How to Elope at Mt. Rainier National Park

A bride and Groom hold each other close on a trail overlooking Mount Rainier with wildflowers in the foreground.

How to Elope in Mount Rainier National Park

washington-elopement-photographer

Getting married at a National Park is a dream come true when you as a couple love the outdoors, hiking, camping, and being fully immersed in the towering evergreens and epic mountain landscapes. Mount Rainier National Park is one of those parks that blows your mind and exceeds all expectations with miles and miles of trails, endless waterfalls, stunning glaciers, and astounding quiet nooks. John Muir said it best of all….”Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”

Can you get married at Mount Rainier?

Yes, you can get married at Mount Rainier! However, it is important to know this comes with rules + regulations. Check out this blog for an entire guide on how to get married within Mount Rainier. As you scroll through the blog you will find the answer to these topics in order from top to bottom:

  • How to get married in Mount Rainier – Marriage License
  • Mount Rainier Wedding Permits
  • Best Places to elope in Mount Rainier
  • Information on eloping on National Forest Land outside of the Park
  • When and how to travel to the Park
  • What all you can do on the park for your elopement
  • Cost of eloping in Mount Rainier
  • Elopement packages/photographer for your elopement!

How do you get married in Mt. Rainier National Park?

What are the legal requirements for getting married in Washington State?

First things first, let’s get things set on the legal side. Mount Rainier is located within Washington state, so you will need to follow WA state laws for your ceremony no matter where you live. You will need an officiant and two witnesses who are 18 years old or older to legally become married in the state of Washington. When you decide to elope with Adventure + Vow you either get yourself two witnesses or an officiant and one witness! Officiating services are included with all of our packages, free of charge. We’ve never had any trouble finding a second witness somewhere along the trail, so don’t let that stress you out if it will just be you two and no guests.

Prior to the ceremony you will need to apply for your marriage license. The rules vary from state to state and most states within the United States require you to obtain a marriage license from the state where you will be getting married in. The process is usually quick and easy and typically only requires about 20 minutes of your time if you’re doing it in person. We 100% recommend making an appointment if they’re available with the county where you’re looking to obtain the license so that you don’t run into any problems leading into your wedding day.

Specific to Washington state, there is a three day waiting period before your license can be used for your ceremony, so if you plan to obtain the certificate in person, be sure to plan your travel plans around this! Most county offices have bank hours and are closed on the weekends, so it’s definitely something you need to be mindful of. Also to note, you can obtain the marriage license from any county in Washington state to be used within any other county in the state. Once you have the license in hand and 72 hours have elapsed, you must get married within 60 days or the license becomes invalid. Fees for your marriage license are different per county. After you have held your ceremony and the documents are signed, your officiant is legally required to turn it back in for you! Mailing the license in does take longer so some couples like to turn it in themselves in person to expedite the process. But if there is no rush and we’re officiating for you, then let us handle it so it’s one less thing on your plate.

If you’re having family or friends along for the elopement, it’s actually a very simple process if you’d like someone close to you to officiate your wedding. All it takes is a quick moment by visiting The Universal Life Church online and registering as a minister. If you want to feel fancy, there is an option to have the hardcopy credentials mailed to you, however the state of Washington doesn’t actually require seeing any of these items and so whoever you’d like to hold your ceremony can sign up for free.

So what if you’re travel plans, time off from work, or any other reason doesn’t allow you to be in Washington State Early enough to obtain a marriage license before your wedding? Well fortunately, some counties do allow mailing options for people from out of state. One county which allows this is Whatcom County. Be mindful that the same rules apply, so while everything is being done in transit of shipping, this time counts towards the valid period of your license. It may be a bit to think about, but once you have your dates locked down, it’s not too difficult of a process.

Just a quick note on planning your elopement, if you want to have an intimate ceremony at Mt Rainier with just the two of you but also want family and friends there for the wedding, I suggest having a small group with few important friends or family members. Then you can either have alone time with your partner for sunrise, or break away after the ceremony for some beautiful sunset privacy alone for private vows. This way your vow reading and some of your elopement day together can be just truly you two.

Do I Need A Permit To Get Elope In Mt. Rainier National Park?

