If you’re looking for the best mountain location in the United States for your elopement, your search ends here. Take it from someone who has photographed elopements in Alaska, Grand Teton National Park, and Colorado… you won’t find a mountain location more dramatic than this one. Heck, it’s even nicknamed the “Swiss Alps of America!” If that doesn’t sell you on eloping in the North Cascades, maybe this will…

North Cascades National Park is one of the least-visited national parks in the United States. It’s home to over 300 glaciers (the most in any national park aside from Alaska), 120 alpine lakes, and 400 miles of hiking trails. The cherry on top with this park is that it’s also home to some of the most beautiful fall colors and wildflower meadows in all of Washington.

This underrated (and what I like to think is a hidden gem) of Washington State is one of my most-recommended elopement locations for couples looking for epic mountain views. As an elopement photographer who specializes in the North Cascades region, I’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to elope in the park that includes information about the best places to elope, best time of year to elope, how to get a permit, and so much more.

Without further adieu, let’s begin planning your North Cascades elopement!

A groom kissing his bride's head in front of a pink alpenglow mountain in North Cascades National Park.

8 Steps to Eloping in North Cascades National Park

I photograph numerous elopements every single year in North Cascades National Park and know the area like the back of my hand. To make it easy, here’s a checklist of everything you need to do to plan the perfect North Cascades elopement. Don’t worry, I’ll break down each section throughout this article.

  1. Choose your ceremony location
  2. Pick the best time of year to elope for your chosen spot
  3. Apply for a special use permit
  4. Hire your vendors
  5. Book your travel
  6. Get your marriage license
  7. Pack and prepare
  8. Elope

7 Best Places to Elope in North Cascades National Park

Whether you’re envisioning a ceremony on mountaintop with 360 degree views, at an alpine lake with gatorade blue water, or in the middle of a wildflower meadow, I’ve got you covered. These are the 7 best places to elope in North Cascades National Park.

Artist Point

If there’s one location in the North Cascades that’s guaranteed to blow you away, it’s Artist Point. This area of the park is known for its 360 degree mountain views, no-hiking-required ceremony spots, and of course, its stunning sunset colors. The only downside to this location is that it’s super busy. It’s not uncommon to run into other couples getting married on the mountain, so if you’re hoping for something a bit more intimate, I recommend looking elsewhere, and lucky for you, I have a handful of secret spots with similar views and less crowds.

  • Max capacity: 12
  • Hiking required: No, but if you want to go to the most popular photo spot, it’s a short hike (1 mile roundtrip).
  • Crowd level: Extremely busy. Expect to see other couples getting married here.
  • Pet friendly: Yes.

Want more insider information about Artist Point? I have an entire elopement guide you can check out here!

Chain Lakes Loop Trail

If you want to incorporate some hiking into your elopement day, the Chain Lakes Loop Trail is a one of my top recommendations for North Cascades elopements. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in the park and for good reason. The entire trail is 7 miles long and will take you from the side of a mountain range, through the forest, past some vibrant blue lakes, and through wildflower meadows. Hiking the entire 7 mile loop is not necessary to get some jaw-dropping shots. In fact, if you’re up for walking a short flat section of the trail, there are some secret pull-off spots I have up my sleeve that will get you some incredible views without the crowds and incline.

  • Max capacity: 12
  • Hiking required: Yes, but you don’t need to hike the entire 7 miles.
  • Crowd level: Very busy mid-day but not so much around sunset. This is one of the more private locations.
  • Pet friendly: Yes.

Bagley Lakes

One of my favorite alpine lakes in North Cascades National Park is Bagley Lakes. This lake is the perfect spot for ceremonies with guests, especially those who aren’t able to walk far distances, as there are a variety of different lookout spots right from the parking lot. However, if you’re up for the walk, a short trail will take you to the base of the lake where you can see all the wildflowers and snowfields. The actual base of the lake isn’t large, so no more than 3-4 people are recommend for ceremonies. Since this is one of the more popular lakes in the area, I recommend a sunrise or sunset ceremony.

  • Max capacity: 12 at an overlook, 4 at the base of the lake.
  • Hiking required: A short walk is required if you want to get to the base of the lake.
  • Crowd level: Fairly private, especially around sunrise and sunset.
  • Pet friendly: Yes.

