If you’ve always loved nature, are super adventurous, and can be found in your local REI every weekend, you’ve probably considered getting married outdoors. And if you can’t imagine exchanging vows in an indoor ballroom without a view, a hiking elopement may just be the solution for you. Whether you’re new to the idea of a hiking elopement or set on having one, you’ve come to the right place. As an adventure elopement photographer (who specializes in hiking elopements), I’ve created this ultimate guide all about how to plan a hiking elopement or wedding. This guide is filled with everything you need to know about planning a hiking elopement, from best locations and attire to inspiration and logistics, this is the ultimate hiking wedding or elopement guide.
What Is a Hiking Elopement?
A hiking elopement is exactly what it sounds like: an elopement or small wedding that includes hiking. This is also commonly referred to as an adventure elopement!
A hiking elopement is a wedding where the couple hikes to a remote location to exchange vows. However, a hiking wedding could also consist of the following:
- A couple has a ceremony with friends and family in an accessible location, but then hikes by themselves for portraits after.
- A couple hikes by themselves to a beautiful location for their ceremony and portraits.
- A couple hikes with their friends and family (less than 2 miles) for their ceremony.
- A couple backpacks for two days with their best friends for their ceremony.
As you can see, there isn’t just one perfect scenario or mileage requirement to have a hiking elopement or wedding. Whether you’re hiking 1 mile or 10 miles, you can have a hiking elopement.
Is a Hiking Elopement the Same Thing as an Adventure Elopement?
Yes! A hiking wedding could be identified as an adventure elopement.
An adventure elopement is an intentional, small, and meaningful wedding day where the sole focus of the day is centered around the couple and their relationship. Most of the time, couples who have adventure elopements tend to incorporate adventurous aspects into their wedding day, such as hiking, going on a helicopter tour, or having an outdoor picnic.
The difference between a hiking wedding and an adventure elopement is the number of people in attendance. If you have more than 20-25 guests, it would be considered a hiking wedding. If you have less than 20-25 guests, it would be considered an adventure elopement (but you can definitely refer to it as a hiking wedding).
7 Best Places for a Hiking Elopement or Wedding
Below are some of my all-time favorite hiking trails and locations for a hiking elopement or wedding.
North Cascades National Park
Favorite trail: Chain Lakes Loop Trail (moderate, 7.1 miles)
Other notable hiking trails: Cascade Pass (moderate, 6.7 miles) and Trail of the Cedars (easy, 0.6 miles)
North Cascades National Park is the place to be for hiking elopements. Whether you love a challenging scramble or a flat walk through the woods, North Cascades has it all. Located in Washington State, this underrated national park is a hiker’s paradise, offering some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes and trails I’ve ever seen. Right next door to the park, you’ll find Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, a gem in itself with easier and dog-friendly trails for those with friends and family.
Want to learn more about the different locations in North Cascades National Park? Check out my North Cascades National Park elopement guide here!
Olympic National Park
Favorite trail: Mount Storm King (moderate, 5.3 miles)
Other notable hiking trails: Hall of Mosses (easy, 1.1 miles) and Sol Duc Falls (easy, 1.6 miles)
If you know anything about me, you know that Olympic National Park is my all-time favorite national park. Olympic is the perfect hiking elopement location if you’re not an avid hiker. Don’t get me wrong, the park definitely has some challenging trails, but for the most part, 90% of the trails in Olympic are perfect for the couple who doesn’t hike often. Many of the trails are under 2 miles, ideal for elopements or weddings with friends and family.
Want more information about Olympic? Check out my Olympic National Park elopement guide!
Mount Rainier National Park
Favorite trail: Tolmie Peak Trail (moderate, 5.6 miles)
Other notable hiking trails: Skyline Loop Trail (hard, 6.2 miles) and Mount Fremont Lookout (moderate, 5.7 miles)
This wouldn’t be a legit list if I didn’t include all three of Washington’s national parks. Mount Rainier is super close to Seattle and popular among the hiking community. Most of the hikes in Mt. Rainier are on the tougher side, though there are a handful of trails that are more family friendly. Most of the trails in the park are known for their up-close views of Mt. Rainier herself, and would be perfect for any hiking elopement or wedding. This national park is extremely popular though, so if you’re looking for a bit more privacy, I would plan your elopement during the off-season.
