Your complete guide on how to plan a backpacking elopement

A couple in the sunlight standing in the mountains near their camp in their wedding attire.
Elopement in the Wilderness of Mount Rainier

Why get married while backpacking?

Some of the reasons that we think backpacking elopements are one of the coolest ways to get married. If you’re a couple that enjoys the outdoors, traveling, hiking or maybe you already backpack together, then getting married in this way can create the atmosphere for a true adventure, strengthening your relationship and create an unforgettable experience for your wedding day. Choosing to do a backpacking elopement also opens up the opportunity to get married in an absolutely stunning place that has so much more privacy than many of the easily accessible elopement locations.

For example, Taft Point in Yosemite or Cathedral Rock in Sedona. Don’t get us wrong, we love those locations for many reasons, but we really cherish the intimate privacy that the extra miles by foot into the back country provides. Backpacking with your partner opens up the opportunity for a deeper connection with each other. Being in nature even for a single night out can totally center you with your dreams and your partner.

With this type of adventure elopement, you are getting away from the endless emails, the constant texting, the social media scrolling, and every other worry your typical day brings. This presents the opportunity to fully connect with each other and connect with the wilderness that you are exploring together. Being outdoors is so healthy for us and many people agree that it refreshes their body and mind. Deep connection with your partner, alone time at a dreamy destination, intimate cuddling up by the fire, sound like a recipe for a dream elopement to you? Perfect, because it does to us too!

We ourselves decided to backpack for our own wedding, hiking 74 miles into the wilderness around Mount Rainier National Park. We got married on the final day by a waterfall. Planning our own backpacking elopement was a challenge when thinking about the distance, the harsh weather that can happen in the mountains, and being out for almost a week. Having experienced it all ourselves has given us the experience to help other people plan their own backpacking elopement whether it’s in the desert or the mountains. I’m excited to help you see how to make this happen and what all the possibilities are.

A couple walks down a path near their campsite towards their ceremony location.
Camping Elopement on the San Juan Islands

What is the difference between a Hiking + Backpacking Elopement?

The biggest difference between a hiking and backpacking elopement is one is just for the day and the other is spent overnight. Backpacking means you are hiking somewhere then setting up camp and the next day hiking even further to a different camp or going back to the trailhead. Backpacking involves hiking – just usually more of it. For Backpacking you also typically need to carry a lot more than you would for a regular hiking elopement because you will need your camping supplies. In a lot of areas you will also need a permit to backpack where as most day hiking does not require a permit.

How long is a backpacking elopement?

We get asked often how many miles do people hike for elopements, including backpacking elopements. The answer is, there is no one size fits all answer. It could be less than one mile or it could be 100 miles+. This is up the the couple, the experience they’re looking for, and the location they want to be in. A backpacking elopement can be a one night trip or it could be much longer depending where we hike into.

How to plan for your backpacking wedding?

So, maybe you want to elope on a specific trail in August, but the camping permits don’t become available until April and sell out within a week. If you managed to get the reservation through and book your camp sites, that is perfect. Now, you can book everything else you need to book. If you’re not able to get a reservation, many National Parks actually reserve a healthy number of camping spots for walk-ups only.

It’s important to have a back-up plan and know if the area saves any camping spots for walk-up permits. For example, when we eloped in Mount Rainier on our backpacking trip on the Wonderland Trail, We acquired a walk up permit. When we say get there early, knowing how popular of a trail the Wonderland was that time of the year and also knowing that Mt Rainier has four ranger stations that you compete for the camping spot with simultaneously, we arrived at 4am the day before we were going to start our hike to look over the book of available camp spots left outside of the ranger station, and after about two hours we were able to reroute our plan based on the campsites that were still available. It’s important to know that unless you already have dates picked out and secured, you need to be flexible.