A Fire Lookout

Washington State is famous for its fire lookouts. Currently, there are 93 lookouts you can hike to, many of which are in the North Cascades region! While fire lookouts often require uphill hiking, I can almost guarantee you that it’s always worth the effort. Fire lookouts, especially in North Cascades National Park, have some of the most jaw-dropping views you can find in the United States. Most of them are completely surrounded with 360 degree views of mountain ranges and valleys. I know of a few secret lookouts I only share with my couples, but if you’re up for the challenge, consider hiking the two most famous in the area: Sourdough Mountain and Park Butte.

  • Max capacity: 12
  • Hiking required: Yes. Mileage usually ranges from 1 mile-10 miles roundtrip.
  • Crowd level: It depends where you go. Most fire lookouts are pretty popular, especially around sunrise and sunset.
  • Pet friendly: 90% of the time, yes.

Washington Pass Overlook

Washington Pass Overlook is the perfect location for elopements with friends and family. There is a 0.3 mile wheelchair accessible path that will loop you around the overlook. Oh, and it’s close to a hiking trail that takes you to an incredible alpine lake! Washington Pass Overlook is located right off of Highway 20, the main highway in the park, so it’s much busier than other locations, but worth a stop to see. Like most locations, I recommend a sunrise or sunset ceremony to get some privacy.

  • Max capacity: 12
  • Hiking required: No, just a short walk from the parking lot.
  • Crowd level: Busy, expect people.
  • Pet friendly: Yes.

Diablo Lake

I can’t make a list of the best places to elope in North Cascades National Park and not include Diablo Lake. Think gatorade blue water, snow-capped mountains, and forests. You’ve probably seen this location on a postcard before, it’s that picturesque. While many of the photos of the lake are taken at the overlook, that location is currently not accessible for elopements anymore. However, there are tons of different viewpoints of the lake to explore from its shoreline to an overlook along Thunder Knob, a popular trail in the area.

  • Max capacity: 12
  • Hiking required: No, but if you want an overlook of the lake then yes.
  • Crowd level: Fairly busy, expect people.
  • Pet friendly: In some spots, yes.

Maple Pass

Last, but certainly not least, we have Maple Pass which is a 6.5 mile roundtrip hike through the heart of the Cascades. This particular trail is famous for its fall colors and unbelievable view of Lake Ann. The hike itself is challenging, but the views you’ll see along the way make every uphill stretch worth the effort. Did I mention it’s also pet friendly?

  • Max capacity: 12
  • Hiking required: Yes, 6.5 miles roundtrip.
  • Crowd level: Busy, come during sunrise or sunset and you can have entire overlooks to yourself.
  • Pet friendly: Yes.

Best Time of Year to Elope in North Cascades National Park

One of the most unique things about North Cascades National Park is the weather. Because the park sits at such a high elevation, it’s covered in snow most months of the year and has fairly unpredictable weather patterns. Despite this, the North Cascades are gorgeous year-round, though the best time to elope in the park is between mid-July to early October. That being said, there are certain months that shine above the rest.

Summer (July and August)

The summer months in the North Cascades begin around mid-July when most of the snow has finally melt. Both July and August are the warmest months and greenest months of the year. August in the Cascades is famous for wildflowers. While the summer is an incredible time to elope, it tends to be the busiest season for the park. I recommend planning your elopement during a weekday with a ceremony during sunrise or sunset if you’re hoping for a crowd-free experience during the summer season.

ProsCons
– Warm weather
– Snow-free trails
– Wildflowers in August
– Lots of people
– Expensive lodging, rental cars, and plane ticket prices
– Wildfire season

Fall (September and October)

Fall is my favorite time to visit the park and most-recommend season for North Cascades elopements. The season here is short, only lasting from the end of September to the beginning of October. During this time of year, the trails are covered and lined with beautiful larches (pine trees that change color) and fall colors. Vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows sweep across the park in the fall. The weather is still pleasant and crowds aren’t as abundant, though I still recommend a sunrise or sunset ceremony during this time of year.

ProsCons
– Gorgeous fall colors
– Cooler temperatures
– Snow-free trails
– Cheaper lodging, rental car, and plane ticket prices
– Chance of snow if not timed correctly
– Trails that are famous for fall colors are busier
– Fog and wind

Winter (November-April)

Winter is the longest season in North Cascades National Park. When October hits, so does the first snowfall of the season, which causes multiple road closures throughout the park and nearby national forest. I recommend steering clear of planning your elopement here in the winter season, as most of the locations are completely inaccessible, the weather is unpredictable, and snow can make driving on the windy roads very dangerous.

