ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State

Written by our rad team member, Amanda Winther.
All graphics created by Sophie at
Mod Bird Creative.
Sensitivity reading and disability consulting provided thanks to the incredible Syren Nagakyrie of
Disabled Hikers.

  


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ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State

Connecting you with ADA accessible elopement locations is important to me, and not just because one of my main goals at Between the Pine is to help all people (and when I say all people, I really do mean *all people*) get outside for their best day ever. One thing you might not know about me is that I’ve had the honor to learn from (and am still learning from!) the world of disabilities. In college, I spent three years working with disabled youth through an organization called YoungLife Capernaum. One summer, I also worked for Outdoors for All in Washington, and was able to witness firsthand what accessibility looks like in the outdoors.

These experiences opened my eyes to the many accessibility issues that exist when it comes to trails and parks. They also showed me how important it is for everyone to get outside. Side note but also not really a side note since it’s my job to capture the magic of people marrying their love: did you know that disabled people do not have marriage equality? Yep — for some disabled people, getting married can put their disability benefits at risk. (For more details, check out this article about marriage equality on the Center for Disability Rights website.) If you’re in this position but still want to celebrate your love with your best person, please reach out – I’d love to help you figure out a way to do that even if it doesn’t include a marriage license.

In the last few months, with Covid causing people to cancel bigger weddings and move towards smaller family weddings and outdoor elopements, I’ve had more and more couples reach out wanting to include their family members who use walkers, wheelchairs, or other mobility devices in their elopement day. They wonder if this is even possible. I’m here to say it absolutely is possible! That said, finding truly ADA accessible trails and elopement locations is not easy. The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), the first congressional measure to help ensure access to people with disabilities, was made law in 1968, and although it’s been over 50 years, many of the amenities and facilities at National Parks and other areas were built before then, and are still very much catching up.

I always try to have good options for all of my couples, and I’ve been consistently frustrated with the lack of resources and information available out there around good elopement locations that are also wheelchair accessible. I’ve spent hours and hours researching this, and a lot of the information out there is inaccurate or even missing. I’d click on a page with accessibility resources, only to find the link broken and  “the page not found.” Or, a trail might come up in search as accessible, but then as I dug deeper I’d learn that it’s only accessible for .1 miles of the 3 mile hike (are you kidding me?!?) or it’s not actually accessible. How I see it, and I’ll say it again and again — this is *your* (you and your love’s) day and you should be able to have the perfect day that you dream of. If you want to celebrate your love outside, or your family and friends to be there to witness this moment, that should absolutely be part of your day! There are already so many barriers to getting outside, and my goal in writing this (and honestly all of my elopement guides) is to try and help ensure that the outdoors really are for all people.


How to use this guide to ADA accessible elopement locations in Washington State

Here’s a few notes about this ADA accessible elopement locations guide and how to use it.

First, a note on terminology I’m using in this guide. When talking about disabilities, I opt to use identity-first language instead of people-first language (aka I will write “disabled people” instead of “people with disabilities”). I do this because I hope to reinforce the idea that disabilities are not a negative thing that need to be erased, but play an important role in who a person is. (Check out Cara Leibowitz’s piece over at The Body is Not an Apology for an explanation of why she prefers identity-first language).That said, this language is still evolving and there is no one universally preferred language.  Since we were not able to ask all of our readers (and their families) which terminology they prefer, we opted for this one. If you don’t know whether to use person-first or identity-first language, it is best to ask the community, group, or person you’re talking to directly for their preference. For a more in depth discussion about terminology and links to lots of resources and opinions, visit this page by the National Center on Disability and Journalism.

We tried to make this guide as readable and scannable as possible. For each accessible elopement location we feature, we include the following information:

Length
Type of Trail Surface: Paved, Boardwalk, Packed Dirt?
Curb Cuts: Yes/No
Viewpoint views at sitting height: Yes/No/?
Benches along the trail: Yes/No/?
Grade: 
ADA Accessible Parking Spots:
Yes/No/?
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes/No/?
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes/No/?

You will notice that some of the options like viewpoints, benches, parking spots, bathrooms and picnic tables have three choices: Yes, No, and “?”. In this case, a question mark means we aren’t sure either way, and are hoping to update this information soon. For example, the location may have accessible picnic tables but it may not. In the future, we also plan to update the ADA Parking Spots from Yes/No to include the number of ADA parking spaces.

