Written by our rad team member, Amanda Winther
Guide to Planning Your North Cascades National Park Elopement
It’s hard to think of something I love more than helping a couple plan a North Cascades National Park elopement. And that’s because the North Cascades have so much to offer! I mean, to start: did you know that there’s a little mountain town in North Cascades National Park that you can only get to by boat, seaplane or hiking?! That’s right — NO roads lead there! Talk about ultimate adventure and ultimate privacy. I’m sharing all the details about this amazing gem (one of my top four places to elope in North Cascades National Park), the best times of year to elope in the North Cascades, everything you’ll need to know about weather patterns, one of my favorite natural phenomenons ever (hint: larch season!!!) and so.much.more. in my full guide to eloping in North Cascades National Park.
How to elope in North Cascades National Park: a checklist
Choose the best time of year
Hire an elopement photographer (pssst… I’d love to adventure with you!)
Pick your ideal elopement location
Get your WA marriage license + National Park special use permit (aka wedding permit)
Plan an adventurous celebration in North Cascades National Park!
There are a few steps you’ll want to cover when planning your North Cascades National Park elopement. First, since the North Cascades do get quite a bit of snow, it’s important to understand North Cascades National Park weather and choose the ideal time of year for your elopement. Then, of course you’ll want to pick your ideal North Cascades National Park elopement location based on things like accessibility and preferred backdrop (whether you’re thinking sweeping snow-capped mountain views, cozy lakefront vibes, a sweet little a-frame cabin in the woods, or maybe all of the above !?). Next, you’ll want to apply for your National Park special use permit (aka wedding permit), and make sure you understand what you’ll need to do to get your Washington state marriage license (to make it official!). Oh, and don’t forget to check your date with your elopement photographer (oh hi, that’s me!). I seriously can’t wait to show you some of my absolute favorite spots in this secret gem of a National Park!
The best time of year to elope in the North Cascades: understanding North Cascades National Park weather patterns
It’s super important to understand North Cascades National Park weather when thinking about the best time to elope. I always tell my couples that the best time to elope in the North Cascades is between mid-July and early October. The reason being that North Cascades National Park is at higher elevation, which means snow! And while a perfect winter elopement session is one of my favorite things, hiking around in muddy half-melted snow is a little bit less awesome. That’s why I recommend waiting until the summertime to head to the North Cascades. Depending on the year, all trails should be snow-free by mid-July.
Between August to early September (depending on the year) is when you’ll get wildflowers in the mountains of North Cascades National Park. Have you ever seen lupine exploding in shades of blues, purples and pinks, paintbrushes in their vibrant reds and oranges, and lilies in whites and yellow? Trust me, it’s something everyone should experience at least once. Ideally more than once! And in the PNW we have so many different types of wildflowers… it’s kind of wild (lol). And if you want to geek out with me, here is a list of 57 common wildflowers in the North Cascades. (I love their whimsical names!)
Fun fact! You can usually predict how good wildflower season will be during the winter. Years with above average snowfall usually mean better wildflowers since snowmelt is what provides water for the wildflowers in the spring and summer.
If mid-summer doesn’t seem like the ideal time for your elopement, the fall is one of my favorite times to visit North Cascades National Park for one reason I seriously can’t hype up enough: larches! September through early October, depending on the year, is larch season. What are larches? Why am I obsessed with them? Larches are deciduous conifers (aka pine trees that change colors and shed their pine needles — and you know how your girl feels about pine trees!) So in the fall, larches change their colors and the valleys explode in brilliant golden colors. Larch season in the North Cascades is the best thing ever! Who’s trying to have a larch elopement? Sign. me. up!
I would avoid winter or spring elopements in North Cascades National Park because the weather is iffy and there are way fewer options of where you can go in the park, since some of the roads and trails, especially the ones at higher elevation, close during the winter. If you are wanting to elope in the spring or winter, check out these epic locations below that are perfect for that time of year!
Looking for a spring or winter elopement? Check out these resources for some of my favorite spring and winter elopement locations!
North Cascades National Park map: it’s called the North American Alps for a reason!
Just looking at the North Cascades National Park map, you’ll notice how many different environments it includes. Here’s where I step on my soapbox about why North Cascades is actually one of the coolest parks ever. North Cascades National Park extends all the way from the US-Canada border to Lake Chelan and is extremely biodiverse (aka tons of plants and animals). The western side is wetter, with dramatic peaks, lush greenery, and old growth forests, while the eastern side is much drier, and more arid. So, in the words of Hannah Montana, you get the best of both worlds!
The North Cascades are often called the North American Alps, and that’s because the mountains there have some of the most impressive-looking soaring granite spires I’ve ever seen. What else is there to love about the North Cascades? How about the nearly 400 miles of trails along forested valleys with endless 360-degree? How about the over 300 glaciers? How about the more than 120 alpine lakes? What I want to know is what isn’t there to love about the North Cascades? Did I mention that there are even a few spots in the park and very close by that are dog friendly? (Yes please bring your pup along for your elopement day!!!) All in all, North Cascades is one of my absolute favorite national parks.
