Thinking of planning a an elopement in Mt. Rainier? You’ve come to the right place! A trip to Washington State isn’t complete without stopping at Mt. Rainier National Park. Mt. Rainier is located just 2 hours away from Seattle and is known for being one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. Mt. Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington. The park is filled with subalpine meadows, glaciers, forests, and over 130 different hiking trails, making Mt. Rainier one of the best places to elope in the United States.
Whether you’re looking for the best places to elope in Mt. Rainier, where to stay, or how to obtain a marriage license, you’re in the right place. This is the ultimate planning guide filled with everything you need to know about how to plan a Mt. Rainier elopement.
How Do I Get to Mt. Rainier National Park?
To get to Mt. Rainier National Park, you’ll want to fly into the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and rent a car. A standard sedan will work just fine in the park. The Seattle airport is located just 2 hours away from the park. You can also fly into the Portland International Airport, which is 2.5 hours away from the park, or the Yakima Airport, which is also 2.5 hours away. However, the Yakima airport has more expensive flights since it’s a smaller airport.
6 Best Places to Elope in Mt. Rainier
There are a total of 4 different entrances to the park, the 2 most popular being Nisqually and White River/Sunrise, which you can see on the map above. Knowing the different entrances is important, as it can affect where you choose to stay during your trip, as well as what locations you want to see.
- Nisqually: Southwest Entrance
- Open year-round. This is the most popular park entrance. It leads to the Paradise Visitor Center, which has all the famous hiking trails. Paradise is known for their wildflower meadows and family-friendly trails.
- Carbon River: Northwest Entrance
- Open year-round. This entrance isn’t as widely traveled, as this area of the park is mainly used for hiking and biking. According to the park, “this part of Mount Rainier National Park receives consistently high amounts of rainfall so the climate and plant communities found here resemble that of a temperate rainforest.”
- White River/Sunrise: Northeast Entrance
- Open July – October. This entrance is the second busiest. Sunrise is the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park. The views here are epic. The wildflower meadows here are amazing, and there are lots of short hiking trails with jaw-dropping views.
- Stevens Canyon: Southeast Entrance
- Open May – October. This entrance is mainly known for its access to the “Grove of the Patriarchs” trail and Reflections Lake. It doesn’t have the best views of Mt. Rainier compared to the others on this list, but it still is worth exploring.
With dozens of hiking trails, lakes, and fire lookouts, you truly can’t go wrong choosing any location for your Mt. Rainier elopement.
Pro tip: Your photographer might know of some hidden gem locations in the park without the crowds. Using an in-depth questionnaire, I personally create tailored location lists for each of my couples.
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
The Mount Fremont Lookout Trail is perhaps one of the most rewarding hikes in the state. This underrated elopement location begins at the sunrise visitor center with wildflowers surrounding the trail, and ends with sweeping views of the nearby mountain range. The hike is 2.4 miles long each way (5.7 miles roundtrip) and is fairly steep and rocky, but the views are well worth the effort. Mt. Rainier is known for having some of the best fire lookouts in the state. Fire lookouts often have the best views and make for great portrait locations!
Tolmie Peak Trail
My personal favorite elopement location in Mt. Rainier is the Tolmie Peak Trail. This 5.6 mile roundtrip hike is notorious for its ending view at the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. On the trail, you’ll journey past alpine lakes, forests, and mountain ranges. This spot is particularly beautiful during sunset and after dark. If you want to go stargazing, this is the spot to do so. However, be prepared for steep inclines and lots of hikers, especially during the busy summer months.
Mount Rainier’s most famous hiking trail is called the Skyline Trail Loop. It’s a 6.2 mile roundtrip loop that takes you through some of the most scenic spots of the park such as Myrtle Falls and glistening glaciers. You don’t need to hike far to get some epic views of Mount Rainier. The trail is a must-do, even if you decide to skip it for your ceremony. However, this is the most popular trail in the park, so don’t hike it mid-day if you’re hoping for something more intimate.
Silver Forest Trail
If you’re looking for an easier trail, the Silver Forest Trail is a great option. The 2-mile roundtrip loop is perfect for elopements with older guests, or for couples who aren’t wanting to hike a ton on their wedding day. This trail is lined with wildflowers and pine trees, all while still giving you a breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier. This trail isn’t super wide, so it’s best for 2-person Mt. Rainier elopements, or for portraits.
Tipsoo Lake is one of the most popular and accessible ceremony sites within the park. It also happens to be one of the many alpine lakes you can access. This easy-to-find lake has a small loop that provides you with different views of the mountain. This isn’t the best spot to get an epic view of Mt. Rainier herself, but it’s still a stunning location for an elopement.
