Your complete guide on how to plan a backpacking elopement

Elopement in the Wilderness of Mount Rainier

Why get married on a backpacking trip?

You may be asking yourself while stumbling upon this blog, why would I get married on a backpacking trip? Here are 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 like Taft Point in Yosemite or Cathedral Rock in Sedona. Don’t get us wrong, we love those locations for different 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 disconnect you from the rest of the world. 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 also believe that a backpacking elopement opens up the opportunity to experience something that is a broader picture of what marriage is. Depending on how far of a hike you have to do to setup camp, there are often so many challenges along the way. You may have to encourage each other up the endless switchbacks. You may have to trek your way through the relentless rain. One of you may be setting up camp while the other heats up water for dinner. You may have to navigate together after your GPS device goes out and now you’re left with your paper map. You also get to share those sweet moments like looking up at the Starry Sky and seeing the Milky Way in one of the most beautiful places you may have ever been together, cuddled up together with the shared sense of accomplishment knowing you made it all that way with just your feet and what was on your back. Overall, we think that backpacking elopements are an amazing experience for starting off your marriage. 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.

Camping Elopement on the San Juan Islands

Where are good backpacking elopement locations?

Some of the best states that we recommend looking for trails for a backpacking elopement are Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, California, 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, camp there, and get legally married there. For capturing the moment, it’s also important to be sure that you can have your photos taken by a professional photographer in this location. Typically, you’re going to need to pull a permit. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry, it isn’t as daunting as it sounds and we’re here to help you through the process.

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 you want to elope or can do the trip, 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.

How much does it cost to do a backpacking trip that you are eloping on?

Just like the vast choices in where to backpack, the gear that you’ll require will vary depending on the area and what you want to have with you comfort wise. Are we thinking PNW mountains in the summer, or kayaking the Colorado River through the desert in Fall? If you’re already an experienced backpacker and have all the equipment and then some, this is an expense you get to save on. Bill and I live in a van, while we travel all over for work, we always sleep in the rig, so when we started planning for our backpacking elopement, we had to purchase 90% of our gear. It’s hard to tell you how much this may cost you, because it depends on how comfortable you want to be, how high end of a product you want to buy, how light weight, and what you already have. We spent about $800 between the both of us. You also need to purchase your food. Depending on how many days you’re camping, you may want to pack items so you can cook over a fire if it’s allowed. If you’re backpacking pretty far and for multiple days, we really suggest freeze-dried meals. They actually tasted pretty yummy for our elopement in the morning. I had biscuits and gravy and the night before for dinner I had beef stroganoff by Mountain House and it is delicious every time. You also need to buy whatever you’re needing for your wedding day. This may be a suit and a dress maybe vow books and the little but special details like that. It’s hard to give you an exact number on what these things could cost you. There are tips for buying things cheaper and there are lots of options in the higher-end range. You’re welcome to visit our blog post on what we suggest for a wedding dress for an adventure elopement and to ask any question. If you’re hiking in all this gear, you want to try to pick lightweight options.

How much will a photographer cost for a backpacking elopement?

An adventure elopement photographer that’s going backpacking with you is not just a photographer. It is important to know that traditional wedding photographers often get hired for a job where they show up at the venue and there may be a wedding coordinator to help them feel it out. They shoot the wedding and at the end of it, maybe send you sneak peaks and then send you your gallery. 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 trails and trail 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. Maybe your pack is a bit heavier than you anticipated and you need help carrying some of it. It’s our job to enhance your experience and make sure that your wedding experience goes as planned and is the best that it can be.

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.

You should expect a starting price of at least $7000 for adventure elopement photography services, if not more, that last multiple days. You also want to budget for a wedding permit, a permit for the camp sites, and a permit for photography. When we backpacked in Mount Rainier for our wedding, our permit for camping was $8 while our permit for getting married which also covered photography was $85. This varies and it’s hard to tell you exactly how much to budget for because it’s different in every park and every National Land Management. We have seen wedding permits for as much as $500, and we’ve been places where one isn’t required. We’ve seen camping permits for as low as $8 and as much as $50. It truly depends.

Gear needed for back packing:

If you’re not already a backpacker, you may be wanting to put together a list of the things that you need to purchase. These are some of the important key items that we suggest.

