Olympic National Park Elopement Guide
by a Washington State Elopement Photographer (Updated for 2023)
If you plan on eloping in Olympic National Park you do not want to miss this guide we have put together from years of visiting, hiking, climbing and photographing weddings there! Olympic National Park in Washington offers so much variety when it comes to planning an adventure elopement. It is one of the most diverse National Park in the United States. The park itself has mountains, clear lakes, beaches, a rain forest and a variety of wildlife and activities to do. The park offers locations to anyone for any level of adventure. The accessibility to stunning places is unreal.
If you are looking to elope somewhere that is super dreamy, easy to get to and filled with beauty and wildlife you have found the right spot. It is one of the top places to elope in Washington and this guide is here to tell you everything you need to know about how to elope in the National Park. This is one of my favorite parks for a multi-day elopement to get to go to all of the different ecosystems and check them out or for backpacking! Check out the check list below to help you in planning in the most basic form and then read the blog for ideas, and more!
- When to Elope in Olympic National Park
- Where can you elope in Olympic National Park?
- Things to do on your elopement day in Olympic National Park
- How to Legally Elope in Olympic National Park
- Olympic National Park Elopement Packages
- How to Get to Olympic National Park
- Where to Stay in Olympic National Park for your Elopement
- What to pack for your elopement trip to Olympic National Park + Other Helpful Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions Eloping in Olympic National Park
- Olympic National Park Elopement Photographer
When to Elope in Olympic National Park
The best time to elope in Olympic National Park really depends on what draws you in most from an experience perspective, since the park is open year round. Most people agree however that it’s best to visit from June through Early October. The reason this is the best time to elope here is due to colder temperatures the other months as well as lots of rain. One important factor to consider when picking the best time for your elopement in Olympic National Park is where will you be really? The park is huge and you need to drive around the peninsula to get to the other side. The landscapes are so diverse with loads of snow capped mountains, moody coast line, crystal clear lakes and moss draped forests. All of these areas have different weather and their own mini ecosystem’s. Here is a little more insight to each time of the year:
Spring – The weather is going to be swinging and warming up, but definitely expect rain. Snow is still present at the higher elevations, but the lakes, coasts and the HOH rainforest would be perfect to visit. If you love snow, in late spring up at hurricane ridge there will be more accessibility but it will not likely be thawed out yet.
Summer – By popular consensus, this is the perfect season to elope in Olympic! The mountains will have started thawing out and be plenty accessible and while the wildflower shows here aren’t quite as magnificent as in Mt. Rainier, they are still stunning in their own right. I typically recommend avoiding the Fourth of July weekend as it is highly celebrated throughout the entire peninsula and it is quite busy. You also want to avoid the weekend crowds during the summer since Seattle and the surrounding major cities are so close, so trail traffic is much higher.
Fall – Early Fall is still quite fantastic in the area! Late Fall you can expect some snow already to be falling in the mountains and sometimes even around the lakes. Certain pockets of the peninsula will have those gorgeous fall color changes and the crisp air carries all the charm that comes with the season.
Winter – To see those peaks covered in snow is breathe-taking! Yes, it will likely be moody and rainy, but at the lower elevations near the coast line and in the forests, it isn’t like a north-eastern winter. The coast keeps temperatures between the forties and fifties during the day and often the rain is a drizzle and rarely a downpour. Who knows! You might even get lucky and have some sunshine during your winter elopement!
Where can you elope in Olympic National Park?
With one million acres to explore in this national park it can be hard to decide where you may want to elope here or know where to start! The park has some very well known spots that have become some of the top elopement locations in the United States and other still secret locations that are just as beautiful to share you’re vows at (Looking for advice on writing your vows?). Below are the four most popular locations to elope in Olympic National Park. Each is stunning for their own reason and just like every couple is different, so is the why behind a couple being drawn to a location. There are some rules that need to be followed when it comes to eloping in Olympic national park, but we’ll touch more on that later!
Eloping at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park
Ruby beach is a perfect elopement location if you love rocky, moody shore lines. There are huge rocks all along the ocean with a vast shoreline. The walk from the parking lot to the jaw dropping shore line is super short but a little steep. On a clear day in Washington, it is one of the most magical places to catch the sunset. The sun paints the sky the most beautiful colors as it falls below the ocean and being this far north and right on the coast, the light show goes on for a very long time. Ruby beach is near the HOH rainforest, the tree of life and several other beaches. However, it is on the most southern side of the park, so other than that it is not near much else. Ruby beach is just one of the many places along the 65 miles of coast line the park has. Two of our other favorite beaches to consider are Rialto and Third beach.
