Snowy Winter Elopement at Mount Rainier

Elopement

February 18, 2021

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Written by our rad team member, Amanda Winther


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Snowy Winter Elopement at Mount Rainier

Can you imagine anything more magical than a winter elopement in a snowy, winter wonderland? There’s just something so chillingly (literally lol) beautiful about traipsing through the mountains surrounded by snow-covered pine trees. Today I’m sharing R&C’s snowy Rainier elopement perfect day, complete with one of the most stylish pups of honor I’ve ever had the pleasure of photographing! I’m also sharing my top tips to keep in mind for planning your own Mt Rainier winter elopement, other Washington destinations I recommend in the winter, and a list of some fun winter activities you could include in your best day. So get cozy by the fire, grab a hot beverage (I’m a fan of hot chocolate, extra marshmallows) and let’s transport to a snowy mountaintop!


Meet Rachael & Cody: the couple of this Rainier winter elopement

I am so excited (what’s new? Mollie is excited! lol) to introduce the couple of this dreamy Rainier winter elopement, Rachael and Cody. R & C reached out to me a few months before their elopement, (and luckily I had the dates available!). We hit it off right away and our zoom calls for planning their day quickly turned into hour long getting to know each other calls. R&C have a campervan that they travel in and we had so much fun geeking out about that because Drew and I had recently placed our order for Maple, our own Promaster campervan. I was so lucky they found me because they were seriously *so* helpful getting me excited to bring home our own van that I can’t wait to use for elopements this coming year. They even showed me their campervan for decoration inspiration, which gave me so many ideas for how to decorate Maple!

R&C had recently bought a cabin in Packwood so their whole day was centered around adventure, their cabin and being with family. We started with them getting ready at the cabin. Their 15-year-old Pomeranian dog named Ferg also got ready with them, too. I absolutely love when my couples bring their own unique touches to the day. Like making Ferg a star of the day in his bowtie and fancy shirt! (If you’re thinking of including your dog in your own elopement, check out my Guide to Planning a Dog-friendly Elopement) Did I say that we hit it off? Because I mean, they chose pines as one of their core decorations on the cabin. After they were done getting ready, their friends and family arrived, and we went out front to take some really fun family photos! Then they had a gorgeous brunch with their family. Um… admire that donut hole tree (and the gorgeous cake!!).

R&C wanted to keep their ceremony really intimate, so after brunch, Rachael’s brother joined us and we adventured into the mountains. For my couples who want to include friends and family, but also have a more intimate adventure as part of their day, I always recommend having a cabin as a home base of sorts like R&C did. Head over here for tons of other ways to include friends and family in your elopement day.

We headed up the Rainier area also known as Narnia. Tons of snow had just fallen so the trees were covered in snow, and it was just overcast. I realized I should have brought Turkish delight (lol — get it?).  Anyway, so we arrived at the trail, donned our boots and microspikes and adventured into the forest on packed snowy trails. It was silent, and white and magical. Because it was a weekday, we had the trail almost entirely to ourselves. We found the literal perfect spot for their ceremony, and R’s brother officiated. I kind of half expected a winter queen on a sled to come by. But then I realized Rachael and Cody (and Ferg!) were the real King and Queen of this Narnia. As we were making our way back down the mountain, we stopped at a few other spots that I knew of along the way. At the last spot, it started snowing very lightly, and we all started freaking out because it was such a perfect, magical ending to the magical Narnia adventure part of their day.

We headed back to the cabin where we spent the rest of the evening surrounded by their family and friends. Their whole day was so much fun and full of all the things they loved and held dear: the cabin, the mountains, freaking NARNIA level adventure, a celebration of them as a couple, and lots of time spent with family and friends.


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Four tips to keep in mind when planning your Mt Rainier winter elopement

  1. Keep an open-mind about the weather

    When planning a winter elopement, first things first — weather! The Pacific Northwest is generally really rainy in the winter, which means that it might be snowing in the mountains. You’re thinking snow in the mountains sounds like a perfect Narnia right? Well, yes of course! BUT it can actually snow so much in the mountains that some of the roads close for safety (high winds can also close the roads in the winter). With all my couples, and especially winter couples, I always recommend they stay open-minded around the weather. (And that’s why we always have plans A, B, and C for hikes and things to do on the actual day.) Even if it’s raining at lower elevations, there are lots of days where it is in the 30s and a perfect winter wonderland in the mountains. And the higher up we get in elevation, the more snow we will find.

  2. You probably need a wedding or elopement permit

    If you are planning your winter elopement inside the National Park, you will need a permit through the National Park Service. For Rainier specifically, there are also regulations for where you can go depending on the size of your party. If you plan to elope in the National Forest, you may not need a permit if your party size is 75 or less (which is all of my couples). This is something I help all my couples with. (Junior Ranger Mollie over here is so on it!)

