Your North Cascades Elopement Guide: So Much More Than A National Park

Eloping in the North Cascades offers a breathtaking and unforgettable experience amidst the majestic beauty of nature. As adventure elopement photographers who reside just outside this stunning park and forest, we bring you an insider’s perspective on why this hidden gem is the perfect backdrop for your intimate celebration. Picture saying your vows by the crystal-clear alpine lakes, with towering peaks as your witnesses.

While North Cascades National Park is often confused with sites in Mt. Baker National Forest, we’ll delve into the unique differences and which location is best for you to get married in North Cascades. Discover the magic of eloping in the North Cascades and how this guide can turn your dream elopement into a reality filled with wonder and joy.

A couple shares a romantic kiss on a fall day in North Cascades National park.
North Cascades Elopement

Your Guide to a North Cascades Elopement

Exploring the North Cascades Region

The North Cascades region boasts two main natural attractions for elopements: North Cascades National Park and Mt Baker National Forest. While both areas offer stunning landscapes and seclusion, it’s crucial for couples to understand the distinctions between them before deciding on the perfect elopement location. Both sections of land run through the North Cascades mountain range, however, these two different places are easily confused with each other because of geo-tagging on social media.

North Cascades National Park vs. Mt Baker National Forest

North Cascades National Park is known for its rugged peaks, glaciers, and pristine alpine lakes. The park offers a true wilderness experience with limited services and facilities, ideal for visitors seeking a back packing, or longer/harder hikes within the range. The National Park sits on the Southern Side of the Northern Cascade range.

On the other hand, Mt Baker National Forest presents a more accessible and diverse landscape, including old-growth forests, meadows, and alpine lakes. The forest provides a mix of adventurous terrain and serene beauty, offering couples a range of backdrops for their special day. The National Forest Land sits on the Northern side of the Northern Cascade range.

There is so much to explore in this region. Whether you plan a national park wedding, or one of the many other stunning locations in the North Cascades, this area is one that will be perfect for an adventurous elopement.

Why We Recommend Mt Baker National Forest as One of Our Favorite Elopement Locations

Mt Baker National Forest stands out as an exceptional choice for an epic North Cascades elopement. This area is underrated and often lives in the shadows of the neighboring national park. The forest’s untouched beauty and secluded spots provide a sense of exclusivity and intimacy for couples looking to exchange vows in a serene setting away from the crowds. 

While one of the most popular elopement locations is found in the Mt Baker National Forest region of the range, the rest of this side of the range offers private ceremony locations. Mt Baker National Forest is a hidden gem for couples seeking a unique and off-the-beaten-path elopement experience that captures the true essence of the North Cascades region.

The five images below were all photographed in the Mt Baker National Forest section of the North Cascades Mountain Range.

Best Places to Elope in the North Cascades

The North Cascades offers countless breathtaking locations both inside and outside the national park. With its rugged mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and lush forests, this area provides a perfect backdrop for a memorable celebration of love. When considering where to elope in the North Cascades, here are some of our top picks to make your day truly magical.

It is extremely important to know when planning an elopement inside of the National Park you are only allowed to hold your ceremony in pre-approved locations and you must apply for a permit.

  1. Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake is a gem in the North Cascades, known for its striking turquoise waters set against a backdrop of majestic peaks. Imagine exchanging vows on the shores of this stunning alpine lake, with panoramic views that will leave you and your partner in awe. This can be private depending the time of year and time of day, we recommend avoiding the summer season here as many people are on the shores to cool off in the water. You are allowed to elope here with up to 25 people and 4 cars are allowed to park max.

A couple holds their elopement ceremony by Diablo Lake on a fall day.
  1. Blue Lake

Blue Lake is a moderate hike outside of the park on Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. This is still on the same side of the North Cascade National Park range of the mountain. The rules surrounding ceremonies and elopements are different here than in the park and within the Mt Baker National Forest land. This location is so dreamy during the Larches season, when the trees turn bright yellow early Fall. Usually, the Larches change color the last week of September, first week of October.

  1. Cascade Pass

If you dream of saying “I do” with panoramic mountain views all around you, Cascade Pass is the ideal location. The sweeping vistas of the North Cascades from this high mountain pass will add a sense of wonder and adventure to your elopement experience. This is also just outside of the park, a viewing area off of highway 20. There is a short paved walk to some areas where you could share vows.

