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Forming Oregon’s border, the Columbia River Gorge is the largest National Scenic Area in the United States. Beyond the deep river canyon itself, you can find practically endless wonders here. Waterfalls, interesting hikes, stunning vistas, wildflowers, you name it. And if you’re really looking for the awe and wow factor when you elope, you can’t go wrong with an elopement at the Columbia River Gorge.
This guide is going to go over why the Columbia Gorge is amazing for an elopement, the best specific Gorge locations for an elopement, as well as some info on permits, places to stay, activities, and the best time of year to elope here. By the end, you’ll be prepared to get started planning your adventure at the Gorge!
About the Columbia Gorge
The Gorge was made for exploring, which means it’s perfect for couples who want an adventurous elopement. If you’re looking for something more woodsy and forested, or a more scenic view from a high place, the Columbia River Gorge is the rugged, wild place that adventure elopements are made of.
And there’s more than just the outdoors to explore here too! There’s wineries, hand-crafted beer, and lots of great food. You can even choose a few routes to take a driving tour.
I always encourage my couples to make their elopement unique and special by incorporating lots of fun, meaningful activities. If you opt for a Columbia River Gorge elopement, you’ll have lots to choose from to make your elopement memorable!
How to Get to the Columbia River Gorge & Where to Stay for Your Elopement
If you’ll be traveling from further away, it can help to know what to expect when you arrive! And depending on which area of the Gorge you’ve chosen for your elopement, your travel plans might be different.
If you’re flying in, the closest airport will be Portland International (PDX). You can also fly into Redmond or Eugene, Oregon, but both of these options will require an additional drive.
The Dalles, which is a popular town in the Gorge region, also has a small airport, the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport. However, since it’s small, your flight and airline options will be more limited. Scheduling a flight into Portland may be easier on you!
Driving to and along the Columbia River Gorge is, fortunately, convenient and easy! Interstate 84 follows the Columbia River from Portland to about Hermiston, which is over on the east side of the state. If you’re driving from the east, find I84 and you’ll come across the river in no time!
If you’re driving from the north, heading down I5 and then over to 84 will be just a few hours’ journey. And likewise, if you’re driving up from Southern Oregon or California, follow the 5 up to Portland!
Where to Stay
In Portland: If you’re flying in, staying right in Portland is a great choice. I recommend finding a cozy, comfortable Airbnb or larger hotel suite for the entirety of your stay. Renting a car will allow you to travel a bit to see more of the Gorge outside of the immediate Portland area. Check out some Portland Airbnb’s for small groups here.
In The Dalles: The Dalles is an iconic town in the Gorge region, and it’s so worth it to do some exploring here. If you’re driving to the Gorge, The Dalles will be an easier place to reach. There are also some amazing Airbnb rentals in the Dalles. I recommend Airbnb’s in particular to give you a bit more space and comfort during your elopement.
In Eugene: Eugene can also be a fun place to stay, but keep in mind you’ll have to drive a bit to reach the Gorge from here. Check out some great Airbnb listings in Eugene/Springfield here.
In Hood River: Hood River is another charming little town right on the Gorge that’s perfect for an elopement getaway. You can start browsing places to stay in Hood River here!
Locations for a Columbia River Gorge Elopement
Because the Columbia River Gorge is such a large area, you can get an entirely different vibe for your elopement depending on if you’re more west toward the coast, or east toward the inland areas. I’ll talk about a few options here that cover all the types of geography you might find at the Gorge.
This is the cutest little area to explore! Located in the Hood River region, there’s 27 different fruit stands, wineries, breweries, cideries, and lots of flower fields. If you’re imagining an adventure elopement with lots of wild blooms, and a place where you can buy fresh produce and try some amazing drinks, Fruit Loop is an amazing choice. The area is known for its pear, apple, and cherry trees that can be found through the entire valley.
For some extra fun, there’s a 35-mile self-guided tour that will take you by every single fruit stand! There are spots to pick your own fruit to take home, too.
