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You won’t believe the diverse landscapes you’ll find on the Olympic Peninsula – within just a few hours of driving, you can visit the incredible peaks of the Olympic mountain range, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the country, plenty of plunging waterfalls, forests of thick pines, bright blue lakes, and some of the most scenic coastlines you’ve ever seen! If you want all that and more, this Olympic National Park elopement guide will tell you all about how to plan your adventurous, one-of-a-kind day, and everything you need to know about the park. So if you’re a couple that wants to get away from the traditional venues, the post-engagement wedding pressure, and all the expectations that come with the big wedding industry, consider an adventurous Olympic National Park wedding!
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The Best Time for an Olympic National Park Elopement
One of the first things you’ll need to do is research the weather on the Olympic Peninsula. The western side of Washington state is well known for its cloudy days and eternal drizzle, so it’s definitely a good idea to plan your ceremony around the seasons! Here’s what you need to know about the best time to elope in Olympic National Park.
Winter in Olympic National Park
Winter is definitely the rainiest season on the Olympic Peninsula – but on the bright side, this is also the season where there are little to no crowds in the park, and the best time to find inexpensive lodging!
Olympic National Park is huge – so the weather can vary a ton! The mountains are blanketed in snow, usually from late fall to mid summer. In the rainforest and by the coast, it rarely snows, but the rain is persistent. The great thing about Washington is that when it rains, it’s usually a light (but consistent) drizzle – so if you’re willing to brave the slightly-above-freezing temperatures and bring an umbrella, or you want to have some winter wonderland fun in the mountains, elope in the winter! The town of Port Angeles, located on the northern border of the park, sees much less rain than most of the peninsula due to the rain shadow created by the Olympic mountains, so it can be a fun, dry winter getaway.
Spring in Olympic National Park
Spring at Olympic National Park is great for couples who want to spot some wildlife – Elk, black bears, and birds are out and about after the cold winter! The mountains are still snow covered, though the road to Hurricane Ridge (the best place for mountain views) transitions to being open daily – or almost daily. So while you won’t find any snow-free hikes in the higher elevation areas of the park, most of it is easily accessible by car so you can go snowshoeing, sledding, or just explore in the snow.
In lower elevations, you can find subalpine wildflower meadows, and as the snow melts the waterfalls are extra stunning! Coastal areas are great for spotting tidepools with starfish and sea anemones, but throughout the Olympic Peninsula, there’s still a lot of rain. An Olympic National Park elopement in late spring can be a good way to beat the peak season crowds, and get warmer temperatures for your day.
Summer in Olympic National Park
Summer is definitely the most popular time to visit the park because of the ideal weather, which is gorgeous! I’d say this is the best time for an Olympic National Park elopement, but there’s one major (potential) drawback – the crowds. We can definitely find some privacy, but it won’t be in the more popular park attractions; the Hoh Rainforest, for example, can have lines up to two hours long just to make it past the fee station to the visitor’s center.
For hiking elopements in the mountains, elope in July or August, when the trails are free of snow and the weather is good for trekking! The wildflowers bloom in the mountains, creating idyllic scenery. For elopements in the lower elevation areas of the park (we’ll talk about what these are when I tell you the best elopement spots), I recommend late spring or early fall.
Fall in Olympic National Park
Fall brings some stunning foliage displays, as well as some fun colorful mushroom growth, for you fungi enthusiasts. Hiking in the mountains is usually snow free until October, and though the rain picks up a little bit from summer, the rainy season doesn’t begin until mid October.
The Best Places to Elope in Olympic National Park
With the diverse landscapes on the Olympic Peninsula, there are plenty of spots to choose from for your ceremony. There are three distinct regions of the park (it’s even called “three parks in one”), each one offering some unique scenery and things to do. Here are some of the best places to elope in Olympic National Park, throughout the peninsula!
The Olympic Mountains
The first region of Olympic National Park is the mountains – located mainly in the center and on the east side of the park. Topped with ancient glaciers, these tall peaks cast a rain shadow over the east side of the park, which means that side, closest to the city of Seattle, is much drier than the rest of the peninsula! Southeast of the national park you’ll also find Olympic National Forest, which can be an alternative elopement location just outside the park, where you’ll find dog friendly hikes.
Here are some of the best places to elope in the Olympic mountains!
This one is technically not part of the park, but it’s located in the national forest. The lake offers a gorgeous waterfront elopement location, with surrounding hikes and places to camp! Mount Ellinor is a popular nearby hike, and would make a stunning elopement spot. (It was also the very first hike I ever did in the state of Washington! I was wildly unprepared but I absolutely loved it.)