  1. Maple Pass Loop

For an elopement setting above the clouds, Maple Pass Loop is a must-consider location. The loop trail offers a variety of scenic backdrops, from mountain meadows to rocky ridges, ensuring stunning wedding photos that capture the beauty of the North Cascades. It’s also an excellent location for vibrant fall colors or blooming wildflowers. This trail is one of the most well-known trails and most photographed in the state, especially during larches season. This trail is also located just outside of the park in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. It is important to note that permit rules are changing in this area and we recommend reaching out directly to the FS to see if a permit is required.

A couple smiles at each other having just got engaged on Maple Pass Loop.
  1. Sahale Arm

Embark on a hike to Sahale Arm for a truly epic elopement adventure. This high alpine location rewards couples with panoramic views of towering peaks, glaciers, and lush valleys. The sense of accomplishment and wonder at reaching this breathtaking spot will make your elopement day truly unforgettable. This trail is like many in the North Cascades National Park region – long, steep and unbelievably beautiful. The downfall to most of the trails in the North Cascades is that you can not hold your ceremony on them. This is a great place to hike after your ceremony at one of the approved ceremony locations. Things we recommend doing for hikes outside of the ceremony to make it still feel special and a part of an overall experience would be to:

  • Share a first look
  • Have a picnic together
  • Read letters from family
  • Make an anniversary box
A couple lovingly stares at each other holding hands on a fall day in the mountains.

Epic Elopement day activities in North Cascades National Park

Hiking and sightseeing by car is probably the most common activities in the North Cascades National Park. However, there are many other things to consider planning into your adventure elopement here!

  • Sea Plane ride to Ross or Diablo Lake
  • Kayaking or boating on the lake
  • Overnight backpacking to one of the many nearby fire towers
  • Camping
  • Biking
  • Fishing
  • Rock Climbing / Mountaineering
  • Horseback riding
  • Soak in a natural nearby hot spring

All three images above were photographed on the Mt Baker side of the North Cascade range, NOT in the National Park.

Planning Your North Cascades Elopement

The first thing we tell any couple to do when planning is to really sit together and chat about how you envision the day, what is important to you and what is not. Having conversations like these can really help you in planning make clear choices on location, activities and more.

Planning your North Cascades elopement involves understanding the permit requirements and how to legally get married. It’s also important to consider the time of year as weather extremes can impact this area at times.

North Cascades Wedding Permit + Regulations

In order to hold a North Cascades National Park elopement, couples must obtain a special use permit to ensure compliance with park regulations. These same restrictions apply for most of the surrounding land managed by the federal government. The special use permit costs $50 and can be obtained by applying on the National Park’s website. We recommend to our couples to only apply for the permit once you know where in the park you want to elope, what time, what date and how many people. You need to apply at a minimum of 30 days prior to the elopement date, we recommend no later than 60 days before.

In either scenario, acquiring a marriage license in the state of Washington will be necessary, regardless of where the ceremony takes place within the state. Understanding these requirements will help couples prepare adequately for their elopement.

Where can you hold an elopement ceremony in North Cascades National Park?

The pre-determined ceremony locations are as follows:

  • Colonial Creek Campground Amphitheater: 100 people, 5 cars max
  • Diablo Lake Overlook: 50 people max (however, we recommend no more than 10 people due to limitations of this space)
  • Diablo Lake Shore: 25 people, 4 cars max
  • North Cascades Visitor Center: 150 people max, limited hours available, allows access to walkways, the interior and view points.
  • Newhelm Campground Amphitheater: 100 people max, parking allowed only at Loop A
  • North Cascades Environmental Learning Center: allowed during business hours only
  • Buckner Orchard: 200 people max, ceremony allowed in the hay field
  • Golden West Visitor Center: allowed within a limited date range
  • Rainbow Falls: 35 people max, limited parking available

These locations do require a special use permit and you are allowed a certain amount of time at the location.

When you are a holder of a special use permit from NCNP you will need general liability insurance. You are also responsible for all persons coming into the park for your event.