Grove of the Patriarchs
If you’re looking to experience multiple landscapes on your wedding day, the Grove of the Patriarchs trail is a great spot to stop at. This highly accessible and paved trail goes through an old-growth forest just past the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center. This friendly hike tends to get busy, so be sure to plan your ceremony around the peak times of day. There isn’t a whole lot to see in the area of the park, so if you’re hoping for more jaw-dropping locations, I recommend the Sunrise or Paradise sections of the park.
*As of January 2023, part of the trail is closed due to flooding damages.
How Many Guests Are Allowed at My Mt. Rainier Elopement?
While there is no limit on the amount of guests you can bring to your elopement, having less than 12 people (this includes vendors like your photographer, officiant, etc.) grants you access to more ceremony sites within the park. Here is what’s available on the park’s website in terms of how many guests you’re allowed to bring to your elopement.
- 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.
Can I Bring My Dog?
Unfortunately, Mt Rainier is not the most dog-friendly national park. Dogs are not permitted on any trails, amphitheaters, buildings, etc. Parking lots and campgrounds are the only places where dogs are allowed, so it’s best to leave your furry friends at home.
If you’d really like your dog to tag along, consider locations just outside the park that allow dogs but still have views of Mt. Rainier.
When Is the Best Time of Year to Elope at Mt. Rainier?
One of the busiest, yet best times of year to elope at Mt. Rainier is during the dry summer months, specifically at the very end of July/beginning of August, as this is the famous wildflower season. It’s truly a magical time to visit. However, this is also the park’s busiest time of year. Due to its proximity to Seattle, the park sees thousands of people a day. It can get so congested with traffic, that many people end up having to park 1-2 miles away from the start of a trailhead. If you have any flexibility with your elopement, consider the fall months. If not, plan your ceremony during sunrise or sunset to avoid the crowds.
The fall is a beautiful time to visit the park and my personal favorite time of the year for elopements. The gorgeous fall colors make elopement photos pop, and the lack of tourists make this park a paradise. While you’ll still encounter groups of people, it’s much easier to find parking, lodging, and emptier trails. The weather is a bit chillier and snow can come as early as late October, so be sure to bring layers and plan ahead.
If you love the snow, you’ll love Mt. Rainier in the winter. This park is notorious for its snowfall. One year, the Paradise area got 703 inches! Even in the winter, there is a ton to see and explore. Take a ranger-led snowshoeing tour or try skiing. While it’s a great time to visit, it requires a lot of planning. Chains are required for all vehicles, and only two park entrances remain open throughout the winter; Nisqually (Southwest Entrance) and Carbon River (Northwest Entrance).
While spring is a beautiful time to visit, I highly recommend not planning your elopement during this time. The weather can be extremely unpredictable, and more often than not, the roads are still closed. The snow doesn’t melt within the area around July, but regardless, its a great time to visit if you not only love the snow, but also want to avoid the inevitable summer rush.
How to Get an Elopement Permit for Mount Rainier
If you want to have a ceremony in Mount Rainier National Park, you’ll need to obtain what’s known as a special use permit. A special permit grants you permission to have a ceremony in the park.
The process of getting a special use permit is extremely easy. All you need to do is fill out the application found on the park’s website and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org at least 4 weeks before your wedding date.
Once your application is accepted, you will then be given instructions via email on how to pay the $60 permit fee online. In order to secure your preferred ceremony location and time, submit your permit application as soon as you can, especially if you’re planning your elopement during the busy summer months. To see more detailed information about how to obtain a permit, check out the park’s permit page here.
How to Get a Washington Marriage License
To get a marriage license in Washington, you’ll need to visit a County Clerk’s office within the state 3 days before your wedding with your photo ID and $72. Simply fill out the application, wait 3 days to pick up the license, and you’re good to go!
If you don’t live in Washington, you can fill out the online application, have it notarized, and then send it back with a check or money order.
To see more information and step-by-step instructions on how to get a marriage license in Washington, check out this County Clerk’s site, or my SUPER helpful and detailed blog post all about three different ways to get a marriage license in Washington State.
In addition to your marriage license, you will need an officiant and two witnesses.
Pro tip: I’m ordained and officiate my couples ceremonies for free! Want a friend or family member to officiate? They can easily become ordained through the Universal Life Church for free!
The Best Places to Stay in Mt. Rainier for Your Elopement
Mt. Rainier is known for their charming a-frame cabins, off-grid lodges, and peaceful chalets. Below are some of the closest towns to the park and best places to stay for your Mount Rainier elopement.
Ashford is just 6 miles outside the park’s entrance and is the place most people stay at when visiting the park. While there’s not much to do or see in the town, it does have some small diners, a grocery store, and lots of beautiful scenery.
- The Little Blue A-Frame – A crowd favorite amongst couples for pictures.