Want more information about Mt. Rainier? Check out my Mt. Rainier National Park elopement guide!
Favorite trail: Trail of Ten Falls (moderate, 7.4 miles)
Other notable hiking trails: Mirror Lake Loop (moderate, 4.2 miles) and Latourell Falls (moderate, 2.0 miles)
If you’re torn between a coastal or waterfall backdrop for your ceremony, look no further than Oregon. Oregon has some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the United States. They also have a great variety of trail difficulties, from beginner to advanced. Many of the popular trails are located along the coast. This is where most people tend to get married if they’re interested in eloping in Oregon. However, Oregon also has some great hiking trails up in the mountains and forest as well.
Check out the best places to elope in Oregon here!
Favorite trail: Fern Canyon (easy, 1.1 miles)
Other notable hiking trails: Manzanita Lake (easy, 1.9 miles) and Eagle Rock (easy, 0.7 miles)
Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and Big Sur are just a few of the most popular places for hiking in Northern California. However, most people don’t think about what’s north of Lake Tahoe when it comes to hiking, which is a big mistake! From the giant groves of Redwood National Park to the mountain trails of Mt. Shasta, some of the best hiking trails of all-time can be found in Northern California. As someone who has lived here their whole life, trust me when I say don’t skip over Northern California.
Check out my Northern California elopement guide!
Favorite trail: Portage Pass Trail (moderate, 4.2 miles)
Other notable hiking trails: Glacier Overlook Trail (easy, 2.2 miles) and April Bowl (moderate, 2.2 miles)
Alaska is probably the most underrated location for hiking elopements, which is surprising considering how stunning the state is. Alaska is wild and has some incredible trails, even in the accessible Anchorage area. Due to snowfall, many of the trails in Alaska are only accessible in the summer and sometimes require additional planning, as certain trails can only be reached during certain times of the day (mainly because of tunnel crossings).
Check out my Alaska elopement guide!
Favorite trail: Kalepa Ridge Trail (hard, 1.9 miles)
Other notable hiking trails: Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail (easy, 2.5 miles) and Waimoku Falls (moderate, 3.8 miles)
Hawaii is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Lush jungles, roaring waterfalls, and dramatic cliffsides are a few of the many sites you can see along some of Hawaii’s most popular trails. Many of the hiking trails do require permits or reservations if you don’t live in Hawaii, so be sure to always double-check your research to make sure your dream hiking trail is open.
Want to see more locations in Hawaii? Check out my Hawaii elopement guide!
How Many People Can I Invite to My Hiking Elopement?
A hiking elopement has no guest count limit, so technically, you can invite as many people as you’d like.
However, certain locations do have max capacity limits. For example, certain locations in Mount Rainier National Park only allow up to 20 people, while the nearby Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest allows 75+. Personally, I think 25 guests or less is a great number for a hiking elopement or wedding, as it won’t limit your location options very much.
Can I Bring My Dog?
There are a ton of dog-friendly hiking trails out there, especially in the national forests. Unfortunately, national parks are a bit more strict when it comes to pets, so be sure to do research of your location before you bring your furry friend along, and always remember to Leave No Trace and abide by the B.A.R.K principles.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to be worrying about your dog while taking pictures, bring a friend or family member along to watch them!
Do I Need a Permit?
It depends where you decide to get married, but 9 out of 10 times, you’ll need what’s called a “special use permit.” Once you’ve found your dream location, do some Googling and reach out to the permit coordinator to see if a permit is required.
All national parks require permits, aside from a select few who don’t require them if you have a small group (less than 5). National forests on the other hand usually don’t require permits unless you have 75+ people.
Pro tip: I take care of the entire permit process for my couples!
What Time of Year Should I Plan My Hiking Elopement?
While I usually advise against eloping during the busy summer months, a hiking elopement is the one exception.
The summer months are usually the best time of year for hiking, especially in higher elevation areas that get tons of snow during the winter. However, if you’re worried about the crowds, I recommend the fall season. The fall is a great time to have clear trails, beautiful colors, and less people while still having pleasant weather.
