The Best Places to Elope at Mount Rainier National Park

June 18, 2021

Trying to decide where exactly to have your elopement in Mount Rainier National Park? I get it! There are so many amazing options that it can be hard to narrow it down to a few to choose from. How do you decide between the endless spots of greenery and stunning mountain views? So today, I’m giving you the best places to elope across the park based on my personal favorite locations & past elopements!

General things to know about Mount Rainier National Park

If you’ve followed me for any period of time, or taken a look at my website, you probably know that Mount Rainier is my happy place. I absolutely love taking my clients there and going on trips there myself. I summited the mountain back in 2019, and have another summit planned for this summer. If you’ve been trying to figure out where to elope in Washington, or what mountain in Washington to elope at, this is the one!

Because I love the park so much, I always want to make sure I educate my clients on it and that we take care of it when we visit. So first, I’m going to go into some general info about the park that you should know before your elopement. Then I’ll get into my favorite specific locations!

Where it’s located

Mount Rainier National Park is located about 81 miles southeast of Seattle, and around 140 miles northeast of Portland. It’s an active volcano (yep, not just a mountain!), and is a super popular place to visit for tourists coming to the PNW – or just anybody who wants a mountain getaway who lives in the PNW, too. It’s really a place you can never get tired of, and that you’ll never be able to finish exploring.

couple on bridge

Permits + passes

One thing you always need to do your research on when visiting (and especially getting married) in a state or national park: permits + passes. Getting the right permit is essential to planning a successful Mount Rainier wedding or elopement and will help you make sure you’re being a respectful and educated park visitor.

couple walking on bridge

You can find a full list of Rainier’s permits and passes here, but the main one you need to pay attention to for your elopement at Mount Rainier is the special use permit. 

Here are the restrictions & conditions of this special use permit, according to the park’s website:

Party size determines which locations may be used for wedding ceremonies.

  • 1-12 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include select trails, picnic areas, roadside locations, and campground amphitheaters.
  • 13-24 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include picnic areas, roadside locations, and campground amphitheaters.
  • 25-60 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include roadside locations and campground amphitheaters.
  • 60 + participants: may use campground amphitheaters.

Ceremonies may not:

  • Impede the activities of other park visitors.
  • Areas may not be roped off or blocked in any way to the general public.
  • Modest decorations may be allowed (additional permissions required).
  • Additional permissions are required for professional photography/videography; please include photographer contact information in the application form.
  • The setting up of chairs, tents, or awnings is not permitted.
  • Throwing of rice, confetti, etc. is not allowed.”

You’ll need to apply for this permit well ahead of time (at least four weeks before your requested date, but I recommend doing it as far ahead of time as possible) by completing this form and emailing it to mora_special_use@nps.gov

Seasonal trail closures

I’ll talk more about this for each location below, but make sure you research + monitor potential trail closures before heading to a specific trail on your elopement day. You can do that on the National Park Service’s website here!

couple on bridge

How to Leave No Trace inside the park

I’m super passionate about respecting the environment and making the least impact possible when visiting places like Mount Rainier National Park. That’s why I recently wrote an article all about how to Leave No Trace inside the park during your elopement, which I highly recommend you read and educate yourself with prior to visiting!


Now, let’s get into my favorite locations inside the park!

Check out the super cool map below to track a few of the most popular locations I talk about throughout this blog post:

Paradise

The landscape

Paradise is probably one of the locations at Rainier that you see most often in photos – it’s a lush wildflower, well, paradise. In the summertime, it’s filled with red and purple wildflowers and luscious green grass EVERYWHERE you look. Its subalpine meadows and mountain views are to die for, and are totally unbeatable!

girl in white dress

The location

Paradise is located on the south side of the national park, 19 miles east of the Nisqually park entrance and 12 miles east of Longmire

When is it accessible?

Paradise is still mostly covered in snow in May and June, so the best months to go are usually July & August. The road to Paradise from Longmire is actually open year-round, but if you’re driving it between November and May, you’re required to carry chains just in case. 

mountains

This webpage has an interactive map of trail conditions that is awesome to take a look at before you visit the park! It’s updated weekly and provides information about snow + if any trails are closed for maintenance.

