A trip to Washington isn’t complete without stopping at Mt. Rainier National Park. The mountain is an iconic landmark of Washington, welcoming over 2 million visitors each year. Packed with subalpine meadows, glaciers, forests, and over 130 different hiking trails, it’s no surprise you’re wanting to plan a Mt. Rainier elopement. With sweeping views and endless vistas, Mt. Rainier is truly a gem of the Pacific Northwest.
Whether you’re looking for the best places to elope in Mt. Rainier, where to stay, or how to obtain a permit for your elopement, you’ve come to the right place. This is the ultimate Mt. Rainier National Park elopement planning guide. Let’s begin, shall we?
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, making it the closest airport to 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, both the Portland and Yakima airports have more expensive flights since they’re smaller airports than Seattle.
The 4 Entrances of Mt. Rainier National Park
Before we dive into locations, let’s cover the different entrances to Mt. Rainier. The park is over 235,000 acres, so it’s 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.
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 below.
- Nisqually: Southwest Entrance
- Open year-round. This is the most popular park entrance. It leads to the Paradise Visitor Center, which is the hub for Rainier’s most popular hiking trails like the Skyline Loop Trail and the Nisqually Vista Trail. Paradise is especially 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.” However, don’t skip out on this area. It has some of the best vantage points of Rainier.
- 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. There are lots of short hiking trails with jaw-dropping views and picnic tables for leisure.
- 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, especially if you have guests, as many of the locations here are easily accessible for groups of all ages.
6 Best Places to Elope in Mt. Rainier National Park
With hundreds of hiking trails, alpine lakes, fire lookouts, and more, you truly can’t go wrong choosing any location for your Mt. Rainier elopement. However, these are the top 6 places to elope in Mt. Rainier National Park.
Pro tip: If you want to see a map of all pre-approved ceremony sites for your elopement, check out this super helpful map on the national park website!
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
The Mount Fremont Lookout Trail is perhaps one of the most rewarding hikes in all of Washington. This elopement location begins at the sunrise visitor center with wildflowers lining 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 360 degree views and make for great portrait or ceremony locations. The Mount Fremont Trail specifically is really popular, so don’t expect to get this location to yourself no matter what time of day you’re here.
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 pass alpine lakes, forests, and never-ending mountain ranges. There are endless areas for pictures and exploring. 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 National Park’s most famous and busy 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 past 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 a bit more intimate. Instead, plan for sunrise or sunset where you may get entire sections of the trail to yourself.
Silver Forest Trail
If you’re looking for a more accessible elopement location, 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. In fact, you don’t even need to walk very far to get sweeping views. This trail is lined with wildflowers and pine trees and is popular to explore during wildflower season (August). This trail isn’t super wide, so it’s best for 2-person Mt. Rainier elopements or for portraits after a ceremony.
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 without hiking. 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. The trail around the lake isn’t the largest, so it’s best for elopements with a smaller group or for portraits.
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 hike tends to get busy due to its accessibility, 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 driving up to the Paradise section of the park just up the road for more location options.
*As of February 2024, part of the trail is closed due to flooding damages. However, it is expected to be open summer 2024.
How Many Guests Can I Bring to 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.
In my experience, most of the locations above are not accessible if you have more than 12 guests. If you have more than 12 guests, expect a ceremony at a picnic site (there are many stunning options in the park), followed by portraits at your preferred locations.
Pro tip: Check out this map of all pre-approved ceremony sites (with max capacity numbers) for your elopement!
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, such as the Gifford Pinchot National Forest which offers a variety of lakes, forests, and overlooks of Mt. Rainier.
Pro tip: The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a great option to explore if you want to views of Mt. Rainier but without all the people!
When Is the Best Time of Year to Elope in Mt. Rainier?
Overall, the best time of year to plan your Mt. Rainier elopement is going to be August for wildflower season or October for minimal crowds and beautiful fall colors.
One of the busiest, yet best times of year for your Mt. Rainier elopement is during the dry summer months, specifically at the very end of July/beginning of August, as this is Rainier’s 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 or even wait 2-3 hours to enter! 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 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 against planning your elopement during this time. The weather can be extremely unpredictable, and more often than not, the roads are still closed until June. 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 Your Mt. Rainier Elopement
If you want to have a ceremony in Mount Rainier National Park, you’ll need to obtain what’s called a “special use permit.” A special use permit grants you permission to have a ceremony in the park. Without one, you could get fined by the park rangers.
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 the permit coordinator, Mora, at email@example.com 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 $175 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! You can get a marriage license at any county in Washington. It doesn’t need to be the one you’ll be getting married in.
