Hey there friend! I’m Alexandria, and I’ve found home in the mountains of WA. Like you, I personally thrive and feel so fulfilled in small groups, intentional moments, and love photos to remember days by.
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Did you know Olympic National Park is one of the largest protected wilderness areas in the contiguous United States? According to the National Park Foundation, it also contains three very different ecosystems: forest, coast, and glaciated mountains! This is what makes this park so special for an elopement day – you could start your day high up looking at the rolly mountains and then end up on the beach for sunset, watching the waves roll in.
That sounds amazing, but I’m not sure if an elopement is right for me, what do I do? Check out my blog post on pros and cons to help you decide.
And if you’ve decided to elope is right for you, keep reading to know how to plan your Olympic National Park Elopement!
As we learned above it, Olympic National Park is a giant wilderness area, so what does that mean? It means no adventure is perfect. While you may luck out and have the most amazing day, roads do close due to washouts and weather, the park updates facilities and shuts down areas, the weather can be vastly different on the coast vs Port Angeles, and more. It rains a lot so you may get wet, your dress will probably drag in the mud.
But just remember this day will likely mimic your life and marriage as life is never perfect, but exciting if we just go along for the ride.
You might think that you could hire any photographer to photograph your elopement, but let me give you a few reasons why you should hire someone who specializes in adventure elopements.
Does that sound great? I’d love to help you out!
A big factor you’ll run into within Olympic National Park is group size. Not all areas are conducive to large groups. You’ll see many photographers limiting group sizes on their websites in an effort to be good stewards to the land we work on and leave as minimal impact as possible. This is in an effort to keep areas open and accessible for years to come. Many areas actually ask you to not go off trail and not to step into the meadows. This means your group has to fit on a trail, which will make it hard to fit, you might run into other hikers who have to walk past you, and it will be difficult for your photographer to move around and get good angles of your ceremony.
If you have a larger group (more than 10) I’d suggest looking at picnic sites and/or the beach! Remember your other vendors count in this group as well. This is something I can help you with as you determine your ceremony location.
Not sure how to narrow your guest list? Check out my blog post here on how to Narrow Your Guest list! You can always incorporate your family into other parts of your day as well. Check out my blog post here on incorporating your family!
Do you have guests with mobility or other health issues that you need to think about? There are a few drive-up spots that can help with this, but you will trade privacy for accessibility. There is a short ADA trail in the Hoh Rainforest. You can drive straight up to Hurricane ridge. Additionally, Rialto beach is right off the parking lot and doesn’t involve a steep incline down to the water.
Normally I suggest looking into the time of year before you decide on a location but because Olympic National Park offers 3 different ecosystems, I say decide on your backdrop first and then move on from there!
The Coast is literally my favorite place. I’m a water baby so for me to see the waves rolling in is mesmerizing. Plus I love running around on the beach and finding all the sea life when tides are low!
Olympic National Park has 73 miles of coastline and several beaches you can visit all with very distinct personalities. Some are full of sea stacks, some have tide pools to see beautiful creatures, some have black sand, some involve a hike, and some feel like you’re in a canyon/cove, but all are guaranteed to leave you speechless.
Did you know that the Olympic National Park is a rainforest? There is moss growing everywhere, it looks like you’re in a Dr. Seuss book! Don’t think it all is contained to the Hoh Rainforest either, there is rainforest near Port Angeles too!
Easy access alpine lake vibes. This is a beautiful, easy access spot for everyone to enjoy. You can even stay in a lodge on the lake during the summer season! They have canoe rentals and a boat launch too!
Mountain Vista with views upon views. Experience epic sunrises and sunsets, as long as it isn’t cloudy! This spot is open year-round and offers snowshoeing for those of you inclined to partake in that activity.
The beautiful thing about an Olympic National Park elopement is the park is accessible year-round due to the lower elevation. My favorite time to recommend Olympic National Park is actually during the winter/spring/fall months. The lowlands keep for the most part snow free. You’ll run into more rain, but you won’t have to worry about the snow that our cascades keep in the east!
Summer is always an amazing option to elope anywhere in our state, but summer gives you access to higher elevations that would normally have avalanche risk and snow conditions. We do hold onto snow at higher elevations into June and sometimes into July depending on the year and snowpack.
One thing you’ll need to plan for is wait times to get into the park for Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh Rainforest. Especially during the summer months, Olympic National Park can be a popular spot. During peak visitation hours, you could spend 1-2 hours just waiting in the car. It’s best to plan ahead for your elopement, choose a weekday, and early morning or evening access!
Fall/Winter/Spring is all grouped together because the weather tends to be similar and has similar considerations. This is the time I often recommend to couples to elope in the park because it is not as popular as the summer months meaning you will get privacy and you can avoid park entrance wait times.