What to do in the area

Besides a ton of hiking opportunities (be sure to check out the Paradise Meadows Trail, Pinnacle Peak, and the Skyline Trail). Paradise has a few different facilities you can check out! Visit the Paradise Wilderness Information Center, the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, or the Paradise Inn for a beautiful + cozy place to stay inside the park.

tall trees

Pinnacle Saddle Trail

The location

Pinnacle Saddle Trail is located in the southeast part of the park and is a 2.5 mile round trip trail. You can access it by entering the Nisqually entrance of the park. Then driving 15 miles to the Stevens Canyon Road junction, and then heading right 1.5 more miles to the Reflection Lakes parking area. 

couple walking along trail

The landscape

This trail has the most beautiful view of open meadows and Mount Adams out in the distance – it’s worth the hike to get there! 

When is it accessible?

According to AllTrails, the trail is best used between May and October, and is usually snow-free starting in July, according to Visit Rainier.

couple walking along trail

Check out Tyana & Spencer’s recent Mt. Rainier Wedding – we hit up Pinnacle Saddle Trail for the most stunning sunset!

Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail

The location

This trail is a 9.4-mile loop trail near Paradise Inn and is a harder hike than Pinnacle Saddle. It’s got a paved parking lot at the start of the trail. So you’re able to park nearby, and is near a visitor center that you can stop at afterward. 

family

The landscape

Burroughs Trail has a stunning view of Rainier. On the trail you’ll also pass by Frozen Lake + Shadow Lake, two lakes with amazing trees and mountain views!

Whereas the Paradise side of the mountain is full of wildflowers, the Sunrise side (where Burroughs Trail and Fremont Lookout are located) is a lot more barren, and shows off an epic tundra landscape.

When is it accessible?

Keep in mind that Sunrise Road, which is the road leading to this trailhead, is subject to seasonal closures – you can monitor the road status here on the National Park Service’s website! As of the time of writing this (early June 2021), the road is expected to open around July 2nd depending on the weather.

Fremont Lookout

The location + landscape

Fremont Lookout is in the northeast part of the park. It is a 5.6-mile round trip hike, with a 1200 foot gain. You can start at the Sunrise Visitor Center and hike west on Sourdough Ridge Trail all the way to the Frozen Lake junction, and then you’ll head up to the lookout! You’ll have amazing views of Grand Park, Redstone Peak, Berkeley Park, and Skyscraper Mountain. Check out the Washington Trails Association webpage for more details!

mountains

When is it accessible?

Just like the Burroughs Trail, the Fremont Lookout Trail is best used from June through October and is also traveled to by Sunrise Road. However, as I mentioned is subject to seasonal closure. Make sure you do your research ahead of time. Monitor the road conditions, and come up with a backup plan or two!

beach

Longmire Wooden Suspension Bridge

This suspension bridge sits in the middle of the forest above the Nisqually River. It is a pretty cool place to get some unique photos inside Mount Rainier National Park! I like using this bridge as a secondary location for some variety on elopement days. There’s a really nice view of Rainier when you cross the bridge that most people don’t know about!

couple hugging on bridge

Grove of the Patriarchs

The location

Grove of the Patriarchs is a truly magical place inside Mount Rainier National Park, filled with huge cedar and Douglas-fir trees – if you want to feel tiny amidst a crazy beautiful spot in nature, this is the place to visit. 

The hike is 1.5 miles round trip and is a fairly easy, family-friendly hike – perfect for a couple who doesn’t want to hike anything crazy, but still wants to do something small to get to a beautiful location. The trail leads you across the Ohanapecosh River, and you’ll use the Stevens Canyon Southeast Entrance to get near the trailhead. 

When is it accessible?

This Stevens Canyon entrance is open seasonally, from late May to early October, so make sure you’re not planning for a late fall elopement anywhere near this trail!