Unless you’re eloping along the coast, I would steer clear from the spring and winter season where the weather can be very unpredictable and certain hiking trails can be dangerous.
Should I Hike in My Wedding Clothes?
This is the most asked question about hiking weddings!
At the end of the day, it’s up to you. However, I usually recommend changing once you’ve reached the top. Unless it’s a short and fairly flat hike, hiking up in a large dress or suit can be quite uncomfortable and heavy, which is why most of my couples pack it and change at the top.
However, at the end of the day, do whatever you’re most comfortable with! An adventure elopement/hiking wedding has no rules! I’ve had people hike 5 miles in a dress, and others hike 2 miles in normal clothing. Do what you prefer!
How Do I Keep My Hair and Makeup Looking Nice?
My biggest tip here is to hire a hair and makeup artist! I specifically work with and recommend people who have experience with hiking elopements and weddings, as they have all the tips and tricks for making sure your hair and makeup stays looking fresh all day long.
If you’re choosing to do your own hair and makeup, I highly recommend applying makeup primer and setting spray to keep your makeup lasting all day long. As far as your hair goes, try to keep simple with no fancy updos. It’s always a good idea to bring a small bag of makeup and hair products so you can touch-up at the top of the trail.
Pro tip: If you hire a professional makeup artist, they’ll usually give you a touchup bag for the rest of the day!
What Should I Wear for a Hiking Elopement?
Below are some of the best recommendations and tips on what to wear if you decide to hike on your wedding day.
Having a solid pair of hiking boots makes a huge difference, especially if you’re hiking a long distance or on rocky terrain. I always recommend investing a bit of money into boots with good traction that are also stylish and cute. Below are some of my favorites.
- Columbia Newton Ridge – These are the hiking boots I have! I love them because they’re waterproof, versatile, and most importantly, extremely comfortable.
- Danner Mountain 600 – The Mountain 600 boots are a bit of an investment, but worth every penny. They come in a variety of different colors for both men and women.
- Ariat Terrain Boot – These are a great option for those looking for a pop of color. These boots have fun patterns and different styles.
Pro tip: If you’re hiking a short distance in the summer, opt for sandals to help keep your feet cool! I recommend Tevas or Chacos.
Pro tip: Make sure to break your boots in before the big day. There’s nothing worse than an uncomfortable pair of shoes that’ll give you blisters!
When it comes to dresses, you’ll want to make sure your dress is comfortable, light, and breathable. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I move around in this dress? How does it feel to walk, sit, dance, etc.?
- Will this dress hold up in with the weather? If it’s cold, consider a thicker fabric or dress with sleeves.
- Is the dress falling down? There’s nothing worse than a dress you have to adjust every five minutes.
- Is the train too long? If it’s too long, it might get caught on the rocks, sticks, and other natural elements, slowing you down.
Pro tip: Make sure to get a dress you don’t mind getting dirty! You’re bound to get dirty hiking outdoors. Make sure you’re okay with your dress being covered in a layer of dirt at the end of the day.
Some of my favorite places to get light, moveable dresses include Daci Gowns, BHLDN, Etsy, and Reclamation!
If you’re hiking a long distance, a good backpack is a must! Not only will the backpack hold all your accessories, clothing, food, and more, but a well-made backpack is designed to distribute the weight evenly so your shoulders and back aren’t sore at the end of the day. Below are some of my favorite shops for good quality hiking packs.
- Gregory Packs
- REI – You can get a pack fitted for you at REI!
Accessories and Layers
Hiking, especially in the mountains, can come with unpredictable weather. Be prepared by bringing some warm layers like tights, thermals, and even stick-on body warmers.
You can also have fun and bring funky accessories like suspenders, sunglasses, a blanket, gloves, earmuffs, and more.
How Do I Pack My Dress?
There are a few different ways you can pack a wedding dress for hiking. The most popular method is to hang it on your backpack. If you go this route, bring straps you can wrap around the backpack so your dress isn’t swinging side to side the whole time.
