We are a husband & wife team. Based in the mountains of Montana & Washington State, we’ve been photographing and filming couples since the start of 2021.
Welcome to our blog where you’ll discover elopement planning resources, as well as beautiful galleries from real weddings!
When you started looking for epic places to elope, was one of them Mount Rainier? I’m not surprised! Mount Rainier is one of the most incredible elopement locations, not only in Washington, but in the entire United States. It’s one of our favorite locations to shoot at, and for so many good reasons. That’s why we put together this super detailed guide on how to elope at Mount Rainier!
Timed Entry Reservations (new for 2024!)
Hey friends! It’s Hannah and Adam, your adventurous Mount Rainier elopement photographer and videographer team. We are currently based in both Washington State + Montana. Out of all the places we’ve explored over the 6+ years we’ve been together, Mount Rainier is definitely one of our favorites. And it makes us so happy that our job allows us to adventure here!
We recommend flying into the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), which is about 1.5 hours from the Nisqually entrance near Ashford. This is going to be the closest airport to Mount Rainier!
The next closest airport is Portland International Airport (PDX), which is a little under 2.5 hours from the Nisqually entrance.
The best way to get around for your elopement is going to be renting a car! This is because even though the entrance to Mount Rainier is under 2 hours from the airport, you’ll be driving around quite a bit to explore. Once you get into the park, it’s 45 minutes to the Paradise Visitor Center, and there are a ton of roads to drive on.
The Nisqually Entrance is 6 miles east of the town Ashford, and it’s probably the most popular entrance. It’s open year round and takes you to Longmire and Paradise.
The White River/Sunrise Entrance is the northeast entrance into the park just off SR 410. This entrance takes you to the Sunrise Visitor Center, and it’s only 14 miles away. The road to Sunrise closes in mid-October and re-opens in early July.
This southeast entrance is accessed via US Highway 12. You can enter the park at the Stevens Canyon Entrance and explore Ohanapecosh Campground and the Grove of the Patriarchs (this trail is currently closed as of 2022 due to bridge damage). Cayuse Pass (SR 123), that takes you to Sunrise, is usually only open from late May to early October.
The Carbon River Entrance is open year-round to foot traffic, but is only open to vehicles via SR 165 through Wilkeson. This area takes you to the scenic Mowich Lake, and various beautiful hiking trails.
We’ve seen Timed Entry Reservations before at places like Glacier National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Basically, parks have been implementing this system to improve the overall visitor experience, and prevent trail impacts caused by overcrowding.
Mount Rainier specifically has experienced about a 40% increase in visitors over the last 10 years. Just last year in 2023, there were over a million vehicles that entered the park, and over 2.5 million visitors. That’s over 5 million feet trekking on the trails!!!! Due to the number of visitors, and the unfortunate amount of off-trail travel, the park has experienced a lot of damage.
Don’t look at this system as “annoying” or a “nuisance.” Hopefully this pilot timed entry system will improve wait times/congestion for everyone, as well as resource impacts on trails. It would be awesome if Mount Rainier could have the chance to regrow the subalpine meadows! This is a good thing for us AND the park!
A timed entry reservation will be required for both Paradise and Sunrise. Each corridor requires a separate vehicle reservation, and they are good for a single day, per vehicle. You will still need a Park Entrance Fee OR valid Park Pass.
Paradise Corridor: A Timed Entry Reservation is needed to enter Mount Rainier from Ashford or Packwood between 7:00 am – 3:00 pm from May 24th to September 2nd.
Sunrise Corridor: A Timed Entry Reservation is needed to enter Mount Rainier from Enumclaw between 7:00 am – 3:00 pm from July 3rd to September 2nd.
The only way you are exempt from needing a vehicle reservation is if you have a lodging, camping, wilderness permit, or special use permit. This acts as a vehicle reservation for the days that are valid on the permit/reservation.
Below is an image of the timed entry release dates for advance reservations. You can also acquire a “next day” timed entry ticket the day prior to when you want to enter the park. The tickets are released at 7:00am Pacific Time starting on May 24th for Paradise and July 3rd for Sunrise on a daily rolling basis. For more information, go to the Timed Entry Reservations page on the park website or head to Recreation.gov to book your ticket now!
During the spring, the only access point is via the Nisqually Entrance. Therefore, you should book lodging in the closest town: Ashford. Almost all hikes will still have a lot of snow, but you’ll start to see waterfalls and higher river levels as the snow melts. Be prepared for sunshine, as well as chilly rain. We recommend always having a rain jacket, extra pair of socks, waterproof hiking boots, and sunscreen just in case!
Besides accessing the Paradise area, you can check out surrounding waterfall hikes, Greenwater Lakes, Packwood Lake, Alder Lake, and various rain forest nature trails.