Okay. Now I’m going to tell you a fact that kind of blows my mind: North Cascades is one of the least visited national parks in the US. I seriously do not get it. But also, I kind of love it because it means the secret is mine… and now yours! It’s a hidden gem and one of my favorite places to bring my elopement couples.
Where to elope in North Cascades National Park: Mollie’s list of top 4 places
It’s hard to narrow it down, because there are so many incredible places, but here are my top four places of where to elope in the North Cascades. The good news is that this seriously just scratches the surface for amazing elopement locations in North Cascades National Park. I know of SO many other spots! Although not all trails in North Cascades National Park are dog friendly, I know of some gorgeous spots in the park and surrounding areas that are dog-friendly and I can’t wait to share them with you! Is your interest piqued? Reach out to me. I would love to show you around!
Washington Pass Overlook
A Fire Lookout
Whenever you see a lookout called “artist point” you know it’s got to be absolutely stunning, and Artist Point in the North Cascades is definitely no exception. You’ll get a bit of it all: alpine lakes, flowering meadows, and panoramic mountain views of huge peaks like Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. Since it’s a drive-up location, Artist Point is a great spot if you want to include family in your elopement. The main downside of this spot is that it’s super popular and there are tons of elopements there. But, there are some rad trails right off Artist Point that most people don’t know about and.. Psst! I just might know a PNW elopement photographer who can show you all the secret places!
Washington Pass Overlook is another one of my top picks for eloping in the North Cascades. It’s got stunning sunset views of the Liberty Bell Peaks, and is another drive-up location, with a small loop trail that is fully wheelchair accessible. Yes! You can bring grandma, grandpa, the whole fam!
Stehekin is an amazing remote mountain town that you can only access by boat, seaplane, hiking or horseback from Lake Chelan. That’s right — NO roads lead to Stehekin. If you’re looking for the perfect elopement spot in the North Cascades where you can also honeymoon, Stehekin is it! Imagine this: you and your sweetheart elopement at sunrise by the lake, then grab a slice of chai spice coffee cake at the Stehekin Pastry Company before heading on a kayak tour with your bag lunch (or horseback ride to a waterfall, or bike tour, or hike… the choices are endless!). Afterwards, you enjoy a home-cooked, locally-sourced dinner at the Stehekin Valley Ranch, where you’re also staying for the evening. After the sun sets, you bring a blanket to the campfire to cuddle and watch the stars getting brighter and brighter as the night gets darker… Talk about ultimate adventure and ultimate privacy! Oh. My. Gosh. I’m packing my camera!
A Fire Lookout
There are SO many epic fire lookouts in North Cascades National Park. You might already know this, but I kind of have a love affair with fire lookouts. I love them more than any other thing in the mountains, not only for their cool history, but they also always have incredible views. Ahem…where’s my soapbox again?! A little history on fire lookouts: the Forest Service built fire lookouts as a response to some devastating forest fires in 1910 across Idaho, Montana and Washington. 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! You are guaranteed to have amazing views and as an elopement photographer that gets me so excited! Another cool thing about fire lookouts is that you can sleep in most lookouts. Did someone say overnight fire lookout elopement? Yup. Yup. I’m there.
A few more things to keep in mind when you’re choosing where to elope in North Cascades National Park
Diablo Lake Overlook: Due to park closures, the Diablo Lake Overlook is not currently open for elopement photos. The National Park Service is currently not giving out special use permits or wedding permits for the Diablo Lake area (keep scrolling for more about special use permits!) Check the National Park Service website or call to speak to a Ranger for the most up-to-date info.
Learn about and follow Leave No Trace Principles, read signs, and stay on established trails for your elopement!
If you bring family or friends along, make sure they don’t scatter or throw any organic or inorganic materials that can’t be entirely removed. This includes rice, birdseed, and flower petals! (And be sure to check out my full guide for creative ways to get your family involved in your elopement!)
As I said before, North Cascades is one of my all time fav national parks in the US. There are so many more spots that would make for an epic elopement — this is really just scratching the surface. Reach out. I can’t wait to help you choose the ideal North Cascades elopement spot!
North Cascades National Park Lodging: The best places to stay for your elopement
There are so many amazing options for your North Cascades National Park elopement, and here are a few of my top recommendations for places to stay in the North Cascades:
Airbnb wedding venues in Glacier, Washington
Other areas to stay near North Cascades National Park
Looking for even more epic places to stay in the North Cascades? You know I’ve got you covered! Click here for the ultimate guide to planning an Airbnb elopement.
