I’m known for capturing those didn’t-know-you-were-there shots and busting a move on the dance floor just to get those perfect candids. I also work with you to ensure we incorporate your style and story into your engagement and wedding photos!
Wondering How To Plan Your Dream Mt. Rainier Elopement? Not sure where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been doing Mt. Rainier National Park elopements for over 4 years now and I can safely say that I can totally help plan it all with you and share some experience as an elopement photographer. In this complete guide about how to Plan your dream Mt. Rainier elopement, we’re going to be covering the following:
Alright, so you’ve already decided that you want to elope and that you want to elope at Mt. Rainier National Park! Great choice!! Otherwise, you wouldn’t have clicked on this page. OR this post might be your deciding factor if you want to go ahead and elope here. Well I’m here to say that you can’t go wrong with getting married at this beautiful mountain. There’s SO much variety even if you don’t want to hike a ton. Knowing where you want to elope is your first step, and then you can proceed with getting the permits, booking an AirBnB, etc. But for now, we’re here to chat about The Queen of Washington (Rainier in all her glory).
Here are some questions to ask yourself and to think about when deciding what you want for your elopement:
If you answered any of those questions already with a ‘yes’, then let’s keep going. If you want more options or want some other inspiration, check out a few other locations and ideas.
Knowing what you want, what makes the two of you the most happiest, and making your day more centered around the two of you, that’s where we need to start and then narrow down more details.
This sort of goes along with deciding what you want for your wedding day in a sense of how you want to set up your day! You guys could want a straight forward elopement with some getting ready + detailed shots at the cabin, ceremony + portraits at Mt. Rainier, or you could add more things! Depending on your style and what you want photographed, you could add some events like:
If you want a little table -scape filled with your favorite food, favorite desert, or anything like that, go for it. If you want a private moment on the back deck of a cute A-frame AirBnB, do it. Anything you guys want to do, totally go for it and it’ll be magical.
Timeline wise, you can add these things before heading up to the mountain, or after depending on the lighting you want in your photos and whats most important to you. It’s YOUR day so doing what makes you happy and excited is the name of the game. Period.
Mt. Rainier National Park has several entrances and many spots to adventure to. It’s amazing! Mostly for Mt. Rainier Elopements, I typically adventure to the Paradise side or the Sunrise Side of the mountain. Both are major visitor centers with tons to offer.
Here is a Map to better understand the distance and path to either sides.
Paradise vs. Sunrise Notes:
Last summer, 2022, the Stevens Canyon Entrance (on the Packwood Side) was closed due to bridge construction. So if you stayed in Packwood, you’d had to follow the gray squiggle line on my image to get to Ashford. It’s an extra 25-30 min of travel, but they are predicting Stevens Canyon will be open for 2023.
How To Plan Your Dream Mt. Rainier Elopement : Step #1 is to know where you want to elope at. When planning your dream Mt. Rainier Elopement, it’s important to know where you want to get married at within the great national park. Some of my favorite locations to view this mountain are Paradise Lodge, Tipsoo Lake, Longmire, and the Sunrise Visitor Center. Last year, I must have had all my elopements done at the Paradise side of the mountain and it’s never ever a bad view.
Paradise is gorgeous. It’s my favorite side of the mountain to be honest. You’ve got Myrtle Falls, Nisqually Vista Loop trail, Tattoosh Range, and so much more. The Nisqually Vista Loop trail is perfect for groups of 4-15 people for a small ceremony with plenty of space for them to stand, take photos, and still stay on the trails.
You’re also 10 minutes away from Reflection Lakes and a short hike to Myrtle Falls where some of the most gorgeous meadows can be found.
There’s plenty of parking, restrooms, visitor center goodies, and delis. Overall, one of my favorite places to go.
At the Sunrise Visitor Center, you’ll get it all. Hills, trees, mountain views, and more. You’re a little more away from the mountain, and you’ll have to hike a LOT more than at Paradise, but it’s still a gorgeous view.
There’s large restrooms and parking lots at the Visitor Center and the drive up is pretty incredible as well.
For those who are wanting to elope in the winter, or just are in love with the view of this Bridge, then Longmire is definitely for you. This gorgeous historic bridge is just beyond the Longmire Museum and it’s just before making your way all the way up to Paradise from the Ashford, WA side. It’s a stunning bridge in the winter and summer so definitely a great spot to stop at.
Sometimes in the winter, there is either too much snow or avalanche warnings, so having a little back up spot here really helps. And it looks incredible! There’s also an Inn, and restaurants right there to grab a bite and rest your married head.