A Hurricane Ridge elopement is guaranteed to be stunning! Hurricane Ridge is the best spot in Olympic National Park for mountain views, and one of the most popular attractions. You’ll drive up Hurricane Ridge Road, and reach the parking area, where you’ll be met with sweeping views of the snow capped peaks.
The town of Port Angeles is a great place to stay during your elopement, and would make a good home base no matter where in the park you elope. But, there are also a lot of great elopement spots nearby! Lake Crescent is a very popular place to go, due to the easily accessible, and gorgeous scenery. Located less than half an hour outside of town, the lake is enveloped by mountains, with hikes tucked in the surrounding forest. You can even stay right on the lake at the Lake Crescent Lodge, and if you’re planning an intimate wedding ceremony that requires a little more space, you can have your wedding there too!
Temperate Rain Forests
These aren’t the jungle and jaguar rainforests you probably picture when you hear “rain forest,” but they’re just as amazing! With an annual average of 13 feet of rain, the landscape is incredibly lush, with deep greens and flourishing plant life. With the exception of some parts of Hawai’i, this is the wettest area of the United States!
This region is located on the west side of the park, between Port Angeles and the coast.
Wandering through the trails, surrounded by moss and old growth trees, you’ll feel like you stepped right into a story book if you elope in the Hoh Rainforest! The Hall of Mosses trail is short but packed with scenery, and the Hoh River Trail can be taken as far as 18.5 miles, so you have plenty of options.
Sol Duc Valley
One of the best places to elope in the Sol Duc area of Olympic National park is Sol Duc Falls. Just a mile from the parking lot you’ll find an incredible waterfall that cascades 48 feet down to the river. Nearby, you’ll find the Sol Duc Hot Springs, where you can rent cabins next to the pools!
The Quinault Rainforest is quieter, less popular than the Hoh Rainforest, and it provides a gateway to pristine lakes and hiking trails through the temperate forest. This is one of the best places to elope in Olympic National Park for privacy and solitude!
The Olympic Coastline
The last region of Olympic National Park is the coast – the 60 miles of rugged, rocky beaches that line the west coast of Washington, adjacent to the forest.
Forks is a small town, a little bit inland, but the perfect place to stay if you’re eloping on the coast of Olympic National Park. The town is best known for its appearance in the Twilight movies, and you’ll find quirky relics all over the place! It’s got small town charm and is a great home base for exploring the surrounding areas.
Kalaloch Beach is home to the famous Tree of Life – the tree whose roots are exposed, with erosion having taken away part of the cliff. It seems to grow between two bluffs, creating a cave with its roots – it’s a little bit of a freak of nature, some have even called it magical, but you can decide for yourself! The beach itself is rocky, with tidal pools and colonies of puffins that you can see at low tide.
The moody atmosphere of the Pacific Coast is captured perfectly by Rialto Beach, with its driftwood piles and sea stacks poking over the ocean. Wander along the beach and you’ll arrive at Hole-in-the-Wall, a huge rock with a hole carved by the waves that you can walk through!
Olympic National Park Wedding Permit
For many elopement locations, a permit is required for any wedding ceremony! Luckily, at Olympic National Park, you only need a wedding permit if your ceremony includes more than 5 people (including you two, vendors, and any guests). Otherwise, you can lace up your hiking boots and elope anywhere in the park!
If you do need an Olympic National Park Wedding Permit, you can find the application here. The application fee is $50, and the park recommends applying at least 3-4 weeks before your ceremony to give them time to process the application.
Keep in mind that the park also has an entrance fee – which you will still need to pay even with a permit! The permit allows you to have your ceremony in the park, but the entrance fee is collected at each entrance. The fee is $30 per car, and can be purchased ahead of time online, or when you drive into the park. If you visit national parks often, consider an America the Beautiful pass – an annual pass that will get you into every national park in the country for just $80.
Getting Legally Married at Olympic National Park
This part may not be as exciting as choosing the best elopement spot or picking out adventure gear, but to get legally married, there’s some paperwork to do!
You’ll need a Washington marriage license to tie the knot anywhere in the state. This can be obtained at any county clerk’s office, so if you live here – go to the one closest to you! If you’re traveling for your Olympic National Park elopement, the Clallam County office is near Port Angeles. However, it is usually easiest to apply with the King County office, as they allow online applications (many other offices will send you a marriage license by mail, but the application usually needs to be mailed as well)! The license fees vary by county, but are usually around $65.
There’s a three day waiting period in Washington, which means you can get married no less than three days after you receive the marriage license. But it does expire 63 days after you receive it (60 days after the waiting period is over), which means you should do this ahead of time, but not too far in advance!