When to Elope: Seasonal Considerations and Weather

The North Cascades experience distinct seasons, each offering unique backdrops for an elopement. It’s important to consider the weather as many parts of this area may be inaccessible by vehicle during certain parts of the year.

Summer: Generally, summers are mild and pleasant, with long days and plenty of sunshine. Temperatures will be cooler at some of the higher elevations making this the most popular time for people to visit.

Spring: Spring in the North Cascades can be unpredictable. You may encounter a mix of rain, snow, and sunshine. Much of the snow will begin melting making for higher water levels throughout the area. Late spring sees the bloom of colorful wildflowers, a favorite in this area.

Fall: Fall brings cooler temperatures and increased rainfall which can often bring about muddy or slippery trails. Snow can start falling at higher elevations. The fall foliage this time of year is absolutely stunning.

Winter: Winter brings cold temperatures and heavy snowfall, especially at higher elevations which can also lead to road closures and avalanches. However, this is a great time for people who love winter sports such as skiing and snowshoeing.

Best places to stay near North Cascades National Park

When I tell you that the North Cascades National Park is remote, I really mean it. The park is one of the least visited in the lower 48, for this reason. This is partially another reason we recommend to most of our couples to consider the Mt Baker side of the North Cascade range, but it really depends on the experience you want for your day.

These are the places we would recommend considering staying:

Where you stay should be based on where your elopement location is and time of year. Partly to avoid driving 3+ hours on your elopement day and partly because the roads can be closed in late Fall to early Summer.

You can also camp in North Cascades National Park. There are 6 campgrounds you can walk or drive up to within the park. There are also camps accessible via the lake by kayaking or seaplane. Learn more about camping in the National Park.

A couple stands for a portrait with their dog with Mt Baker in the background.

North Cascades Elopement Photographer

Selecting the right photographer can elevate your wedding day to the next level. Elopement photography is more than just taking pictures; it’s an art that encapsulates the raw emotions and stunning landscapes of your special day. We love sharing our backyard of mountains with our couples on their special day.

North Cascades Elopement Packages

As locals, our elopement packages ensure not only will each moment of your story be preserved, but you can rest easy knowing you have local expert guides to help you plan your elopement. Our packages start at a half day option and go up to multi-day elopements. We do offer custom packages when our standard options aren’t the right fit.

“Traci and Bill are beyond amazing! Words cannot begin to describe how easy, exciting, special, intimate, and unique they made our day for us. Their knowledge, experience, and resources and tools they’ve invested in is unmatched. They truly went above and beyond to make our day everything that it was. Traci and Bill were able to make what seemed to be impossible, possible. To give some context, our dream location was not accessible since Covid, then became available a few months before our date. Then it was unfortunately struck by a wildfire. Traci and Bill were beyond communicative and accessible during the entire process, and they were so easy to work with. They even came up with a plan B and plan C, and took the time to visit and hike all the back up locations. Thanks to their constant research, fact checking, and quick thinking, we were finally granted a permit for our original dream location, about a week before our day. There was no detail that went unnoticed. We are so thankful for them and everything they did to make our day so memorable and breath taking. Friends, family, and strangers have been nothing less than blown away by our portraits. We’ve had so many people tell us how much they wished they would have thought of this idea for their wedding. Thank you so much Traci and Bill! You were made for this career and have a true gift. We are forever grateful for you two!”

– Kyle

Frequently Asked Questions About North Cascades Elopements

What’s the best time of year to elope in the North Cascades?

The ideal time for an elopement in the North Cascades is late July through September. During these months, you’ll enjoy warmer weather, clearer skies, and full access to trails that may be snow-covered in other seasons. This timeframe offers vibrant wildflowers and majestic alpine views, perfect for your ceremony backdrop.

How do you get to North Cascades National Park?

The address for the visitor center is: 376 Newhalem St, Marblemount, WA 98267

If you are traveling from afar you would fly into SeaTac or Vancouver’s airport. You would take the I-5 to Highway 20. You will need to rent a car to drive into the National Park unless you plan to travel via a Sea Plane to one of the lakes and do not need a car to get anywhere else within the park. The park is 2 hours and 20 minutes from both airports.

Are there any specific locations you recommend for our ceremony?