- Mt. Rainier Getaway – A modern, white cabin with a hot tub and boho decor.
- Fillmore’s Landing – A small cabin nestled in the woods with a beautiful balcony and small hot tub.
- Hera’s Chalet – A rustic and secluded chalet with modern decor, a hot tub, and a sauna.
- Elk Horn Cabin – A small mountain cabin with basic amenities just 4 miles away from the park entrance.
Located just 13 miles from the park’s entrance, Packwood is another popular place for couples to stay for their elopement. Similar to Ashford, this small town doesn’t offer tons of activities, but it has all the basic essentials you’ll need for a cozy stay. This is one of the cutest mountain towns in the area.
- Treehouse Packwood – A must-see luxurious Airbnb nestled in the woods with modern touches and off-grid vibes.
- Heartwood Cabin – A black modern a-frame cabin with earthy tones and a private hot tub.
- Knotty Cedars Retreat – A cozy cabin tucked behind some cedars with modern touches.
- Wrigley – A modern, tiny, off-grid home with rustic touches.
- Reflections at Rainier – A large home known for its views and roomy space.
If you don’t mind the drive and want to stay somewhere with more to do and see, consider the Tacoma area. You can visit the park and come back for a nice dinner in the city all in one day!
- Cedar and Sage – A waterfront cabin with boho elements, a private beach, and large balcony.
- Cozy Cottage on the River – A secluded cottage with an outdoor fireplace, cozy spaces, and a quiet river.
- Modern Victorian Home – A unique and old home with lots of charm and history.
- Casa Rosa – A small home inspired by Tulum, Mexico. Close to the Proctor District with bohemian touches.
- Waterfront Cabana – A luxurious and roomy home on the water with kayaks, a dock, and hot tub.
Mt. Rainier Elopement Vendors
Just because you’re skipping out on the traditional wedding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire other vendors to help your dream elopement come to life. Below are some of my favorite vendors I’ve worked with in the area.
Pro tip: I send over personalized vendor recommendations for all of my couples.
Hair and Makeup Artists
Hey, that’s me! I’m a Pacific Northwest elopement photographer who specializes in planning, crafting, and photographing personalized elopement experiences for couples all around the world who want to explore the beautiful PNW. I create personalized location lists, build timelines, help with permits, and so much more to make your elopement absolutely unforgettable! See what’s included in my Mt. Rainier elopement packages here.
Must-Know Mt. Rainier Elopement Tips
#1: Service is limited. Like most national parks, service can be a bit spotty. Be sure to download maps offline and coordinate with your vendors to be sure everyone is on the same page.
#2: There’s lots of traffic. Okay not so much in the fall, winter, or spring, but in the summer, it can get very congested. I’m talking having to park 1-2 miles away from your location just because there’s no parking. Be sure to plan a sunrise or sunset ceremony during the busy summer season!
#3: Bring layers. It can get quite chilly, especially after the sun goes down. To stay warm, bring lots of layers, hand warmers, and accessories.
#4: Leave No Trace. One of the main reasons you chose your elopement location was because of its beauty. To help keep the park beautiful, especially during wildflower season, be sure to practice the 7 principles of Leave No Trace by staying on the trails and not veering off into the meadows.
#5: Soak it all in. This national park is truly a special place. Consider adding more length to your trip to check out the other national parks in Washington State: Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park.
Mount Rainier Elopement Packages
I’m Brianna, a Pacific Northwest elopement photographer who specializes in creating unforgettable elopement experiences for couples in California, Oregon, and Washington. To see my all my different packages, check out my pricing page here. To see what’s included in all elopement packages, check out the awesome perks below.
- 4 hours – 1.5 days of elopement coverage anywhere in Washington
- 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 Washington are already included
- Starting at $6,500
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.
YOU? YOU’RE THE KIND OF PERSON THAT GETS A LIL’ TEARY EYED LOOKING AT AN EPIC VIEW.
That moment when you turn to the person you’re with and ask, “Are you seeing this?” I live for it. Places with trees and mountains and soft breezes that make you say, “I can’t believe this place exists,” I spend pretty much all of my free time searching for and exploring them.
These places have always felt like home to me. And if you’re the kind of person who also feels more at home surrounded by trees than by people? Then we’ll get along really well. The Pacific Northwest is full of secret spots that are too special to share with just anyone. But it would make me happy to share them with you on your wedding day.
(I promise you won’t regret it.)
P.S. I’m Brianna, and I plan, craft, and capture elopements around the Pacific Northwest. My mission is to create custom, one-of-a-kind elopement experiences in the Pacific Northwest that allow couples to fully immerse themselves in the highest levels of excitement and wonder on a day designed exclusively for them.