Get In Touch
This Mt. Rainier elopement guide gives you the scoop on how to plan your one of a kind, stress-free, intimate wedding at Mt. Rainier National Park!
Whether you hike around the snow-capped stratovolcano, or you wander the surrounding lakes, old-growth forests, waterfalls, and wildflower meadows, it’s easy to see why Mt. Rainier National Park draws over 2 million visitors each year! If you’ve decided that a traditional wedding isn’t for you, and that you want to get married amongst the incredible natural beauty that Washington state has to offer, a Mt. Rainier elopement might be the perfect way to kick off your marriage with an unforgettable adventure!
Table of Contents
About Mt. Rainier National Park
Tahoma is the Puyallup name for the stratovolcano that we call Mount Rainier– wait, let’s stop right there real quick. Did you know that Mt. Rainier is a volcano?? Her last eruption was more than 100 years ago, but she is technically still classified as active.
By definition, Tahoma can mean mother of waters or that frozen water both recognizing the glaciated peak as the significant source that it is. The word is also understood to mean large snowy mountain, a trait it certainly exemplifies. Another etymological explanation derives from definitions of the name’s component parts in the Lashootseed language; Ta (larger/taller) Koma-Kulshan (name for Mount Baker).
MRNP was the fourth national park established in the US, and it sits on lands that comprise the ancestral homeland of Cowlitz, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Yakama, and Coast Salish people according to the National Park Service.
Mt. Rainier National Park Weather – the Best Time to Elope at Mt. Rainier
When you’re deciding on a date for your elopement ceremony, you’ll have a lot to consider – but the weather will be one of the most important factors, because the time of year you visit Mt. Rainier National Park will have a huge impact on your experience!
Spring at Mt. Rainier
During the spring, higher elevation spots are usually still covered in snow – so if you have your heart set on a hiking elopement on a strenuous trail, this may not be the best time for it. But, if you want to explore in lower altitudes before the summer crowds pour in, April through June offers the opportunity to do so! The weather can be a little unpredictable in spring – some days are warm and sunny, while others see flurries of snow – so be sure to bring layers!
Summer at Mt. Rainier
July and August are without a doubt the most popular months to visit Mt. Rainier National Park. The snow has mostly melted, the incredible wildflowers are in bloom, the weather is warm and perfect for hiking, and tourists flock to see one of Washington’s most incredible views up close. If your Mt. Rainier elopement involves hiking, I recommend getting married in the summer – but to avoid some of the crowds, elope on a weekday, and plan your ceremony for sunrise!
Fall at Mt. Rainier
Autumn is pretty short at Mt. Rainier. September and some of October can offer opportunities to spot the leaves as they change color, and to enjoy some crisp mountain air as the crowds begin to clear out. But snow flurries can start as early as September, and accumulation usually begins in October – so be prepared for possible last minute road closures, and as always, wear layers!
Winter at Mt. Rainier
Winter comes early in the mountains, and starting around late October, the park is covered in a blanket of snow. This is the best time for a Mt. Rainier elopement if your goal is to avoid crowds – and if you wear layers and are prepared with some hand warmers and hot beverages, eloping amongst this winter wonderland can be a magical experience. Keep in mind that many of the park’s roads close for the winter, and the ones that remain open may have unexpected closures if snow piles up faster than it can get plowed! So just keep in mind that your winter Mt. Rainier elopement may require a bit more flexibility than other seasons.
Mt. Rainier Wedding Permit
No matter how small your elopement ceremony is, you will need a permit for your Mt. Rainier wedding. Permit information, along with the application, can be found here. There is a $175 application fee, and the park requires that you apply at least four weeks in advance to ensure they can process your application and mail your permit!
Thankfully, the Mount Rainier permitting process is pretty straightforward with easy-to-understand instructions and restrictions listed on their website (and their office is quite responsive!)
As general rules, Mt. Rainier elopements are not allowed to…
- Impede the activities of other visitors
- Block off access of a space to the general public
- Have decorations without pre-approval
- Set up awnings, chairs, or tents
- Or have any rice, confetti, bird seed, etc. thrown about
Mt. Rainier Entrance Fees
Though you have a wedding permit, you will still need to pay the regular entrance fees to get into the park! You can purchase your pass at the entrance, or ahead of time online at $30 per car. The single vehicle pass is good for 7 days, which is perfect if you’re just in town for a special occasion, or you can buy a Mount Rainier annual pass if you’re local! Regardless of your home base, however, if you visit national parks often, you’re definitely better off getting an America the Beautiful pass! That will get you into any national recreation site in the country for an entire year, for just $80.
Mt. Rainier Wedding Venues
One of the best things about elopement is that nature is your venue! Instead of being confined to the walls of a hotel, church, or ballroom, you get to choose your own adventure on the campgrounds and trails of this incredible National Park!
The size of your elopement will determine which places in the park you can use for your ceremony. Naturally, the number of location options goes down as your guest count goes up, so small ceremonies are best. Groups with up to 8 people can elope on nearly any trail in the park. A number of trails can accommodate up to 12 people, and some viewpoints can accommodate up to 24-30 people, but any group larger than that will be limited to campground amphitheaters only– so make sure you have your guest list ready before you choose a spot.
Now, here are some of my favorite Mt. Rainier elopement locations!
Sunrise is on the northeast side of the park, close by to the Crystal Mountain Resort and about an hour north of the town Packwood. This is a huge visitor hotspot and is known for, you guessed it, its gorgeous sunrise views. The visitor’s center is typically open from July-September and is closed through the winter.