You can also pack the dress in your backpack if you have the room. However, depending on the fabric, it may be a bit wrinkly when you go to take it out. If you want to get rid of the wrinkles, pack Downy’s wrinkle release spray! This is a gamechanger!
What Else Should I Bring for My Hiking Elopement?
Aside from all the must-have items like a dress and marriage license, there are a few extra items I recommend bringing with you for your hiking elopement to ensure the experience is both fun and safe!
- Snacks – Try getting snacks that have healthy fats, complex carbs and salt, such as beef jerky, trail mix, granola, bananas, and peanut butter.
- Water – I recommend purchasing a Camelbak. You can also pickup hydration packs from your local drugstore to help you stay hydrated.
- Sunscreen – There is nothing worse than hiking through the mountains with zero shade coverage. Bring sunscreen!
- Headlamp – This is especially useful if you’re hiking before sunrise or after sunset.
- Maps – I recommend investing in the pro version of AllTrails so you can download your maps for offline navigation.
- Layers – You never know if the weather could change. Bring a jacket or thermal just in case!
- First-aid kit – A lifesaver if you get a cut or need a last-minute sanitizing wipe.
- Marriage license – You have to make it official!
- Bug spray – A lifesaver if you’re hiking in July. The mosquitos are rough!
- Trekking poles – They’re not necessary, but can make all the difference on a more difficult hike.
How Much Photo Coverage Do We Need?
While each elopement is different, the general rule is 1 mile of hiking equals 1 hour of photo coverage. While it doesn’t usually take a full hour to hike a mile, not only is the pace always slower because of the weight being carried, but your photographer will stop along the trail for pictures, both there and back to tell the entire story of your elopement.
Check out some example timelines below to see what a hiking elopement looks like in action!
4-Hour Hiking Elopement (2 Miles)
- 12:00pm – Brianna meets the couple at the trailhead
- 1:00pm – Arrive at the alpine lake for a ceremony
- 1:15pm – Family portraits
- 1:45pm – Couples portraits
- 3:00pm – Hike back
- 4:00pm – Photo coverage wraps up, Brianna leaves
8-Hour Hiking Elopement (5 Miles)
- 12:00pm – Brianna meets the couple at the trailhead
- 2:30pm – Arrive on top of the mountain for a ceremony
- 2:45pm – Family portraits
- 3:15pm – Couples portraits around the mountain
- 5:30pm – Hike back
- 8:00pm – Photo coverage wraps up, Brianna leaves
Hiking Elopement and Wedding Packages
I’m Brianna, an elopement photographer based in California who specializes in adventure elopements along the West Coast. I love helping my couples plan their special day. Whether you need location inspiration or vendor recommendations, I’m your girl. Check out my elopement packages page to get more details about what’s included in each and every elopement package.
- 4 hours – 2 days of elopement coverage
- A personalized elopement planning experience with unlimited assistance
- Personalized elopement location recommendations
- Vendor, lodging, and activity recommendations
- Assistance and information to help you with permits, licenses, etc.
- 90+ page elopement planning guide filled with tips and tricks
- Customized elopement timelines
- Optional complimentary officiant services
- Online gallery with full resolution images and printing rights
- 24-48 hour sneak peeks to share with the world
- Travel fees to anywhere in California, Oregon, or Washington are already included
- Starting at $6,500 for CA, OR, WA or $8,500 for anywhere in the U.S.
Want more hiking elopement inspiration? Check out these guides that have some of my favorite hikes of all time! Redwood National Park Elopement Guide, Mountain Elopement Guide, and The Best Places to Elope in the PNW!
DON’T FORGET YOUR FREE ELOPEMENT GUIDE!
An all-in-one planning guide for all things elopements! Whether you’re hoping to hike through the mountains of Washington or sip a margarita on the beaches of California, this comprehensive elopement guide has everything you need to know about how to plan the perfect elopement.
AN ELOPEMENT EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER
I’m Brianna, a Pacific Northwest elopement photographer who creates intentional and nostalgic outdoor experiences so that couples can feel a tangible sense of freedom, peace, and belonging on their wedding day.
I help couples all around the world plan unique and unforgettable elopement days by providing personalized location lists, vendor recommendations, permits, guides, and more.