Eloping at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
Hurricane Ridge is the definition of light work for a huge payoff. You simply drive up the paved mountain road to arrive at a jaw dropping vista, usually teaming with deer and rolling mountains as far as the eye can see. This major elopement location within Olympic National Park is also the closest to the main town on the peninsula, Port Angeles. Just an 18 mile drive will take you to these amazing mountain views. Once you are up there, it can be easy to get caught by the views just in the parking lot, but there is a huge network of trails you can choose to elope on. Some will be more private than others, but all of them will have you in a sea of mountain vista views. Here you will find the most friendly deer around, they may even follow you down the trail, but remember to follow LNT and do not feed or approach the wildlife. Hurricane ridge is the perfect base camp for an epic day hike or a multi-day adventure!
Eloping in the HOH Rainforest at Olympic National Park
Another great location deep into the park you will find the lush HOH rain forest. As you might suspect from the name, this moss covered wonderland gets 12 feet of rain a year! This is a fantastic location to start off your elopement day in Olympic National Park. We recommend couples arrive here before 9 in the morning to avoid the crowds as parking is limited. One side of the short rail into the rain forest brings you deep into the woods, ferns and moss and the other side will take you to the river. This location is very family friendly and an easy hike. As mentioned above, during busy season and on the weekends you can easily wait 1 hour for parking here, so plan ahead! There are several other areas in the park that also have ferns, moss and lush forests if you like the look of the rain forest, but don’t want to venture out that way.
Eloping at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park
Lake Crescent is over 600ft deep and is known for its crystal clear, deep blue color. The lake has several camp grounds on it and lake houses you can rent, making it a perfect place to stay in the park. It is also a great place to elope in Olympic National park! There are several shoreline spots that are family friendly and a lovely place to hold your ceremony with friends and family followed by a picnic. On the same side of the lake as the Lodge whis is one of the only dog friendly trails that goes across a bridge, through a tunnel and eventually opens up to great views of the lake. Not only is the lake a great place, but from the parking lot at the lake is several iconic elopement locations that offer an easy hike to a water fall and a longer harder hike to an incredible vista view overlooking the mountains and lake. On a clear day from this trail you can also see the ocean, Canada and a beautiful sunset! As a bonus, the main parking lot for Lake Crescent is also where you’d begin your hike up to Mt. Storm King. If you don’t mind some exposure on your hike, then Mt. Storm King is an epic elopement location in Olympic all its own!
Olympic National Forest Elopement Locations
There are several elopement locations that are just as amazing as those in the National Park, but are in the National Forest. The great thing about eloping in a National Forest is that there can be less people, less rules around ceremony locations and it’s more dog friendly. Some of these include Lake Cushman, several hikes that go to peaks leaving from the Lake Cushman area, hidden waterfalls and some epic hikes within the mountain range outside of Port Townsend. There is also some climbing routes located near Lake Cushman if climbing during your elopement day is a must do.
Things to do on your elopement day in Olympic National Park
- Camp on the beach, in the forest, by the lake or glamp at a nearby Airbnb stay
- Surf at Rialto Beach
- Have a picnic
- Explore the coast
- Kayak, boat, or paddle board on the lake
- Relax in some hot springs
- Backpack to hidden lakes
- Hike to a vista
- See a waterfall or two or more
- Go Fishing
- Go Rock Climbing by a river
- Enjoy a sunset from a mountain peak or on the shore
- Star gaze for the milky way
- Watch for Eagles
- Have a meal in Port Angeles
- Go Whale Watching from Port Angeles
How to Legally Elope in Olympic National Park
In the state of Washington you will need an officiant and two witnesses to legally become married. We are both ordained and we often officiate for our couples. We understand that finding an officiant to follow you deep into the woods can be challenging, so we include this in all of our elopement packages! The other options are, if you’re having guests, to have one of your elopement guests become ordained and perform your ceremony. Prior to the ceremony, you will need to apply for your marriage license, which you can do at at the county government’s auditor’s office or online. The only location that we are aware of that will allow someone from out of state to apply online is through Whatcom County. Don’t worry about not getting married in Whatcom county, as a Washington state marriage license is valid across the entire state!