Absolutely! We typically recommend locations outside of the National Park land designation because the process is easier and the locations offer more privacy to our couples. This does require some hiking 🙂 If you want to elope inside of the park with guests we would recommend Diablo Lake Shore. Reach out to us! We only share specific locations with our couples based on scouting and our knowledge. Recommendations are made very specifically to match our couples desired elopement experience.

Do we need any permits to elope in the North Cascades?

Yes, you will generally need a permit if you plan to hold your ceremony on federal land managed by the National Park Service. Specific areas may have additional requirements, so once you pinpoint your location, check with the local ranger station or park website for the exact regulations and how to apply for the permit.

What should we prepare for in terms of weather?

Weather in the North Cascades can be quite variable. Even though all the stats are in your favor that it should be sunny throughout the summer, mountains can quickly generate unexpected weather systems and for that reason, rain is always technically possible. It’s wise to prepare for varying conditions. Bring layers for potentially cold conditions, waterproof gear for unexpected rain, and comfortable footwear suitable for rugged terrain. Always check the weather forecast as close to your date as possible to pack accordingly.

Are there good options for a post-elopement celebration in the area?

Certainly! For a low-key celebration, consider a picnic with a view at Washington Pass Overlook or a small gathering at a local cabin. If you prefer something more structured, there are charming lodges and restaurants in nearby towns like Winthrop or Mazama that can provide a cozy and festive atmosphere for your celebration. There are more venue-type options for a dinner or bigger celebration on the Mt Baker side of the range.

What’s the accessibility like for different elopement sites within the North Cascades?

Accessibility varies widely across the North Cascades. Some locations, like the Diablo Lake Overlook, are easily accessible with minimal walking required. Others, such as the Sahale Glacier Camp, involve strenuous hikes and are more suited to those comfortable with high-altitude and rugged conditions. Consider your comfort and ability levels when choosing your North Cascades Elopement Location.

What’s the first step to plan your North Cascades elopement?

The first step is securing a marriage license for your North Cascades elopement. Washington State requires that you apply for this license at least three days in advance of your ceremony. Once you have your license, you can focus on choosing your ideal location within North Cascades National Park or the surrounding national forest lands.

Can I have guests at my North Cascades elopement?

Yes, but keep in mind the size of your group may be limited depending on the location you choose. Some areas within the park allow larger groups, while others are more suited for intimate gatherings. Always check the specific regulations for the area you’re interested in. We recommend to all of our couples to keep the total count of people to 12 or less, which includes you the couple, and us, your team. We say this because it gives you more options, allows you to follow Leave No Trace Principals, and can often relieve one extra stress on our couples.

Within the National Forest area we recommend eloping just you two here because the locations can be hard to access via either off-roading or extensive hikes.

What’s the best season for a North Cascades elopement?

Summer and early fall are ideal for weather and accessibility along the North Cascades Highway. Winter elopements are possible but require careful planning due to snow and road closures, which add a magical snowy backdrop but limit access to many locations.

Are there any additional fees to enter North Cascades National Park for an elopement?

Outside of your travel, a special use permit and marriage license are the only other expenses you should consider on the elopement day is the cost to get into the park. There is a $35 fee to enter the North Cascades National Park. If you are going to the the Mt Baker National Forest side of the range then you will need a Northwest Forest Pass to park which is $30. Then if you are holding a special use permit from the park you will need to pay for general liability insurance.

Is Diablo Lake Overlook Closed?

The answer is yes and no. You can visit the Diablo Lake Overlook to this day. However, the area of the overlook that you see most commonly in photos from elopements is closed. This section used to be open, but the park closed it to the public due to meadow damage. If you see images of Diablo Lake Overlook with a massive flat dirt area and the grand view behind it, the photo was taken before the closure or illegally. Now you can only access the fenced off area. It is important to keep this information in mind when selecting your location. Not only is this area busy, but it is hard to get a really good photo with the view and you two due to the fencing. You will also have fencing in your images. Below is an example of what it looks like to have portraits taken at Diablo Lake overlook. In both images we photoshopped out the fence, however, in some cases, the fence can not be edited out.

Best places to honeymoon after an elopement in the North Cascades?

We would recommend honeymooning in the following areas if you elope in the North Cascades:

We Would Love To Hear Your North Cascades Elopement Plans!

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