Fremont Fire Lookout
At 5.6 miles roundtrip, this trail can be a little strenuous – but you’ll be rewarded with insane views of mountain peaks, and a meadow where you can often spot mountain goats and black bears. The fire lookout at the summit of the hike was originally built for forest service rangers to keep an eye out for fires, but today you can use it as a place to sit down and enjoy the view!
This spot is definitely best for a sunrise elopement during the week due to its popularity, and can accommodate groups of 8. Check out my full guide on eloping at the Fremont Fire Lookout here!
Paradise is on the south side of the mountain, closest to the Longmire entrance. This has the park’s main visitor center and is also the most popular spot for recreating in the winter! According to the NPS, Paradise receives an average of over 50 feet of snow each year, making it a hotspot for skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and more– but these landscapes really shine in the summer.
Skyline Loop Trail
This is a longer and more strenuous hike that begins at the Paradise Visitor Center, AKA, the Henry M Jackson Memorial Center. This loop captures allll of the views you could want at Rainier; you get wildflower meadows, glacial views, interesting rock formations, a huge waterfall, expansive views of distant mountain ranges, and of course, an up-close view of Mt. Rainier herself!
Chinook Pass is on the east side of the park, conveniently located between Sunrise and Paradise.
Naches Peak Loop Trail
The Naches Peak Loop Trail encompasses nearly every sight that you can find at Mt. Rainier National Park. It begins at an alpine lake, wanders through the forest and the wildflower meadows, and emerges to incredible views of the mountains in the distance. At 3.2 miles roundtrip and 700 feet of elevation gain, this is an excellent option for couples who want incredible views, without too strenuous of a hike!
This is an easily accessible, but stunning, spot for your Mt. Rainier elopement. There’s a short trail around the lake, which takes you through wildflower fields and pine trees, and incredible views of the mountain. As an added bonus, this is the beginning of the Naches Peak Loop Trail – so if you want an easily accessible spot for your guests, with the opportunity to go for a hike and spend some time along afterwards, this is the perfect spot!
Mt. Rainier Cabins
During your Mt. Rainier elopement, you’ll need a place to stay. Luckily, Mt. Rainier is known for the adorable cabins right outside the park! The Heartwood Cabin is a fantastic option, and with its iconic A frame form, warm rustic atmosphere, and cedar hot tub, it makes the perfect place to relax after a day of adventures!
You can find more options for cabins here, ranging from 2 person tiny homes to large chalets that can fit you and your guests!
Things to Do at Mt. Rainier National Park
Your elopement isn’t over once you say “I do.” The entire day is all about spending time together in the epic location you chose for your elopement, and having adventures to make this a day you’ll remember forever! Here are just a few things you can do at Mt. Rainier National Park.
Of course, one of the park’s main attractions is hiking! You can choose from short jaunts through the woods, or intense treks across the ridgeline – or even make your elopement a multi-day celebration with a backpacking trip!
Ski or Snowboard
In the winter, when the park is covered in snow, you can snowshoe along the trails, or you can head to the Crystal Mountain Resort to hit the slopes! The resort even offers scenic gondola rides that will give you a bird’s eye view of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Thinking about getting high on your elopement day? No, not like that! You can actually take a hot air balloon up into the air, and marvel at Mt. Rainier from 4,000 feet off the ground! Your elopement day should be one you’ll remember forever, and this is certainly not an experience you’ll forget anytime soon.
Tips For Your Mt. Rainier Elopement
Plan to be “off-the-grid”
Cell reception throughout the park can range from poor to non-existent, so plan ahead. Download maps and trails offline, and make sure everybody in your group knows the plan for where to meet, and when!
Be prepared to Leave No Trace
The gorgeous alpine ecosystems and beautiful wildflowers around the park are fragile, and can be easily damaged by moments of carelessness– it’s super important that you stay on marked trails and durable surfaces! If you bring cake or champagne to celebrate with, plan on packing out your trash and carrying it with you until you find a wildlife-proof receptacle. (It’s not common to run into bears around the park, but let’s not tempt them 😉
Mt. Rainier Elopement Packages
As an elopement photographer, I’ll join you on this unforgettable adventure – but that doesn’t start in the park, it starts with planning your day. So throughout the planning process, I’ll be with you to provide trail recommendations, permits and marriage document assistance, timeline creation, and plenty of hype and emotional support!
My most popular Mount Rainier elopement package is 6 hours! Most often, we’ll spend all of it on a mountain, enjoying a hike up to a fire lookout with a gorgeous lake along the way before getting changed and doing a first look on top of the world. After your vows, we’ll take a few minutes up there to snack and cheers to your marriage, get some killer photos at sunset, and hike down after an amazing evening together!
Another elopement package option is the two day experience. One day can begin by getting ready together with your family, enjoying a late brunch as you soak up those exciting pre-marriage moments! Then we’ll head to the park to hold your ceremony by one of the beautiful lakes near the road– no hiking required. After a quick toast with the fam, some formal portraits, and a little cake, we’ll begin our hike to the wildflower-covered meadows and viewpoints of the mountain available on this easy-moderate trail. We’ll enjoy sunset and take some golden hour photos before calling it an early night! The next day, we’ll head on a sunrise hike so that we have the best seats in the house when Rainier lights up with alpenglow, marveling at her beauty. A perfect way to spend your first morning with your new spouse.
Oh hi! I’m Marla, an adventure elopement photographer that can see Rainier from her apartment rooftop❤ I spend my free time in the summer exploring new corners of this beautiful National Park, looking for the very best spots for my couples that choose to elope here.
I’m here to help you throughout the entire planning process, from choosing your perfect location to finding the best vendors, creating a timeline of activities and helping you apply for the right permits. I’d love to photograph your Mt. Rainier elopement! Click here for more Washington resources.