That is step one of figuring out the plan. Then you need to figure out the logistics of your route. What are all of the details of the hike? If you’re camping for several days, it’s important to plan if your photographer is coming along for the whole experience or if they are meeting you on one of the days in particular somewhere along the trail. My biggest suggestion is that on your wedding day for you to have full coverage. This is a day that you’ll never be able to get back and you never know if the weather will be good for the full day. So if you have all day, there’s going to be a time and place that just feels right to get married and you’ll have the flexibility to do that.

For a quick + easy check list check out these steps in order of when to do them to plan your hiking wedding:

  • Decide on the area you’d like to elope in
  • Pick a specific trail
  • Book any an all permits you need (for getting married + permits for camping)
  • Put together a back up plan (for sure if plan A is a walk up, but also in case of weather)
  • Create your specific Packing List
  • Make sure to purchase all items you need
  • Getting wedding things (dress, suit, marriage license, etc)
  • Go for a practice overnight back packing trip if any of your gear is new to you.
  • Meet up at the trial-head + have a freaking awesome elopement!

Where are good backpacking elopement locations?

Some of the best states that we recommend looking for a backpacking elopement are Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, California, Utah, Montana and Wyoming. The list for where you could have your backpacking elopement could go on and on through National Parks, Forest Service Land, State parks, and beyond.

It’s important to note that when you’re planning a backpacking elopement you need to make sure that you can:

  • Hike there (that it is an actual trail)
  • Backpack/Camp there
  • Legally get married there
  • Have a photographer there

Backpacking elopements can vary in length. We know great trails from 6 miles to close to 100 miles long perfect for amazing views, privacy and of course getting married! Some areas take you into the front country and some into back country wilderness. It is also important to research the area you are considering and to talk to forest service rangers about your plans. For example, in Mt Rainier, if it is just the two of you there is a lot of flexibility where you can elope in the park. However, in Glacier National Park you can not elope, get married or have any sort of ceremony on any back country trails.

Some easy tips in finding great locations is pick a time of year you want to elope, look at what areas have the best weather in that time frame and start researching trail options. The other way would be to pick the area you are most drawn to, then check the weather conditions for the best time period and then start narrowing down trail options. Some of the best places to find hiking trail information is Gaia, All Trails, National Park websites and The Outboud.

The bride gets out of her tent after changing into her wedding dress.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails

We help our couples find the perfect backpacking trail for them during the planning process. However, here are 5 of our favorite trails to consider for a backpacking elopement. Will you be joining us on one of these for your wedding???

  • Coyote Gulch Trail – This trail is located in Utah. The hike is only 10 miles making it easy to do in one night. The trail is moderate to hard pending your comfort with scrambling. We love this trail because it has arches + water. You can camp in shade if you want. It is located near many other awesome things to see in the Southwest as well!

  • Hiking from Yosemite Valley to Taft Point to Glacier point and down 4 Mile – Yosemite National Park has many backpacking trails, but few places you can hold a ceremony – Glacier Point being one of them. I highly recommend doing this on the shoulder of when the road is closed to Glacier Point but the snow isn’t too bad up in the elevation. One word – Privacy. Taft Point is easily one of those places that could move anyone to tears, but to get to see if after you’ve hiked all that way and get it to yourselves is insane. If you aren’t worried about crowds what is unique about this is that your family/friends can meet up with you for your ceremony in the middle of your backpacking trip without having to hike!

  • Shi Shi Beach – The first time Bill + I hiked this we were blown away. The coast line is stunning, the hike through the forest is easy and equally as beautiful. This is in Olympic National Park – so you may need a permit if you have more than 5 people total. This location can be quite busy on the weekend and around holidays – for good reason. Olympic as a whole has amazing backpacking hikes in the mountains too – but for a coastal option we think this is best!

  • Park Butte Trail (Fire Towers) – Park Butte is located in the Mt Baker/North Cascades area of Washington. Honestly, this general area may be the best location in the US for backpacking elopement locations. It is also home to several Fire Towers that you can camp instead of using a tent. Tip for getting a spot in the first come first serve ones: GO EARLY and go on a weekday!! We love this trail specifically because of how close you feel to Mt Baker – all night you can hear the glaciers.