The weather however is unpredictable. The western coast and valleys of the park gets 100-170 inches of rain for the year, mostly during this time. It can cause road closures and flooding. The tides are stronger in the winter so you need to be more mindful of when you decide to visit the beaches. I don’t want this to scare you however. Rain makes for SUCH moody photographs and a little rain never hurt anyone 🙂
While the western valleys and coasts are getting rain, the Olympic Mountains and Hurricane Ridge are getting snow, just like our Cascade Range. The park closes areas for safety and it is strongly recommended you have avalanche training if you venture out into the snow. Hurricane Ridge does have beginner-level snowshoeing routes that are generally low-risk, but as always approach at your own risk. I personally don’t shoot in the mid-season snow at this time of year for my own safety and always keep to the lowlands. Our snow levels can stay until June/July depending on the snowpack for the year.
Fun fact, Port Angeles is in the Olympic rainshadow. What does this mean? Simply put, storms have to go over the Olympics and release most of their moisture before they hit Port Angeles. That means if storms do come through it’s significantly less than the coast or western lowlands.
So if you are getting married on the coast and you are going to have bad weather you want to avoid, consider utilizing the Port Angeles Olympic National Park area for a different weather pattern!
To have an Olympic National Park Elopement, you’ll need to apply for a special use permit to hold your ceremony. Currently, in early 2023, you’ll need to fill out the application and pay a nonrefundable fee of $50-100. You’ll also need a National Parks Day pass or the America the Beautiful pass to get into the park!
Some things to note: Confetti or throwing rice is NOT allowed. Minimal decor is possibly allowed upon approval. You also cannot block an area and they cannot guarantee full privacy. You’ll also need to follow Leave No Trace Principles! Pets unfortunately are not allowed in the park but are allowed on some beaches!
Always check your local laws before you get your marriage license for up-to-date rules. In general, for Washington you’ll apply for your license. When you receive the license there is a 3-day waiting period before you can use it and it cannot be waived under any circumstances.
You’ll also need an officiant and two witnesses. (I am ordained through the Universal Life Church and can officiate your ceremony.) You can also opt to do a private vow reading that’s not an official ceremony to have that private time together. There are many ways we can get you privacy and follow the marriage laws for performing your ceremony.
You can easily fill a day with sightseeing for your elopement. Why not get married up at Hurricane Ridge and then drive to the coast for sunset portraits and a picnic? Or start at the coast and then head to a restaurant in Port Angeles?
Florist, private chef, private adventure tour, hair and makeup, officiant – there are so many ways to elevate your day further!
Your photographer should help prompt this in your process but having a solid backup plan you’re as excited about is crucial because while we can plan your day to a tee, the thing we cannot control is the Parks or mother nature. You’ll be grateful you have one you can pivot to right away if something arises so you don’t have to stress about figuring out the night before.
If you’re heading out into the wilderness, make sure you are prepared! Here are my favorite things to keep me safe when I’m out and about on my own!
And for elopements I also carry a “getting ready kit” which has hair spray, bobby pins, a mirror, oil wipes etc to make sure you stay beautiful while were out and about!
Check this NPS page for current road conditions before you go out!
Twilight adventure anyone? Forks is a more rural, but popular destination spot for coast go-ers and twilight fans alike! Check out their museum and hang around to see the cool fog that hangs out! Forks is about 20-30 min from the beaches and about 50 min from the Hoh Visitor Center.
The last “big city” before heading west toward the coast! The Port Angeles Area is an excellent spot to stay because of all the lodging options and other amenities like restaurants, breweries, local sightseeing, etc! Port Angeles is about 30 min to Lake Crescent and about 45 min to the Hurrican Ridge Visitor Center.
La Push is a very unique village as it is located right on the coast and has some spectacular views! La Push is part of the Quileute Reservation, but they have a couple of accommodation options like the Quileute Oceanside Resort! It’s about 3 min from one of the La Push Olympic National Park Beaches, and about 50 min from the HWY 101 coast beaches in the Park. It’s just over an hour to the Hoh Rainforest.
Kalaloch is a beautiful place to stay if you’re looking to stay on the coast. There is a campground that’s popular and also a resort! While the Kalaloch Lodge doesn’t have wifi, it’s the perfect remote way to unwind right next to the ocean. They have a great restaurant onsite too and even a private room you can rent for an elopement dinner. Check it out!
So you have all this information, now how long do you need to make this day a reality?
2:00 pm | Getting ready at vacation rental in Port Angeles – cook breakfast together, play music, write vows and get dressed
3:30pm | Drive to Hurricane Ridge for ceremony
4:30pm | Ceremony / Friend Photos
5:00pm | Explore the ridge and take photos
6:00pm | Drive to WA coast for sunset & tidepooling
8:00pm | Tidepooling & sunset photos
10:00pm | Photo coverage Wraps
As you can see it easily adds up in time and can be an amazing full day of exploration. I personally offer consecutive 4-hour, 8-hour, and multi-day packages with the option to add additional hours to make sure you can hit all the spots you want to hit and have your story told.
Overall you can’t go wrong with any spot in Olymipc National Park. Please follow Leave No Trace Principles as it helps protect the land for years to come. You may not think your day will be big in the grand scheme of things, but if everyone has that same thought, it can get out of control really quickly. Parks can restrict access so please keep this in mind.
Stay on the trails. Pack it in, pack it out. Give wildlife their distance. Leave nature as you find it. Think twice about geotagging your specific location.
You’ve done your planning, you have permits in hand, and you’re on your way to your elopement day. Relax, let’s get you married!!
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