And of course, you’ll get views of Mt. Hood for your elopement! Exchanging your vows with the snow-capped mountain in the background is sure to be a dreamy experience.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not just the river that attracts visitors to the Columbia River Gorge (Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s #1 visited location!). For an elopement, choosing a waterfall location can be so gorgeous. Here’s a few I like:
- Latourell Falls (near Portland)
- Bridal Veil Falls (near Corbett/Portland)
- Fairy Falls (in the Wahkeena Canyon)
- Wahclella Falls (near Cascade Locks)
You can read up on each of these more in-depth by clicking each of these links! And of course, I can help you out more with planning an elopement specifically at each of these locations once you have your heart set on one.
*Note: The Eagle Creek fire burned in the Wahclella Falls area in 2017. After heavy rain or snowfall, the forest service recommends staying away from this region due to higher likelihood of flash floods!
On the River
Of course, I can’t give you a guide to a Columbia River Gorge elopement without talking about the amazing locations on the river, or with scenic views of the river! Here’s a few spots I recommend to give you those epic backdrops.
Government Cove: This island sticks out a bit into the Columbia River, near Cascade Locks, OR. The island is owned by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon. It is open for public visitation, but be respectful of the land if you elope here. There are no facilities, so this is a spot where the Leave No Trace philosophy is especially important! (You can read more about Leave No Trace and your elopement here.) Government Cove has a 360 view of the river and the canyons, so it’s a beautiful place to elope!
Thunder Island: You can rent the entirety of Thunder Island for your wedding or elopement on the Columbia River Gorge! You can see the river, mountain peaks in the distance, the cliffs, and Bridge of the Gods from Thunder Island. This spot is set up well for special events like elopements, so the planning process here may be a bit easier than in other locations!
Permits for a Columbia River Gorge Elopement
One of the most daunting parts of planning an elopement is making sure you’re cleared with all the right permits and regulations to be able to hold your ceremony. In the Columbia River Gorge, this is a relatively easy set of rules, so don’t worry! Here’s the page containing all the wedding regulatory information.
In short, if your whole group for your elopement is less than 75 people, and you won’t be setting up any equipment like tents or chairs, you won’t need any kind of special use permit! Most elopements will meet these requirements, so you’re good to go.
It’s worth noting that because the area is free and open, you won’t be able to reserve or close off any specific area for your elopement. Other visitors to your location have equal access to it! When you contact me, we can talk more about how to make your elopement feel comfortably private.
If you will need a special use permit, contact the forest service here.
When to Have a Columbia River Gorge Elopement
I love life in the Pacific Northwest, but the weather is unpredictable! When you’re planning an adventurous outdoor elopement, this is another element that can be daunting. When do you elope for favorable weather? Let’s talk about the best time to elope at the Columbia Gorge.
Like a lot of locations in Washington and Oregon, the warm seasons are going to be considered “best” for an elopement. You’ll have full access to all the different areas of the Gorge, avoiding closures due to weather conditions. Of course, when the sun is out, the Gorge is bound to be more crowded with visitors (you can always combat the crowds by eloping on a weekday instead of a weekend). For any locations with wildflower blooms, you’re going to want a spring or early summer elopement.
Most of the locations I listed in this guide are open year-round. When the seasons are colder, it will be rainy in a lot of the waterfall locations, and maybe a bit snowy in the more dry desert locations (near Hood River and The Dalles). Make sure you give yourself a buffer day or two when traveling in the winter, and make appropriate choices for driving vs. flying when it’s snowing.
Packages for a Columbia River Gorge Elopement
With that, you’re now armed with all the tips and resources you need to get planning! Plus, I’m super proud to let you know that I’m more than just an elopement photographer — I walk with you every step of the way, from location planning to permits to timelines, packing lists and recommendations for where to stay, and more!
You can check out everything that my Oregon elopement packages include here, then contact me here when you’re ready!