The Pacific Northwest, also known as the PNW, is one of the most diverse and visited places in the United States. The area is home to over 14 different national parks, forests, and monuments. Most notably known for its towering mountains and fog-covered trees, the Pacific Northwest is often a bucket-list travel destination for people all over the world.
This handy dandy elopement guide covers everything you need to know about planning the perfect Pacific Northwest elopement. From the best places to elope to must-know tips, this guide covers it all.
Where Is the Pacific Northwest?
While many people has different definitions of what constitutes the Pacific Northwest, the image shown here is spot on. The PNW includes Southeast Alaska, Washington State, Oregon, Northern California, and parts of both Montana and Idaho.
For the sake of this article, I will be focusing on the more well-known states that make up the Pacific Northwest: Southeast Alaska, Washington State, Oregon, and Northern California.
The 12 Best Places to Elope In the Pacific Northwest
Despite its snow-capped mountains, glaciers, Northern Lights, and 8 (yes, 8) national parks, Alaska continues to be one of the least popular states for eloping couples. However, I’m hoping the locations I’m about to share below may just change your mind about keeping this one off the list.
Tongass National Forest
The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the U.S. coming in at 16.7 million acres. While much of the forest is remote, there are a plethora of hiking trails, lakes, and other must-see sites. The forest is also located along some of Alaska’s most beautiful islands. There is truly no other experience as intimate as a seaside ceremony on a small private island.
If you’re up to the challenge, Mount Juneau is hands-down one of the best spots for a mountaintop ceremony. Summiting Mount Juneau requires hiking 6.8 miles roundtrip, though the views are so worth it. You’ll be surrounded by snow-covered peaks and get glimpses of stunning lakes and the city of Juneau. This is a great location for couples who love adventure, though if hiking isn’t your thing, no worries. Alaska has some of the most stunning drive-up mountain spots! See more in my in-depth Alaska elopement guide.
One of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers, Mendenhall Glacier, is located just 12 miles from downtown Juneau, a quaint and small town backed by mountains. Alongside the glacier you’ll find a beautiful lake, waterfall, and tons of greenery. Though this location is a bit busier than most, it’s still an absolutely stunning backdrop for an elopement. Just be sure to plan ahead.
Washington State holds a special place in my heart. It was the place I traveled to on my first solo-trip, and it was magical. There truly is something for everyone here. Whether you’re looking for a hot desert or a lush green rainforest, I can guarantee you’ll find it in Washington.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is one of most diverse national park in the United States. Here, you’ll find mountains, lakes, waterfalls, rainforests, beaches, and so much more. And don’t even get me started on the wildlife. There are so many accessible locations, but also so many hiking trails. It’s moody, foggy, and every Twilight-lovers dream. You can even visit the small town of Forks to visit the Twilight Museum.
Check out my Olympic National Park elopement guide here!
North Cascades National Park
If you want to elope in the mountains, there is no better place to elope than North Cascades National Park. This park is severely underrated, though carries some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. In fact, the park has been nicknamed the “Swiss Alps of America” and is a short 3-hour drive from Seattle.
Check out more locations and tips in my North Cascades National Park elopement guide!
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is Washington’s most famous national park. Because it’s such a short drive from Seattle, the park fills up quick in the summer. Though in the fall, this park is a magical place for elopements. It’s known for its lakes, up-close views of Mount Rainier, and it’s wildflower-covered hiking trails.
Check out my Mount Rainier National Park elopement guide here!
Oregon not only has incredible scenery, but it also has some of the best excursions, shops, and dining around. The state (in my opinion) is still a hidden gem amongst couples, even though it has some of the most jaw-dropping scenery around.
The Oregon Coast
Out of all the coastal locations I’ve been to, the Oregon Coast will forever be my favorite coastal line. There seriously isn’t a boring stretch of land to be found here. From north to south, you can find a ton of beautiful ceremony spots, though some of the most popular include God’s Thumb, Cannon Beach, and Cape Kiwanda.
See the best places to elope in Oregon here!
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a short drive from Portland and is mainly known for its numerous waterfalls, the most famous being Multnomah Falls. This area is definitely popular in the summer, so I recommend visiting during the off-season (spring or fall). This area of Oregon is a great location if you’re wanting something close to Portland but want to feel surrounded by nature.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only national park. It’s definitely remote and is only open a few months out of the year thanks to the snow, but it has remained untouched by couples looking to elope. If you’re looking for a unique location without massive crowds or other couples getting married, Crater Lake is definitely the spot for you.
Check out my Crater Lake National Park elopement guide here!
Northern California holds a special place in my heart. Not only did I grow up and currently live here, but there are so many beautiful hidden gem locations right in my backyard that most people have no idea about! From coasts to cafes, we truly have it all.
Redwood National Park
Located along the coast, Redwood National Park is one of the most popular parks in the United States, though every time I’ve been, it feels like I’m the only one there! There are a plethora of beautiful spots here, though the park is very secluded, so don’t expect fine-dining or hair salons to be in site!
Check out my Redwood National Park elopement guide here!
Dunsmuir is a small mountain town with a population of only 1,900 people. The famous burger stop, Yaks on the 5, is what drives most people here. However, this spot shines in the fall. I know some epic hidden gems in this area, from fall-colored forests to hidden waterfalls, this small town is truly one of the most magical places you can find.
Oh Mt. Shasta, probably the most underrated place in the United States, not just for elopements, but in general. Not only can you get up close and personal with Shasta herself, but the small mountain town is one of the most charming places in Northern California. This place is gorgeous no matter what time of year.