My hope is that both disabled people and people who want to include disabled friends and family in their wedding or elopement day will find this guide helpful. We’ve spent many hours researching and visiting the locations in this guide. But, this blog post isn’t intended to be a static resource but will be updated and added to as conditions at these locations change.  If you see an error or if something needs to be updated, please contact us and let us know! If you have more trail ideas or resources for finding accessible elopement locations or planning an accessible elopement in Washington please reach out — we would love to add them!


6 tips for planning an ADA accessible elopement in Washington

  1. Get a National Parks Access Pass & Washington Disability Pass

  2. Call ahead and talk to a ranger

  3. Try to visit on weekdays vs. weekends

  4. Rent a wheelchair accessible rental car

  5. Use airbnb’s accessibility needs search, but also confirm with the host!

  6. Double check if you need a special use permit for your elopement or ceremony

My top tip for planning your accessible elopement in Washington, is to get an Access Pass. Did you know that with this pass you can get free access to national parks and other public lands for life? (Praise that this exists!) You will need to send documentation of your residency (only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible at this time) and disability status. Check out this National Park Service page to learn more about the Access Pass, for locations where you can get one in person, or for the application if you prefer a mail-in option. Washington State Parks also offer a free Disability Pass, which not only gives you access to the parks but also gives you other benefits like 50% discounts on camping, mooring, and more. Note: you can also show your license plate or wallet card and ID directly to a state park ranger to get the same benefits without the pass.

For all of the locations below, I included contact information for the relevant National Forest or National Park, and that’s because it’s always a good idea to call ahead and check on conditions at your desired trail with the rangers. Bonus: rangers are *so* friendly and know all kinds of cool and interesting facts about the area! If you can’t reach the rangers, another good option is to check the latest reviews on All Trails or Washington Trails Association for your desired location, since people will sometimes share trail information like if there are recently downed trees, broken boards on a boardwalk, or other obstacles.

I recommend this to all my couples, but if at all possible try and plan your elopement day on a weekday instead of a weekend. Trails tend to be less crowded on weekdays, and this is especially true for the more accessible trails.

If you or your family will be flying into Washington for your elopement, you will want to book an accessible rental car or van early to make sure it’s available for your dates. This Visit Rainier accessibility guide has good, detailed information about offerings from a few different rental companies with accessible options that also deliver to the airport.

Did you know that airbnb has an accessibility needs search option? If you click the “more details” section in search, you can filter your search to show airbnbs with accessible options. While this is a good place to start, I found that it’s not always very accurate, and doesn’t give specific information about if there are accessible bathrooms, ramps, etc. You know best what you or your family or friends will need as far as accessibility, so it’s always a good idea to contact the airbnb host directly to confirm the exact details before you book. If you’re thinking of hosting your elopement or reception at an airbnb (because there seriously are some dreamy ones out there!), check out my guide to planning an airbnb elopement for more tips.

It’s a good idea to double check if you’ll need a special use permit for your elopement. In general, if you’re eloping in a National Park, you will need a special use permit. If you’re eloping in the National Forest, you probably won’t (unless you’re planning to have over 75 people). But it’s always a good idea to do a quick google search for your location. If you do need a special use permit, you will want to apply at least 4 weeks in advance to make sure you get the permit back in time for your elopement day!


 


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State


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ADA accessible elopement location: Picture Lake

 

Length: .5 mile loop
Type of Trail Surface: Paved, Boardwalk
Curb Cuts: Yes
Viewpoint views at sitting height: Yes
Benches along the trail: Yes, multiple!
Grade: gentle, less than 10%
ADA Accessible Parking Spots: Yes
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: ?

Picture Lake is one of my favorite accessible elopement locations to go to because it is absolutely stunning with incredible views of Mt. Shuksan! The ½ mile Picture Lake Trail is located in Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, on the way up to Artist Point. The trail is fully paved, and has benches along the trail and multiple viewpoints at sitting height around the lake with unobstructed views of Mt. Shuksan. There are also meadows all around the lake, which are filled with wildflowers in the summer. You kind of get it all here: a lake, mountains, and gorgeous alpine meadows. And of course, during golden or blue hours you get these incredible alpenglow, dreamy pink and orange tinged reflections of Mt. Shuksan off the lake. It’s absolutely beautiful and would be a perfect place for a ceremony! That said, because of its location at higher elevation, this is definitely a summertime elopement location. You won’t be able to get to Picture Lake until the snow is melted and the road is fully open. The Heather Meadows Visitor Center is open mid-July to late September. Accessible vault toilets are located at the Austin Pass Picnic Area or the Heather Meadows Visitor Center Parking lot.