What to pack for your North Cascades elopement
Curious what to pack for your North Cascades elopement? Below are my top recommendations of what to pack for your big day:
National Park Pass
Layers of clothes
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Bug spray (especially during wildflower season when our little pollinators friends and other flying critters are most active)
North Cascades National Park special use permit
A bag for trash*
Who’s surprised that snacks is number-one on my list? The America the Beautiful annual national park pass costs $80 and will last you for an entire year’s worth of adventures. It’s so worth the investment! A headlamp is super important if you’re wanting to catch sunrise during your North Cascades National Park elopement because most of your hike to the mountain views will be completed prior to sunrise. The temperature drastically changes as the sun rises, so I always recommend bringing plenty of layers that you can shed throughout the morning. Throw in a long sleeve, sweatshirt, down jacket and rain jacket and you’ll be set! It is always a good idea to be over-prepared by bringing bear spray. You just never know what furry friend you could meet along a trail in the forest! Like I mentioned earlier, you can’t have a Washington elopement without a Washington marriage license. Still have questions about the process? I’d love to help!
* Bag for trash? That’s right! It’s always a great idea to bring an extra bag with you for your own trash and to grab any trash you see along the way. (I know I always have mine!) Extra bonus points if it’s reusable like this one.
That’s it! I’ll take care of the rest! I love being over-prepared, so I will make sure you’re fully covered! I will always have these things on me during an adventure elopement:
First aid kit
Garmin inReach for emergencies
Bluetooth speaker (there’s always a reason for a dance break)
Cameras (I mean, duh)
Snacks (double duh)
How to get a North Cascades National Park wedding permit
One thing you definitely don’t want to forget for your North Cascades National Park elopement is your special use permit aka your wedding permit. Here’s how to get your North Cascades National Park Wedding or Elopement Permit:
Fill out a Special Park Uses Application
Pay a $50 non-refundable special use permit application fee. You can do that online through the NPS website.
The National Park Service will send you back a permit draft for you to review and sign. Send the draft permit back and you’ll get your super duper officially signed North Cascade National Park wedding permit.
Don’t forget to bring your signed special use permit with you on your big day!
Pro tip: you can get your special use wedding permit up to a year in advance. They require about four weeks to process, so you won’t want to put off getting this step checked off of your list!
Booking an adventure elopement package with me? Leave this step to Team Mollie! Roger that! We’re on it!
How to get a marriage license for your North Cascades elopement
You’ve got your incredible partner, the stunning dress, the dreamy flowers and the epic North Cascades National Park elopement backdrop. But, you cannot forget one of the most important witnesses to your adventure-packed vows: your marriage license! Here’s what you need to know about getting your marriage license for your North Cascades National Park elopement:
You cannot get married the same day you get your marriage license because Washington has a three-day waiting period.
The Washington marriage license is valid for 60 days.
A Washington marriage license costs $69 and is nonrefundable.
You can obtain a marriage license from any county, and it is valid in any county in Washington. You just have to return the marriage license to the county where you obtained the license, and you can return it to the county by mail or in person!
Read about all the information you need to know about getting a marriage license for your North Cascades National Park elopement by clicking here. Also, you’ll need to have someone ordained to officiate your Washington elopement ceremony and two witnesses present (and yes, I’m stoked to be a witness, if needed!).
Eloping made easy: choose from these North Cascades National Park elopement packages
I’m here to help you with all things adventure elopement and wedding. I partner with you to plan your best day ever with my library of resources and knowledge of the outdoors, and I’ve created the elopement packages below to help you decide the best way to invest in your day. These elopement packages are tailored to fit any type of adventurous wedding day. So, click below to explore the breakdowns of the packages I offer to find the one that is right for you!
On average, a Washington elopement costs an average baseline of $10,000, including the wedding dress and suit, bouquet, photographer and marriage license. Which, considering the average wedding costs $30,000, everyone should consider eloping! Below, I’ve included the different Washington elopement packages I offer. I recommend the full day elopement package the most often to my couples.
Meet your North Cascades National Park elopement photographer
Oh hello! I’m Mollie! I feel most at home outdoors, so it is no surprise that is where I gravitate towards as a North Cascades National Park elopement photographer. In college, I was known as the “granola girl” because my outfits were always fit to go to class or hiking (not that I ever skipped class to go to the mountains, lol). From my days of exploring the hills of the Ozark Mountains, I am now hiking through North Cascades National Park trails, exploring the bases of waterfalls in Kauai and experiencing as many fire lookout sunset views in Washington as possible. I am passionate about this job of mine and the landscapes that North Cascades National Park has to offer. I’m a Pacific Northwest-based elopement photographer who knows the state of Washington and North Cascades National Park well. Basically, I’m dying for a reason to head back to the North Cascades, and I’d love for your adventure elopement to be the reason! Click here to learn more about me, your North Cascades National Park elopement photographer!
There you have it: my tips for how to plan your North Cascades National Park elopement. I hope this blog post made you fall in love with the North Cascades just as much as I do. Do you still feel torn or confused about all-the-things Washington elopement planning? Can’t decide between a larch elopement and an intimate Stehekin adventure wedding? Why not both!? Reach out to me and let’s plan your dream North Cascades National Park elopement together!
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.