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.
You deserve a day that celebrates your love story. Check out my resources and reach out so I can photograph your day!
loving all this content and thinking about eloping yourself?
CLICK HERE TO INQUIRE WITH ME!
Having a Mt. Rainier Elopement will seriously be one the coolest ways to say your vows to your partner. The beauty of Mt. Rainier is literally gut-punching, and awe-inspiring. To look up while you’re saying your vows and see her filling up the sky? Oh man, I’m getting all the butterflies just writing this! I’m the type of person to thank nature, so every time I see her, I’m grateful and tell her that!
Fun fact – an easy way to tell if the weather is good or bad in Washington is our age-old adage: Is the mountain out?
Mountain Out: GOOD WEATHER
Mountain Not Out: It’s probably raining
According to the national park website, it’s the most glaciated peak in the contiguous US. There are wildflowers, snow, waterfalls, meadows, mountains, rivers, forests, and wildlife. There is SO much to see!
Mother nature is unpredictable and Mount Rainier is so tall and a volcano so she tends to have her own atmosphere and weather. This means the mountain may be out, but she may also decide to hide for the day. Whatever may happen, go with the flow – you’re still marrying your best friend in an epic place.
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!
Overall you can’t go wrong with locations in Mt. Rainier National Park. Just always 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.
Before we hop into seasons, let’s talk about snow. It usually starts snowing up at Mount Rainier as early as mid-October. We don’t quite need to worry about avalanches just yet as these are smaller snowfalls before the larger storms hit. But you could experience a dusting of snow.
Snow lasts until Mid July. Crazy right? Your lower levels like Longmire do melt out much sooner, but even in June areas like Narada falls can still have snow. Check out the 2022 stats from their Instagram Page!
Paradise Snow Reports 2022
|Date||Average Snow Depth||Measured|
***I personally only shoot in beginning (June) and end of season snow (October) as I’m not an expert snowshoer and stick to super easy access, non-avalanche areas! If it can ride, it can slide so I just like to be safe!***
Summer is the best time in my opinion to elope in Mount Rainier National Park because you get to see everything at its best when the snow is gone. Wildflowers are popping, and you have beautiful green meadows, blue glaciers and Mountains. If it’s clear you can even see Mount Helens and Mount Adams in the distance on one of the hikes! We have more sunny days than rainy days during these months.
Fall is also gorgeous – our fall foliage actually ends up taking place in the meadows as opposed to the trees. Our rain does start to kick in, so mountain visibility (while never guaranteed) is hit or miss this season as well. You could also start to see dustings of snow! Unfortunately, mother nature doesn’t allow us to have fall colors + sunshine together every year, but we can always hope!
Winter is gorgeous too – the snow sticks to the trees in a beautiful way. You’ll need to take into consideration avalanche safety when you hit this time of year. However, there’s tons of beginner snowshoe trails if that’s your jam. The park does close certain roads as well to help with snow maintenance. In general, you’re required to carry chains in your car from November – March! Since we have more rainy days than sunny days in winter, you may or may not see the mountain for days!
Spring, like winter, is a little unpredictable! You’ll still have snow well into June but do have a chance for a sunny day here and there. Snow does start melting out! However don’t expect to go on Memorial Day weekend to find greenery, you’ll still get lots of snow!
As always check the weather before you go and understand the weather varies greatly in the park due to elevation. This is my favorite resource for watching Mount Rainier Paradise Weather!
Wildflowers here are so gorgeous. Peak season takes place end of July through Early August!
PLEASE DO NOT PICK THE WILDFLOWERS OR STEP OFF TRAIL INTO THEM. A single step-off can damage our meadows. The Park has signs all over asking you to abide by this too. What does this mean for photography though? Do not fret, however! The flowers are still all around you and there are ways to make it look like you are standing in a field, while you’re actually standing on a trail.
I hate that this has to make it into my blog post, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t set you up with realistic expectations of the area. Washington Wildfire season is unpredictable but does happen every year. We’ve had them as early as August and as late as October. It can make air quality unpredictable and unsafe depending on where the fire is located. It can also shut areas down to keep people safe! Always plan backups, just in case!
While I do believe that you should invite exactly who you want to your elopement day, we do need to take into consideration the impact groups have on the environment. The park restricts locations according to group sizes. Not all locations can handle groups and safely protect the environment as well. 8-12 are the lower numbers that give you the best access to the park.
Please note, any vendors you bring like photographers and videographers also need to fit into that group size. (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!
Now that you know what season you’re leaning toward, let’s take a look at different areas! While there are soooooo many amazing spots within these spots, here are some of the best areas to hit!