ProsCons
– No crowds
– Cheap lodging, rental car, and plane ticket prices
– Overcast lighting
– Cold weather
– Road closures
– Dangerous driving conditions

Spring (May and June)

Spring is similar to winter in that the weather is still very unpredictable and most of the locations are inaccessible. While the park starts to see some its snow melt, many of the more accessible locations are often covered with muddy slush and puddles, which isn’t the best for adventuring around in. It’s best to hold off just a little longer into the summer season that starts in July. However, if you’re open to exploring the eastern side of the park, June is an incredible month to do so.

ProsCons
– No crowds
– Cheap lodging, rental car, and plane ticket prices
– Unpredictable weather patterns
– Road closures
A couple in wedding attire kissing in front of Mt. Baker in the North Cascades.

How to Apply for a North Cascades Elopement Permit

In order to elope in North Cascades National Park, you’ll need a special use permit.

The process to obtain a special use permit is very easy. Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Email North Cascades National Park through their contact form found here, asking for a “special use permit application” for your elopement.
  2. Fill out the Special Use Permit Application and send it back via email.
  3. Pay the $50 application fee through the NPS website found here. The park will send you instructions on how to do so once your permit has been submitted.
  4. After the permit is processed (usually within 4-6 weeks), you’ll receive your official copy via email. Don’t forget to print this out and bring it with you on your elopement day!

If you are getting married within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest (right near the border of North Cascades), you won’t need a permit if you have less than 75 people attending your wedding. Some popular locations within this area include Artist Point and Bagley Lakes.

Pro tip: As an elopement photographer, I help with all things permits! If any of this information is confusing, or you’re unsure where your elopement location is located, reach out! All of my North Cascades elopement packages include permit assistance.

North Cascades National Park Elopement Vendors

If you’re looking for an incredible team of vendors for your special day, I’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best in the area!

Officiants

Styling and Coordination

Hair and Makeup

Florist

Photographer

I’m Brianna and I’m an elopement photographer who specializes in elopement around the North Cascades region. Whether you’re looking for a jaw-dropping location without the crowds, are curious about how to build the perfect timeline, or need recommendations on Airbnbs, places to eat, and vendors, you’ve found the right person. I include planning in every single one of my elopement packages so you can worry about the fun stuff while I handle the rest. To see everything included in my North Cascades elopement packages, click here!

How to Get a Marriage License for Your North Cascades Elopement

To apply for a marriage license in Washington State, you have three different options: in-person, online, or by mail. For most people, online is the easiest and most convenient method.

Before applying for a license, you need to know a few things…

  1. A marriage license in Washington State has a three day waiting period, meaning you can’t get married until three days have passed after obtaining your marriage license.
  2. The marriage license expires in 60 days.
  3. You can obtain a marriage license from any county in Washington State. However, you have to return the signed paperwork back to the same county you obtained your license from.

If you plan on getting your license from King County (Seattle area), you can view the online marriage license application here. This is usually where I recommend getting your license from, as they have a super easy and efficient process.

Pro tip: To view step-by-step instructions on how to obtain your marriage license for your North Cascades elopement, click here where I break down exactly how to get a marriage license in Washington. It’s super helpful and walks you through how to get a license in person, online, or by mail.

Do I Need an Officiant and Witness for My North Cascades Elopement?

Yes. Washington State requires an officiant and at least two witnesses for your elopement.

Pro tip: Friends and family can become ordained to officiate your elopement for free online through the Universal Life Church!

Only want an elopement with just the two of you? I’m ordained to officiate ceremonies! As for the witnesses? Hikers on trails and tourists are always more than happy to sign your marriage license!

How Many Guests Are Allowed at My Elopement in the North Cascades?

Most locations in North Cascades National Park only allow up to 12 guests. However, certain areas like the base of Bagley Lakes can only hold 4, whereas other locations, like a mountaintop, can hold up to 30-50. Always ask your photographer and the park what would be realistic. The less guests you bring allow for more ceremony location options. Generally, I recommend no more than 10 guests.

Are Dogs Allowed in North Cascades National Park?

For the most part, yes. Unfortunately, North Cascades National Park isn’t the most dog-friendly location in the world. However, the actual park is bordered by a national forest which is completely dog-friendly and has lots of incredible spots for elopements. If you do decide to bring your furry friend, remember to follow Leave No Trace principles and practice B.A.R.K.