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 via mail.
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 the three different ways to get a marriage license in Washington State.
Do I Need an Officiant and Witness for My Mt. Rainier Elopement?
Yes, you will need an officiant and two witnesses in order to elope in Mt. Rainier.
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. As for witnesses, folks on the trail, park rangers, or even friends from home can sign your marriage license.
Where to Stay for Your Mt. Rainier Elopement
The towns near Mt. Rainier are famous 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 Paradise entrance station 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 Steven’s Canyon 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 and a crowd favorite for visitors.
- 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.
Enumclaw is the place to stay if you’ll be frequenting the Sunrise Visitor Center or Carbon River area of the park. With a population of just 12,000, Enumclaw is the picture-picture small farming town to stop at and explore during your trip. It’s about an hour drive to the park.
- A-Frame Cabin – A cozy crowd favorite cabin nestled in the forest and home to a variety of wildlife.
- Luxury Mountain Cabin – A modern luxury cabin perfect for elopements with guests.
- Enumclaw’s First Church – A historic 1800s church transformed into a unique elopement stay.
- Alpen Bliss Chalet – A cozy riverfront chalet with a hot tub and rustic charm.
- Elk Trail Cabin – A cabin that feels like grandmas, perfect for larger groups and cozy stays.
Mt. Rainier Elopement Timeline Examples
Not sure how much coverage you need for an elopement in Mt. Rainier National Park? Check out some of these examples below utilizing the two most popular ares of the park: Paradise and Sunrise.
12-Hour Hiking Elopement
- 7:00am – Brianna arrives at the Airbnb in Ashford for getting ready images
- 9:00am – First look
- 9:15am – Head to Paradise for a ceremony with friends and family
- 10:00am – Begin the ceremony
- 10:15am – Family portraits
- 10:45am – Couples portraits around the wildflower meadows
- 12:00pm – Hike half of the Skyline Loop Trail, stopping for pictures along the way
- 1:45pm – Stop halfway for an intimate picnic while you read letters from friends and family
- 3:00pm – Continue along the trail, taking photos along the way
- 5:00pm – Head back to the Airbnb
- 5:45pm – Dinner, drinks, cake, and celebrations with friends and family at the Airbnb
- 7:00pm – Photo coverage wraps up, Brianna leaves
8-Hour No Hiking Elopement
- 12:00pm – Brianna arrives at the Airbnb in Enumclaw for getting ready images with friends and family
- 2:00pm – First look between the couple, parents, and siblings
- 2:15pm – Head to Sunrise for a ceremony with friends and family
- 3:30pm – Begin the ceremony
- 3:45pm – Family portraits
- 4:15pm – Quick couples portraits around the nearby trail
- 5:00pm – Family picnic at the nearby picnic area
- 6:30pm – Golden hour couples portraits at a nearby alpine lake
- 8:00pm – Photo coverage wraps up, Brianna leaves
Mt. Rainier Elopement Vendors
Below is a list of wedding vendors who specialize in the Mt. Rainier area. If you’re looking for the perfect dream team to help your elopement vision come to life, these are some of my top recommendations.
Hair and Makeup Artists
Hey, that’s me! I’m Brianna, a Pacific Northwest elopement photographer who specializes in creating one-of-a-kind, personalized personalized elopement experiences for couples all around the world who want to explore all the beauty the PNW has to offer. I create customized location lists, build timelines, secure permits, and so much more to guarantee that your elopement day is 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 about parking and meeting spots.
#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: Expect to see other couples. Mt. Rainier is an extremely popular spot for weddings. Depending on your location, we may run into other couples getting married. If you’re hoping for a more secluded spot, I can make that happen!
#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 two national parks in Washington State: Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park.
Mt. Rainier Elopement Packages
I’m Brianna, a Pacific Northwest elopement photographer who specializes in creating unforgettable elopement experiences for couples in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. To see my all my different packages, check out my pricing page here. To get an idea of what’s included in each and every Mt. Rainier elopement package, take a peek at my pricing below.
Mt. Rainier Elopement Package Pricing
- 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
- Complimentary album design
- 24-48 hour sneak peeks to share with the world
- Travel fees to anywhere in Washington are already included
- Starting at $6,500
It costs $175 to get married at Mt. Rainier. The $175 is from the special use permit fee.
You can elope almost anywhere in Mt. Rainier. The two most popular places include the Paradise and Sunrise Visitor Center areas.
Yes, you can get married on Mount Rainier.
Yes, you need a special use permit to get married on Mt. Rainier.
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. 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.