Hey friends! It's Hannah and Adam, your adventurous elopement photographer and videographer team! We are based in Washington, but believe us when we say: WE LOVE TRAVELING! We take trips together all the time. Our second year of dating, we went to Yellowstone. The following year we went to Glacier National Park and Banff National Park. This past year, we went back to Yellowstone and also explored the Grand Tetons. In between our larger trips, we camp all the time in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. We love being outdoors, hiking, and adventuring in new places. Out of all the places we’ve been, though, Mount Rainier is definitely one of our favorites. And it makes us so happy that our job allows us to adventure there! We love meeting new couples and capturing their authentic love stories (especially in beautiful places like Mount Rainier National Park).
Fire Lookout - 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.
Forest - 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.
Lake - 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.
Overlook - Oh man, even if you just go to the Sunrise Visitor Center, you have an incredible overlook of the Cascades. 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, but if you just walk a short distance on them, you are surrounded by incredible views. We've explored that area a lot, and we know of some great spots to set up a ceremony if you don’t want to hike, but still want an overlook.
River - 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’re currently scouting out lots of fun locations along the different rivers to find unique and private spots to elope!
Cabin - Airbnb and cabin elopements have become increasingly popular lately. 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! Our favorites are: Lake Creek Cabin, Naked Elk Lodge, and Beautiful A-Frame cabin! 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.
Permit - 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.
Park Entrances - There are 4 total entrances: Nisqually (southwest), White River/Sunrise (northeast), Carbon River (northwest), and Stevens Canyon (southeast). There is a park entrance fee of $30 per vehicle. You can find more information here!
Guests - It’s also important to note that if you are getting married in the park, you can have between 1-12 guests. But if you are getting married at a designated spot, such as a campground, you can have more than 12 guests.
Marriage License - Make sure to grab your marriage license before your big day! For King County, 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.
P.S. The Pierce County marriage license has Mount Rainier as the background!!
Spring - The best time to elope is during the week because it starts getting busy again due to the opening of certain locations. Almost all hikes will still have a lot of snow, but you’ll start to see waterfalls as the snow melts. Springtime does not have a specific weather at Mount Rainier. 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! Be aware, though, that the White River/Sunrise entrance will not be open in spring. It’s only open from the middle of summer to the start of fall (a very small window).
Summer - 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 (more specifically at sunrise). 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.
Autumn - The week is still a good time to go in the fall 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.
Winter - Both weekdays and weekends are usually fine in the winter! There are typically less visitors, so the trails aren’t as crowded. Everything gets fully covered in snow and it is just absolutely beautiful! You can also ski, snowboard, or tube at Crystal Mountain & White Pass. Both are great resorts! Be aware, though, that the only two open entrances are: Nisqually and Carbon River.
Tolmie Peak: We hiked the Tolmie Peak lookout twice! The first time it was too foggy to see the mountain, but the second time, we got a beautiful sunset! 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.
Burroughs Mountain: We've always wanted to do this hike! 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!
Sunrise Rim: 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!
Spray Park: 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 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 Rainier.
Skyline Trail: This hike is about 5.5 miles roundtrip, and you gain 1,700 feet in elevation. This trail is near the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. This trail gives you incredible views of Mount Rainier, plus you reach Panorama Point… 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.
Wonderland Trail: 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 then 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 can, 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 I definitely recommend trying! I know it's on our bucket list!
SUNRISE + SUNSET 12 HOUR EXAMPLE TIMELINE
4:00 am - Meet at trailhead + get ready
4:30 am - Begin hiking at trailhead
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
9:15 am - Head back to Airbnb
10:00 am - Back to Airbnb
10:15 am - Brunch with friends
11:30 am - Sign Marriage License
12:00 pm - Portraits with friends at Airbnb
12:30 pm - Rafting in the river at the 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 National Park. We also always suggest taking a screenshot or printing out directions to the hike/location and a map of the hike/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. Be simple, yet prepared. 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!