A trip to Washington State isn’t complete without stopping at Mt. Rainier National Park. A short 2-hour drive from Seattle will take you to one of the most beautiful national parks in the state. Filled with subalpine meadows, glaciers, forests, and over 130 different hiking trails, this park is one of the best places in the world to elope.
Whether you’re looking for the best places to elope, where to stay, or how to obtain a marriage license for your elopement, you’re in the right place. This is the ultimate planning guide filled with everything you need to know about how to elope in Mount Rainier National Park.
Mount Rainier Elopement Checklist
- Choose your elopement location
- Pick the perfect season
- Apply for your special use permit
- Get your marriage license
- Book your lodging
- Hire your vendors
- Know before you go
- Mt. Rainier elopement packages
How to Get to Mount Rainier National Park
The easiest way to get to the park is by flying into the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, renting a car, and driving 2 hours 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, but the Yakima airport more has more expensive flights.
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 your location as well as where you choose to stay during your trip.
- Nisqually (Southwest Entrance)
- Open year-round
- Carbon River (Northwest Entrance)
- Open year-round
- White River/Sunrise (Northeast Entrance)
- Open July – October
- Stevens Canyon (Southeast Entrance)
- Open May – October
With dozens of hiking trails, lakes, and fire lookouts, you truly can’t go wrong choosing any location within in the park. The park can accommodate up to 60 guests, though most locations are only accessible if you have less than 12.
Pro tip: Your photographer might know some hidden gem locations in the park. Using an in-depth questionnaire, I personally create tailored location lists for each of my couples.
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 want to avoid the crowds.
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.
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 Mount Rainier herself, but it’s still a stunning location.
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 and is fairly steep and rocky, but it’s well worth the effort.
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 checkout. This highly accessible and paved trail is 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.
Tolmie Peak Trail
My personal favorite spot in the park is the Tolmie Peak Trail. This 5.6 mile roundtrip hike is notorious for its ending view at the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout and journey past alpine lakes. 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.
How Many People Can I Invite?
While there is no limit on the amount of guests you can bring to your elopement, having less than 12 gives you access to more ceremony sites within the park. Here is what is 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, Mount 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.
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.
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 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 $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.
- 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 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 $5,500
SNAG YOUR FREE ELOPEMENT GUIDE
For all things elopement planning. Whether you’re hoping to hike through the mountains of Washington or sip a margarita on the beaches of California, this all-in-one elopement guide has everything you need to know about how to plan the perfect elopement.
ARE YOU READY FOR AN ELOPEMENT EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER?
I’m Brianna, a California elopement photographer who inspires, encourages, and empowers couples to push traditional boundaries and create experiences they’ll remember forever. I help couples all around the world plan unique elopement days by providing personalized location lists, vendor recommendations, permits, guides, and so much more.