to get to with 360 degree views of mountains. It is located near Index, Washington. The biggest reason this one makes it on the list is because you can camp here! You have to make a reservation to camp and need to pay an $85 dollar fee, but what an experience for your elopement morning/evening! I think this one is also less busy than some of the big name lookouts.
Hidden Lakes Lookout – If you are looking for one heck of an adventure on elopement day and a two day elopement you may want to consider this lookout! It is a 8.5 mile hike and extreme snow fall can be present until July, so you want to plan carefully here. The views are astounding! For planning and overnight usage you want to talk to the Mt Baker Ranger district. This is a busy hike so you want to assume you are going to share the experience with other people. The views are so incredible though!
Park Butte – This 7.2 mile hike will take you through some beautiful scenery in the Mt Baker Wilderness. The lookout is nestled along the rock with incredible views of Mt Baker and other peaks. You guessed it, you can also camp here! However, camping is first come, first serve and you can not claim it once you are camping in it, you must share the space. However, if you go on a week day and arrive before noon or 1pm you will likely get access to be able to camp in it. People also will camp on the deck of the fire tower. Along the way up you pass many beautiful camp sites, so if you don’t get the access you can always utilize it and then camp lower down.
Winchester Mountain – While this one is not accessible for majority of the year, when it is it is SO worth the rough drive to it. Typically you can camp here, but recently they closed it due to someone tampering with it, we are unsure when it may open again. However, do not let this make you shy away from hiking to it, camping or eloping at it! The views are incredible and there are two lakes that are stunning at the base of the trail.
When is the best time to hike to a fire tower for your elopement?
The fire towers are overlooking the mountains, so they are high in elevation! Each Fire tower is different, but ideally you want to consider July-October, but be sure to check weather conditions, road conditions, snow fall and check in with the rangers when planning. There are some fire towers that you can access year round like Heybrook Lookout.
How do I make sure I am prepared to elope at a Fire Tower?
Once you have started planning with your photographer and chosen where and when you want to elope you need to check in with the park rangers to make sure you can pull any permits you may need to get married there. If it is a fire tower that you can not hold the ceremony at then you will need to do the paper work portion prior. Check to be sure to get your camping reservation or be sure you know which pass you need for parking (i.e. – National Park pass, discovery pass, etc). Some of the Fire Towers require a 4×4 to be able to go to the trail head so make sure you have the proper car or rental. You want to keep and eye on weather as you get closer to your elopement date for road closures are common in Washington as snow fall begins to impact the road conditions. Essentials to pack for your Fire Tower elopement is the right hiking shoes, water, binoculars , possibly hiking poles since some of these trails can be quite steep.
Here are a few things you may want to pack/bring with you, especially if you are going to do an overnight at a fire tower:
- Bear Hang Kit – when out in the wilderness camping in these areas you need to store your food from bears. While you can carry or rent a canister from REI they can be bulky so we recommend hanging your things in a tree with this kit.
- Bear Bell
- A backing pack – we recommend getting fitted for the right back at REI
- Hiking boots – we recommend going to try them on at REI or a place similar
- Backpacking Camping Kit – complete with mugs, forks, etc, light weight and all the supplies you need for your wedding night dinner
- Hiking Poles are great if you aren’t used to carrying gear in and/or if you are doing one of the harder trails to a tower
- Headlamps – there aren’t lights or lanterns in the fire towers, so you need to bring your own light for once the sun goes down.
How do I legally Get Married In Washington?
I have a whole blog on this! If you want a more in depth answer check it out! Basically you need an officiant and two witnesses to legally get married in Washington State. No matter where you are coming from you will need to obtain a marriage license from the state of Washington. We are both ordained and happy to help you with this portion of your day.
If you are looking for an elopement photographer that is 100% here to support you two creating the most epic you day I am your gal!
I have hiked mile and miles through the Washington mountains with you in mind! I am here to help you find the perfect place to get married, walk with you through the logistics of planning and there to capture all the connected, authentic moments on the big day! From Fire towers to sail boats around the San Juans, I got you covered! Reach out to me about your elopement! I can’t wait to get to know you two!