Picture Lake Resources


 


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State

ADA accessible elopement location: Gold Creek Pond

Length: 1 mile loop trail
Type of Trail Surface: Paved, Boardwalk, although tree roots have grown through the pavement at some parts of the trail, creating uneven surfaces
Curb Cuts: Yes
Viewpoint views at sitting height: Yes
Benches along the trail: No
Grade: gentle, less than 10%
ADA Accessible Parking Spots: Yes
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

Note: As of August 2020 the full loop is not wheelchair accessible due to 3-4 boards on the boardwalk at the backside of the pond being damaged (rotted out) or missing.

Gold Creek Pond is another loop trail in Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, and my second pick for accessible elopement locations. Although Gold Creek is technically a pond, it’s quite large and really feels more like an alpine lake. This hike offers all of my favorite things: a stunningly blue pond with views of towering snow-capped mountains, wildlife like birds and beavers, and even pine trees around the pond (not that I’m biased or anything!). The trail is paved and boardwalk with viewpoints along the hike, although it may have some uneven surfaces created by tree roots growing through the pavement. In addition, as of August 2020, the boardwalk on the backside of the lake has some rotted out boards, so the full loop is not currently accessible. The main viewpoint is packed dirt so depending on the weather and your mobility device, it may not be accessible for all or all of the time. Although the parking lot is paved and has ADA accessible parking spots (and curb cuts), the road to get to Gold Creek may be quite rutted at times. I’ve listed some good resources to check the road and trail conditions below. In addition to calling the rangers, I also recommend checking the Washington Trails Association page and All Trails, which include user-provided reviews, where people can report trail conditions.

Gold Creek Pond Resources:

 


 


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State

ADA accessible elopement location: Rainy Lake

Length: 1 mile, each way (2 miles total)
Type of Trail Surface: Paved, boardwalk
Curb Cuts: Yes
Viewpoint views at sitting height: ?
Benches along the trail: Yes, multiple benches 
Grade: gentle, less than 10%
ADA Accessible Parking Spots: Yes
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: ? – There are picnic tables near the bathrooms, but unknown if ADA accessible

Rainy Lake is another incredibly stunning ADA accessible elopement location in Washington. The trail is 1-mile (2 miles round trip) through lush forests to a sparkling clear, green lake nestled in a glacial cirque (aka stunning mountains). Oh and did I mention the seasonal waterfalls created by the snow melt most summers? Yes! And I’m definitely a huge fan of always saying yes to chasing waterfalls (you know you want to!). Jenny of Wheelchair Wandering calls the trail, which is fully paved or boardwalk-covered, accessible for power chairs users. There is also an ADA accessible (vault) toilet by the trailhead.

Rainy Lake Trail Resources:

 


 


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State

ADA accessible elopement location: Hurricane Ridge area

Trail #1: Big Meadow Loop
Length
: .25 miles, one way
Type of Trail Surface: Paved
Viewpoint views at sitting height: Yes
Benches along the trail: No, but there are benches by the visitor center
Grade: gentle, less than 10%
Curb Cuts: Yes
ADA Accessible Parking Spots: Yes
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes, currently the upstairs of the visitor center building is closed to visitors (due to covid), but you can still access the restrooms downstairs, and there is a ramp!
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes


Trail #2: Cirque Rim
Length
: .5 miles, one way
Type of Trail Surface: Paved (part of the way)
Viewpoint views at sitting height: Yes
Benches along the trail: No, but there are benches by the visitor center
Grade: gentle, less than 10%
Curb Cuts: Yes
ADA Accessible Parking Spots: Yes
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes, currently the upstairs of the visitor center building is closed to visitors (due to covid), but you can still access the restrooms downstairs, and there is a ramp!
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