Weekdays are essential in the summertime! Mount Rainier is an extremely popular National Park, so you can expect a lot of visitors. But if you plan for the week, and potentially sunrise/sunset, you’ll avoid a lot of the crowd. A perk of summer is that you can expect a lot of warmth, beautiful blooming wildflowers in the meadows, and clear skies, which means panoramic views of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and even Mount Hood.
At the beginning of summer, Mount Rainier will still have snow-covered peaks. Towards the end of summer, you can expect potential wildfires, meaning hazy sunsets. But all of the roads will be accesible in the summer, meaning that it’s the best time for hiking and backpacking. We also always recommend star gazing during the summer!
Prime Wildflower Time: The best time to see the beautiful colors of various wildflowers at Mount Rainier is during the end of July and beginning of August.
Weekdays are a good time to go to the park in autumn because it will still be relatively crowded. The weather will start to get colder, and the snow will begin to fall, so be prepared! The trees and fall colors in the park are beautiful, especially with a little bit of snow. Roads will begin closing, though, so it’s important to be cognizant of that. This is also a great time to hunt for wild huckleberries! Just make sure to be safe when picking berries (know what you’re eating).
During the winter months, the only accessible area is Longmire and Paradise. You can access the park by foot from the Carbon River entrance, but it’s less common to go this route. As of the 2022-2023 winter season, the road from Longmire to Paradise is closed Monday-Friday. This means that you can only head to Paradise on the weekend, which will make Paradise pretty busy. We recommend going at sunrise or sunset to avoid the crowds.
Fire lookouts are incredible places to elope because you can sometimes book the space! So, not only are you hiking to this amazing view, but you are able to stay in the lookout overnight. This also means that it might be easier to have a sunrise ceremony because you’ll already be at your ceremony location high up in the mountains! Some of our favorite fire lookout spots are: Mount Fremont Lookout and Tolmie Peak.
One of the best elopement hikes you can do to get the best forest vibes is Grove of the Patriarchs! There, you can find massive Douglas-firs, Hemlocks, and Cedars.
There are so many incredible lakes at Mount Rainier. It’s hard to choose which one to visit! Some of the popular ones are: Tipsoo Lake, Reflection Lakes, and Mowich Lake. While those are beautiful spots, we also have a handful of lakes that we know of that are a bit more private and allow for a more intimate ceremony.
Oh man, even if you just go to the Sunrise Visitor Center, you have an incredible overlook of the Cascades and Mount Rainier. We highly recommend visiting if you haven’t been there before. This is also a good option if you want to elope, but not necessarily do a long hike. The Sunrise Visitor Center has lots of trails, and if you just walk a short distance, you are surrounded by incredible views.
If you hike through Mount Rainier, you will probably come across a river. There are nine main rivers that run through the park. They include: Nisqually, Puyallup, Mowich, Carbon, West Fork, Huckleberry, White, Ohanapecosh, and Muddy Fork rivers. We’ve got lots of fun locations along the different rivers to find unique and private spots to elope!
Airbnb and cabin elopements have become increasingly popular over the last few years. They’re intimate, typically less expensive than a venue, your guests can stay with you if they’re traveling, and/or you can honeymoon at them afterwards. If you read the “Where To Stay” section, we’ve listed a ton of cabins near Mount Rainier that are great to stay at!
Just make sure that you check with the cabin owners about their wedding policies before you book. Some owners have additional fees in order to actually be able to host a wedding and have your photos taken at their cabin, and we want to be respectful of that!
Before you embark on your amazing adventure in Mount Rainier, you need to apply for a permit. The permit application must be submitted at least 4 weeks before your elopement date. The permit costs $60 and is non-refundable. You can find more information about the permit here.
You have to have your wedding solemnized in Washington State, meaning that you’ll need someone who is ordained to officiate your legal marriage. You are also required to have 2 people over the age of 18 sign as witnesses (hey, that can be us).
Make sure to grab your marriage license before your big day! For King County (Seattle area), there is a waiting period of 3 days. That’s why it’s super important to go ahead and get that taken care of ASAP. If you want to start the process online, you can find the application here. If you want a marriage license with Mount Rainier as your background, get it from Pierce County (Tacoma area)!
It’s also important to note that if you are getting married in the park, you can usually only have between 1-12 guests. But if you are getting married at a designated spot, such as a campground or at a picnic area, you can have more than 12 guests. We’re always in contact with the park, getting different locations approved, so that each of our couples can get married in their dream spot!
