Why have an Mt Rainier National Park elopement?
“Is the mountain out?” It’s a standard question anyone living in Washington has asked at some point in their life. In a state full of thousands of peaks, there is only one “the mountain.” Rising 14,411 feet above sea level, it’s the most prominent feature on the horizon just about everywhere in the Evergreen State.
With that central connection to the natural world, Mt Rainier is a perfect location to tie the knot. Whether you want to get married at Sunrise at Sunrise, along the Reflection Lakes at Paradise, way up at Camp Muir, or deep in the woods of Longmire, you can’t go wrong in this most epic of National Parks.
It is important to also note that though the official name is still Mt Rainier, the groundswell to change the name to one of the indigenous names for the mountain. It is also known as Tahoma, Tacoma, Tacobet, or təqʷubəʔ. As we work to recognize, honor, and thrive with our first people’s brothers and sisters, I look forward to this name change and to better name this beautiful peak. As personal practice in the future name change of this peak, you will see me use Mt Rainier and Mt Tahoma interchangeably throughout this guide.
- 1 Why have an Mt Rainier National Park elopement?
- 2 How to choose a location for your Mt. Rainier elopement
- 3 How plan your Mt Rainier Elopement
- 3.1 What is the best season for an Mt Rainier elopement?
- 3.2 What permits are necessary for an Mt Rainier elopement?
- 3.3 How choose a photographer for your Mt Rainier Elopement
- 3.4 Mt Rainier Elopement Packages
- 3.5 Leave no trace
- 3.6 How to get to your Mt Rainier Elopement?
- 3.7 Where to stay
- 3.8 Can I bring my dog to an Mt Rainier elopement?
- 3.9 How many guests can I have at my Mt Rainier elopement?
- 3.10 What do I need for my Mt Rainier elopement checklist
How to choose a location for your Mt. Rainier elopement
As the name implies, Sunrise is where the sun first lights Mt Rainier. You’ll see the light creeping down from the summit as the sun begins to warm the area. That said, this is not only great for early morning celebrations. Sunrise is a really big area and has many other hiking options in the region. It’s even awesome in the evening. You can’t go wrong.
The Mt Fremont fire lookout is one of the fire lookouts inside the park. It has a beautiful view back towards the mountain. Though it’s a 5.6-mile roundtrip hike from Sunrise, the lookout sits to the north of the mountain and offers unparalleled views of the peak all day long.
You cannot spend the night inside the Mt Fremont fire lookout.
You can literally get married in Paradise. Need we say more? Beyond name jokes, it’s also one of the most accessible areas of the park. There is the main Paradise Visitor’s Center as well as the Paradise Lodge. There are lots of trails, many of which are paved and beautiful views of the peaks.
Just down the road from Paradise is the world-famous Reflection Lakes. These are just off the main road and are a beautiful backdrop for a ceremony. These are very popular, so if you want to take photos near the lakes, it would be a good idea to think about a very early or very late ceremony.
If you’re ok getting sweaty before your wedding and want a celebration at altitude, there is little as epic as an elopement at Camp Muir. During the climbing season, this is the spot where most folks who are summiting the mountain spend the night in order to wake at 2 am and begin the final push. At 10,188 feet above sea level, it is a spot that is truly incomparable.
With beautiful views of Mt Rainier and a fire lookout, there are few spots as beautiful for an evening ceremony. It’s about a 7.5 mile roundtrip hike to this viewpoint, but it is truly worth it. There is plenty of space inside the lookout and around the outside for a small ceremony. Because the park is West of Mt Tahoma, this is best to be an evening/sunset celebration location.
You cannot spend the night in the Tolmie Peak fire lookout.
Just outside of the National Park is the High Rock Lookout. This is a first-come, first-served fire lookout. It’s quite a hike to get there, so make sure all guests are in good shape and don’t have a fear of heights. But, it is an epic location, especially if you want to spend the night.
Crystal Mountain Summit
Just north of the Mt Rainier National Park is the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. It’s a great place to ski, but when it comes to weddings, there is little as epic as the gondola to the summit house and the surrounding areas. Whether you’re looking for a winter or summer celebration, there are gondolas that will take you directly from the base to the top. The summit house itself can even be rented for larger weddings.
Locations not looking at Mt Tahoma itself
Aside from the sites mentioned, there is so much more that Mt Rainier National Park and the surrounding areas have to offer. If you are not tied to having the peak itself be a prominent feature in your elopement location, there are innumerable lakes, waterfalls, rich forests, and other mountains that could be the perfect site for your day. It should be noted that because most people are going to Mt Tahoma to see the mountain, picking these less-trafficked areas can lead to a more intimate experience.
