How to Elope at Mt. Rainier National Park

Eloping amidst the breathtaking beauty of Mt. Rainier National Park is a dream come true for couples seeking an intimate and awe-inspiring wedding experience. With its towering peaks, lush meadows, and serene lakes, the park offers a picturesque backdrop for exchanging vows. In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps to plan your perfect elopement at Mt. Rainier, covering everything from choosing the right season to obtaining a marriage license in Washington state.

Seasons: Setting the Perfect Atmosphere

When considering the best time to elope at Mt. Rainier National Park, it's essential to factor in the diverse seasons that bring unique charms to the landscape.

  • Spring: Late spring (June) sees the park's wildflower meadows burst into vibrant colors, creating a stunning setting for your elopement. However, be prepared for unpredictable weather and snow at higher elevations well into June/July.
  • Summer: July to September offers warm weather and clear skies, making it an ideal time for elopements. The wildflowers are still in bloom, and hiking trails are more accessible. Keep in mind that this is also the park's peak tourist season. This is also peak fire season, so you will need to have a backup plan in case of nearby fires or smoke.
  • Fall: September to early October brings a breathtaking display of fall foliage. The crowds thin out, and the weather remains relatively pleasant. Fall elopements offer a quieter and more intimate experience. Unpredictable weather including rain and snow can occur though.
  • Winter: For adventurous couples who adore snow-covered landscapes, a winter elopement (December to February) can be magical. However, extreme weather and road closures can pose challenges, so careful planning is crucial.

Permits and Elopement Size: Navigating the Guidelines

Once you have decided on the season to elope at Mt. Rainier, then next step is securing the appropriate permits. The park has regulations in place to preserve its natural beauty and protect its ecosystem.

  • Permits: All weddings, including elopements, require a Special Use Permit. This permit ensures that your event aligns with the park's guidelines and doesn't disrupt its natural balance. The application process involves providing details about your event, location, and date, along with a non-refundable application fee. The fee is $175 for small ceremonies and the application needs to be submitted AT LEAST 4 weeks in advance. You will also need to pay the park entrance fee or have a park entrance pass (Such as the America the Beautiful Pass).
  • Elopement Size: Mt. Rainier National Park encourages small, intimate gatherings to minimize the impact on the environment. Elopements usually have a limited guest count (generally 12 people or fewer) to maintain the park's tranquility. You can elope with a larger crowd but you wont have a s much leeway in regards to location or trails that you have with a small group of 12 or less and will often be at pre-determined locations, which may include picnic areas, roadside locations, and campground amphitheaters. You can find more information here directly on the park's website.

Timeline Creation: Sunset vs Sunrise

Choosing between a sunset or sunrise elopement depends on your preferences, the lighting you desire, and the location you've chosen within the park.

  • Sunset Elopement: Opting for a sunset elopement offers a romantic and warm atmosphere as the sun paints the sky with rich hues. It allows for more flexibility in the day's schedule and can culminate in stunning twilight photos. Sunset can also a be a little be busier with other park goers also wanting to experience sunset.
  • Sunrise Elopement: A sunrise elopement promises unmatched serenity and ethereal lighting. The tranquil morning setting provides privacy, and you'll have the rest of the day to explore the park or simply savor the moment together.

Once you have chosen your desired time of day, from there you can plan your activities for the day, and choose vendors and accommodations that best fit that timeline.

Obtaining a Marriage License in Washington State

Before your elopement, you'll need to obtain a marriage license from the state of Washington. Here's how:

  • Both parties must be present in person to apply at any county's local auditor's office.
  • Bring valid identification, such as a driver's license or passport.
  • The marriage license has a waiting period of three days, and it's valid for 60 days from the date of issuance.
  • The license requires the signature of two witnesses at the ceremony and the officiant who performs the ceremony.
  • After the ceremony, the officiant and witnesses sign the license, which is then returned to the county for registration.

You can view more info about marriage license here.

6 Helpful Tips for Your Mt. Rainier Elopement

  1. Embrace Flexibility: While careful planning is essential, be prepared to adapt to changing weather conditions. Mt. Rainier's weather can be unpredictable, so having backup plans for your ceremony location and photography spots is a smart idea. This flexibility will ensure that your day remains special, regardless of the elements.
  2. Choose Appropriate Attire: Given the varying temperatures and potential weather changes, selecting the right attire is crucial. Consider layering to stay warm during cooler moments, and don't forget sturdy footwear for potential hikes or walking on uneven terrain. Also, think about the terrain when choosing your wedding attire – and weather or not you will want to hike in said attire or change once you have a reached your destination (as a photographer, I have this super cool pop up changing tent that can be used).
  3. Hire Experienced Vendors: Collaborating with vendors who are familiar with the park and its regulations can greatly simplify your elopement planning. From photographers who know the best angles to officiants who understand the permit process, experienced professionals can help make your day run smoothly.
  4. Respect the Environment: Mt. Rainier National Park's beauty is a result of its delicate ecosystem. As you celebrate your love, make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles. Stay on designated paths, pack out all trash, and avoid disturbing wildlife. This respectful approach ensures that future generations can also enjoy the park's splendor.
  5. Capture Golden Hours: The hours just after sunrise and before sunset are known as the "golden hours" for photography. The soft, warm light during these times can create breathtaking images. Consider scheduling your ceremony or photo session during one of these periods to add a touch of enchantment to your memories.
  6. Be prepared to be offline. Cell reception is limited to nonexistent so be sure to download trails and maps offline and that everyone in your party does the same and knows exactly where to meet.

Mt. Rainier Elopement Packages

As a Washington based adventure elopement photographer, I help create your day alongside with you. Trail research, timeline creation, backup plans, activity ideas, I am more than just your photographer. Elopement packages can be short and sweet or a 2 day event. It's up to you and your ideas and plans and what you envision for your day.

  • The smallest package I offer is 4 hours. Great for quick elopements in one location with minimal to no hiking. This is great for getting ready photos, ceremony, and a short hike/stroll for portraits.
  • The largest package I offer is 2 days. This is best for those who are making their elopement more of a mini vacation stay. Great for those who want a "just us" experience one day and then a day to celebrate with guests or a day for adventuring and a day for chilling.


Eloping at Mt. Rainier National Park offers a chance to exchange vows in one of nature's most stunning settings. By considering the seasons, permits, elopement size, and the timing of your ceremony, you can create a memorable experience that celebrates your love amidst the park's awe-inspiring landscapes. Remember to plan ahead, follow the park's guidelines, and obtain the necessary permits and licenses to ensure a smooth and magical elopement day.

If you are currently in your search for Mt. Rainier Elopement Photographers, be sure to head to Pine + Vow's home page to see more work.