We visited the Grove of the Patriarchs for Ty & Spencer’s elopement recently – check out some of their photos here!

Naches Peak Loop Trail

The location

Naches Peak Loop Trail is a popular, easy 3.5 mile round trip loop that starts along the Pacific Crest Crail at Chinook Pass. Start at Tipsoo Lake, and follow the trail from the picnic area in a clockwise direction to get the most beautiful views of Rainier! If the parking lot at Tipsoo Lake is full, you can park in the pullout lots and designated parking on the side of the highway nearby.

family overlooking view

The landscape

This trail along the northeast side of Naches Peak has super pretty views of high mountain ponds, mountain peaks, and lush green subalpine forests. Everything you could want in a PNW hike, right? I love Tipsoo Lake because you get absolutely stunning views and wildflower fields. All without having to hike a ton to get to your location. All you do is park and walk on the trails from the parking lot. You’ll see beauty everywhere you look!

When is it accessible?

This trail is best used from July until October, as are most trails in the park.

woods

What to do in the area

Tipsoo Lake has a few picnic tables. So you could totally have a fun picnic before hiking the trail to say your vows! 

Reflection Lakes

The location

Reflection Lakes sits along Stevens Canyon Road. It is the starting area for multiple intersecting trails, including the Lakes Trail (a 3-mile loop), Pinnacle Peak Trail, and the Wonderland Trail. The lakes are about 1.3 miles east of Paradise Road. You’ll park on Stevens Canyon Road to access those few trailheads!

couple hugging

The landscape

As you can probably guess from the name, Reflection Lakes reflect views of Mount Rainier. It makes for an amazing, unique view of Rainier during an elopement. It’s got those iconic Rainier wildflower views, and is another spot you probably see often when looking at photos of the park! 

The reflection of the mountain is unreal at sunrise and sunset on sunny days, especially when you get an incredible sunset filled with colors in the sky. And if you’re dreaming up a fall elopement at Mount Rainier, the fall colors of the trees here frame these lakes so beautifully!

When is it accessible?

Stevens Canyon Road is open to vehicles during the summer season only. Which is, again, typically June through September or early October. 

Traveling between locations for your elopement

When planning your Mount Rainier wedding or elopement, it’s important to carefully plan out which locations you’ll be visiting and in what order! Some of the locations mentioned in this blog post are easier to travel between than others, and you’ll want to make sure your locations make sense as far as travel time, roads, weather, and trails. 

This is something I’ll be sure to help you with, as your photographer and as someone who has visited Mount Rainier National Park countless times!

An example:

For Tyana & Spencer’s Mount Rainier elopement, we hit up two different locations after spending time at their cabin in Packwood: Grove of the Patriarchs, and Pinnacle Saddle Trail.

couple hugging

Pinnacle Saddle Trail is about 18 miles west of the Grove of the Patriarchs. You drive along Stevens Canyon Road to get there. (Remember, this road is closed in the wintertime!) We made sure to plan accordingly and add in the travel time to our day-of timeline/plans so that we didn’t end up missing the sunset due to not accounting for driving time.

The Sunrise side

The Sunrise side of the park, as I mentioned before, is a more barren, tundra landscape. Both the Burroughs Mountain Trail and the Fremont Lookout Trail are on this side of the mountain, about a 12-mile drive from each other. To get from one to the other, you’ll drive on White River Road, which is closed from November through May.

The Paradise Side

As I mentioned before, the Reflection Lakes are the area where multiple trailheads are located, including the Pinnacle Peak Trail hike. These two locations go hand-in-hand and are great for two photo opportunities during your elopement!

Paradise is also only around 4 miles away from Pinnacle Peak Trail. This makes Paradise an awesome place to start for your elopement. You can then adventure around the area to Pinnacle Peak, the Nisqually River, Snow Lake, and more!


Phew, that was a TON of info about Rainier NP. And I’ve got plenty more where it came from. If you’re dreaming of a Rainier elopement full of adventure and epic views, I’m your gal. Reach out here to start chatting about + planning your dream Mount Rainier elopement with me!

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