A Complete Guide to Planning Your Mt Rainier Elopement

Written by Kiersten Roy at Sonder Studio

Illustrations by Mod Bird Creative

As adventure elopement photographers, there are few things we love more than a Mt Rainier elopement! With some of the best trails, views, fire lookouts and campsites in all of Washington (dare we say the country?), it’s easy to see why couples love eloping at this iconic national park. So, grab a cup of coffee and get comfy, because we’re sharing everything you need to know about how to elope at Mt Rainier National Park.

Table of Contents

How to Travel to Mt Rainier National Park

An important detail to consider when planning your Mt Rainier elopement is travel. We have worked with clients who travel from out of state or who have guests coming from across state lines. Some of our couples even live in Washington but have never been to Mt Rainier before. Basically, we’ve worked with a lot of different scenarios when it comes to travel logistics for elopements at Mt Rainier. That’s why we created this helpful little graphic to help you understand travel time and park entrance options for your elopement.

Designed by Mod Bird Design for Between the Pine

The 7-Step Mt Rainier Elopement Checklist

We love helping our clients with all the need-to-know steps of pulling off an epic adventure elopement. So, we’ve compiled our top Mt Rainier elopement to-do’s into a simple checklist. If you can check these off, you’re ready to elope at Mt Rainier!

Bride and groom stand in front of Mt Rainier during their elopement

Choose Your Mt Rainier National Park Elopement Photographer

Psst…we know of some pretty cool adventure elopement photographers who would love to document your day. But, truly, this is a really important step in your planning process! Of course, you’ll want photos of your day to treasure for years to come. But, you also want to book a photographer with experience in adventure elopements. From national park logistics, weather patterns and uniquely scouted locations, it’s so important to work with a photographer who is well-versed in adventure elopement photography.

Bride and groom hold hands while walking along a trail during their Mt Rainier elopement

Decide on a Time of Year and Day to Elope at Mt Rainier

One of the great things about Mt Rainier National Park is that it offers year-round accessibility! This means you’ll have plenty of options when choosing a time of year to elope. According to the National Park Service, “Visitation is at its peak in July and August, when the weather is warm and dry and the wildflowers are blooming.”

We definitely agree that this is the best time of year to elope here, though our favorite months are actually from July-October. During this time, visitors not only have the most access to the park, but also the best experience. Mt Rainier National Park has multiple entrances (which we’ll touch on later) and during the winter and spring months, they only keep one area of the park plowed. The other entrances don’t start opening up until June and by the time July rolls around wildflower season is in full bloom and the majority of trails are snow free.

Because our favorite months also happen to be the busiest months at Mt Rainier National Park, it’s important to also consider which day of the week you’d like to elope. We recommend eloping on weekdays so you can avoid some of the crowds and have more privacy on your special day.

Designed by Mod Bird Design for Between the Pine

Two brides hold hands while walking up to a mountain overlook at their Mt Rainier elopement

Pick the Best Mt Rainier National Park Elopement Location

The first step when it comes to choosing your Mt Rainier elopement location is to consider which area of the park you want to elope. Mt Rainier is a big national park (seriously, it has 4 different entrances!) and it can be a little confusing to navigate (don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for). We recommend focusing on one side of the park so that you can have a great experience and see the park without sitting in your car for hours and hours. Trust us – the way the roads are and with how big the park is, you can drive 3 hours just to get from one trail to the next.

Below we’ve provided a quick overview of the four entrances to Mt Rainier National Park:

Nisqually: Southwest Entrance

This entrance, near Ashford, WA, is the most popular and is open year-round to vehicle traffic. This entrance provides the closest access to the Longmire and Paradise areas of the park.

Carbon River: Northwest Entrance

This entrance is also open year-round. According to Visit Rainier, “This region of the Mount Rainier National Park is home to a unique ecosystem within the park: an inland temperate rainforest.  The area offers excellent recreation opportunities for hiking, backcountry camping and mountain biking as the Carbon River Road is one of the few places mountain bikes are allowed within the national park.”