There is a three day waiting period for your marriage license to become valid, so if you plan to apply for your permit in person you will need to be there several days in advance. Furthermore, you must get married within 60 days of obtaining your license, or you’ll need to go back through the entire process again. Fees for your marriage license are different per county, and some are cash only for example, so be sure to have all the information you need before heading in.. After the ceremony has been held and the documents are signed, your officiant is responsible for returning it to the appropriate county clerk.
Olympic National Park Wedding Permit
As far as legally getting married within the park you will need to download the special use permit form on the National Park’s website and either mail or email it in after filling out all of the information requested. We recommend doing this at least one month in advance of your elopement day. The earlier you apply the better however, as park staff is often limited and the permit officers typically have many roles they need to be in charge of, not just the special use permits (what you may need for your elopement ceremony). Currently, if you’re eloping in Olympic National park, the rules are that if you have 5 people or less at your wedding you do not need a permit. This includes anyone associated with your elopement, so the officiant and the photographer do count towards that number 5.
If you do plan to get married in Olympic National Park with more than 5 people you can still get married there, you will just need to acquire a special use permit. We help our couples pull these permits al the time, we promise it isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. With larger groups, the majority of allowed elopement locations are on the coast or near picnic areas, some of which have great views. Keep in mind the larger your group is, the more restrictions in location you will have. We suggest not planning to elope in the park with more than 15 people. It is completely possible to do, but be aware that you’re location list will be very small beyond 15 total people in your wedding party.
If you want to elope in Olympic National Park, but couldn’t imagine your elopement without all of your loved ones, we recommend checking out these small wedding venues in the area to hold your ceremony at and then you two can go on your own adventure in the park
Small Wedding Venues Near Olympic National Park
- Fern Acres This wedding venue is located near Forks, WA making it a perfect place to have your ceremony, celebrate privately with family and friends and then head to Rialto Beach for a fire or tohike up Mount Storm King for sunset with just you and your partner!
- Off Path Venue If you are looking for something unique, that also includes your stay and is dog friendly, this is a great option!
- Lake Quinault Lodge This lodge is a part of the park, sitting on a lake right in between the National Park and the National forest, making this a great location if you want to go to Ruby Beach or hike to some epic over looks in the forest.
Olympic National Park Elopement Packages
We are a husband and wife Washington based elopement team who love every moment of our work. To say that we are passionate and dedicated would be an understatement. We offer photography, videography, hands on planning assistance, timeline planning for the perfect lighting and officiating for our couples without guests or who are headed deep off and away from the beaten path. Our elopement packages start at $6000. Our packages start from half day coverage, which includes 6 hours of time and our adventures go all the way up to multi-day celebrations. It is important to know that some of the most epic trails to elope on in the park and in the national forets are long and driving between locations can take hours, these are things you want to keep in mind while planning the experience you’ve been dreaming of on your elopement day. Here is an example of how to plan your elopement in Olympic National Park with timeline samples:
Full Day elopement in Olympic National Park:
Photo/Video arrive for getting ready photos at cabin on the lake.
Everyone leaves for a first look at ceremony with family + friends at the Lake.
First look on dock.
Ceremony at the shore followed by family photos + a charcuterie picnic.
Couple + team head off for a hike to see a waterfall and get to the top of the mountain vista.
Private vows, sunset + champagne. Hike back down.
Milky Way photos back at dock
Sunrise/Sunset Elopement in Olympic National park
Meet at Parking Lot at Hurricane Ridge + capture a Milky Way with the mountains and the couple.
Start hiking under starlight to the secluded ceremony location.
Arrive as the sun starts to color the sky. The couple gets ready together + shares their private vows.
We head back down the mountain where the couple makes morning coffee and sit together to read letters from family.
Complete hiking back to the cars for a break.
Meet back up at couples cabin for photos of them cooking their dinner together.
Pack up and head to the beach for a coastal sunset
Hike out to an Eagle nesting area, observe the wildlife, and then find a spot for a campfire and s’mores as the sky fills back up with stars, catching couples portraits with the perfect sunset light.
How to Get to Olympic National Park
The park has many access points! Because the park is so big how you get there will really be determined by where you are going in the park. The closest airport to fly into is Seattle which is 2.5 hours away and then Portland which is 4 hours away. Note from these locations you will need to rent a car and drive to the park, you can not get here or around the park easily with public transit.