Next step is getting everything squared away with the National Park! You and your photographer will need a permit to hold a wedding in Mt Rainier National Park. This process is simple, but you want to plan with enough time to get everything done correctly. While Mt. Rainier may not be as busy as Yosemite for example, the growing interest in elopements is being felt at every National Park across the country and as such is extending the turn-around time hearing back from the officers in charge of permits. Because of this, you will need to apply with the National Park Service as early as you know your plan, but preferrably at least six weeks in advance. The requirements change per national park, but with Mt. Rainier, your wedding permit covers bringing along a photographer!

Mount Rainier Elopement Permit

If you decide to elope with less than 45 days of time prior to your wedding, then our suggestion is to call and email the park ranger to see if you will have enough time to receive the proper paperwork. There isn’t a guarantee that they’ll be able to push the permit through, but being friendly and supplying as much information as you can definitely goes a long way with their willingness to help. There is an application fee of $175. Keep in mind it is $30 to enter the park (per car) unless you have a yearly pass. To apply for your Mt Rainier Wedding permit click here.

While on the subject of applying for your permits, it is important to consider the weather when planning your elopement or intimate wedding in Mt Rainier. This active volcano creates its own weather conditions due to its massive size and high elevation compared to the surrounding mountain ranges. If sunshine and warm weather is your desire, then the best time to elope at Mt. Rainier is from early July to early September. Definitely keep in mind snow is still present in a lot of places until late August and depending on snowfall, sometimes indefinitely. From mid July to August, this is the timeframe when you are most likely to be treated with the blooming wildflowers in the meadows. If you want a snowy dream, try May or November for your elopement, but definitely be sure to do your research. The winters have powerful impacts on trail conditions, what roads may or may not be open, and in the early season, just because something was accessible two days ago, a big storm can change that quickly. Some areas can be more likely to be affected by these things, so depending how flexible you’d like to be with your plan, it is important to consider this in the winter time.

A couple shares an emotional first look in Mt Rainier on a sunny day.

Where can you elope at in Mt Rainier?

Other things to consider when planning your wedding day at Mt. Rainier and when applying for your permit directly from the National Park Service Webpage:

Party size determines which locations may be used for wedding ceremonies. Note that while this is current, this can change at anytime and you need to directly pull this info when planning from the park.

  • 1-12 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include select trails, picnic areas, roadside locations, and campground amphitheaters.
  • 13-24 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include picnic areas, roadside locations, and campground amphitheaters.
  • 25-60 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include roadside locations and campground amphitheaters.
  • 60 + participants: may use campground amphitheaters.

We highly suggest if you are planning an elopement in Mount Rainier National Park to plan to elope with 8 people total or less in order to be able to get married at the best locations, for the best experience and in order to follow leave no trace.

(The park lays out some basic rules to that will guide you down the path of selecting your location, but the park is huge and you may be asking where to say those vows to each other! If you have been to Mount Rainier before, consider trails and spots you’ve hiked that made you feel the happiest, most in awe or most connected. If you have been together, where are some places that were your favorite and you shared great memories together or what are some locations you haven’t hiked to yet, but have always wanted to!? If you have never been, seek advice from your photographer, share with them what you envision and do research on the trails. Consider the time of day, are you willing to set out and get to your ceremony location at sunrise or are you more of a sunset chaser? Just as their names point out the Sunrise area of the park is beautiful at sunrise and vice versa for Sunset point. The National Park rangers are great resources for locations within the park and are plentiful with information as well.)

Ceremonies may not:

  • Impede the activities of other park visitors.
  • Areas may not be roped off or blocked in any way to the general public.
  • Modest decorations may be allowed (additional permissions required).
  • Additional permissions may be required for professional photography/videography; please include photographer contact information in the application form.
  • The setting up of chairs, tents, or awnings is not permitted.
  • Throwing of rice, confetti, etc. is not allowed.

ALWAYS, always practice Leave No Trace when visiting or saying ‘I Do’ in the National Parks. When planning and thinking of guests, decor and more keep in mind that you are in a park that other folks and critters are inhabiting and enjoying.When visiting Mt Rainier it is SO important to never stand in the meadows!

Some of our very favorite locations within the park are:

  • Mount Fremont
  • Tolmie Peak
  • Different sections of the Wonderland Trial
  • Several of the waterfalls
  • Off the beaten path trails on the South side of the Park
  • Trails off of the Sunrise Visitor Center
  • Tipsoo Lake

I would say on average you can expect to hike 5-8 miles for some of the very best locations in the park!