White River/Sunrise: Northeast Entrance

This is one of our personal favorite entrances to the park! Through this entrance, you can find trailheads to several popular hikes and White River Campground. “Sunrise is 14 miles from the White River Entrance.  At Sunrise, explore the Sunrise Visitor Center and Day Lodge” (Visit Rainier). The road to Sunrise is closed because of snow in mid-October and reopens in late June/early July.

Stevens Canyon: Southeast Entrance

This is our (other) personal favorite of the four entrances! This entrance is located just east of Packwood, WA (one of our all-time favorite mountain towns). This entrance is open from late-May to early-October. The Grove of the Patriarchs and the Reflection Lakes are accessible through this entrance.

Even though this park is big, it’s also one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. This means the park can be busy (especially during the summer months) and a lot of places are well known. The trails we like to take our couples on are a little less traveled and less well known (so reach out to us if you want to know about those trails), but we are always inspired by fire lookouts, the deep forests, alpine lakes, epic overlooks, and of course your cabin as well. 

Once you have an idea of where you’d like to elope we can help you narrow down your options and create a timeline featuring your dream locations for your adventure elopement at Mt Rainier. We create a planning guide for all our couples that break down all the options and include which towns to stay in depending on the trails you like. 

At a fire lookout

Two grooms hug during their Mt Rainier elopement

If you’re wanting epic views at your Mt Rainier elopement, then a fire lookout might just be the perfect location for you. Following the devastating series of forest fires in 1910 that swept across Idaho, Montana and Washington, early fire protection became a priority to the Forest Service. This is when fire lookouts started to be built across the country to help with forest fire detection. Because of the high location of these fire lookouts, the views from these mountain tops stretch as far and wide as your eyes can see! See some of our favorite fire lookout adventures below:

Deep in the forest with the giant pines

Up until about 3,000 feet of elevation, Mt Rainier National Park’s ancient, lowland forests feature giant trees that reach over 200-feet into the air. How do you feel about having a forest of giants as your elopement witnesses? Sign us up!

Along an alpine lake

Bride and groom stand near an alpine lake during their elopement at Mt Rainier

Alpine lakes are some of the most serene places we’ve ever been. The stillness of the water creates a glassy reflection, making this a stunning elopement backdrop.

At an epic overlook

Bride and groom kiss on a trail at their Mt Rainier elopement

We feel like this option doesn’t even need an explanation! There are so many overlook points throughout Mt Rainier National Park that are easily accessible and so beautiful. Want to see some examples?

Outside of an A-frame cabin

Bride and groom stand in front of their A-frame cabin in the woods in Washington

Utilizing a cabin is a great way to make you elopement feel cozy and relaxed. A cabin is a great place to get ready, host friends and family (you can read more about ways to involve family in your elopement day by clicking here), or even have a post-elopement party! Not to mention, an A-frame cabin makes a great photo backdrop, too!

Brides hold hands while walking up an overlook at Mt Rainier National Park
Brides kiss in front of Mt Rainier at sunset

Apply for Your Mt Rainier Elopement Permit & Reservation

According to the National Park Service, most special events within the park require a Special Use Permit. These permits help ensure that events take place at approved locations throughout the park and don’t disrupt any wildlife or other park visitors. Click here to access more information about applying for a permit for Mt Rainier National Park.

Pro tip – Permits require about four weeks to process, so don’t put off getting this step checked off of your list!

Recently, Mt Rainier National Park implemented a reservation system. Over the past 10 years the park has seen a huge increase in visitors so they implemented a timed entry to help with the flow. You can learn more about Mt Rainier entry reservations here, but the most important thing to know is that you will want to apply for your reservation early (typically around 3 months in advance).

Bride and groom hold hands while hiking a mountain trail during their elopement in Mt Rainier National Park

Book a Cabin or a Campsite for Your Mt Rainier Elopement

After you have chosen a general elopement location within Mt Rainier National Park, you can start booking your accommodation! We have worked with couples who book cabins to get ready in or to use as a post-elopement reception space (or both!). In fact, we even created an entire guide on how make the most of your Airbnb for your elopement (click here to read everything you need to know about planning an Airbnb wedding). And, if an Airbnb doesn’t match the vibe you’re looking for, you can even reserve a campsite for your elopement!