Quite literally because it looks like Paradise, you’ll get tons of green meadows, wildflowers, open trails, waterfalls, and gorgeous views! You will also have amazing fall color here!
|Best Time of year||Road Access|
|Mid-July – Early October for now snow or little snow||Open year-round for recreational activities; in the winter of 2022-23, they only allow access to Paradise on the weekends. Roads can still close on weekend due to inclement weather.|
Sunrise is super cool because it’s a little more arid. There isn’t much greenery on the hikes and you get rocky pretty quickly. You have a fire lookout you can go to and 360 views! EPIC sunsets and sunrises here!
|Best Time of year||Road Access|
|mid July – Sept for now snow or little snow||Accessible only late June/early July- September as the HWY 410 access route to Sunrise shuts down fully for the winter months.|
In the Chinook Pass area, you’ll have some easy access trails like Lake Tipsoo with amazing views of Rainier and a small lake. Excellent for wildflowers and fall colors.
|Best Time of year||Road Access|
|mid July – Early October for now snow or little snow||Accessible only mid July – Early October as Chinook Pass on hwy 410 closes for the winter|
Want to check it out? Check out their many webcams to see if the mountain is out!
To have a Mt. Rainier 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 non-refundable fee of $175. You’ll also need a National Parks Day pass or the America the Beautiful pass to get into the park!
Your group size will determine where you can go in the park. The park will tell you where you can and cannot have your ceremony and the hourly window in which you can have your ceremony during the application process. After that, we can hike and take portraits in the park! I personally do extensive research on locations and do know in my research process what they are more likely to approve for certain group sizes. The smaller your group, the more chances you have for the more epic spots.
According to their site, structures, 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 Mount Rainier National Park.
Finally, the application turnaround time is 4 weeks, so plan ahead.
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.
With a plethora of trails, you really can’t go wrong at Mount Rainier National Park even if the mountain isn’t out on the day you visit. Being at that elevation, getting to breathe the air and take in other breathtaking views is such a special treat! There are many trails you can hike on and then have your wedding ceremony too – I can help you find the best one for you!
I took this out of the hiking category because there are definitely gorgeous vista points to stop at and easy-access waterfalls to see that are literally just a hop out of your car!
There are many picnic sites at Mt. Rainier National Park that you can use for tasty food options after your ceremony that are both up at Paradise and down near Longmire. I’m happy to help you find the best spot for your group! Picnic sites are usually first come first serve so it’s best to eat at an off hour if you’re adding that into your plans.
Elevate your elopement experience further and honor the inner camper in you with an overnight stay at one of the many campgrounds. You can have your elopement experience, then head back for a campfire party to celebrate! (if there are no burn bans in place of course!)
One thing you’ll need to plan for is wait times to get into the park. Mt. Rainier is a popular destination for everyone alike, so in 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 if it’s conducive to your permit.
Because you can drive up to Mt. Rainier, there are many accessible areas for family members with mobility issues to still see Mt. Tahoma in all her glory including many overlooks, vista points, picnic sites, and a few paved trails! There is still however some incline wherever you go.
To plan for any elopement you should definitely have the gear so you can stay safe in the mountains! 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!
If you’re headed to Paradise, Ashford is your place to be! There are tons of little lodging options as well as Airbnbs!
Into camping? Check out the following campgrounds:
Headed towards Sunrise? Packwood will be a great destination for you! Check out their Airbnbs here!
If you enjoy camping, there are a few campgrounds east of Paradise, just past Chinook Pass which gives you another amazing drive.
Looking to utilize an Airbnb for part of your elopement experience, check out my blog here on everything you need to take into consideration for using an Airbnb!
So you have all this information, now how long do you need to make this day a reality?
If you choose to get ready at a nearby Airbnb, I’d suggest buffering 1.5-2 hours for this time to get amazing photos.
For hiking, plan on an average of 1 mile per hour. This helps keep your sweat at bay, allows you to enjoy the journey, and then allows you to take pictures along the way to your destination!
Want to add on a picnic or different activity? Give yourselves 1-2 hours to celebrate this way!
8:00 am | Getting ready at vacation rental – cook breakfast together, play music, write vows and get dressed
10:00am | Drive to Reflection Lake for Ceremony
10:45am | Ceremony / Family Photos
11:15am | Drive to & have a brunch picnic with family
12:15pm | Drive to & hike a short nearby trail for couples portraits and exploring
3:00pm | Coverage wraps
As you can see it easily adds up in time and can be an amazing full day of exploration. I have 8+ hour packages, a multi-day package, as well as a 4-hour one if you have something super basic. Check them out here – I’d love to help you with your photography needs!
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!!
© 2019- 2023 • sage trails • Washington Elopement Photographer • all rights reserved
BRAND + WEBSITE DESIGN BY LAUNCH YOUR DAYDREAM
LGBTQ Inclusive. All couples welcome - Diversity and inclusion Matter. | Leave No Trace Aware Photographer