  • The Wonder Land Trail – Yes, we are bias lol, but this trail gives you the chance to see Rainier from every single side. You get to see stunning areas of the park you can’t see on a day hike. You get totally away from people + up close to nature. We love that this is longer than a one night trip so you get a feel of being out for a week like a mini thru hiking trip!

Can you elope on a Thru Hike?

Yes, of course! With the proper permitting you can get married on most thru hikes. My tips for eloping on a thru hike would be these things:

  • Plan to elope at the end of the thru hike trail so you can relax after OR pick a location along the thru hike that would be a good place to take your time, slow down, relax, etc
  • Keep in touch with your photographer throughout your hike in case your elopement date needs to change or anything like that.
  • Have guests or other people meet you with your attire so you do not have to hike with it on top of all of your other gear.
A tent under the stars while the moon comes up over the trees.

Example Timelines for a Backpacking Two Day Elopement

Timelines vary for elopements depending what trail you are doing, your backpacking experience, any other activities you plan to do and more! Below are two samples of two day backpacking trips that can give you an idea of the flow of the time.

Southern Utah Backpacking Itinerary

  • Meet in Page, Arizona to pick up a Jeep rental
  • Drive to the trailhead
  • Arrive at the trailhead, hike in 8 miles
  • Set up camp before sunset + have dinner
  • Write vows by campfire together
  • Starry night photos
  • Sleep!
  • Wake up for a Sunrise Ceremony overlooking Lake Powell
  • Have breakfast at camp
  • Hike Out
  • Off Road back into town

Mt Baker Backpacking Itinerary

  • Meet at sunrise to hike into the location
  • Claim camping bunks in a fire tower or a tent camping spot outside of the tower
  • Make lunch + eat
  • Write vows by the lake
  • Sunset ceremony among mountain views
  • Camp under stars
  • Morning camp fire + breakfast
  • Hike out
  • Dinner + a mini reception with Family at an Airbnb

Typically we plan for one hour per mile of up hill hiking for elopements. While your hiking pace may be faster we like to allow for extra time considering the gear you have + stopping for photos or breaks along the way. Plus, you never want to rush through your elopement experience. You never know if you may run into an animal you want to watch, a lake you want to jump in or another happy surprise.

A bride and groom sign their marriage license at camp.
Overnight Kayaking Elopement in Arizona

How much does a backpacking elopement cost?

Because adventure elopements are so varied for so many reasons, it’s hard to pin down an average cost. Between permits, vendors, additional gear, travel and more, the average adventure elopement in the United States can range from $8500 – $20,000. Multi-day elopements can be on the higher end of average depending what all you need to purchase and book. One of the most important aspects as far as cost for a backpacking elopement is your backpacking gear + food. Now, if you are already experienced backpackers you may already have your gear. However, if you are not you may need to pick up a few things.

Items you need for BackPacking

Here is a list of things no matter what trail you are doing you will likely need for backpacking:

(Note the list above includes affiliate links, but all to products that we use + are in packs on a backpacking trip! Everything we linked is from Amazon as we have found that is the most affordable pricing on these products. However, if you plan on buying a lot over a long period of time and still recreating a lot you may want to consider REI. Their membership program allows for you to gain a percentage of your purchase back at the end of the year on anything that you bought that wasn’t used or on sale.)

Wedding Items you may need

  • Suit
  • Wedding dress for an adventure elopement
  • A “we eloped” or “just married sign”
  • Marriage License + Pen
  • Hand Written Vows
  • Make up
  • Wedding Bells instead of Bear Bells for your pack!
  • Permit (varies $50 to $350 typically)
  • Officiant (we are both ordained – for backpacking elopements we highly recommend a photographer that is ordained!)
  • Photographer

How much is a Backpacking Photographer?