Again, the biggest thing here will be knowing which location you want to visit and choosing a place nearby to stay. Here are three of our favorite nearby towns to stay for your Mt Rainier elopement:


Located on the Paradise side of Mt Rainier National Park, Ashford is the closest town to Seattle. This area is filled with tons of cute A-frame cabins, though the town itself is pretty remote.


Packwood is the closest town to the Stevens Canyon entrance and is the place where most of our couples stay. It has everything you need from gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and (our favorites) Packwood Brewery Co. and The Mountain Goat bakery. This town has more to offer in terms of places to stay and access into the park. From here you can access either the Stevens Canyon entrance or go up to Naches Peak Loop and enter on the Sunrise side.


This area is really small and one of the lesser known towns near Mt Rainier, but it also gives the closest access to the Sunrise side of Mt Rainier. There is a little outdoor shop that has ice cream and sandwiches and a local tavern so while it is much more remote, you can still plan a fun post-elopement celebration here.

Bride and groom hold hands in front of Mt Rainier during alpenglow
Bride and groom hold hands in front of Mt Rainier during alpenglow

Apply for a Washington State Marriage License

You’ve got your incredible partner, the stunning dress, the dreamy flowers and the epic elopement backdrop. But, you cannot forget one of the most important witnesses to your adventure-packed vows: your marriage license! In Washington State, you can apply for a marriage license online up to 3 months in advance. Your license is valid after 3 days and is good for up to 60 days. We recommend applying for your license as soon as possible so all you have to do is bring it with you on the day of your wedding. To learn more about getting a marriage license for your Washington elopement, click here.

The state also requires that all ceremonies be performed by a registered officiant. This means that you will need to have someone ordained to officiate your elopement ceremony (fun fact – the entire team at Between the Pine is ordained and we’d be happy to sign your marriage license for you should you choose not to have an officiant).

You will need two witnesses. If you plan on inviting guests, you don’t need to worry about this, but if your elopement day consists of just the two of you, we’ve got you covered. We are happy to be a witness for you (so long as we are not also officiating) and other hikers are usually happy to sign as well.

Bride and groom kiss in the mountains during their Mt Rainier elopement

Plan Your Mt Rainier Elopement Adventure

Your Mt Rainier elopement day is not complete without planning some fun adventures! When it comes to deciding what to include on your wedding day, the options are limitless. Whether you want to trek through an overgrown forest to an alpine lake, or you want to take it easy and celebrate with your loved ones at a day use area, there are so many ways to celebrate your best day ever!

Things to Keep in Mind for Your Mt Rainier Elopement

Bride and groom stand on a bridge over a waterfall at their Mt Rainier elopement

At the end of the day, one of the key components of an adventure elopement is planning for a certain level of flexibility. We can work together to plan for the most epic adventure, but we’re working with Mother Nature in her natural habitat. So, remember that weather patterns can change. We can do the best we can to plan for sunny skies, but the mountain could have other plans! We’ve had sessions at Mt Rainier when we’ve experienced it all within a couple of hours of each other: rain, snow and sunshine!

Another detail to keep in mind is the park entrance fee. If you’re inviting guests to witness your elopement, be sure they are aware of the required park fees.

And, lastly, you have to keep in mind that this is a beloved national park. It’s possible that there will be others around, either on the trail or at the lookout. While we will help you plan a timeline to avoid the crowds, we can’t guarantee complete privacy.

Meet Your Mt Rainier Elopement Photographers

We feel most at home in the outdoors, so it’s no surprise that is where we gravitate towards as your Mt Rainier elopement photographers. Between the Pine was founded by Mollie in 2018 and she has hiked hundreds of miles all over the Pacific Northwest and Kauai, to capture couples during their best day ever. Since 2018, we’ve grown our team and continue to hire even more incredible photographers! 

Our team at Between the Pine is passionate about our jobs and adventuring to the most beautiful locations to document your best day ever. We know the Pacific Northwest like the back of our hands and are dying for a reason to head back to the mountains, forest, and everything in between! Click here to learn more about the Between the Pine team, your Mt Rainier elopement photographers!

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