How plan your Mt Rainier Elopement
What is the best season for an Mt Rainier elopement?
The best two seasons at Mt Rainier are when there is a lot of snow or when there is no snow. Let’s start with the non-snowy season, called “summer” by normal people. Because the Mt. Rainier area receives A LOT of snow, it will take a while to melt away. So, there will be lots of snow until late June and still pockets until almost September. July is usually the best time of year if you want to see the wildflowers. If you’re looking for a sunrise or sunset session, then you might want to look more towards September because it’ll still be beautiful and warm, but the fall will be starting enough so that you’re not necessarily waking up at 1 am.
Be sure not to sleep on the beauty of winter at Mt Rainier. Your options are significantly more limited though. The only areas of the National Park that are open during the winter are Longmire and Paradise. With that, Paradise is only open for a few hours a day. Usually, the gate opens at 9 and closes at 4. That is not they don’t let more people up at 4 situations, but THE DOOR LOCKS AND YOU CAN’T GET OUT. Obviously, there are some folks who stay up there if they are snow camping. Be sure to be on your way because you do not want to get stuck.
What permits are necessary for an Mt Rainier elopement?
If you want to elope within the boundaries of Mt Rainier National Park, you will need a Special Use Permit. You can see a little more information here. In general, you will need to pay $175 and agree to a few other rules. You’ll also need to fill out this form and email it to the national park system. Elopements are more tightly regulated within MRNP than in other national parks in Washington State because of it’s popularity. With that, in your request for that permit, you will need to provide information on your photographer, decide on locations and provide other information. Also, the number of guests attending the Mt Tahoma elopement will help decide what elopement locations are available to you.
As for the marriage license, that is pretty straightforward. If you are a Washington State resident, it’s best to acquire your license from the county seat of wherever you live. They are usually valid for a 60-day window, but there is a 3-day waiting period between acquiring them and when they can be performed. All marriage licenses in Washington are distributed through the county but can be performed anywhere in the state. Weddings need to be held between consenting adults of 18 years or more who are not currently married (see all rules). There is also to be 2 witnesses and one officiant. That officiant can be a legal representative or ordained (but WA is pretty loose with the ordained part, so churches like the Universal Life Church are valid). I am a Universal Life Church minister and am happy to sign licenses as needed to help make your day legal.
If you are not a Washington State resident, the best plan is to get your license through the King County online portal. You will still need to plan for the 3-day waiting period and the 60-day window for holding the wedding, but you can do it online and have the license ahead of time.
How choose a photographer for your Mt Rainier Elopement
I love this park. It’s the site of my first backpacking trip, is tattooed above my heart, and is the most prominent feature in the landscape in the state I love so much. I would love to work with you to make images that combine your love, and memory of the day and intertwine them into the grandeur of this special place.
Can you fly a drone in Mt Rainier National Park?
Drone flying is illegal in National Parks. This is not a service that your photographer or videographer can offer for a Mt Tahoma elopement.
Mt Rainier Elopement Packages
I have two base options for weddings at Mt Tahoma. The first option is all-day coverage. This is the most common elopement package that couples book because when I say all-day, I mean it. I will be there to document all parts of your unforgettable celebration from when you start doing stuff until you stop.
For couples who are getting married on weekdays or planning celebrations within the next month, I also offer a 3-hour small wedding package.
No matter what, please reach out and we can discuss the exact cost of your celebration and how I can best document it for you.
Mt Rainier wedding cost
As with many other elopement options, having a wedding at Mt Tahoma has the ability to be much cheaper than traditional weddings. Even with clothing, professional clothing, food, and flowers, it is possible to plan a celebration for under $10k. Obviously, that can increase in price depending on the lodging/reception options you go for.
Leave no trace
Anytime you’re planning to go into the wilderness of any kind (whether mountain top or on the beach), it’s a good idea to review the Leave No Trace principles, but it is especially important when planning your elopement. The seven principles are:
- Plan ahead.
- Travel and sleep on stable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts (only allowed in campgrounds in National Park anyway).
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of others.
Keep all these in mind when planning your elopement. As we plan your elopement and during the celebration, I will do all I can to help you stay within these guidelines. We will take photos that celebrate the natural beauty of Mt Rainier National Park, but we will also take all precautions to care for the world while doing so. We’ve got this—together.