Pro tip: If you don’t want to worry about your dog during your elopement, bring a friend or family member along for the day so they can watch your dog while we take pictures!

How Do I Get to North Cascades National Park?

North Cascades National Park is located 3 hours north of Seattle. To reach the park, you’ll want to fly into the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (my personal recommendation) or Bellingham International Airport. Bellingham is the closer airport, but it’s much smaller and offers less affordable flights and rental car options than Seattle.

Do You Need an SUV or 4×4 for the North Cascades?

A standard sedan will work just fine for 90% of locations in the park. That being said, there are a handful of lesser known and incredible hiking trails that are located along forest service roads, most of which aren’t maintained and contain many rocks and potholes. Before officially renting your vehicle, I recommend choosing your elopement location first, just to be sure a 4WD high clearance vehicle won’t be necessary.

Best Places to Stay in North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park is pretty remote which means most of the nearby towns don’t have much to offer aside from a few Airbnbs and nature trails. Below are some of the closest towns to the park with my personal Airbnb recommendations and experience with each town.

Glacier + Deming

Glacier and Deming are often the easiest and places to stay if you’re eloping on the western side of the Cascades, as they’re located just 45 minutes away from popular sites like Artist Point and Bagley Lakes. While there isn’t much to do around the area in terms of shopping and dining, they have everything you need for a quick stay.

70’s A-Frame Chalet – This is a unique cabin located in a gated community. Unwind in the hot tub or enjoy a coffee on the balcony.

Forest Cabin with Views and a Hot Tub – This is one of my favorite Airbnbs on this list. The modern decor, tons of natural light, and gorgeous yard makes my photographer heart flutter!

Rustic Treetop Cabin – If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, you need to check out this Airbnb with stunning views and a cozy interior.

Rockport

Rockport, Marblemount, and Concrete are three small mountain towns located just minutes away from the national park’s western entrance. With not much in the area besides a bar and gas station or two, these locations are perfect for couples looking for a true off-the-grid experience. The lodging in this area is much cheaper compared to that of Glacier.

North Cascades Riverside A-Frame – A stunning cabin right on the Skagit River with floor to ceiling windows and unforgettable views.

Riverside Retreat – This home is also located along the river. It has a hot tub, fire pit, and you guessed it, floor to ceiling windows with epic views.

Cozy A-Frame – Unwind in the woods in this 1967 off-grid Airbnb with hammocking and fishing spots just steps away.

Bellingham

If you’re going to be visiting the park occasionally, I recommend staying in Bellingham. This hippie town is well known for its arts, culture, and places to eat. There are a variety of shopping centers and restaurants from quaint coffee shops to chain dining. If you don’t mind the scenic drive, you’ll love this town! Plus, they have chain hotels if you prefer that over an Airbnb.

Pleasant Bay Lookout – A unique and unforgettable cabin nestled in a forest overlooking the Salish Sea.

Private Cottage – A relaxing and quiant cottage on 4+ acres with views of a nearby pond and waterfall. Perfect for a honeymoon!

Bellingham Treehouse – An epic treehouse right next a waterfall with 360 degree views and a relaxing hot tub.

North Cascades Elopement Tips: 5 Things You Should Know

If you’re interested in eloping in the North Cascades, here are a few of my best tips and tricks to make sure your planning process and big day are as smooth as possible.

You May Need a Parking Pass

If any of your locations are within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest, such as Artist Point, you’ll need a parking pass. It’s $5 a day and can be purchased online here or can be purchased the day-of on the drive up to the lot. Failure to do so will result in an $80 fee. It’s not super clear on the forest’s site, but make sure you purchase one!

It’s Very Dog-Friendly

Most areas allow dogs as long as they’re leashed. This is one of my favorite places to photograph elopements with pets. Always be sure to double-check that your preferred location allows your furry friend.

Cell Service Is Nonexistent

There are very few places in the park that have cell service. Plan ahead and download maps ahead of time. Be sure to also communicate clearly with your vendors so everyone knows the plan.

The Weather Is Unpredictable

Especially during the spring and fall season, the weather can change in an instant from being sunny to rainy. Be sure to pack layers and be prepared for any weather condition. It’s not uncommon to see fog on top of the mountain only for it to disappear moments later.