You can also get to Port Angeles, which is the largest town near the park via a ferry from Victoria B.C. It is a 2.5 hour ferry ride making this a great United States Elopement location for Canadians or a honeymoon location for after you elope in the park. If you are coming from Seattle and want to cut out some of the drive time, you can take the Washington State Ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and drive the rest of the way. The ferry is a super great option if you are coming from Bellingham or another area in the Northern part of the state to take the ferry from Coupeville (on Whidbey island) to Port Townsend.
*** Important Note if you plan to take a ferry! You need to make a reservation online in advance to drive on the ferry. The ferry asks that you arrive an hour prior to boarding to secure your reservation. You’re reservation will be released if you arrive with less than 30 minutes prior to boarding. For making a reservation, they release a portion of booking dates at 2 months, then 2 weeks and then 2 days in advance.
Where to Stay in Olympic National Park for your Elopement
The main regions to consider staying for an Olympic National Park Elopement are:
- Port Angeles
- Lake Quinault
When planning your elopement in Olympic National Park an important factor is where you will stay because the park is so big! Within the park there are many campgrounds to stay in that are privately owned or options to camp in the park. One of the best campgrounds in the park is Mora, which is located near Rialto Beach and Fairholme Campground, on the rim of Lake Crescent. You can also stay right on the beach via an easy 1.5 mile hike or via backpacking the coast line! A permit is needed to camp in the park, but this is easily obtained by booking on reservation.gov. Importantly, make sure you have a tide chart to make sure your tent does not get swept away in the night! Many portions of the coast are only accessible at low tide, so on a serious note, be very aware of the tides if you’re hiking along the coast.
If you want to camp in the park, we highly suggest booking your stay at a minimum of 3 months in advance because rentals can sell out as early as a 6 months in advance! Private camping in this area is found on Airbnb and Hipcamp. We have several personally favorite camp sites in this area from Hipcamp, one being an alpaca farm in Port Angeles.
If back packing or camping is not your jam check out some of these other stay options in or around the park
- Lake Crescent Lodge
- Lake Quinault Lodge
- Sol Duc Springs Lodge
- Log Cabin Resort
- Three Rivers Resort – Cabins + Camping (also home of a really great burger and shake!)
- This Coastal Airbnb Cabin, that sometimes allows ceremonies in the yard. Note: this is the same cabin the photo to the left was taken 🙂
- This A-frame with a hot tub.
- This perfect home for a group to stay in, complete with it’s own piano located closer to the lake.
Staying in Port Angeles while eloping in Olympic National Park
Let’s circle back to the main areas to consider when it comes to planning your elopement in Olympic National Park. Port Angeles seems to be and is the obvious choice for the majority of people visiting the peninsula. The reason for this is that it is the biggest town (technically a city) with the most amenities. If you’re considering eloping up at Hurricane Ridge or along Lake Crescent, then this area is the perfect since it will place you very close to either of those locations. There really aren’t any downsides to staying in this area given the access to the coast in town, restaurants, bars, and shopping. The only drawback would be if you planned on including sunset at Ruby beach for example, as that will be over 3.5 hours round trip from your rental to the beach and back.
Staying in Forks while eloping in Olympic National Park
This option offers all the Twilight themed vibes you could ever hope for! In all seriousness though, Forks would be the second most popular area where people stay while visiting Olympic National Park, mostly due to being closer to the popular coastal locations. There is a grocery store and a small number of restaurants and even the cutest coffee hut. This location brings you closer to the coast line for including Rialto or Ruby beach into your elopement and while Lake Crescent’s main parking lot is about a 45 minute drive from Forks, it isn’t in our opinion so far out of the way that it isn’t worth considering this spot as a perfect base camp.
What to pack for your elopement trip to Olympic National Park + Other Helpful Tips
- All your basic wedding things like outfits, vows, marriage license, rings, etc
- Rain jacket, extra layers for under or over your clothing for the day.
- Your America the Beautiful Pass (this can be purchased upon arrival)
- Service can be very limited so bring a map! Or have the map of the area already downloaded on a phone. One of our favorite map tools to use is Gaia.
- Hiking Boots
- Bug Spray
- Bear Canister if you plan to do any camping
- Cash to pick up any firewood in the area for a fire
- Snacks + Water because there are limited amenities once inside of the park.
- WAG bags if we will be in locations not near bathrooms.
Frequently Asked Questions Eloping in Olympic National Park
Eloping in a National Park isn’t something that most couples do everyday, so we understand that with the inspiration to plan a wedding day centered around an unforgettable experience comes a fair amount of good questions. Here are three frequently asked questions when it comes to planning an elopement in Olympic National Park.