Trail #3: Hurricane Hill
Length
: 1.6 miles, one way
Type of Trail Surface: Packed dirt, paved
Viewpoint views at sitting height: Yes
Benches along the trail: No, but there will be!
Grade: moderate — grade above 10% (700 feet elevation gain over the 1.6 miles)
Curb Cuts: Yes
ADA Accessible Parking Spots: Yes
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

The Hurricane Ridge Area of Olympic National Park has two trails that would be great ADA accessible elopement locations: the Big Meadow Loop Trail and the Cirque Rim Trail. Both of these trails are fully paved with a gentle grade, and are close to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, which has ADA compliant bathrooms and a picnic area. As of August 2020, the upstairs of the visitor center building is closed to visitors (due to covid), but you can still access the restrooms downstairs, and there is a ramp! This is a stunning area and also the highest point you can drive to in Olympic National Park. On a clear day, the views of the surrounding peaks (there are more than 18 separate peaks!) are truly spectacular, and you’ll have more or less unobstructed views from the parking lot and the picnic area, which could be a great place for a family reception or ceremony. 

I wouldn’t call Hurricane Hill fully accessible, but I’m including it here for two reasons. First, depending on the mobility devices you’re using and your comfort, this trail might be accessible for you. However, it does have steep sections and if you are using a wheelchair you will likely need assistance. Second, the Hurricane Hill trail is undergoing an improvement project and *just* reopened. The work is still ongoing but the longer-term plan is to add benches, repave the trail to 8 feet, and improve the first 4/10 of a mile of the trail to ADA accessibility standards.

There are accessible bathrooms and picnic areas by the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Hurricane Ridge Area Resources


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State

 


 


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State


ADA-accessible Elopement Locations in Washington State

ADA accessible elopement location: Hoh Rain Forest Mini Trail

Length: .1 mile loop
Type of Trail Surface: hard-packed gravel
Curb Cuts: Yes
Viewpoint views at sitting height: Yes
Benches along the trail: No
Grade: gentle, less than 10%
ADA Accessible Parking Spots: Yes
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: ?

The Hoh Rain Forest Mini Trail is a short (.1-.2 mile), hard packed gravel loop (it used to be paved but the pavement was getting damaged by tree roots so the pavement has been removed) that would be a great accessible elopement location. Located in Olympic National Park, the Hoh Rain Forest has been designed as both a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve Site by UNESCO. It is one of my favorite areas to take my couples who are looking to elope surrounded by dense, lush green vegetation, downed trees being re-integrated by mother nature, and tons of pines (are you surprised this is my favorite?!) dripping in moss and ferns. The vegetation and landscapes in the understory here are seriously otherworldly and magical, and would make for a perfect fairytale elopement. The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, which has accessible bathrooms, is open most of the year (it is closed in January and February). When the Visitor Center is open, they have wheelchairs available to rent.

Hoh Rain Forest Resources

 



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Bonus ADA accessible elopement trail: Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail

Length: .5 miles
Type of Trail Surface: Hard packed dirt and gravel, boardwalks
Viewpoint views at sitting height: Yes
Benches along the trail: Yes
Grade: gentle, less than 10% (not paved)
Curb Cuts: Yes
ADA Accessible Parking Spots: Yes
ADA Accessible Bathrooms: Yes
ADA Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

I’m including the Quinault Rain Forest area as a “bonus” accessible elopement location. Although the Nature Trail and a few others in the area have a gentle grade (less than 10%), none of the trails in this area are paved (they’re hard packed, with some boardwalks), so they may not be fully accessible for all wheelchair users and will depend on you or your party’s needs. According to the US Forest Service, the first 850 feet of this trail is “definitely accessible” to wheelchair users, but the rest likely isn’t. That said, this trail has some narrow sections and steeper switchbacks so it is likely better for people who are ambulatory.

The Quinault Valley is known as the “Valley of the Giants” after the huge trees that you’ll find in this area. It’s home to the largest Sitka Spruce tree in the world as well as giant Hemlock, Douglas Fir, and Western Red Cedars (and you know your girl loves all kinds of pine trees!). The Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail winds through the lush, old growth temperate rain forest. You’ll see ferns, moss, lichen, fungi, and epiphytes (aka air plants) along the way.Two additional short trails to look into that are also hard packed are the Maple Grove (.5 miles, elk are often spotted here!)) and Kestner Homestead (1.3 mile loop, featuring an old homestead from the 1900s) trails. These trails would be better than the Nature Trail for wheelchair users. Check out this NPS Quinault Area Brochure for more details and a map of these trails.