Stay Extra Days

The park is huge, and most areas are not within driving distance of each other. To make the most out of your trip, plan to stay an extra few days. Trust me, after seeing everything this place has to offer, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t extend your trip.

A couple in wedding attire walking along some rocks at Artist Point in the North Cascades.

Elopement Activities in North Cascades National Park

If you’re looking to get the most out of your elopement experience, considering incorporating some activities on your wedding day. Here is list of a few personal recommendations to make your elopement absolutely unforgettable and uniquely tailored to you.

  • Enjoy a picnic next to an alpine lake
  • Stroll downtown Bellingham and enjoy a sandwich from Leaf & Ladle (they’re amazing!)
  • Take a hike on the Chain Lakes Loop (one of my all-time favorite hikes)
  • Rent an Airbnb with a hot tub and soak with some champagne
  • Try your luck at skiing during the winter season
  • Go animal watching and try to spot a bear (there are lots in this area!)
  • Check out a local music festival in Bellingham
  • Stroll the local farmers market for a day
  • Take a seaplane or ferry ride to Stehekin, a remote village in heart of the Cascade Mountains
  • Read letters from friends and family
  • Make a yummy campfire dinner at your Airbnb
  • Hire a personal chef to cook you and your family a post-elopement meal

North Cascades National Park Elopement Timeline Examples

Not sure how much coverage you need for your North Cascades elopement? Check out some of the examples below to get some inspiration. I usually recommend starting with 8 hours of coverage in a place as grand as the Cascades.

12-Hour No-Hiking Elopement

  • 5:00am – Brianna meets the couple at their rustic Airbnb for getting ready shots.
  • 6:00am – Have a first look right on the lake with candles and a pre-wedding dance.
  • 7:00am – Head up to the mountain for an intimate vow reading.
  • 8:00am – Arrive and begin the ceremony followed by portraits.
  • 9:00am – Set up a breakfast picnic by the mountain.
  • 10:00am – Explore a bit more around the area, taking photos along the way.
  • 11:00am – Head back to the Airbnb to meet up with friends and family.
  • 12:00pm – Enjoy some light snacks while the private chef preps lunch.
  • 12:30pm – Lunch begins with friends and family, followed with a soak in the hot tub.
  • 2:00pm – Leave for a ceremony with friends and family nearby.
  • 2:30pm – Begin the ceremony, followed by family pictures.
  • 3:30pm – Leave for the Airbnb.
  • 4:00pm – Arrive and enjoy cake, champagne, and a first dance.
  • 5:00pm – Photo coverage wraps up, Brianna leaves.

8-Hour Minimal Hiking Elopement

  • 1:00pm – Brianna meets the couple at their Airbnb for getting ready shots.
  • 2:00pm – Head out for a 2-mile roundtrip hike to an epic mountain view.
  • 3:00pm – Begin the hike.
  • 4:00pm – Arrive at the top and begin the epic ceremony, followed by portraits.
  • 5:00pm – Head back to the car.
  • 6:00pm – Leave for the Airbnb.
  • 7:00pm – Arrive to a private candlelit dinner with cake, champagne, and a first dance.
  • 8:00pm – Photo coverage wraps up, Brianna leaves.

4-Hour No-Hiking Elopement

  • 5:00pm – Brianna meets the couple at their cabin for getting ready.
  • 6:00pm – Travel up to Artist Point.
  • 7:00pm – Arrive and begin the ceremony with your pup.
  • 7:30pm – Couples portraits at Artist Point.
  • 8:15pm – Couples sunset portraits at Bagley Lakes.
  • 9:00pm – Photo coverage wraps up, Brianna leaves.

North Cascades National Park Elopement Packages

If you’re anything like me and the mountains feel like home, North Cascades might just be the elopement location for you. If you need expert help when it comes to planning an elopement in the area, look no further. I specialize in the area and help couples all over the world plan unimaginable days in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Check out everything included in my pricing below or head over to my main pricing page for more information.

North Cascades Elopement Package Pricing

  • 4 hours – 1.5 days of elopement coverage anywhere in North Cascades National Park
  • 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 North Cascades National Park are already included
  • Starting at $6,500

Want more elopement inspiration? Check out this Olympic National Park Wedding Guide, Washington State Elopement Guide, and Ruby Beach Elopement Story.

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A girl holding a camera and smiling.

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.

If the mountains/beaches/redwood forests are calling your name, go ahead…

(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.

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