Rugged coastline, beautiful blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, and even rainforests, in Olympic you get a little bit of everything. Olympic National Park is one of three national parks in Washington State, but its diverse landscape sets it apart from the others. If you love the thought of a moody coastal elopement but also can’t shake the thought of how amazing it would be to get married on top of an epic mountain peak, Olympic National Park may be the place for your 2024 elopement or small wedding!
As an Olympic National Park elopement photographer, I’ve ventured along the rocky beaches and through the lush forests, and it’s definitely one of my favorite places to shoot. So, if you’re thinking about eloping in Olympic National Park, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve gathered my best recommendations and tips for eloping in Olympic National Park, and I can’t wait to share them with you!
1. Decide when you’ll elope
Due to its location on the Olympic Peninsula, the weather in Olympic National Park can range quite a bit depending on where you are. The western side of the peninsula receives much more rain than the eastern side so you may have a greater chance of encountering rainy conditions when you’re there. Although the park is open year-round, weather conditions can vary from season to season.
Weather during the spring is generally nice but can also be less predictable. There may be a greater chance of rain and even some snow still falling in the mountains. If you’re thinking of eloping in the spring, I recommend the month of May. During this time of year, you’ll have the best chance of good weather as the temperatures warm and the snow begins to melt.
The summer months are known to have the best weather with July and August being the most popular. The snow has melted in the mountains, rain chances are lower, and temperatures are warmer. However, you may encounter some fog along the coast during this time of year. Being that it’s the most popular time to visit the park, there will likely be more crowds as well.
Like spring, fall weather can be less predictable. The chance for rain increases, and so does the likelihood of snow, especially in late fall. In the later months of fall, some roads and campgrounds may close as well. If you’re hoping to elope in fall, September is probably your best bet!
During the winter months, the western side of the peninsula receives most of its yearly rainfall. And in the mountains, there will be a lot of snowfall, making some areas of the park inaccessible. However, if the thought of rainy or snowy weather doesn’t bother you, there are still some areas of the park you can access.
2. Decide where you want to elope in Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is made up of three different areas each with their own distinct ecosystem. These include the Pacific coast with its rocky outcroppings and sandy beaches, the temperate rain forest full of green and lush plant life, and the subalpine mountains and old-growth forests with snow-covered peaks and wildflower meadows. With such a diversity of landscapes, you really can have it all. Choose from one, two, or all three! Here are some of my favorite elopement spots in Olympic National Park:
Hurricane Ridge is definitely one of the best—and most easily accessible—mountain areas in the park. A winding road takes you up to the top of the ridge where you can take in stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. There are several hiking trails, both paved and unpaved, accessible from the Visitor Center at the top. With beautiful alpine meadows, tree-lined ridges, and unbeatable views, Hurricane Ridge is perfect for an epic mountain top elopement.
On the western side of the park, you’ll find Olympic’s temperate rainforest. Wander through lush forests with moss-draped trees and fern-covered ground. Two of the best trails to experience this magical wooded wonderland are Spruce Nature Trail and the iconic Hall of Mosses.
Situated in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains lies the deep, pristine, clear blue waters of Lake Crescent. Carved by a glacier thousands of years earlier, today the lake is a true oasis in the middle of a dense forest. There are several hiking trails that take you along the lake and through old-growth forests. One of the most popular trails in the area brings you to Marymere Falls, a 90-foot waterfall nestled in the forest. This beautiful, reflective lake is an amazing spot for an elopement.
Within the park, there are several beaches on the western side of the peninsula. Olympic is actually home to some of Washington state’s best beaches. Here you’ll find towering pine trees, rocky sea stacks, and driftwood-filled shores along vast stretches of sandy beach. Ruby Beach, La Push, Rialto, First, and Second Beach are all perfect places for a moody coastal elopement.
3. Book your Olympic elopement vendors
Photographer: Although elopements don’t require the typical vendors you might need for a traditional wedding, a photographer is one you definitely shouldn’t skip out on! And that’s me, of course 🙂 When you book me, I won’t just be your elopement photographer, I’ll be your Olympic tour guide, planner, and new friend! You can see some of my recent elopements here. No matter who you decide to hire as your elopement photographer, here are a few tips for finding the right person for the job:
- Find your photography style: Do you prefer a certain style of photography? Do you tend to gravitate toward dark and moody photos or bright and airy? If you’re not quite sure what style of photography you like, I recommend scrolling Instagram for inspiration. Search hashtags like #olympicelopementphotographer or #pnwelopementphotographer to get an idea of different photography styles. Once you’ve found a style or photographers you like, look at the portfolios on their website or reach out and ask to see a full gallery of an elopement they’ve shot.
- Find the right fit: Elopements are an incredibly intimate experience. When deciding on a photographer, it’s so important to choose someone you feel comfortable with. Before you book your photographer, jump on a call with them to see if you click. You’ll have a better sense of what it would be like to work with them, and they’ll have the opportunity to learn more about you too!
- Book early: Elopements are more popular than ever these days and that means photographers might book up far in advance. The last thing you want is to fall in love with a photographer, only to find out they aren’t available for your date. Be sure to start your photographer search early on so you don’t have to worry about their availability or lack thereof.