Nestled within the Chinook Pass highway, Tipsoo Lake is such an amazing spot. There are so many spots around the lake where you can have photos done, tall evergreens throughout, plenty of parking and a restroom in the parking lot (in the Rest Station side). You can see Rainier beautifully on a clear day, a little more farther away than in Paradise or Sunrise, but it’s still stunning. I could honestly spend a whole weekend here just exploring and finding new spots to photograph. And across the way from Tipsoo is the Naches Peek Loop where you can hike a little more around the valley to see Rainier. Plenty of elopements happen out there, I haven’t been lucky enough to photograph one yet, but it’s a thing!
The fun part!
Since you’ll be wearing most likely wedding attire, Mt. Rainier National Parks requires you to have a Special Use Permit. (Click here for more info and to apply for the permit).
Once you apply, and pay the $170, a park ranger will give you a call, ask some questions, and provide some details on the trails you want to go on/ get married on and give some tips, tricks, and advice. Sometimes they’ll say the trail is closed or super covered in snow still, anything like that. They rock!
SO! Apply for your permit early with the park. They get quite busy in the summer season.
You also need a Washington Marriage License. You need to go to their offices (Mt. Rainier is in Lewis and Pierce County) and file to get your certificate. Here are the details: https://lewiscountywa.gov/marriage-licensing/. Most of the time, couples need to go on a weekday before the wedding date to get their paperwork and make sure they apply online beforehand.
If you’re also working with a Washington ordained officiant, they know all about these things and what you need, so totally ask them, too!
How To Plan Your Dream Mt. Rainier Elopement: rule #2, it’s all about timing. One of the most common questions I get about planning an elopement is how to time everything. How to make a timeline for heading up to the mountain, what times are the best in the best light, etc. Well, today, on this blog, we’re going to talk ALL about that!
I’m going to share with you all first hand some timelines I’ve created to get the best lighting and timing for travel.
Most of the time, if not all of the time, couples book a local AirBnB cabin to get ready in, have a first look there, family portraits even, and then we head up to Rainier for ceremony and more bridal portraits at golden hour. Just an FYI!
Here is a timeline from Brianna + Dan’s Elopement. They booked a cabin on the Packwood Side of the mountain (For Paradise it’s either Packwood or Ashford), so we entered Mt. Rainier National Park on the Stevens Canyon entrance side. That’s also where this awesome Mt. Rainier National Park sign lives.
Wedding Date: August 16th, 2021.
3:30 Photographer/ filmmaker arrives at Packwood for some getting ready photos
4:00 First look at AirBnB
4:15 Head to Paradise (50 min drive)
5:15 Hike trail to ceremony spot Nisqually Loop Trail
Sign Marriage License
6:00 Family portraits
6:30-7:30pm Bridal portraits
Now, with not having an AirBnB, just wanting a ceremony and some portraits up at the mountain, here’s what a timeline would look like for that. This is Emma and Kaleb’s Elopement on August 3rd, 2021 with 3 hours of coverage:
Meet in Parking lot at 5:45pm
Hike for about 30-40 minutes
6:15pm First Look
6:30pm Family Portraits
7:20pm Sign Marriage License
7:30-8:45pm Bridal Portraits
Alpine Glow + Blue Hour Portraits (Sunset: 8:36pm )
Timelines for Elopements up at Rainier always look a little differently based on the weather, time of year, and where we are located at first. If we’re getting ready at an adorable A-Frame cabin in Ashford, then the drive up to Rainier is about 35 minutes instead of the 50 minutes from the Packwood side. It all depends on location and where we want to go.
Here is a timeline we made in case the weather was horrible and it was also winter for Torin and Heather’s Elopement in February 2021:
Scenario #1: If the weather is clear and Rainier is visible
11pm: Begin Coverage
Getting Ready Shots + Detail Shots
12pm First Look + a few Bridals
12:15pm Head to Ceremony Spot (drive through Longmire, to Paradise) 45 minutes drive
1:15pm-2pm Bridal portraits
2pm Leave Paradise
2-3pm Drive around, find spots to stop at, get shots in front of the cabin at the end.
3pm End of Coverage
Scenario #2: If Rainier is not Visible
11pm: Begin Coverage
Getting Ready Shots + Detail Shots
12pm First Look + a few Bridals
12:15pm Head to Ceremony Spot (drive through Longmire, or Nisqually Suspension Bridge)
1:15-3pm Adventure around to jump out to whatever looks awesome to take photos.
Mt. Rainier is a fickle gal; sometimes she’s out and proud and sometimes she’s hiding behind some clouds. It could be the middle of summer and she’ll have a storm brewing, you just never know. So in this section of this guide, I want to go over some of her Seasons so you’ll know what to expect when eloping up at Mt. Rainier.
Alright, so this time is mostly covered in snow. There are times when the roads are being plowed, but you have to bring your own snow tires/ chains required for your car. Whenever you want to head up to Rainier during this time, more often than not, you’ll be entering from the Ashford side through the Longmire entrance.