Will my photographer need a permit to photograph my elopement in Olympic?
The beautiful thing about working on federal lands is that portraiture photography is actually a legally protected activity! That means that as long as you’ve planned an authentic day, in this instance your elopement in Olympic National Park, then you’re able to have the day professionally documented. While photography permits are something we pull all the time in different areas, when working in Olympic, it is one less thing to tick off the checklist. The only reason additional permitting would be required is in a situation where we have exclusive access to an area or we have been granted to access to an area not otherwise normally available to the public. But believe us when we way this isn’t likely to happen.
Can I have drone footage captured while eloping in Olympic National Park?
All national parks restrict the use of drones taking off or landing within the park boundaries, Olympic included. While on a technicality a drone pilot may be able to fly in the airspace above a National Park, they are also required to maintain a visual line of sight of their aircraft which means an area where this is able to be performed won’t be likely. If those epic drone shots are important to you, we totally get it. Look into including a dreamy stay location where there aren’t any airspace restrictions or an area in the national forest.
The important thing to takeaway here is that your photography team is required to hold a Part 107, drone pilots license to capture any form of commercial photography (We have ours!). This technicality is important since it provides the pilot with instant granted access to certain flight restricted areas and also signals they’ll understand when and where they’re able to fly a drone on your elopement day. If you’d love drone coverage, be sure to check in with your photography team to be sure they have all of the legal requirements.
Can I have a fire in Olympic National Park for my elopement?
The answer to this question isn’t an easy yes or no. Some locations like Rialto beach, Second beach, and ShiShi beach do allow fires on the coast line as long as you’re below the high tide line and given that there are no fire bans in the area. Rialto beach is slightly more challenging as you can not have a campfire within the “front country” area of the park, however if you walk roughly half a mile up the coastline to what’s considered back country, then once you cross that threshold, you may be allowed to have a campfire.
We love the idea of a couple getting up early, making their morning coffee to head up the mountain to catch the sunrise to write their vows. Then stopping at and playing among the various lakes and forest trails, stopping for a picnic at a stunning and secluded nook before hiking out and heading to the beach to catch the gorgeous sunset as they share their wedding ceremony. And what better way to celebrate as newly weds than a campfire and smore’s before heading back to bring the night to an end! Every elopement ceremony and every elopement timeline is different which is what we love so much about getting to tag alongside couples during their elopement days, but all of that to say Olympic National Park has so much diversity that it really allows any vision for an elopement to become a reality!
Olympic National Park Elopement Photographer
Hey! I am Traci, half of the Adventure and Vow team 🙂 Olympic National Park was the first National Park I went to and it totally swept me away with it’s magic. Since then I have spent almost every birthday of mine there enjoying the coast, forests and mountains.
It is a magical place to get married and we are here to turn your dream into reality. We are a husband and wife team offering photo, video, hands on planning assistance and we are both ordained! We live in the Northern part of Washington state, so we know these mountains well and love sharing the PNW wonder with couples on their wedding day!
“From the very beginning, they felt like long lost friends. Communication was seamless and the anticipation and excitement up to and on our day was always present. They held our hand through the whole process from beginning to end and left no detail unturned. Their professionalism and preparation are something to admire. Not only did they capture every moment of our day, they took us to dinner the night before our elopement so we could get to know each other. Traci gave us endless recommendations on things to do/see for our trip. Gave us constant updates and reminders. I could go on and on, but to say they go above and beyond for the couples they work with is a complete understatement.
We had never been photographed together and were extremely nervous, but you would never know because Traci and Bill are that good! They were so patient with us and gave us all the guidance we needed. What they do is extremely special…and it takes two genuinely amazing people who are passionate and truly care about their work to create experiences like this for others. They are not only photographers/videographers, they are friends, wedding planners, adventurers, improvisers, problem solvers, always prepared, great at recommendations, active listeners, easy to talk to, and are down for anything!
Bill officiated and put together our ceremony. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was beautiful and felt like it was written just for us. So thankful Traci could be one of our witnesses also, considering it was just us. Even after a long eventful day starting on the mountains and ending at the coast, Traci sent me our sneak peaks that night. I also couldn’t believe how fast we received our entire gallery and our elopement video. Seeing our full elopement story on their blog on their website, was truly special and I am still shocked and in awe. I feel like it was just yesterday, even though we got married back in the beginning of August.
– Jackie + Ryan, 2021 Olympic National Park
We can’t wait to chat about your Olympic National Park Elopement!