  • One liter durable water bottles, Nalgene is a company that makes some that are very popular.
  • A backpacking pack that properly fits you.
  • The right hiking shoes.
  • The proper layers of clothes.
  • A water filter to filter water where it is available so that you’re not having to carry all of it.
  • A tent that carries well in a backpack
  • a sleeping pad
  • a sleeping bag
  • a blow up pillow for comfort
  • A rain jacket
  • Toilet Paper
  • A bag for your garbage
  • Hiking poles to help you with the weight on your back while hiking
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • A small camp stove and fuel
  • Cooking and Eating utensils

While this is by no means an exhaustive list and there is some variation on if some of those things are required, like if you’re hiking for thirty miles in the desert with no water source in between, definitely carry lots of extra water. But for the most part, the mentioned items are likely to be in the bags of most backpackers. You want to carry as close to the weight that will be in your backpacking bag as possible preferably months beforehand to really get an understanding of what you’re going to be carrying. You should also go on as many hikes as you can with your packs to train if you’re not an avid backpacker.

The logistics of a backpacking elopement truly depends on where you’re backpacking and when you would be able to find out if you can camp there. Some places for camping when backpacking are first come first serve, which is a risky game. If the spots are first come first serve, we would suggest getting there super early, so starting off the hike earlier than needed just to be able to claim the camping area and set up camp. We also suggest for these types of backpacking elopements to try to choose a weekday over a weekend to get the best possible ability to be able to camp there. It’s important in these situations to have a back-up plan nearby that you would be equally as happy about if you weren’t able to get your first spot. Outside of that, a lot of backpacking on the popular trails are booked pretty far advanced. For example, many camping reservations have a release date for when you can start purchasing the camping tickets and if it’s a popular enough trail, they typically sell out pretty quickly.

How to plan camping 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 did 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. This is also important when hiring a photographer because many photographers are booked out from three months to over a year in advance and maybe you’re not going to be able to know if you can reserve that camp site until closer. So definitely be sure to book a photographer who can be flexible within a range of dates to help you be able to get the dates you want for camping.

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. These are things you want to discuss and figure out. My biggest suggestion is that on your wedding day for you to have full day 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. Another logistic you may want to decide as far as getting married when backpacking is what’s actually really important to you? Do you want hair and makeup. Do you just want a dress? What kind of shoes are you going to wear?

How to know you are hiring the right photographer for your hiking wedding?

When it comes to hiring a photographer for a backpacking elopement, there are some really important questions that you want to ask them. For example, are you insured?

  • 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. And 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. To make sure you have a flawless experience, having a photographer with experience in the area where you are going into will help the day go smooth. You don’t want on your elopement to be making sure that your photographer is okay, and can handle the experience. It should be the other way around.
  • Other things that you should ask is to see some full galleries to get a better idea of what their photography is like and to ask what their shooting style is like. How hands-off they are.

Definitely jump on a FaceTime to have at least an hour long conversation before hiring a photographer for a job like this, because it’s super important that everything clicks right when you’ll be spending so much time together, especially in an intimate setting. If you’re interested in a multiple day elopement that involves getting out into the backcountry, but maybe don’t want to hike lots of miles, there are definitely other options. Some examples would be for one a kayaking elopement. There are several places where you can kayak and camp along the water. You can also have a boat elopement and boat to different areas of different shorelines and camp on the boat or along the shores. You could do a climbing elopement where you climb to a spot that you’re allowed to camp at the top of and then rappel down the next morning. You could also do a horseback elopement where you could ride on horseback out, camp by a river, get married and ride back.

Overnight Kayaking Elopement in Arizona

Example Timelines for a Backpacking Two Day Elopement

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

What if hiking isn’t my jam, are there other ways to elope in the back country on a two day adventure?

There are tons of options and there is an adventure out there for everyone. Don’t be afraid to talk to your photographer about your vision. Think about the experience that you want to have on your wedding.

  • 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 elopement:

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

Looking for a photographer that is also into backpacking?! Look no further! We are 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. We 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.

Adventure Elopement Photographer – Traci Edwards Photography

8 Responses

  1. This was packed with so much good information! I really enjoyed how you served a variety of clients with the information whether they were new to backpacking or not.

  2. so many useful ideas and information, such an amazing post! I’m sure so many couples will find it super helpful when planning their backpacking elopement 🙂

  3. A backpacking trip is a fantastic opportunity to connect with nature, be yourself, and -why not- get married. This is the perfect resource for every couple on the fence about planning an outdoors travel elopement in nature and your pictures can inspire and motivate these couples. So well done!

  4. First of all, your imagery is amazing!!! Thanks for putting this together- you included a lot of information, and I love how you put in a gear list!

  5. WHAT AN INCREDIBLE SET OF ALL INFO FOR BACKPACKING ELOPEMENTS….ALL TH ETHINGS TO CONSIDER, PREPARE AND PLAN TO CREATE THE MOST AMAZING DAY EVER! GREAT RESOURCE FOR ALL COUPLE PLANNING SUCH AN AMAZING DAY!

  6. I am in LOVE with these images! That first one with the couple standing in the tiny patch of sunlight took my breath away! Fantastic tips for a backpacking elopement. Tons of useful information for any adventure seekers 🙂

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