  3. Accessibility and parking are limited during the wintertime

    There are two main locations to consider for your Mt Rainier winter elopement. First is Ashford. From Ashford you can enter the park through the Nisqually entrance and get to the Road to Paradise! The Road to Paradise is not only stunning, but it allows you to do so many different winter activities. You can access tons of hikes, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing and even sledding. Want to build a snowman on your day? (Um.. yes please! Let’s do it!) This is the place. The Road to Paradise is always weather dependent, but there are a few ways you can check the weather and road conditions. First, you can check the live webcams that the Rainier NPS maintains. They also have a twitter account, which they keep updated throughout the winter with the road status. Oh, and last but not least, the road to paradise closes during the evening and nighttime. (Specifically, it’s only open 9a-4p, and you don’t want to learn that the hard way like I did the first time (lol)!

    The other option for a winter elopement in Mt Rainier is the Greenwater or Crystal Mountain Area. This is located outside of the National Park on the other side of the mountain, and Crystal Mountain is actually the ski area at Mt Rainier. But, this is a great place to go even if you don’t want to ski. They have a gondola that you can ride up to the top and you can explore the area off skis (like on snowshoes!). There’s even a restaurant at the top that is Washington’s highest restaurant! If you want massive, fairytale, landscape views of Rainier, this is the place to go. On a clear day, you truly cannot beat the views from up here!

  4. If at all possible, plan your Mt Rainier winter elopement on a weekday

    I always recommend my couples plan their elopement during the week, and I actually do not photograph weekend elopements in Rainier. I do this because on the weekends, trails that may have only 5-10 people during the weekdays will have upwards of 100 on the weekends. (Crazy right?!) In addition, parking can be very limited, and this is especially true in the winter months. Once the parking lots are full the rangers only allow someone to enter the park when a car comes down. This could potentially make your wait to enter the park very long (I’m talking over 3 hours!). Waiting in the car for 3 hours could definitely make your best day ever a little less awesome. Soooo this is why I always, always recommend choosing a weekday for your elopement. (Because I’m all about planning your actual best day ever and there’s no room for a little less awesome in that!).



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The best destinations for a snowy Washington winter elopement

  • Mount Tahoma (aka Mt Rainier)

  • Mount Baker Ski Area

  • Leavenworth

  • Snoqualmie Pass

Mount Rainier
Duh! Mount Rainier is where R&C decided to go for their winter wonderland elopement. It’s a truly stunning destination for a snowy winter elopement in Washington, and offers so many options for incredible activities to incorporate in your day. (See the above sections for more info around accessibility, and other things to keep in mind! Or head on over to my Full Guide to Planning a Rainier Elopement).

Mount Baker Ski Area 
If planning an elopement centered around adventure skiing or snowshoeing sounds like your dream elopement day, then I highly, highly recommend looking into the Mount Baker Ski Area. This is a stunning area about 150 miles north of Seattle, which stays really accessible during the winter months because they keep the roads plowed. There’s also a town nearby with incredible (umm I’m talking #dreamcabin level) cabins that would be perfect as a homebase for your winter elopement. Also, skiing here tends to be so, so, so good. You’re almost in Canada!

Snoqualmie Pass 
Another great destination for a Washington winter elopement is the Snoqualmie Pass area. First, Snoqualmie Pass is super accessible from Seattle. But something I really love about this area year-round, but especially in the winter, is that it allows for a wider range of landscapes in your elopement photos. This is because we can start in a mountain town at the base of the mountain pass where it stays snow free year round to get some deep forest photos (I’m talking about those dreamy woodland photos with perfect diffuse light. I’m talking literally walking between the pine). Then, we can make our way up the pass where it’s full on winter wonderland Narnia! So, this is a great option because you can get the best of both worlds in your photos.

Leavenworth
Last but definitely not at all least is Leavenworth. Leavenworth is in some ways the ultimate dream destination for a Washington winter elopement. And especially if you’re drawn to the idea of saying “I do” in an epic, German or Bavarian themed mountain town. Plus, there is SO much to do here. Leavenworth has state parks, National Forest land, hiking trails, snowshoeing trails, XC skiing trails, breweries, spas…the list goes on and on! Oh– and I didn’t even mention dog sledding! If you want lots of options for activities then Leavenworth may be the dream place for you. (Check out my Leavenworth elopement blog for *so* many more details about this magical place.)


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high desert photo shoot | between the pine elopement photographer



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Feeling inspired by this Mount Rainier winter elopement? Check out these other stunning Mt Rainier elopements and adventure sessions:


Adventurous activities you can include in your winter elopement day

There are so many different activities you could incorporate in your Washington winter elopement. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Snowshoe through a narniascape

  • Downhill, back country or cross country skiing

  • Plan a winter wonderland picnic and bonfire

  • Bring out your inner child and go sledding!