How to get to your Mt Rainier Elopement?
If you are going to Mt. Rainier for an elopement, you will need a car. That said, unless you’re planning to access some of the National Forest land surrounding the National Park, any vehicle will work great. The roads in the National Park are well maintained during the non-snowy months. If you are visiting the park during the winter, some sort of AWD/4WD would be a good idea and frequently chains are required to be in the vehicle when going up to Paradise.
Coming from Western Washington (including traveling from Seattle or SeaTac Airport), there are two main entrances. If you are going to the Sunrise area, then it’s about 2 hours from the airport via Highway 410 through Enumclaw. To access Paradise, that’s a little further, about 2 and a half hours via Eatonville. Though they’re both in the National Park, the two main visitor centers are about 1 ½ hours apart.
Where to stay
- Paradise Inn – At the Paradise ranger station and area. Open during the summer and fall months.
- Alta Crystal Inn – At the base of Crystal Mountain, north of Mt. Rainier.
- National Park Inn – At the Longmire entrance to the national park.
- Nisqually Lodge – Outside the National Park between Eatonville and the entrance.
- Econo Lodge Buckley – affordable option in Buckley, Washington (yes, the Buckley WA from Black Sheep).
- Yurt near Longmire
- House outside Logmire entrance
- A-Frame cabin near Logmire/Paradise entrance
- Cool cabin near Crystal Mountain/Sunrise entrance
- Large house near Highway 410 (Crystal Mountain/Sunrise)
- Cute cabin
- Home off Highway 410
- Small adorable cabin near Logmire entrance
- The 3 campgrounds in the National Park are listed here. Note, it can be hard to get spots and you will need to make reservations a long time in advance through recreation.gov.
- There are lots of other national forests, state, and county parks in the area.
Hair and Makeup: I wrote a full blog on this, but I’d definitely recommend talking to Michelle Wright, Kendra Springer or Sarah Ren. Remember, make sure that your make-up artist has specific practice with your skin tone.
DJ’s: DJ Headsmile
Can I bring my dog to an Mt Rainier elopement?
As much as everyone loves their fur babies, it should be noted that in general, dogs are not allowed in National Parks. Often they’re allowed in parking lots and a couple of other small areas, but I would basically say, don’t bring your pets to your Mt Rainier elopement.
How many guests can I have at my Mt Rainier elopement?
As with many elopements, the fun with them is that you can enjoy the outdoors with either just your partner or up to a larger group. With that, there are a few key pieces of information when counting how many invites to say. The first question is where do you want to go. I spent a lot of time talking about the options above, but it should be noted that with the Special Use Permit that is required for a wedding, the Mt Rainier National Park rules are fairly strict about locations depending on the size of the wedding. If you want to get married along trails, you will need to keep your whole wedding party to 12 or fewer guests. If your numbers grow, you’ll be limited to picnic areas, certain roadside attractions, or campground amphitheaters.
Aside from the rules regarding the number of guests, it’s also important to keep in mind the physical abilities of your guests. There are areas close to Paradise or Sunrise that are ADA accessible or very minimal effort, but to go much beyond the ranger stations will be more work and require more physical movement.
What do I need for my Mt Rainier elopement checklist
How many times have we stood around, looking at our bags, wondering if we were severely under or overpacked? None of us want to arrive at our destination and realize we’ve gotten it wrong.
What you should bring to your Mt Rainier elopement will vary, depending on the kind of day you’re planning. An elopement along the shores of the Reflection Lakes will require different supplies than one spent hiking to Mt Fremont lookout. But here are a few things that you should have with you, no matter what:
- Marriage license
- Any needed passes/permits, such as:
- National Park Pass
- Special-Use Permit
- Garbage bags
- Layered clothing (this is the PNW, more layers is better than thick parkas)
- Props, such as a “Just Married” sign
- Good shoes
- The 10 Essentials
- Your sense of adventure!
I know we’ve covered a lot of these throughout the list, but they’re all important. Bring garbage bags to pack up all your trash. Be prepared for cold and wet weather. You’ll be in the mountains in the Pacific Northwest, so the weather can change quickly. It’s annoying but having a lot of light layers to put on or remove is always more useful than one jacket that may be too warm or not warm enough!
More than anything, know that I’m here for you. We’re going to plan for this adventure to be everything you want it to be. We’re here to tell your story and put art on your walls that will illustrate your love to everyone who sees it.