A couple shares a private moment together standing on a mountains side in the. morning light with mount rainier behind them.

Getting married outside of Mt. Rainier national park

If you do not want to deal with the permit process, don’t want to deal with the business of the park or it’s too late to pull one, there are definitely other options. There are an abundance of trails right outside the boundary of the park that still provide beautiful views of Mt. Rainier, has fire towers and waterfalls. Many of these locations being in National Forest, which would not require a permit for your ceremony so long as it is below 75 people. One of the most epic views of the Mount Rainier we have seen is located on FS land outside of the park, it is a six mile hike that you can back pack to, which we highly recommend!

If you wanted to have an arch at your wedding, tables, chairs, etc. then there is still the option to hold your event at an airbnb. This of course 100% depends on the owners approval for your event, so be sure to verify this with the owner.

I will mention, that we have definitely been to airbnb’s with far more than 16 people and that our couple had received the permission of the host to hold their event there. There is typically light music but they weren’t celebrating like a full blown college party. So with the official rules in mind we can not advise an event greater than 16 people on someone else’s property, but we aren’t the rental property police. So if you receive permission to have your guests there and the owner tells you you can have photographers on site, Adventure + Vow is happy to come along.

How do I travel to and what is the best time of year to visit Mt. Rainier?

If you are traveling from out of state to get married at Mt Rainier, the best airport to fly into is Sea-Tac in Seattle. The park is only an hour and half drive from the city. Be sure to enter from the right park entrance for your ceremony’s location! The different entrance points are well over an hour from each other, and the only way to drive is around the mountain. If you are choosing to stay in the park, there are several camp grounds you can camp at like White River campground or Cougar Campground. To find neat camping near by the National park or places to stay try Hip Camp or Airbnb. With a short drive from the city you could also stay in Seattle. Keep in mind that during season, the park is busy and places can book out early. Plan ahead!

The main entrances to the park: + where to stay for each

  • Southwest side, closest to Paradise and we recommend staying in Ashford
  • Southeast side, close to things like Tipsoo or Reflection lake and we recommend staying in Packwood
  • Northside closest to Sunrise visitor center and we recommend staying somewhere near Crystal Mountain or Emclauw
  • Northwest side which is closest to Mowich Lake area and Spray Park and we recommend staying in Buckley or closer to the park entrance in the tiny towns.

Weather in Mount Rainier

Choosing when to visit really depends on what you’re looking for. People often underestimate how much snow cover this mountain gets, and think that there will be wildflower galore in late May or Early June. If you are coming from an area further south or closer to sea level, don’t be fooled by the weather back home! While certain roads in the park are accessible year round, some do not open up until early or mid summer. Likewise, depending on the winters snow that season, certain areas of the park can be covered until early August, or indefinitely! Fortunately, in some of the higher areas, there can be a beautiful mix of snow and meadows if you don’t want to wait quite so long into summer.

For the best chance of maintained trails, wildflowers abundantly distributed throughout the park, warm temperatures, and accessibility, I would recommend looking into mid/late July and through the month of August. Mt. Rainier can be very moody, and this six week window offers the best chance for full sun and mountain views. For this reason, this is the busiest time to visit the park.

If snowshoeing, greater chances of rain, dreamy cloud conversions, or late season blueberries are more of your thing, then consider the outskirts of the busy season. The advantage to being in the park in early June or mid September offers less traffic and depending on what you’re looking to get into, more adventure! If you ask us the prime time to elope in the park is July to September.

How much does it cost to elope in Mt Rainier?

If you’re flying in, it is important to consider the cost of a rental car, as there is no adequate way to get around the park the way that you’d like without your own transportation. Also, prices for the typical necessities are on average higher than the rest of the United States, and maybe much higher depending where you are traveling in from. Staying closer to the park often costs more money, but it will get you out of the hustle and bustle of Seattle and provide you with the stillness of nature and save you from driving two and a half to three hours of round trip driving. Since plane tickets and rental cars can be so variable depending on who you book with, what you get, and the time of the year, it is difficult to factor in just how much that will cost. With booking a rental either through a hotel or a luxury Air BnB, you should consider the range to be between $150 and $500 a night. Some of our couples will book larger estates for all of their friends and family nearby the park, and those are the rentals that tend to cost towards the higher end of things. The benefit of booking a full home rather than a cheaper hotel would be the ability to make all of your own food. Eating out for three meals a day for two will quickly add up, sometimes making the seemingly pricey rental actually cheaper in the long run.