  • Dog sledding: Ready? Alright!

  • End your best day soaking in a hot tub with your person

Snowshoe through a narniascape
Snowshoeing is always a fun winter elopement activity and it’s great for adventurers at all levels. If you’re traveling to Washington for your elopement or don’t have your own pair, you can rent them at REI. Or, if you’re going to the Snoqualmie Pass area, you can rent them Proski in North Bend.

Downhill, back country or cross country skiing
Skiing would be another great Washington winter elopement activity. If you don’t have skis of your own, you can definitely rent them when you get to Washington. One thing to note for 2021 is that because of covid most of the ski resorts are on a reservation system or have a limited number of first come first served day passes. So you’ll definitely want to plan ahead and reserve a spot if skiing sounds like the perfect activity for your winter elopement. Especially if you’re eloping on a weekday, you should be able to get reservations or tickets.

Plan a winter wonderland picnic and finish with a bonfire
One of my activities is centered around food and snacks. Is anyone surprised?! There are so many different ways you could create a winter wonderland on your elopement day. You could start with a stunning tablescape meal inside your cozy cabin, and then head outside for a bonfire. Or, you could pack a picnic and head to the mountains for a true picnic in the snow.

If you go this route, I recommend bringing down blankets (like these from rumpl) or sleeping bags and layering with a bright, cozy woolen blanket from Eighth Generation or Pendleton. Eighth Generation is a Seattle-based brand owned by the Snoqualmie Tribe that works with community-based Natives all across the US to sell their fine art, jewelry, apparel, blankets, and many other items that would make gorgeous gifts! (Hint, hint lol). You could even have a bonfire in the snow after your winter wonderland picnic. Did someone say s’mores?! What. A. Dream!

Bring out your inner child and go sledding!
How much fun does tromping around through the snow with your best person and zooming down a mini hill on a sled on your elopement day sound? Because I am so ready to be there capturing the moment documentary style!

Dog sledding: Ready? Alright!
Imagine you and your love going on a dog sledding tour as part of your Washington winter elopement day. (How incredible would that be?!). Well, I have good news. You absolutely can make this happen! Specifically Leavenworth is the place to go if dog sledding sounds like the perfect activity for your best day. Bonus: As I mentioned above, Leavenworth is the dreamiest German-themed mountain town and completely lights up (literally) in the winter. Head over to my Leavenworth elopement blog to learn more about this charming mountain town.

Oh and did you know that they don’t actually use the command “mush” in dog sledding? Although they do call the human leading the dogs a “musher” the most common commands they use to tell the dogs where to do are: Ready? Alright (to tell them it’s ok to run), Whoa (to stop), Gee (go right), Haw (go left). How cool is that?! And that’s your Between the Pine fun fact of the day!

End your best day soaking in a hot tub with your person
Does this even need an explanation? Is there any better way to end your best day ever than in a hot tub next to your person? Maybe add snow falling lightly around you… ummm ok that’s perfection.


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Winter elopement packages

Oh hey…I know of a pretty cool winter elopement photographer who would love to document your dreamy snowy wedding day…just saying (lol). But, truly, hiring the right adventure wedding photographer is a really important step in your elopement 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 weddings and winter elopements. From day-of timelines, Pacific Northwest weather patterns (aka microclimates!!) and uniquely scouted locations (and backup locations, and backup to the backup locations), it’s so important to work with a photographer who is well-versed in winter elopement photography. I work really hard to care for my clients to make the planning process simple and their elopement day unforgettable.

Head over to my packages page to learn more about the winter elopement packages I offer. I recommend the full day package the most often to my couples. That way you can start your day in the forest (or by the cabin), including something like a first look, a small, intimate ceremony, and even a fun adventure together, and finish with your mountaintop Narnia wedding photos. And sunset really is the absolute BEST time in the mountains!


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Meet your winter elopement photographer


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I feel most at home outdoors, so it is no surprise that is where I gravitate towards as a winter 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 mountain trails across the Pacific Northwest, exploring the bases of waterfalls in Kauai and experiencing as many mountain top views in Washington as possible. I am passionate about this job of mine and adventuring to the most beautiful locations to document winter elopements with the best couples. I’m a Pacific Northwest-based elopement photographer who knows the state of Washington, the national parks, forests, state parks, and other winter elopement locations well. Basically, I’m dying for a reason to head back to the mountains, and I’d love for your adventure to be the reason! Click here to learn more about me, your winter elopement photographer!


Are you ready to start planning your dreamy, narnia, winter elopement? Let’s do it! Reach out and let’s start planning your greatest adventure yet.

  

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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