An officiant is required to sign your marriage license, along with two witnesses. I’m more than happy to officiate your ceremony, you can hire a professional officiant, or have a friend or family member get ordained to perform your ceremony. For witnesses, the only requirement is that they are over 18! So if you aren’t inviting guests, you can ask any adult to sign the papers – elopement vendors, fellow hikers, and anyone else you run into.
Where to Stay in Olympic National Park
Between adventures, you’ll need a place to stay! Luckily, there are plenty of options in Olympic National Park, and in the surrounding areas.
Olympic National Park Lodges
If you want to be close to the action, stay at the lodges, resorts, or cabins in Olympic National Park!
If you’re eloping on the coast, Kalaloch Lodge is ideal! It’s right on the beach, and you can choose from rooms in the main lodge or private cabins.
Lake Crescent Lodge
If your elopement is closer to the mountains or the east side of the park, the Lake Crescent Lodge near Port Angeles is another great place to stay. It’s right on the lake, with rooms and cabins available.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
The Hot Springs Resort at Sol Duc features hot spring pools, a spa, and scenic views of the surrounding evergreens. You can stay in the lodge, or rent cabins nearby!
Olympic National Park Airbnbs
If you’re searching for a more private place to stay, you can find plenty of cute cabins on Airbnb all over the Olympic Peninsula. I recommend searching near Port Angeles if you’re eloping on the east side of the park, and Forks if you’ll be closer to the coast.
Port Angeles Airbnbs
The town of Forks is all about nature and woodsy magic, so you’ll find plenty of forested, secluded places to stay. This cabin is tucked in the rainforest, right next to a river, and this larger cabin can host you and your guests!
Camping in Olympic National Park
If camping’s your jam, you can do it on your elopement day too! National forest camping is free, so you can camp right outside the park and find a secluded spot, or choose a campground in Olympic National Park. There are campgrounds all over, some of which need to be reserved ahead of time. Check out the full list of Olympic National Park campgrounds here!
Things to Do in Olympic National Park
The best part of your elopement day is whatever adventure you’ll plan! This isn’t just about getting married somewhere pretty, it’s about the entire experience, and making sure your elopement is special, and unique to you. Brainstorm some adventures and activities that would make this the best day ever – it can be anything from picnicking to backpacking!
One of the most popular things to do in Olympic National Park is to go hiking! There are miles and miles… and miles… of trails to choose from, so you can take a short walk through the woods or a long trek up a mountain.
Just imagine ending the day laying under a sky full of stars! Though it’s cloudy most of the year, July and August bring clear skies to the Olympic Peninsula, so you can take advantage of the wild, remote landscape and stargaze away from the city lights.
Kayak or Canoe
On Lake Crescent, and any of the other lakes found around the park, you can get in the water and paddle! Rent a kayak or canoe, or bring your own, and explore the peaceful stillness off the shore.
Tips for Eloping in Olympic National Park
Any time you’re outdoors, there are things to remember – and with a place as wild as Olympic National Park, you’ll need to be prepared! Here are some tips for your elopement day.
Much of the park is very remote, and there isn’t much cell service to be found! Lake Crescent usually has a few bars, but as you head west towards the coast, or up in the mountains, it disappears quickly, and rarely makes another appearance. Going off the grid is tons of fun, but not when you don’t know where you’re going – so be sure to download a map of the area ahead of time so that you know where to drive! And be super specific with any vendors or guests you’re meeting up with so that there’s no confusion – if you can meet up outside the park, that would be ideal. When your cell phone isn’t an option, Walkie Talkies can be helpful for separate cars!
Most of the park is easily accessible in any kind of car, so unless you’re going somewhere with dirt roads, you likely won’t have to worry about four wheel drive or a high clearance vehicle. But, it’s important to know that the park is pretty big, so it can take a while to get from one end to the other – and in some sections, the road is narrow and winding, with low speed limits. So when choosing your getting ready location, try to find something close to where you want to go next!
Hire an Olympic National Park Elopement Photographer
To be honest, this is probably the most important part of planning your elopement on the Olympic peninsula – because if you book an experienced photographer, the rest of the planning process is easy breezy! Beyond documenting your big day, I help you with everything you need for your elopement – finding the perfect spot to tie the knot, making sure you have the right permits, finding cute places to stay, booking the best vendors, and creating a timeline for the day.
So if you’re ready to start planning your Olympic National Park elopement, contact me to learn about my Washington state elopement packages, and to talk about how we can make your dream wedding day come to life!