So far, we’ve hiked the Tolmie Peak Lookout three times. The first time it was too foggy to see the mountain, but the second time, we got a beautiful sunset! And then the third time was for an incredible elopement. This hike is about 6.5 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of around 1,500 feet. The views are stunning, and definitely worth the trek!
We’ve always wanted to do the Burroughs Mountain Trail! You start at the Sunrise Visitor Center and climb 2,500 feet. It’s about 9 miles roundtrip, but you basically work your way to the bottom of Mount Rainier. Such a gorgeous hike!
If you don’t want to do all of the Burroughs Mountain trail, you can do Sunrise Rim because you start on the same trail. This hike is a 5 mile loop, climbing less than 1,000 feet. Definitely easier than other hikes at Sunrise, and probably more manageable with kids or for a shorter photography session.
This is another awesome hike with lots of great views! Spray Park is not an easy hike, but it can be done in a day. It’s approximately 8 miles roundtrip, and you gain around 1,700 feet in elevation. To get there, you have to head to Mowich Lake. So, if you’re making a day of it, you can bring lunch or dinner to enjoy at the campground! Or make it an overnight and find a camp site. All in all, this hike is totally what you make of it. There are lots of trails to make it more challenging and lots of incredible views, like Echo Rock, Observation Rock, and Mount Rainier.
The Skyline Trail is about 5.5 miles roundtrip, and you gain 1,700 feet in elevation. Skyline starts near the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, and immediately gives you incredible views of Mount Rainier. Plus you reach Panorama Point along the way, which is exactly what you sounds like. You have panoramic views of Rainier and the Cascade Range. This hike is a popular one, so we definitely recommend either going at sunrise or during the week.
The Wonderland Trail is one that we’ve always wanted to do. It’s 93 miles long and completely encircles Mount Rainier. INCREDIBLE, right?! It’s not an easy hike at all. You are constantly climbing and descending. But can you imagine all of the amazing things you might get to witness? Not only that, but the cool thing is that you don’t have to do all of it at once. You can do a day trip and hike as far as you want, or you can go for just a few nights. It’s totally up to you! There are a lot of different campgrounds along the way, and lots of things to explore (alpine lakes, valleys, forests). This isn’t a hike you should do if you haven’t trained, but if you are at a more advanced skill level, then we definitely recommend trying.
4:00 am – Meet at trailhead + gather our gear
4:15 am – Begin hiking to a fire lookout
6:00 am – Get ready at lookout
6:30 am – First look just before sunrise
6:45 am – Ceremony starts at sunrise
7:15 am – Sunrise formal portraits and toast
7:45 am – Hike back down – detour to another trail for closer Mount Rainier views
9:00 am – More fun portraits
10:00 am – Head back to the parking lot
11:00 am – Head to A-Frame Cabin
12:00 am – Brunch with family
1:30 pm – Family portraits at Airbnb
2:00 pm – First part of coverage ends
6:00 pm – Head to sunset portrait location
6:45 pm – Sunset formal portraits
7:30 pm – Sunset
8:00 pm – End of coverage
To avoid crowds, we recommend either going during the week or in the off-season. Also, if you get to your hike/visitor center early, then you will probably miss a ton of people!
For photography and videography, sunrise and sunset are always the most ideal time of day. If you want to catch the sunrise, make sure you are shooting about 30 minutes before the sun actually rises, then you’ll have around 30-60 minutes as the sun is rising to get the perfect lighting! For sunset, we recommend about 90 minutes before the sun goes down and 30 minutes after the sun has set (blue hour).
Download the AllTrails app before you head out to Mount Rainier. We also always suggest taking a screenshot or printing out directions to the location. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected! Sometimes your phone will die or you’ll lose service.
It’s better to be over prepared than underprepared. Bring snacks, lots of water, a First Aid kit, a map of the park, layers, extra socks, the right hiking shoes, bear spray, etc. Make sure that if you are hiking, you pack your bag with everything you need. You never know what may happen on a hike. It’s likely you might encounter wildlife, the hike might take longer than you expected, or you might come across snow when you didn’t expect it.
Go on an adventure while you’re there! If you’re a seasoned hiker, check out the Wonderland Trail. If you want to get views of the mountain from above, check out this helicopter tour! Or if you’re into rivers, go sign up for white water rafting. Oh, and if you’re visiting the park in the winter, go to White Pass for inner tubing, skiing, or snowboarding.
Let’s head to Mount Rainier together! We can help guide you pick an epic location, figure out the best timing for lighting and crowds, navigate the permiting process, and more. We’d love to show you one of our favorite places in Washington! Reach out to us here.
Hannah and Adam are a Montana and PNW-based Elopement Photographer + Videographer Team traveling across the US and abroad to capture couples' special days. They firmly believe love is love, Black lives matter, and in respecting our planet.
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