Depending on the weather and how warm it’s been, the national park might not officially open all around till the beginning of July. The mountain gets a TON of snow, so just be prepared.
A great tool to see what entrances, gates, and roads are open is their Twitter account here.
I check that all the time to see what’s open and looking good so I highly recommend giving them a follow and check it out.
This is your PRIME TIME.
The wild flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and the roads are clear. The very first week of August is my absolute favorite time to head up to Paradise because of the wildflowers and the weather.
You’ve got the purple and white wild flowers and the lush greenery all around you- it’s pretty incredible. This shot to the right is right at the beginning of August.
This time is a bit tricky. Some days in October, you can get lucky with sunshine and a clear day, but most days, the snow is coming, and the roads are shutting down. You could probably get your elopement in at the beginning of October, but that’s it. Most early October elopements are overcast and give off a moody vibe, which is epic and gorgeous, but just know the mountain may not be out.
There are so many great places to stay near Mt. Rainier National Park that are gorgeous, convenient, and photogenic. Wink Wink 😉
Depending what you’re looking for, and what your vibe is, there are several cute spots to book, but here are some of my favorites:
#1) Hebe’s Hideout (pictured above)
Super cute, on the Ashford side, big enough for 2 to stay there, but plenty of room behind the cabin for a mini reception party with a fire pit and bbq. Here, we set up their doughnut table on the front porch and it was adorable.
A very Instagram famous cabin and where a LOT of elopements occur. Super photogenic, cozy, and you have a ton of spots to take photos at along the river, by the Aspen trees, and of course on their adorable back deck.
#3) The Little Owl Cabin + Chateau Marmot
Adorable and perfect cabins that have more space for others who might attend, and hot tubs!! These cabins, owned by the same people, have amazing properties that are great for all things elopement, or just an awesome weekend away in the mountains. It’s in Packwood and super cozy. We’re planning to have our vow renewal here this year, in 2022, and we can’t wait!!
#4) Tahoma Canyon Home near Mt Rainier
This one is great for a HUGE party haha There are plenty of rooms, beds, a large living room, plenty of bathrooms, and a great backyard with picnic tables and a little pond with a dock. This place is great if you want a lot of people coming to your elopement and then you all can have a sleepover together in this dream mountain-themed home. Super cozy, really cool, great for entertaining.
So these are just some of my favorite AirBnB’s you can book for your Mt. Rainier Elopement that look great in photos and are cozy nice places to stay in. There are plenty more cabins I can recommend if you’d like, I just don’t want this whole post to be about AirBnB’s haha Should I make one for that?!
Alright, so we’ve talked about what you want, where to go, where to stay, when to go, but what about some real life examples? I thought the same thing. Let’s dive into some recent elopements of mine from 2021 that have all the vendors, locations, time of year, and more details behind each event that made their day perfect and special.
Longmire Bridge/ Mt. Rainier National Park Elopement
February 21st, 2o21.
Heidi + Cody’s Altimeter Cabin + Events Elopement | Mt. Rainier National Park
Basha + David’s Hebe’s Hideout A-Frame Cabin Elopement
Emma + Kaleb’s Paradise Mt. Rainier Elopement
August 2nd, 2021
Brianna + Dan’s Paradise Mt. Rainier Elopement
August 16th, 2021
These are just some of my favorites from last year and I can’t wait to capture more this year!!
“Sarah Jane was amazing to work with from the moment we booked her to the day we got our full gallery of images! She photographed our elopement at Mt Rainier this past August and we are amazed at the quality and how quick we got all of the photos! She helped to make our day perfect and so laid back. We honestly couldn’t have asked for a better experience.” – Brianna + Dan
“My husband said it best but I’ll say it again. Sarah was such a joy to work with. Since we were doing an out-of-state elopement, Sarah acted as our guide, planner, photographer and resident PNW expert. We leaned heavily on her for advice on where to stay, permitting needed for eloping in a national park, even picking our sweet officiant Emily! Not only was she so amazing to work with leading up to our big day, she was the BIGGEST hype queen a couple needs on their wedding day! She brought such a fun energy to our day, we had a blast doing portraits before we even said “I do”. Bottom line, if you’re in need of a photographer for your event, book her NOW! You will not regret it!” – Des’iree + Andy
So BAM! We did it!! We went through how to plan your Dreamy Mt. Rainier Elopement with going over timelines, location ideas, AirBnB recommendations, making sure you know about permits and such. All the GOODS!!!
For Vendor Recommendations, I can provide my favorite Mt. Rainier Elopement vendor recommendations to anyone asking- there are just quite a lot so feel free to reach out to me with any questions, vendor recommendation requests, or anything! Thanks so much for sticking around this long to read through all my advice and galleries. You’re awesome and I hope I can help with your elopement!!
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