Officiant: The state of Washington requires an authorized officiant to conduct your elopement (more on this below!). Aside from hiring someone to officiate, this can also be a family member or close friend as long as they’re ordained (which is super easy to do online!). I also know some amazing officiants that I’d happily recommend. Or, as an ordained elopement photographer, I’d be over the moon to officiate your ceremony.
Hair and Makeup: While definitely not a necessity, hiring a hair and makeup artist can be a great idea. If you don’t want to do your own hair or makeup the morning of your elopement day, I would definitely recommend hiring someone to do it for you. And it’s your elopement day, you deserve to be pampered!
Florist: Surrounded by the beautiful natural backdrop of Olympic National Park, fancy florals definitely aren’t a requirement. But if you love flowers, there are plenty of ways to incorporate florals in smaller ways. You can hire a florist to create a bridal bouquet, flower crown, or corsage. You can always opt for buying something online or even DIY your own!
Other vendors: When it comes to vendors, there’s really not much you need for an elopement. That’s one of the reasons they’re so popular to begin with! But if you’re looking for something a bit unique, there are so many wonderful vendors that you can include on your special day. A musician, private chef, videographer, live painter—whatever you can dream up, you can find a vendor to make it happen! I’m happy to provide you with some recommendations as well.
4. Book travel accommodations for your Olympic elopement
Before you hop on a plane and head to Olympic to elope, there’s a few logistics you’ll want to nail down. To help you get started, I’ve included a few travel tips on how to get to Olympic National Park and where to stay when you arrive.
How to get to Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is located just west of Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Because of its proximity to Seattle, the best airport to fly into is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). From there, you can easily pick up a rental car and take the 2.5 to 3 hour drive out to park. You can also fly into Portland International Airport (PDX) which is about a 4 hour drive from the park.
Where to stay in Olympic National Park
From cozy cottages to luxury lodges, there are plenty of amazing places to stay in and around Olympic. If you don’t end up staying in the park itself, I recommend looking in the small neighboring towns of Port Angeles, Sequim, and Forks.
- Campgrounds: There are several campgrounds in the park including Deer Park, Heart O’ the Hills, Hoh, Mora Campground, and more. If you don’t want to tent camp, there are tons of great places to rent cabins too!
5. Plan your elopement activities
One of the best parts about eloping in Olympic National Park is being surrounded by nature and all the outdoor adventure that comes with it. While you’re in Olympic, I highly recommend taking some time to explore the area. Here are a few activities I recommend:
Drive to Hurricane Ridge – Even if you don’t end up choosing Hurricane Ridge as your elopement location, it’s still definitely worth a visit. From the Visitor Center, drive about 30 minutes as you wind through the mountains up to the top of the ridge. Once there, soak in the incredible panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains.
Hike Mount Storm King – Ready for incredible views of Lake Crescent from high above? Take the 4-mile roundtrip hike to the top of Mount Storm King. This hike will definitely get your heart pumping. Although not too long of a hike, it’s quite a climb up with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
Kayak on Lake Crescent – Lake Crescent is a beautiful blue glacier-formed lake and the perfect place to have some fun on the water. You can kayak, paddleboard, canoe, and boat on the lake. You can rent kayaks and canoes from Log Cabin Resort and Lake Crescent Lodge. A perfect activity for the morning when the winds are calm, and the lake is still.
Camp on the beach – The beaches in Olympic National Park are some of the most popular Washington beaches for camping. There are two beach campgrounds in the park, Kalaloch or South Beach, or you can camp right on the beach at La Push, Shi Shi Beach, and others. For these sites, you’ll just need to make sure to get a wilderness camping permit.
Soak at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort – Head over to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to soak in one of three natural hot spring mineral pools. It’s the perfect way to relax and enjoy the peaceful nature that surrounds you. You can find more information about making reservations at the hot spring pools on the resort’s website.
6. Make your elopement legal
With all the planning out of the way, the last thing you’ll need to do is get everything you need to ensure your Olympic elopement is legal. To legally elope in Washington State, you’ll need three things:
1. A signed marriage license
You and your partner can apply for a marriage license online and have it mailed to you or visit any Washington county office. Just note that you’ll need to apply at least 3 days prior to your ceremony and no earlier than 60 days beforehand. After your ceremony, your officiant will have 30 days to submit the signed license to the county that issued it. The cost of a marriage license in Washington varies depending on the county but generally it’s around $70.
2. Two witnesses
The state of Washington requires two witnesses to be present for your elopement ceremony. Fortunately, this can be whoever you’d like! Close friends, family members, two lucky hikers passing by, even your elopement photographer counts!
3. An authorized officiant
In addition to your witnesses, you’ll need an authorized officiant to conduct your elopement ceremony. I’m happy to recommend someone, but this can really be anyone, as long as they’re authorized, which is super easy to do online! I’m also ordained and would be over the moon to officiate your elopement if you’d like me to!
Book Your Olympic National Park Elopement Photographer
Ready to make all your elopement dreams come true and start planning your epic Olympic National Park elopement?! Me too! I’d love to be a part of your special day as your elopement photographer, Olympic National Park tour guide, and new friend. Reach out and let me know how I can help!