When Is the Best Time of Year to Elope in the Pacific Northwest?
While each state is different in terms of weather, this is a solid estimate of the best time of year to elope in the PNW.
The summer is the most popular time to visit the Pacific Northwest, though I recommend avoiding this time of year. While the weather is pleasant, I can guarantee that the crowds are not. If you do visit in the summer, prepare for high prices, lodging and rental car shortages, and lots of traffic. While planning an elopement during sunrise or sunset can definitely help with the crowds, I recommend choosing a different season. I will say though that the weather this time if great, and in July and August, the wildflowers are absolutely incredible.
The fall is hands-down my favorite time to photograph elopements. While the fall season is short in higher-elevated areas, it’s sweet. The colors are stunning, prices are lower, and many of the crowds have subsided. Certain areas see a bit more activity than others (I’m looking at you North Cascades) due to their gorgeous fall colors, but most of the areas are crowd-free and stunning.
Winter in lower-elevation areas like Olympic or Redwood National Park is pure bliss, though it is the Pacific Northwest after all, and you know what that means; rain, rain, and more rain. While I personally love shooting in the rain (hello even lighting and vibrant colors), lots of couples prefer to stay dry during their elopement, in which case I would choose a different season. Higher elevation areas are usually inaccessible in the winter due to snow.
Spring is very similar to the winter season. However, if you plan it just right, you could potentially see tons of wildlife and peak waterfall flowage. Like the winter though, most high-elevated areas are inaccessible until June or July. Regardless, I still recommend this time, especially on the coast and more populated areas to get a more intimate experience.
Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting the Pacific Northwest
1. It’s rainy. I know, I know. Most people know that the PNW gets a ton of rain, but even in the summer months, it’s a good idea to bring a jacket and pack some extra layers. While most of the time it’s more of a drizzle than a downpour, it definitely can get chilly. Oh, and bring some vitamin D. Even staying in the area for more than a week (especially if you’re used to sun) can really put a damper on your mood.
2. It’s remote. Aside from large cities like Seattle and Portland, the Pacific Northwest is pretty remote. You’ll find a cute town here and there, but more often than not, you’ll need to do some extra driving. Oh, and don’t expect there to be a ton of dining, hair salons, and other elopement-necessities available, especially in more secluded areas. This is truly a hikers paradise!
3. It’s relaxed. One of the most frequent things I hear from people visiting this area for the first time is “everyone is so chill here,” and it’s true! At least in my opinion, people on the West Coast are very relaxed and tend to go with the flow.
4. Do your research. If you’re deciding to stay in a larger city, do your research! Find out where the locals go and try to avoid overpriced tourists traps (unless of course you really want to). Some of the greatest food I’ve ever had has been in places only the locals know about.
5. It’s very dog friendly. The PNW is a very dog-friendly area, especially in Oregon, so please bring your furry friend along!
6. Stay longer. I truly can’t tell you enough to extend your trip. There is so much to do and see in the PNW that even after a week, you’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t do more.
Coolest Places to Stay in the Pacific Northwest
From romance to rad, the PNW has some of the most unique and unforgettable lodging options around. Below are some of my personal favorite places to stay in some of the most popular areas of the PNW.
- Kasiana Island Kayak Cabin – A cozy cabin located on a private cove and only accessible by boat.
- Raven’s Roost – A modern A-Frame with a stunning balcony right on the beach.
- Stone Lantern House – A luxurious, Japanese-influenced home steps away from the beach.
- Scandinavian Cabin – A sleek, modern cabin tucked away in the woods right near the North Cascades.
- Treehouse Eagles – A stunning and unique treehouse with gorgeous views of Canada near Olympic.
- Sol Duc Serenity – A riverfront home with bohemian flare right outside Olympic National Park.
- A-Frame Getaway – A popular A-Frame design located right outside Mt. Hood.
- Hide and Seek Cabin – A vintage cabin tucked away in the woods with modern amenities.
- The Haystack Haus – A quaint and quiet cabin located in famous Cannon Beach, just steps away from the ocean.
- Ocean Road – A gorgeous, luxurious home located on edge of a bluff directly above private Irish Beach.
- Luffenholtz Surfside Cottage – A rustic redwood getaway with sweeping coastal vistas.
- Shasta A-Frame Cabin – A cozy, wooded A-Frame near the mountains and national parks.
PNW Elopement Activities
Whether you’re looking to hike or simply sip a coffee in a nearby bookstore, the Pacific Northwest has options for everyone. Below are some of my favorite elopement activities you can incorporate into your day.
- Go whale watching in Alaska
- Be a tourist in Portland and try out all the famous food spots
- Go hiking through the redwoods in Northern California
- Go kayaking through Washington’s different islands
- Have a bonfire with s’mores in the woods or on the beach
- Check out one of the 1,000s of waterfalls around
- Take a dip in the local hot springs
- Go wine tasting at a vineyard
- Visit an island for your ceremony
- Take a hot air balloon ride
- Go skiing in the winter
- Visit a national park
- Get rained on in a rainforest
- Take a wildlife tour
- Have a picnic on top of a mountain
Pacific Northwest Elopement Packages
I’m Brianna, a Pacific Northwest elopement photographer who helps capture and plan unforgettable elopements around the West Coast. To get more information about my elopement packages, check out my elopement packages page here.
- 4 hours – 2 days of elopement coverage anywhere in the PNW
- 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.