Oksana & Jay’s Mt. Rainier Hiking Elopement at Paradise

I want to start this off with a little snippet of what Oksana & Jay wrote when I asked them what they learned while planning their Mt. Rainier hiking elopement, because I think it’ll give you more insight into their vision than I ever could with my words:

“We have realized that all of the little details don’t really matter to us. Being in a beautiful setting, doing something we really enjoy (hiking and being in nature) is what matters most. Going with the flow and taking the day as it goes is the most important.”

Whew! You give me a couple that is ready to go with the flow, down to adapt as needed, and just wants to marry each other in the middle of somewhere stunning & have a damn good time, and I will be one HAPPY gal. Oksana and Jay said it best: they wanted their elopement to be focused around their love and commitment, rather than the little tiny details that didn’t matter too much to them. Oh, and they wanted to do it all somewhere with spectacular views – so off to Mt. Rainier we went!

Oksana & Jay’s Mt. Rainier Hiking Elopement

The sweetest day full of meaningful moments

You already know I am the biggest supporter of couples creating a day that fits them and their most authentic selves, whether that looks like having a full ceremony & reception with intricate details and complex tablescapes, or a private vow exchange in the mountains with nothing but a bouquet in your hands. Neither way is right, neither way is wrong – they’re simply two different options for two different types of couples! Oksana and Jay felt that the latter represented them best, so they planned a simple day full of their favorite things: nature, mountains, and hiking – and when I tell you it was glorious from beginning to end (and an EARLY beginning at that), I mean glorious!

Vibrant summertime florals & lush green forests

There is truly nothing better than a sunny summer day in the Pacific Northwest, when the sun is shining down over the mountains, letting soft dappled light stream through the tops of the lush green trees. Yes, it may have been the middle of summer, but the PNW mountains are famous for surprising you with cloudy days & rainstorms at any time of year, so I always consider it a gift when we get sunshine in the mountains like Oksana and Jay did! The gorgeous weather paired perfectly with Oksana’s vibrant bridal bouquet, which was bursting with bold pink roses, bright white anemone, and muted green branches of eucalyptus. These two could not have chosen a more stunning color palette to stand out against the greens of the Mt. Rainier forest, both thanks to Oksana’s bridal bouquet and Jay’s boutonniere!

A 1:30am wake up call to start the day

Now let’s take a pause on gushing over these florals, and get to the beginning of Oksana and Jay’s elopement, shall we? They wanted an epic hike in the mountains, so an epic hike they got – a bright & early 1:30am wake up time included! After getting ready while it was still completely dark outside, these two met me at the trailhead ready to rumble at 4:30am so that we could catch the sunrise on the mountain. I know that getting up before the crack of dawn is NOT everyone’s thing, but Oksana and Jay were committed from the get-go. They were absolute troopers and made the most out of this crazy-early morning filled with so much beauty. Based on the complete solitude we had, the vivid ombré skies around us, and the soft glow of the mountain as the sun slowly rose, I think it was well worth the early wake up call!

A picturesque Mt. Rainier elopement ceremony at sunrise

We arrived at our first spot just as the sky was starting to brighten in anticipation of the sun, perfectly timed for a quick change into their elopement attire, a brief first look, and a ceremony as the sun rose above the horizon line to shine beautifully on the mountain. Oksana and Jay had Molly from Nomadic Weddings there to officiate, and she gave such a beautiful ceremony, revolving around the idea that life isn’t in the big moments – it’s in the everyday ones. Their vows followed a similar theme, talking about how it’s not always the “best hike” or “favorite adventure” that become your favorite memories; it’s the sips of coffee you take together, the moments you have alone in your home. All the big stuff pales in comparison to getting to share your life with one another – what a beautiful sentiment to start off their married life with!

The spectacular Skyline Trail trek from Paradise

The hike we woke ourselves up for was the Skyline Trail, a 5.5-mile round trip loop hike that leaves from Paradise, on the south side of Mt. Rainier. It’s a super popular hike thanks to its insanely scenic route that takes you through breathtaking mountain views, sparkling waterfalls, and dreamy wildflower meadows filled with lupines & scarlet paintbrush galore! That’s why we opted to go at sunrise – we wanted to avoid crowds as much as possible, and we were pretty dang successful.

We had the whole place to ourselves since it was so early in the morning, and really the only company we had before sunrise were the little dots of headlamps thousands of feet above us as  climbers made their way to the summit! We only passed a handful of other people for the first 4 hours or so, and it wasn’t until we started catching people going counterclockwise on the trail around 9:30am that we started seeing just how popular this hike was. Every hiker we passed got more and more excited to see us (Oksana and Jay, mostly), and there were congratulations being thrown out everywhere! We even passed a number of volunteers on the trail that were stoked to see us, and a few older couples who thought the idea was “just marvelous” – it was adorable. We laughed together all morning long, so filled with joy throughout the experience even despite the fairly long hike. And thanks to all the other hikers, it was like these two were celebrities on the mountain!

I particularly loved this unique little corner we found along the way – it’s always fun to get rid of that pressure (both internal & external) to have the most epic views in the background of every photo. Spots like this can be just as magical, especially if they’re a little quieter & further away from other hikers ✨And we had to make a stop at Myrtle Falls for a few photos too, of course!

Oksana also surprised Jay during a little picnic they had, with a scrapbook she had made compiled by letters from their loved ones. Knowing how important family is to Jay, she asked his entire family to write letters beforehand, and then her family joined in, too, to create this beautiful book of well-wishes! I could tell it meant so much to him, and to have it there with him on the big day.

Want some tips on how to have an incredible hiking elopement like Oksana & Jay’s? Take a look at my full guide to How to Plan a Hiking Elopement!

A quick portrait pit stop at Reflection Lake

On our way out, we made a stop at one of my favorite spots in the park: Reflection Lake! It’s not hard to figure out why it’s named that – the lake features stunning views of Rainier reflected in the water on clear days, when there’s not too much of a breeze. The wildflower views & the mountain scenery at Reflection Lake are pretty hard to beat, so I highly recommend visiting if you have the time (as long as you’re okay being around other visitors, since it’s a super popular spot).

Mt. Rainier Hiking Elopement Photographer

What a day this was with Oksana and Jay – it meant the world to be there with them for their Mt. Rainier hiking elopement, from the moment we met up on the trailhead to when we said goodbye, and every part in-between. If you’re in the middle of planning your own Mt. Rainier elopement (or are about to begin the process) and know you’ll need a trustworthy expert by your side, that’s where I come in. I’m Marla, a Mt. Rainier elopement photographer and a gal who’s just in love with capturing love! I’d be so honored to be there with you to document your elopement day, and to help you curate the adventure of a lifetime. You can take a look at my pricing & more detailed info here, and then get in touch with me here so we can get started!

How to Plan a Mt. Rainier Wedding

If you’re dying to elope at Mt. Rainier after seeing Oksana & Jay’s breathtaking adventure, I’ve got the blog post for you: a full Mt. Rainier Elopement Guide! This guide walks you through what you need to know to plan a unique, stress-free elopement or intimate wedding in the park, including info about entrance fees, wedding permits, venues, cabins, things to do, & more. You won’t want to miss it!


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