An adventure elopement photographer that’s going backpacking with you is not just a photographer. While it isn’t true for every traditional wedding photographer, it is often the case that the job doesn’t require as much planning or isn’t physically demanding. Photographers that specialize in adventure weddings like backpacking have more variables on their plate.

  • They must make sure they can carry both their camera gear and camping gear and be honest about their capacity to accompany you on your adventure.
  • They must be aware of both the typical and possible weather conditions, the trail and its conditions, and have backup plans.
  • They also must be aware of the permitting and ideally have a relationship with the permit officer to be able to pull information, and help you with obtaining your permit.
  • They need to be able to help you have the experience that you are looking to have. It’s our job to enhance your experience and make sure that your wedding day goes as planned and is the unforgettable moment you’re looking to share.

When it comes to finding a photographer for a backpacking elopement, there are some really important questions that you want to ask them.

  • A lot of national parks and forest service lands require photographers to be insured to be able to work there. You want to ask them if they have ever backpacked before.
  • While backpacking experience is really great, what would be extra important and nice to know is has your photographer ever back packed with all of their camera gear?
  • You should also ask them what is the longest hike they’ve done with their equipment.
  • It may be important to know if your photographer has hiked in the region before or photographed there. Some areas of the world are bear country, some have rattlesnakes and scorpions some have things to think about like tide charts, snow on mountains, mudslides; the list goes on and on. Understanding wildlife in the area and the weather conditions is super important.

The great thing about being a two person team is it not only takes some of the weight off each others backs, but it goes a long way with helping our couples too.

Other types of camping elopements!

There are tons of options and there is an adventure out there for everyone. There are plenty of ways to get out there and camp with out backpacking! Don’t be afraid to talk to your photographer about your vision. Think about the experience that you want to have on your wedding. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • How do you want your wedding to start?
  • What does it look like?
  • How does everything feel?
  • What’s around you?
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you see and smell?
  • Is it a fast pace or slow?

You don’t have to have all the ideas or specifics right away. That’s what an adventure elopement photographer is here for. To help you bring your ideas to life. To help you plan. The most epic experience that you can imagine to start off this journey together with your partner. We’re always here to help and if you have any questions just drop them on the blog and we’ll do our best to answer them or feel free to reach out to us about planning your own adventure backpacking elopement. We’re a hundred percent here for it. Outside of back packing to your elopement location here are some other ideas for a multi-day back country elopements:

  • Lake Powell house boat elopement or power boat while camping on the lake shores
  • Kayaking the Colorado River
  • Bike Touring
  • Off roading deep into wilderness for an over night camp stay
  • Horseback riding
A bride and groom sit in their tent with their cat signing their marriage license.

Hey, that’s us, your backpacking elopement photographers!

Looking for a photographer that is also into backpacking?! Look no further! Adventure and Vow is a husband and wife team that eloped ourselves on a 74 mile hike and then did a separate 6 mile backpacking trip with our cat to celebrate our wedding! We love helping couples plan a wedding day that is authentic to them as a couple, connective to their love and the environment and that will be an experience of a lifetime. Our packages offer Photo + Video and we are both ordained. We know what it takes to plan a backpacking elopement and what is important in preserving the memory.

We’d Love To Hear More About Your Wedding Plans!

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“Traci was super communicative about the process of eloping at Olympic National Park and is extremely knowledgeable. She is very organized and put together a perfect timeline for our big day. Not only is Traci a genuine person, she is also incredibly talented and knowledgeable at what she does. Traci and Bill helped us haul my dress and backpack during our entire hike and were super sweet about it! They were fun to talk to and really allowed John-Mark and I to soak up every minute of our day. It was one of the best experiences of our lives! I would absolutely do it all over again! And I can’t forget to include how amazing our pictures came out !! Even after our elopement, Traci has been super communicative with all of our questions/requests.”

America + John-Mark | Eloped in 2022 with us!

A couple smiles at their dog as they sit on a bed together in a fire tower.
Mount Baker Backpacking Elopement