Here is a quick + easy cost break down:

  • Travel including driving, gas, flight, stay, food (this greatly depends but lets say $500 – $3000)
  • Officiant (with us this is included, outside of that it could cost $300 – $1500)
  • Flowers ($25 from the market or by a florist could be $500)
  • Photo/Video (ranges from $4000 – $8500)
  • Paperwork $72
  • Permit if needed $175
  • To get into the park $35
  • Your attire ($500 – $5000)
  • and any random thing! Every elopement looks different so it’s hard to come up with exact numbers unless helping you plan your day.

What is there to do in Mt. Rainier on your Elopement Day?

The great thing about escaping to this mountain wonderland is that there are so many options and opportunities of things to do! The choices span all four seasons and include everything from easily accessible for family and friends, to a private getaway in the woods with just the two of you!

Here are some adventurous ideas for your elopement day in Mt. Rainier

  • Go backpacking
  • Snowshoe through the park!
  • Of course, hiking
  • Share a picnic on a mountain peak
  • Summit Mt. Rainier!
  • Kayak – there is one lake in the park you can kayak on
  • Camp
  • See a waterfall

Here are some ideas for activities nearby Mt. Rainier

Really, this barely scratches the surface of all of the things that you can do while in and around this park. Whether it be peeping at fall leaves, enjoying the wildflowers of the summer, embracing the sun of spring, or having a snowball fight in the winter, the only limit is what your vision is for the day!

I hope this information is helpful to you. Please feel free to reach out or comment below with any questions you may have. We are always happy to help!

Tell us in the in the comments below why you’d elope at Mt Rainier!

Mt Rainier Elopement Photographer

Hi, we are Traci and Bill!!! Your elopement photographers that are deeply invested in creating a day perfect for your love story. Why should you hire us for your big day in Mt. Rainier? We got married here too! We did our own 74 mile, 5 day backpacking adventure, pulling all types of last minute permits, planning for our photographer all of the locations, and adapting on the fly when weather turned ugly. We can not wait to help you also experience the magic of this mountain on your big day. Say hello!

A view of a lake on the Sunrise side of Mount Rainier National Park.

“Can’t say enough about our experience with Traci from start to finish. She was understanding of our concerns with Covid restrictions which we appreciated. Since we had never been to the PNW, Traci provided us with insight on the different national parks to help us narrow our elopement down to Mt. Rainer based on what we were looking for. She provided us with recommended vendors and spent hours finding the spot that I had found for our ceremony which turned out to be the perfect spot. We appreciated her scouting the area prior to the day for different photo opportunities as we received lots of pictures with different scenery (lake, wooded, mountains, etc). She even brought a pop up tent to change along the trail for added privacy.

Traci was easy going, sweet, creative, and made the day relaxing and fun. She captured us ”sled riding” down the snow covered mountain in our wedding clothes and many other great moments. She sent a few photos over that night which we sent to friends and family. We really appreciated this and they were excited to see some pictures so quickly. She captured us perfectly and the lighting of the photos was amazing. The only problem we have now is figuring out which ones to print out on our wall. Booking Traci will not only give you the best photographer, but someone to help make your dream wedding come true!?”

– Lisa P

Want more?! Click below to check out these past elopements we have photographed in Mount Rainier!

16 Responses

  1. Amazing post that will be so useful to those couples looking to get married in this park. What a great idea to write about it and share your experience with it. And also, beautiful photos to go along with it

    1. Thank you very much! It was such a great experience and I hope more couples can elope there!

  2. Traci this is so so great. So much detailed information, I can imagine this being sooo helpful to couples. Also the pics are gorgeous 🙂

  3. This is absolutely perfect for anyone looking to elope at Mt. Rainier! Also, the photos are just stunning. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Lauren! I can so see why couples want to elope there and so happy to provide them some helpful information!

  4. Wow, so much goes into it! I shoot local MN weddings and have always dreamed of the opportunity to shoot an elopement somewhere as beautiful as this! This is all great info!

    1. Mt Rainier is truly amazing!! Just a little planning can go a long way for a National Park Elopement!

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