Quinault Rain Forest Resources



How to Plan your Oregon Elopement | Between the Pine Adventure Wedding and Elopement Photographer

Additional resources for finding accessible elopement locations in Washington State

  • Disabled Hikers Website Homepage, Resources Page, and Instagram

    • As I mentioned above, we consulted with Syren, founder of Disabled Hikers, when writing this piece to make sure it would be as useful and relevant as possible for the disabled community. Syren’s website and instagram community are both incredible resources, but especially for PNW and Washington-based adventures since they’re based in the Olympic Peninsula. Syren is an advocate for disability justice, works with a few National and State Parks on accessibility efforts, and is also currently working on a guidebook that will be published by Falcon Press in 2022 called The Disabled Hiker’s Guide to Western Washington and Oregon: Outdoor Adventures Accessible by Car, Wheelchair, and Foot.

  • Accessible Recreation YouTube Video Series

    • US Forest Service video series on accessible recreation opportunities, featuring locations in Washington and the PNW. 

  • Washington Trails Association – Accessible Hikes

    • The Washington Trails Association (WTA) is a great resource to check out if you’re looking for accessible elopement locations or hikes in Washington. This is a list of wheelchair accessible trails in Washington. It includes information about trail distance, type (paved, boardwalk, gravel, etc.), but sometimes the distance listed may not be fully accessible. I also like looking at the recent trip reports (at the bottom of the page) for the trail I’m thinking of going to, especially to see if there are any trail or road condition concerns.

  • Washington State Parks — ADA recreation page

    • The Washington State Parks have an ADA Accessible interactive map that allows you to search Washington State Parks for accessible trails, campsites, and more.

  • Trail Link’s Wheelchair Accessible Trails 

    • Trail Link lists wheelchair accessible trails not only in the Western US, but also across the midwest, and Eastern US. You can search for trails by state. 

  • All Trails

    • All Trails allows you to search for wheelchair friendly hikes all over the US. To find this feature, you’ll want to click on “more filters” and find the “suitability” section.  As I mentioned above, it’s not always accurate, but it can be a good jumping off point. I also use All Trails recent trip reports to double check trail and road conditions before I head out for any hike.  

  • North Cascades National Park Accessibility Page

  • Curb Free with Cory Lee

    • Cory Lee is a traveling wheelchair user whose website and Instagram are a true wealth of knowledge! He’s one of my favorite people to follow. 

  • Visit Rainier Accessibility Guide

    • Mt Rainier National Park honestly isn’t very accessible (but Syren of Disabled Hikers is working on it!), but this guide includes lots of detailed information about how to get to your elopement location from Sea-Tac (the Seattle airport). I think the accessible rental van company section is the most helpful. 

  • King 5 Article – 5 Accessible Hikes for Outdoor Lovers with Disabilities

  • Wheelchair Wandering – Accessible Trails in Washington State


  


Ready to explore more elopements, weddings and adventures? Wander away below!

Between the Pine is an adventure elopement and wedding photography brand created by Mollie Adams. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mollie travels with her camera in hand to document “I dos” in epic landscapes including Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii.

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  1. cyber96@aol.com says:

    I’m offended that your graphic shows a male as being disabled, let alone the marrying gender being typical male/female. This is offensive to those of us who are marrying the same sex and one of us is a disable female. This suggests that a female who is disable is unlikely to be married. Shame!

    • Hi – thank you for your comment and bringing this to our attention. We are so sorry that this graphic offended you. One of our core values here at Between the Pine is all welcome, all ways and while we cannot take back the hurt that this caused you, we will do our best to better represent all types of partnerships going forward.

  2. cyber96@aol.com says:

    I’m offended that your graphic shows a male as being disabled, let alone the marrying gender being typical male/female. This is offensive to those of us who are marrying the same sex and one of us is a disable female. This suggests that a female who is disable is unlikely to be married. Shame!

    • Hi – thank you for your comment and bringing this to our attention. We are so sorry that this graphic offended you. One of our core values here at Between the Pine is all welcome, all ways and while we cannot take back the hurt that this caused you, we will do our best to better represent all types of partnerships going forward.

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